Is the workplace contributing to higher obesity rates?

May 27, 2011

A new study finds that rising obesity rates in the United States may be associated with less physical activity in the workplace. The study used statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to evaluate energy expenditure in private industry from the early 1960s to the present.

The research revealed that almost 50 percent of private industry jobs in the 1960s required at least moderate intensity physical activity. Current statistics show that less than 20 percent require the same intensity.

In this 50 year period, the average daily energy expenditure due to work related physical activity has declined by more than 100 calories in both women and men, the researchers write.

Lead study author and exercise researcher at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Dr. Timothy S. Church, tells the New York Times:

“If we’re going to try to get to the root of what’s causing the obesity epidemic, work-related physical activity needs to be in the discussion. There are a lot of people who say it’s all about food. But the work environment has changed so much we have to rethink how we’re going to attack this problem.”

This study is published in the journal PLoS one.


One third of ERs have closed in past twenty years, study says

May 18, 2011

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that almost a third of ERs in the United States closed over the past two decades.

From 1990 to 2009, the number of hospital emergency departments in urban areas declined by 27 percent. Meanwhile patient visits to the ER have increased by more than 35 percent, HealthDay reports.

The researchers explain that being located in for-profit hospitals, competition and low profit margins are all factors that led to closures.

Data on ER closures was collected from the American Hospital Association for the twenty year period. This information was then merged with financial data on individual hospitals and patients, including whether the patient was insured or uninsured.

The study found that between 1990 and 2009, the number of emergency departments in nonrural hospitals dropped significantly from 2,446 to 1,770. While over 1,000 ERs closed during this period, only 374 new ERs opened.

Dr. Renee Y. Hsia, lead study author and a professor of emergency medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, explains that consequences include increased crowding and longer wait times at open ERs.

The study is available here.


Brain strain

May 10, 2011

A new study out of the Netherlands finds that some of the most simple every day activities may increase the risk of an aneurysm rupture.

250 people who had suffered from a subarachnoid hemorrhage participated in the study. The research team surveyed the participants, asking the frequency and intensity of exposure to 30 potential triggers before the hemorrhage took place.

TIME outlines the eight activities that may be associated with an increased risk of rupture for untreated brain aneurysms:

•    Coffee consumption -10.6%
•    Vigorous physical exercise – 7.9%
•    Nose blowing – 5.4%
•    Sexual intercourse – 4.3%
•    Straining to defecate – 3.6%
•    Cola consumption – 3.5%
•    Being startled – 2.7%
•    Being angry – 1.3%

As the Los Angeles Times points out, the common link between these activities is the temporary, sudden increase in blood pressure.

So, what does the research team recommend?

 “Reducing caffeine consumption or treating constipated patients with unruptured [intracranial aneurysms] with laxatives may lower the risk of [subarachnoid hemorrhage]. Although physical exercise has a triggering potential, we do not advise refraining from physical exercise because it is also an important factor in lowering the risk of other cardiovascular diseases.”

This study is published in the journal Stroke.


Peace through Statistics

May 4, 2011

Nominations for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize include three ex-Yugoslavian statisticians: Miodrag Lovrić (Serbia), Jasmin Komić (Bosnia and Herzegovina), and Ksenija Dumičić (Croatia). Their focus? Statistics and statistics education. In war-torn and impoverished countries, statistics provides a welcome arena in which science runs independent of ethnicity and religion. With so few resources, many countries are graduating few, if any, PhDs in statistical sciences. These statisticians collaboratively began a campaign to collect together the basics underlying statistics and statistics education, with the hope of increasing access to statistical ideas, knowledge and training around the world.

According to the nomination by Academy of Sciences and Arts (and its president) of the Republika Srpska, these statisticians “provided an outstanding contribution to world peace and science, making the largest international scientific project ever implemented in history (the number of countries involved)—the International Encyclopedia of Statistical Sciences—which is the work of 619 eminent experts from 105 countries from six continents.” Moreover, one of the justifications stated, “No one in history has ever managed to unite, like brothers, the nations on this planet under one pacifistic and scientific idea, as it succeeded Miodrag Lovrić, Jasmin Komić, and Ksenija Dumičić due to the fact that they and their many years of outstanding efforts could unite scientists from countries that account for 90% of the world’s population.”

Read more from the blog of the American Statistical Association: http://magazine.amstat.org/blog/2011/05/01/peace-through-statistics/


Vital Statistics

May 2, 2011

A roundup of some interesting studies making news. As always, a mention here doesn’t mean an endorsement.

Business travel may negatively impact health

 A new study from Columbia University finds that frequent business travel may be associated with increased health risks. The researchers analyzed data from 13,000 people who were participating in a corporate wellness program. Approximately 80 percent of the employees traveled at least one night per month, while almost 1 percent traveled 20 nights or more per month.

The study found that those who traveled most often were 260 percent more likely to rate their health as fair to poor compared to light travelers. In addition to higher cholesterol and blood pressure, obesity was 92 percent more common in the extensive travelers.

The study is published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

New report names U.S. cities with the cleanest and most polluted air

According to a new report, more than half of the U.S. population lives in areas with polluted air that can be dangerous to breathe. Some of the worst quality air can be found in California, including Los Angeles and Long Beach. On the other hand, Honolulu, Hawaii and Santa Fe, New Mexico have some of the cleanest air in the country.

Approximately 48 percent of U.S. residents live in counties where smog is too high, and about 17 million Americans live in areas affected by three pollution hazards, including smog and soot.

The State of the Air 2011 report is available here.

 What are the top sources of foodborne illness?

A new report released by the University of Florida Emerging Pathogens Institute identifies the food and disease causing microorganisms that are associated with the most risk in the United States.

The combination of poultry with Campylobacter bacteria causes the most foodborne illness in the country, affecting more than 600,000 people a year and costing $1.3 billion.

The top ten pathogen and food combinations, including salmonella and norovirus, cost the U.S.  more than $8 billion in medical costs and lost wages.

The report is available here.


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