Vital Statistics

January 30, 2012

Study: Doctor’s weight may influence obesity diagnosis

A survey of 500 primary care physicians around the country reveals that doctors considered overweight or obese were much less likely to diagnose obese patients than physicians at a more “normal” weight.

Doctors with a normal BMI (18.5-25) were more likely to discuss weight loss with obese patients (30% vs 18%), give advice on diet (53% vs 37%), and exercise (56% vs 38%). The study, published in Obesity, also revealed that the probability of normal BMI physicians recording an obesity diagnosis for a patient was 93 percent and only 7 percent for overweight or obese doctors.

High heels may cause muscle damage

A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology finds that wearing high heels may lead to damage of the calf muscles.

The study included women, teens to early 30s, who had worn high heels for at least 40 hours a week for a minimum of two years. The control group consisted of women who rarely or never wore heels. The research team used ultrasound probes, electrodes, and motion-capture markers to monitor the participants as they walked barefoot and then in heels down a 26 ft long walkway.

The findings suggest that women in high heels walked with shorter and more forceful strides (even in bare feet), engaging their muscles instead of their tendons, potentially leaving them more vulnerable to injury and muscle fatigue.

People may fib more when texting

New research published in the Journal of Business Ethics shows that people may lie more frequently when text messaging.

Participants consisted of 170 business students conducting fake stock trades in person, by video, or through text.  Once trades were completed, the buyers were asked if their brokers had engaged in any deceit. After examining which brokers were considered liars, the researchers examined which form of communication was used to make the trade.

It was revealed that buyers who received information through text messages were 95 percent more likely to report a deception than if they had communicated through video. They were also 31 percent more likely to report that they were deceived than those who made the transaction face-to-face and 18 percent more likely than those who had an audio chat.

The researchers note that texting involves less scrutiny than communication methods such as video, where participants may suffer from “spotlight effect”.


Vital Statistics: Thanksgiving Edition

November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving travel costs increase

The cost of your travel plans for the Thanksgiving holiday will most likely be higher than last year. According to Orbitz Worldwide Inc, the average round trip airfare for Wednesday through Sunday to the 10 most popular destinations in the U.S. has jumped 11 percent (to $373) compared to the same period last year. Flights to New York will increase the most, rising 20 percent compared to 2010, with an average round trip price of $342.

Curious if you are heading to one of the busiest or least busy airports for the holiday? Orbitz also reviewed the top 50 airports in the U.S. based on flight bookings and found that Los Angeles International, Chicago O’Hare and Orlando International will be the three busiest airports in the country. Meanwhile, Mineta San Jose International claims the least busy title.

The price of Thanksgiving dinner is on the rise

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the cost of a 10-person traditional Thanksgiving dinner has jumped by 13 percent since last year. That is equivalent to $5.70 for an average total of $49.20. This is the largest increase since the study began 26 years ago.

It now costs an average of $21.57 for a 16 pound turkey, $3.91 more than 2010, making it the biggest contributor to the price increase.  A gallon of whole milk was also among the biggest gainers, rising 42 cents from last year to $3.66. Thirty ounces of pumpkin pie mix also played a part, jumping 41 cents to $3.03.

The Thanksgiving news isn’t all negative! For some positivity, check out the Forbes piece Breast Cancer Fund’s Scary Thanksgiving Study Is A Turkey by STATS editor-at-large Trevor Butterworth. Harvard Medical School also discusses some of the benefits of giving thanks.


Vital Statistics

September 26, 2011

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

1 in 25 business leaders may be psychopaths

Over at TIME, STATS fellow Maia Szalavitz discusses a new study that finds 1 in 25 business leaders may be psychopaths, a rate she points out, “that’s four times greater than in the general population.” The research team studied 203 American corporate professionals who had been chosen by their respective companies to participate in a management training program.

Psychopathic traits were evaluated using a standard checklist developed by a psychopathy expert. Psychopaths are characterized as being amoral and concerned with only their own power. It is possible that psychopaths may be overrepresented in the business environment because it caters to their strengths.

Do family dinners keep teens out of trouble?

A new study shows that family dinners may help keep teenagers away from drugs and alcohol:  58 percent of U.S. teens sit down for family dinners at least five times a week. It was found that teens who spend more time with their parents at the dinner table, spend more time with their parents in general.

On the other hand, teenagers who reported infrequent family dinners also reported spending less time with their parents. These teens were more likely to have used alcohol and to have at least one friend or classmate who engages in drug abuse.

 Optimism may be in your genes

A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that optimism, self-esteem, and mastery may possibly have a genetic base rooted in the hormone oxytocin (aka the “love” hormone).

The study, which examined 326 participants, involved a survey and the analysis of genetic material in the saliva, looking for a combination of two variants, “A” and “G”.  Those with two “G’s” may be more likely to be optimistic; however, the study found the gene may also backfire. Certain combination of genes, such as one or two A’s may be associated with less optimism and more symptoms of depression.

 The traditional police lineup may need to be altered

According to new research by the American Judicature Society, the traditional police lineup may need some tweaking. The more common simultaneous lineup, when witnesses look at groups of people standing in front of them or in photos, can result in a higher amount of misidentifications. Witnesses tend to compare one person to another and decide who looks most like the suspect; a problem if the suspect is not actually included in the lineup. The researchers say a sequential lineup is more effective. In this method, a person looks at each person individually and says whether he or she is the suspect.

Both procedures had similar outcomes in identifying the suspect; however, the sequential method resulted in less misidentification. In the simultaneous lineups, a suspect was misidentified 18.1 percent of the time compared to 12.2 percent of the time when using the sequential method. The latter also produced fewer “not sure” responses from witnesses.


Vital Statistics

August 8, 2011

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

Are packed lunches unsafe for children?

A new study finds that many packed lunches may reach dangerous temperatures by the time a child eats at daycare, even when packed in an insulated container with ice packs. The study revealed that more than 90 percent of perishable items were at an unsafe temperature an hour and a half before lunch time.

The research team examined lunches of nine central Texas day care centers for children between the ages of 3 and 5, and tested the temperature of individual perishable items from 705 lunches an hour and a half before the scheduled lunch time.

About 39 percent of the packed lunches did not have an ice pack, while 45 percent had just one ice pack. More than 88 percent of the lunches were at room temperature and just 1.6 percent of perishable items were kept in the USDA recommended temperature zone. Food-borne illness is of particular concern for children under the age of 5.

Survey: Americans are losing respect for smokers

Twenty years ago, between 14 and 17 percent of Americans reported having less respect for smokers. However, a new Gallup survey of 1,016 adults reports that number has now jumped to 25 percent. Gallup points out this trend may be influenced by the shrinking smoking population, which has dropped from 27 percent in 1991 to 22 percent today.

It was found that nonsmokers are the primary source of this view, with 30 percent saying they have less respect for smokers. The survey revealed only 5 percent of smokers share this point of view. When surveyed about obesity, 12 percent said they had less respect for those who are overweight or obese, down from 16 percent in 2003. Meanwhile, more than four in five adults said their respect for a person was not influenced by the individual’s weight.

Does a friendly work environment lead to a longer life?

New research from Tel Aviv University finds that positive social interactions in the workplace may be associated with a lower risk of death. In a study of 820 adults from various fields, those who felt that they had little or no emotional support in the workplace were 2.4 times more likely to die during the course of the study.

Although a direct relationship cannot be determined, a risk factor appeared to be one’s perceived level of control. Men who reported more control in the work environment were associated with a lower risk of dying; however, the opposite was found to be true for women. The risk of death for women who reported more control rose by 70 percent. The study authors point out this may be related to the changing gender roles in the work environment over the course of the past two decades.


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.


Vital Statistics

March 18, 2011

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

Reality bites

New research suggests that those who are overly idealistic about their significant others may be more satisfied with their marriage than realists.

The study is based off of 193 couples, the average age being 27 years old, with incomes averaging between $40,000 and $70,000. Each participant completed surveys abut themselves, their significant other and their marriage every six months for a period of 3 years. Based on the information provided by each person about themselves and their partner, the research team developed a ranking of each person’s perception of their partner.

The results revealed that those who had an unrealistic image of their partner were happier with their marriage over the three years. The study authors could not determine how long this idealization may be associated with happiness due to the study’s length. The study is published in the April issue of Psychological Science.

Read the rest of this entry »


Vital Statistics

December 20, 2010

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

Can staring at the computer during lunchtime cause you to eat more later?

New research from the University of Bristol in England shows that those who played a computer game while eating lunch ended up eating more later in the day.

Forty-four men and women participated in the study. Half ate lunch consisting of nine different foods while playing a computer game; the other half ate the same lunch without any distractions.

A half hour after lunch, the computer group consumed twice as many snacks as members of the other group. That wasn’t all – after being asked to recall what they ate for lunch, the gamers had much more difficulty. Lead researcher Jeffrey M. Brunstrom tells Reuters: “When our memory is poor, then at a subsequent meal we tend to select and consume a greater amount of food”.

Study shows kids are consuming large amounts of caffeine daily

A new study in the Journal of Pediatrics finds 75 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 12 consume caffeine. Not surprisingly, the study found the more caffeine the children consumed, the less they slept.

Children between the ages of 5 and 7, consumed an average of 52 milligrams per day, and children between 8 and 12 consumed about 109 milligrams. According to WebMD, that’s the equivalent of almost three 12 ounce cans of soda. The researchers found that the caffeine in the children’s diet came mainly from the consumption of soft drinks.

Study finds everyone really does need their beauty sleep

New research finds that beauty sleep not only affects your appearance, but also how others perceive you. The Swedish study analyzed 23 adults, taking photos of each participant twice. One photo was taken after getting a full eight hours of sleep and one after being awake for 31 hours after only getting five hours of sleep.

Sixty-five observers (who knew nothing about the amount of sleep the subjects had received) then randomly reviewed the photos and rated their perceptions of the participants. The photos of the sleep-deprived resulted in lower marks on both the health and attractiveness scales.


Vital Statistics: Thanksgiving Edition

November 24, 2010

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

Giving thanks is good for your health?

A new Wall Street Journal article by Melinda Beck examines the growing amount of research that suggests a gratuitous attitude can improve one’s overall psychological, emotional and physical well-being.

Studies conducted over the past ten years have suggested that adults who maintain a gracious attitude generally have increased levels of energy, optimism, happiness and more social connections. Research has also shown that these adults tend to earn more money, sleep better, maintain a regular exercise routine, and have greater resistance to viral infections.

Studies are also finding that gratitude benefits children and adolescents, who are more likely to do better in school, set higher goals, be less materialistic and be more satisfied with friends and family.

This Thanksgiving, don’t forget the sweet potatoes.

New research released by the CDC has revealed that consuming high levels of the antioxidant alpha-carotene may reduce the risk of death by up to 39 percent.

The 14 year study consisted of more than 15,000 adults in the U.S. The researchers reported significant associations between alpha-carotene levels and the risk of death from all causes, including heart disease and cancer.

Alpha-carotene is found in high concentrations in yellow/orange vegetables, including the Thanksgiving staples, sweet potatoes and pumpkin. It can also be found in dark green vegetables, such as broccoli and spinach. This study is published online in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Even Thanksgiving can’t keep people away from their work e-mail

A new survey conducted by Harris Interactive has found that 59 percent of U.S. working adults will be checking their work e-mail over Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday season.

The survey polled 2,179 adults in the U.S., ages 18 and older. Of the 59 percent who check their e-mail, 55 percent said they will check their work inbox at least once a day and 28 percent will look at their work e-mail multiple times throughout the day.

79 percent say that have been sent work related emails over a holiday. 41 percent said that they get frustrated when receiving work related e-mails over a holiday, while 15 percent admitted that they were thankful to be distracted by work e-mail during the holidays.

10 percent of those who said they check work e-mail during a holiday, admitted that they did so while at holiday parties or meals.


Vital Statistics

August 18, 2010

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

Men outnumbered by women may live longer lives

According to a study published in the latest issue of Demography, men of marriageable age (18-27) who live in areas where they are outnumbered by women may just live longer. Researchers from both China and the U.S. looked at the relationship between sex ratios and life expectancy and found that only men were affected.

The researchers used data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, which followed thousands of the state’s 1957 high school graduates. The study showed that men who attended schools where boys outnumbered girls by more than 3-to-2, were 40 percent more likely to have died by age 65 than men who went to schools where girls outnumbered boys.

After also examining 12.7 million Medicare and Social Security records, the researchers found that men who reached marriageable age in states that were 52 percent male at the time were slightly more likely to have died than men who came of age in states that were only 47 percent male.

Drinking beer regularly increases risk of psoriasis in women

Women who drink beer on a regular basis may significantly increase their risk of developing psoriasis, according to new research published in the Archives of Dermatology.

Between the years 1991 and 2005, 82,869 women were studied. In comparison with nondrinkers, those who reported drinking at least five non-light beers a week had a 76 percent chance of developing the condition. The researchers adjusted for other risk factors such as age, smoking, obesity, diet and physical activity.

Why do heavier beers seem to contribute and not other alcoholic beverages? The researchers believe that barley, a grain used in the fermentation process of heavier beers, could be to blame. Barley contains gluten, a protein substance that people with psoriasis can be sensitive to.

More and more couples are meeting online, according to new survey

A new survey, How Couples Meet and Stay Together, finds that almost 30 percent of today’s couples have met online. While the web is currently the second-most popular way Americans find a partner, the survey predicts that the Internet will soon be number one.

The survey polled more than 4,000 Americans. The results showed that same-sex relationships were more likely to be the result of meeting online, with 61 percent of the relationships starting between 2007 and 2009 being the product of an online match.


Vital Statistics

July 7, 2010

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

Tablet vs. the book: which one prevails when it comes to reading speed?

Finally, a win for the good old fashioned book. New research finds that reading speed decreases when using a tablet, such as a Kindle or Nook. The study was small, consisting of only 24 participants who enjoy and frequently read books. Each subject read from four platforms, including the Kindle, iPad, PC monitor, and a regular paper book. The subjects were tested for both reading speed and story comprehension.

The study, conducted by the Nielson Norman Group, found that when using a Kindle, participants read 10.7 percent slower than when reading off printed pages. Reading speed was 6.2 percent slower when reading from an iPad. However, despite the slower reading speeds, the results also indicated that participants preferred an e-reader to the printed book. Story comprehension remained almost the same among all platforms.

The power of touch

If you’re planning to buy a car in the near future, you may want to read this first. A new study out of Harvard, Yale and MIT, finds that the sense of touch can influence attitudes and behavior, even if the object is completely unrelated to the task.

For example, in one out of a series of experiments, 86 participants took part in a mock car sale – some sitting in hard, wooden chairs and others in cushioned chairs. Those that sat in a wooden chair were less likely to compromise on price. John Bargh, lead study author and Yale psychology professor, explains “Experiences with the physical world, such as hardness, heaviness or smoothness, activate the physical meaning of those concepts, but it also activates the abstract meanings of those concepts — hard may mean difficult, heavy may mean serious.”

The risks of cyberbullying

A new survey finds that “cyberbullying” is dangerous for the bully and the victim. The study finds bullying over the Internet or cell phones is associated with both physical and psychological consequences. The cross-sectional survey consisted of approximately 2,200 teenagers in two Finnish communities. The results showed that about 7 percent engaged in online bullying of others, 5 percent identified themselves as victims of bullying behavior, and 5.4 percent said they had bullied others and were victimized themselves.

Medpage Today reports that among the consequences, cyber victims had above average rates of self-perceived difficulties in life and one in four reported feeling unsafe. Physical effects included headaches, abdominal pains and difficulty sleeping. Cyberbullies reported emotional distress and behavioral problems such as difficulty concentrating and hyperactivity, as well as substance abuse. The study warns that teens who are a cyberbully and cybervictim may be effected the most.


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