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”.

Is hypertexting a health problem?

November 17, 2010

By Cindy Merrick

A recent survey of high schoolers indicated some attention-grabbing relationships between high-risk behavior such as alcohol and drug abuse and frequent sexual activity, with activities known as “hypertexting” (texting at least 120 messages per school day) and “hypernetworking” (spending at least 3 hours per school day on social networking sites).

Dr. Scott Frank of Case Western Reserve University announced last week the findings of a survey of over 4200 high school students in the Midwest at an annual meeting of the American Public Health Association in Denver in a talk entitled, “Hypertexting and Hypernetworking: A New Health Risk Category for Teens?” In his abstract, Frank says that 19.8 percent of the students fell into the category of hypertexting and 11.5 percent fell into the category of hypernetworking.

This survey associated both behaviors with higher levels of sexual activity, binge drinking, suicidal ideation, and tobacco and marijuana use. Further, participators in hypertexting and hypernetworking tended to be obese or have other eating disorders and get less sleep. Such associations were made after controlling for demographic factors. Frank concludes that “Excessive use of communications technology among teens is related to higher levels of health risk behaviors and poorer health outcomes.”

Specific numbers from the survey look compelling: hypertexters are 43 percent more likely to be binge drinkers and 41 percent more likely to have used illicit drugs; hypernetworkers are 69 percent more likely to be binge drinkers and 84 percent more likely to have used illicit drugs. Less clear is what the link between hypertexting or hypernetworking and risky behavior actually is.

Which means it’s premature to label hypertexting and hypernetworking a “Health Risk Category.” No direct harm is described and, as Frank told the Washington Post, “the study was not intended to show causality.”

Unfortunately, his university’s press release ran with the headline “Hyper-texting and Hyper-Networking Pose New Health Risks for Teens,” and other news organizations followed suit. Frank offered the Post a thin justification: “It does depend on who they’re texting with. Their choice of friends in the single most important thing. The more texting they do, the more potential for exposure to high-tech peer pressure.”

But what are the odds the kids wouldn’t have any friends or be subjected to peer-pressure if they didn’t text? This seems to be a case of mistaking the tool for the cause, and the best that can be said for such a notion is that it begs for more direct study. In fact, it wouldn’t be incorrect to succinctly state Frank’s findings this way: Teens Likely to Try Risky Behavior Also Text a Lot!



October 1, 2010

It’s not exactly news that texting while driving is a poor decision; however, new research sheds light on just how deadly it can be. According to the study by the University of North Texas Health Science Center, texting while driving was responsible for 16, 141 deaths between 2002 and 2007.

Lead study authors Fernando A. Wilson, PhD and Jim P. Stimpson, PhD analyzed information from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, which records data on vehicle accidents that occur within the U.S. Using this system, they examined trends in distracted driving fatalities, including cell phone usage and texting volumes.

Distracted driving fatalities actually decreased from 1999 to 2005, the researchers write. However, between 2005 and 2008, the amount of deaths rose considerably from 4,572 to 5,870 – a 28 percent increase. They estimate that if text messaging had never been invented, the number of distracted driving fatalities would have been down to 1,925 per year, the CS Monitor reports.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the percentage of U.S. drivers observed using a cell phone has held steady at 6 percent since 2005. Therefore, the study suggests the increase might be due to the shift in how handheld devices are used.

The LA Times reports some other facts of the study:

  • The percentage of all traffic deaths caused by distracted driving rose from 11% in 1999 to 16% in 2008.
  • Distracted-driving crashes are more common in urban areas. Overall, 40% of all crashes happened in urban areas in 2008, up from 33% a decade earlier.
  • Only one-third of Americans had a cellphone in 1999. By 2008, 91% of us did.
  • The average monthly volume of text messages was 1 million in 2002. By 2008, it was 110 million.

This study is published in the American Journal of Public Health.

The perils of incorrect texting technique

July 9, 2009

On top of everything else there is to worry about – bills, your job, what you eat (just to name a few) – now you have to worry about your texting technique. Apparently there’s a proper way to text and continually using poor technique might cause hand, arm, and even neck pain. If you’re like me, and texting is your preferred form of communication, the results of this study might be slightly concerning … or simply resign you to a fate of hand and neck pain.

The study was conducted at the Sahlgrenska Academy (at the University of Gothenburg) in Sweden and was led by ergonomist Ewa Gustafsson. As part of the study, researchers analyzed the texting technique of 56 young adults who text on a daily basis. They used a device that measures flexibility in order to monitor muscular activity and thumb movement. About half of the participants complained of pain in the neck, arms, or hands.

They found that those experiencing pain tended to text with one thumb, using it at an increased speed and with less breaks. Participants with pain were also more likely to text while hunching over, therefore putting strain on the neck and back.

If you’re interested in improving the way you text, the study’s news release provides some not-exactly-groundbreaking advice:


Don’t sit in the same position for a long time; instead try to vary your position. Use the chair’s backrest. Relieve your forearms by resting them against a desk or your thighs. Use both thumbs. Avoid hunching over for a long time. Give your thumbs a break when typing long messages. Don’t type too fast.”


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