Why stairclimbing is avoided by some people

Psychon Bull Rev. 2014 Feb;21(1):71-7. doi: 10.3758/s13423-013-0463-7.

Is there any Proffitt in stair climbing? A headcount of studies testing for demographic differences in choice of stairs.

Eves FF.

Author information

School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK, f.f.eves@bham.ac.uk.


The apparent slope of a hill, termed geographical slant perception, is overestimated in explicit awareness. Proffitt (2006) argued that overestimation allows individuals to manage their locomotor resources. Increasing age, fatigue, and wearing a heavy back pack will reduce the available resources and result in steeper reports for a particular hill. In contrast, Durgin and colleagues have proposed an alternative explanation for these effects based on experimental design-particularly, the potential effects of experimental demand. Proffitt’s resource-based model would predict that pedestrians with reduced resources should avoid climbing a hill that would further deplete their resources if the opportunity arose. Within the built environment, stairs are the man-made equivalent of relatively steep hills (20°-30°). In many public access settings, pedestrians can avoid climbing the stairs by opting for an adjacent escalator. Observations of pedestrian behavior in shopping malls reveal that 94.5 % do so. This article summarizes the effects of demographic grouping on avoidance of stairs in public health research. Observations in shopping malls (n = 355,069) and travel contexts (n = 711,867) provide data consistent with Proffitt’s resource model. Women, the old, and those carrying excess body weight or large bags avoid the stairs more than do their comparison groups. Discussion focuses on differences in physiology that may underlie avoidance of stair climbing in order to highlight the pedestrian behavior that psychology needs to explain. Source

Posted in Exercise: Benefits, Human Behavior: Habits, Human Behavior: Perception | Leave a comment

Colic in infants may be reduced by probiotics

TORONTO – Babies cry. And as many new parents quickly learn, sometimes feeding, changing a diaper, adjusting the temperature or cuddling won’t make the wee one stop wailing. As days roll into weeks, baby’s excessive and inconsolable crying, with bouts of fussiness and passing gas, continues. Tired and frustrated parents scour the web and survey doctors and other parents, searching for something – anything – to end their baby’s discomfort due to infantile colic. The few available treatments have minimal impact on crying and fussing time.

New research led by the Motherisk Program at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) shows for the first time that probiotics can significantly reduce colic in North American infants. The study assessed the effectiveness of Lactobacillius reuteri DSM 17938 in treating infantile colic in exclusively breastfed Canadian babies. The paper is published in the Oct. 23 advance online edition of The Journal of Pediatrics.

“Infantile colic is one of the major concerns of many parents of babies, and for a long time, doctors and parents alike have struggled with a lack of treatment options to ease colic symptoms in early infancy,” says Dr. Gideon Koren, Director of Motherisk and Senior Scientist at SickKids. “It is critical to evaluate natural products, such as probiotics, with the same scientific rigour used for medicinal drugs. Using these rigorous methods, we have shown that this probiotic can help infants.”

An estimated five to 40 per cent of infants experience colic, typically beginning around six weeks of age, and ending at about three or four months. Babies with colic usually fuss at least three hours a day, more than three days in a week over at least three weeks, with no obvious trigger.

While recognized by the medical community for centuries, the cause of infantile colic remains unknown, with theories ranging from overproduction of intestinal gas to insecure parental attachment. Some research has pointed to a potential role of the intestinal microbiota, microorganisms that include “good bacteria”, which differ greatly between infants with colic and those without. Some babies with colic have also been shown to have inadequate levels of a type of good bacteria (probiotic) called lactobacilli in early infancy.

Growing evidence suggests that probiotic supplements, which introduce live microorganisms into the gut, can regulate intestinal bacteria patterns and suppress inflammation. Clinical trials from Europe and Australia have previously assessed the probiotic L reuteri DSM 17938 in infants with colic, with inconsistent results.

“There is evidence that in different parts of the world, gut bacteria differ substantially, which means a treatment that worked overseas may not be effective for infants here in North America,” Koren explains. “This is why it was important to assess the probiotic’s effect on the specific microbiota of North American babies.”

To assess the effectiveness of the probiotic L reuteri DSM 17938, the research team conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial from February 2012 to April 2014 at SickKids and in paediatric clinics in Toronto. For 21 days, 52 babies were given a five-drop dose, once per day at the same time of day. Parents or caregivers were asked to refrain from other modes of medications for consoling the baby.

At the outset of the study, the general characteristics between the probiotic group and the placebo group were similar. The median crying and fussing time for both groups was also comparable: 131 minutes per day for the probiotic group and 122 minutes per day for the placebo group. At the end of the treatment period, the probiotic group exhibited a significantly shorter duration of crying and fussing (60 minutes per day), versus the placebo group (102 minutes per day). More than half of the probiotic group had experienced a reduction in colic symptoms by the end of the study period, with some babies showing a statistically significant improvement as early as seven days after beginning treatment. The probiotic was well tolerated, and no side-effects were reported in either group.

Koren is Professor of Paediatrics, Pharmacology, Pharmacy and Medical Genetics at the University of Toronto. The study is a collaboration with the University of Toronto and St. Joseph’s Health Care in Toronto.

The research was funded by The Research Leadership for Better Pharmacotherapy During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding, and SickKids Foundation. Source

Posted in Nutrition: Probiotics, Pediatric Health: Colic, Pediatric Health: Swaddling | Leave a comment

Runners in their forties dominate ultra-marathons

Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2014 Mar;69(3):203-11. doi: 10.6061/clinics/2014(03)11.

Runners in their forties dominate ultra-marathons from 50 to 3,100 miles.

Zingg MA1, Rüst CA1, Rosemann T1, Lepers R2, Knechtle B3.

Author information

1University of Zurich, Institute of General Practice and for Health Services Research, Zurich, Switzerland, University of Zurich, Institute of General Practice and for Health Services Research, Zurich, Switzerland.

2Faculty of Sport Sciences, University of Burgundy, INSERM U1093, Dijon, France, University of Burgundy, Faculty of Sport Sciences, INSERM U1093, Dijon, France.

3Gesundheitszentrum St. Gallen, St. Gallen, Switzerland, Gesundheitszentrum St. Gallen, St. Gallen, Switzerland.



This study investigated performance trends and the age of peak running speed in ultra-marathons from 50 to 3,100 miles.


The running speed and age of the fastest competitors in 50-, 100-, 200-, 1,000- and 3,100-mile events held worldwide from 1971 to 2012 were analyzed using single- and multi-level regression analyses.


The number of events and competitors increased exponentially in 50- and 100-mile events. For the annual fastest runners, women improved in 50-mile events, but not men. In 100-mile events, both women and men improved their performance. In 1,000-mile events, men became slower. For the annual top ten runners, women improved in 50- and 100-mile events, whereas the performance of men remained unchanged in 50- and 3,100-mile events but improved in 100-mile events. The age of the annual fastest runners was approximately 35 years for both women and men in 50-mile events and approximately 35 years for women in 100-mile events. For men, the age of the annual fastest runners in 100-mile events was higher at 38 years. For the annual fastest runners of 1,000-mile events, the women were approximately 43 years of age, whereas for men, the age increased to 48 years of age. For the annual fastest runners of 3,100-mile events, the age in women decreased to 35 years and was approximately 39 years in men.


The running speed of the fastest competitors increased for both women and men in 100-mile events but only for women in 50-mile events. The age of peak running speed increased in men with increasing race distance to approximately 45 years in 1,000-mile events, whereas it decreased to approximately 39 years in 3,100-mile events. In women, the upper age of peak running speed increased to approximately 51 years in 3,100-mile events. Source

Posted in Exercise: Capacity, Exercise: Marathons, Fitness: Endurance Training | Leave a comment

Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time

“A powerful argument, swept along by Katznelson’s robust prose and the imposing scholarship that lies behind it.”—Kevin Boyle, New York Times Book Review

A work that “deeply reconceptualizes the New Deal and raises countless provocative questions” (David Kennedy), Fear Itself changes the ground rules for our understanding of this pivotal era in American history.

Ira Katznelson examines the New Deal through the lens of a pervasive, almost existential fear that gripped a world defined by the collapse of capitalism and the rise of competing dictatorships, as well as a fear created by the ruinous racial divisions in American society.

Katznelson argues that American democracy was both saved and distorted by a Faustiancollaboration that guarded racial segregation as it built a new national state to manage capitalism and assert global power.

Fear Itself charts the creation of the modern American state and “how a belief in the common good gave way to a central government dominated by interest-group politics and obsessed with national security” (Louis Menand, The New Yorker). Source: Amazon

Posted in Human Behavior: Fear, Politics | Leave a comment

Climate change caused by ocean, not just atmosphere, new Rutgers study finds

Most of the concerns about climate change have focused on the amount of greenhouse gases that have been released into the atmosphere.


But in a new study published in Science, a group of Rutgers researchers have found that circulation of the ocean plays an equally important role in regulating the earth’s climate.

In their study, the researchers say the major cooling of Earth and continental ice build-up in the Northern Hemisphere 2.7 million years ago coincided with a shift in the circulation of the ocean – which pulls in heat and carbon dioxide in the Atlantic and moves them through the deep ocean from north to south until it’s released in the Pacific.

The ocean conveyor system, Rutgers scientists believe, changed at the same time as a major expansion in the volume of the glaciers in the northern hemisphere as well as a substantial fall in sea levels. It was the Antarctic ice, they argue, that cut off heat exchange at the ocean’s surface and forced it into deep water. They believe this caused global climate change at that time, not carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

“We argue that it was the establishment of the modern deep ocean circulation – the ocean conveyor – about 2.7 million years ago, and not a major change in carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere that triggered an expansion of the ice sheets in the northern hemisphere,” says Stella Woodard, lead author and a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences. Their findings, based on ocean sediment core samples between 2.5 million to 3.3 million years old, provide scientists with a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of climate change today.

The study shows that changes in heat distribution between the ocean basins is important for understanding future climate change. However, scientists can’t predict precisely what effect the carbon dioxide currently being pulled into the ocean from the atmosphere will have on climate. Still, they argue that since more carbon dioxide has been released in the past 200 years than any recent period in geological history, interactions between carbon dioxide, temperature changes and precipitation, and ocean circulation will result in profound changes.

Scientists believe that the different pattern of deep ocean circulation was responsible for the elevated temperatures 3 million years ago when the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere was arguably what it is now and the temperature was 4 degree Fahrenheit higher. They say the formation of the ocean conveyor cooled the earth and created the climate we live in now.

“Our study suggests that changes in the storage of heat in the deep ocean could be as important to climate change as other hypotheses – tectonic activity or a drop in the carbon dioxide level – and likely led to one of the major climate transitions of the past 30 million years,” says Yair Rosenthal, co-author and professor of marine and coastal sciences at Rutgers


The paper’s co-authors are Woodard, Rosenthal, Kenneth Miller and James Wright, both professors of earth and planetary sciences at Rutgers; Beverly Chiu, a Rutgers undergraduate majoring in earth and planetary sciences; and Kira Lawrence, associate professor of geology at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. Source

Posted in Environmental Health: Climate | 1 Comment

Two days later: Adolescents’ conflicts with family spill over to school, vice versa

The lives of adolescents at home and at school may seem quite separate, but recent research has highlighted important connections. Family conflict and problems at school tend to occur together on the same day and sometimes even spill over in both directions to the next day, with family conflict increasing the likelihood of problems at school and vice versa. Now a new study has found that conflicts at home spill over to school and school problems influence problems at home up to two days later, and that negative mood and psychological symptoms are important factors in the process.

The study, by researchers at the University of Southern California, appears in the journal Child Development.

The kinds of problems that spill over from home and school include arguments between teens and their parents, doing poorly on a quiz or test, cutting class, having difficulty understanding coursework, and not finishing assignments.

“Spillover processes have been recognized but are not well understood,” according to Adela C. Timmons, a doctoral student, and Gayla Margolin, professor of psychology, both at the University of Southern California, who conducted the study. “Evidence of spillover for as long as two days suggests that some teens get caught in a reverberating cycle of negative events.”

The study also found that teens’ negative mood might be a way that problems are transmitted across areas (for example, failing a test might lead to irritability, which in turn could lead to conflict with parents). In addition, mental health symptoms may put adolescents at risk for intensified spillover. Teens with more symptoms of anxiety and depression showed stronger associations between conflict with parents and same-day negative mood.

To capture the day-to-day variability in adolescents’ experiences of family conflict and school problems, more than a hundred 13- to 17-year-olds and their mothers and fathers completed questions at the end of each day for 14 days. The families represented a range of races and ethnicities, and a range of incomes. All three family members reported on family conflict during the day that was ending, and teens also reported on their mood and their school experiences on the same day. Adolescents also completed one-time questionnaires of symptoms associated with depression, anxiety, and externalizing problems.

The findings of this study can inform interventions to help teens better handle their negative moods and to improve teens’ relationships with family as well as how they do academically. Source

Posted in Human Behavior: Conflict | Leave a comment

Teens whose parents exert more psychological control have trouble with closeness, independence

For teenagers, learning to establish a healthy degree of autonomy and closeness in relationships (rather than easily giving in to peer pressure) is an important task. A new longitudinal study has found one reason adolescents struggle with balancing autonomy and closeness in relationships: parents’ psychological control. Teens whose parents exerted more psychological control over them when they were 13 had more problems establishing friendships and romantic relationships that balanced closeness and independence, both in adolescence and into early adulthood.

The study, by researchers at the University of Virginia, appears in the journal Child Development.

The researchers looked at whether parents’ greater use of psychological control in early adolescence can hinder teens’ development of autonomy in relationships with peers. Parents’ psychological control involved such tactics as using guilt, withdrawing love, fostering anxiety, or other psychologically manipulative tactics aimed at controlling youths’ motivations and behaviors.

“These tactics might pressure teens to make decisions in line with their parents’ needs and motivations rather than their own,” explains Barbara A. Oudekerk, a statistician with the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, who led the study while a research associate at the University of Virginia. “Without opportunities to practice self-directed, independent decision making, teens might give in to their friends’ and partners’ decisions.”

Oudekerk and her colleagues found that parents’ use of psychological control at age 13 placed teens at risk for having problems establishing autonomy and closeness in relationships with friends and romantic partners that persisted eight years later, into early adulthood. Previous studies have shown that adolescents who fail to develop the capacity to establish autonomy and closeness are at risk for using methods that are hostile or that undermine autonomy in their own relationships, as well as for experiencing depression and loneliness in close relationships in adulthood.

The study included 184 ethnically and socioeconomically diverse teens. At ages 13 and 18, the youths reported the degree to which their parents used psychological control. For example, some parents used psychological control by saying, “If you really cared for me, you wouldn’t do things to worry me,” while others acted less friendly toward their teens when the adolescents didn’t see things in the same way the parents did. The study also assessed teens’ autonomy (their ability to reason, be their own people, and express confidence) and relatedness (their ability to show warmth and connection) in friendships when the adolescents were 13, 18, and 21, and in romantic relationships at ages 18 and 21.

Throughout adolescence, teens became increasingly less skilled at establishing autonomy and closeness in friendships and romantic relationships the more psychological control they experienced from their parents. In addition, teens’ abilities (or lack thereof) to express autonomy and maintain close relationships with friends and partners at age 18 predicted the degree of autonomy and closeness in future relationships at age 21. Despite romantic relationships being relatively new in adolescence, the better teens were at establishing autonomy and relatedness with partners at age 18, the better they were at establishing autonomy and relatedness with both friends and partners at age 21.

“Parents often fear the harmful consequences of peer pressure in adolescence,” says Oudekerk. “Our study suggests that parents can promote or undermine teens’ ability to assert their own views and needs to close friends and romantic partners. In addition, teens who learn—or fail to learn—how to express independence and closeness with friends and partners during adolescence carry these skills forward into adult relationships.”

The study illustrates the importance of intervening early and encouraging healthy relationships between parents and their adolescents. It also documents that adolescent relationships with peers and partners offer opportunities for learning and practicing healthy relationship skills that can shape the quality of adult relationships. Source

Posted in Human Behavior: Conformity, Human Behavior: Emotional Maturity, Human Behavior: Relationships, Mental Health: Abuse, Parenting, Pediatric Health: Teenagers | Leave a comment

Mother’s gestational diabetes linked to daughters being overweight later

OAKLAND, Calif., October 23, 2014 – Women who developed gestational diabetes and were overweight before pregnancy were at a higher risk of having daughters who were obese later in childhood, according to new research published today in Diabetes Care.

Based on long-term research that included a multi-ethnic cohort of 421 girls and their mothers (all members of Kaiser Permanente Northern California), the study is among the first to directly link maternal hyperglycemia (high blood glucose) to offspring being overweight later.

“Glucose levels during pregnancy, particularly gestational diabetes, were associated with the girls being overweight, and this association was much stronger if the mother was also overweight before pregnancy,” said Ai Kubo, PhD, the study’s lead author and an epidemiologist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, California.

The girls were part of the Cohort study of Young Girls’ Nutrition, Environment, and Transitions (CYGNET), part of a National Institutes of Health-funded consortium examining early determinants of puberty.

“This research builds on our long-term study of pubertal development in girls, which has been underway since the girls were between 6 and 8 years old,” said Lawrence H. Kushi, ScD, a study co-author and CYGNET Study principal investigator at the Division of Research.

The girls were followed from 2005 to 2011, with annual clinic visits to measure each girl’s height, weight, body fat, abdominal obesity, and other parameters. Pregnant women in the Kaiser Permanente system take glucose tolerance tests during gestational weeks 24 to 28. Kaiser Permanente’s comprehensive electronic medical records allowed researchers to link data collected on the girls to information about their mothers.

Twenty-seven mothers in the study had gestational diabetes. If a girl’s mother had gestational diabetes, her risk of having a body mass index at or above the 85th percentile was 3.5 times higher than that of girls whose mothers did not have gestational diabetes. This association was independent of other important factors that influence girl’s obesity, such as race/ethnicity, maternal obesity, and girl’s pubertal stage.

Furthermore, the study found that if the girl’s mother was also overweight and had gestational diabetes, her subsequent risk of being overweight was about 5.5 times higher. Similar associations were observed for a girl’s increased body fat and likelihood of having abdominal obesity.

Kubo said the study suggests that behavior modifications in women to reduce weight gain and improve lifestyle before and during pregnancy may also help reduce the risk of obesity in their offspring.


Funding support for the study came from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the National Cancer Institute, and the National Center for Research Resources.

In addition to Kubo and Kushi, co-authors of the study were Assiamira Ferrara, MD, PhD, Charles P. Quesenberry, Jr., PhD, Cecile A. Laurent, and Anousheh S. Mirabedi, of the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research; Gayle C. Windham, PhD, California Department of Public Health; Louise C. Greenspan, MD, Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center; Julianna Deardorff, PhD, University of California, Berkeley; and Robert A. Hiatt, MD, PhD, University of California, San Francisco. Source

Posted in Diabetes: Gestational, Obesity | Leave a comment

Sunshine may slow weight gain and diabetes onset, study suggests

Exposure to moderate amounts of sunshine may slow the development of obesity and diabetes, a study suggests.

Scientists who looked at the effect of sunlight on mice say further research will be needed to confirm whether it has the same effect on people.

The researchers showed that shining UV light at overfed mice slowed their weight gain. The mice displayed fewer of the warning signs linked to diabetes, such as abnormal glucose levels and resistance to insulin.

The beneficial effects of UV treatment were linked to a compound called nitric oxide, which is released by the skin after exposure to sunlight. Applying a cream containing nitric oxide to the skin of the overfed mice had the same effect of curbing weight gain as exposure to UV light, the team found.

Vitamin D – which is produced by the body in response to sunlight and often lauded for its health benefits – did not play a role, the study found.

The team says the new findings add to the growing body of evidence that supports the health benefits of moderate exposure to the sun’s rays.

Previous studies in people have shown that nitric oxide can lower blood pressure after exposure to UV lamps.

The results should be interpreted cautiously, the researchers say, as mice are nocturnal animals covered in fur and not usually exposed to much sunlight. Studies are needed to confirm whether sunshine exposure has the same effect on weight gain and risk of diabetes in people.

Researchers at the Telethon Kids Institute in Perth, Western Australia, led the study in collaboration with the Universities of Edinburgh and Southampton.

Dr Shelley Gorman, of the Telethon Kids Institute and lead author of the study, said: “Our findings are important as they suggest that casual skin exposure to sunlight, together with plenty of exercise and a healthy diet, may help prevent the development of obesity in children.”

“These observations further indicate that the amounts of nitric oxide released from the skin may have beneficial effects not only on heart and blood vessels but also on the way our body regulates metabolism,” Dr Martin Feelisch, Professor of Experimental Medicine and Integrative Biology at the University of Southampton, added.

Dr Richard Weller, Senior Lecturer in Dermatology at the University of Edinburgh, said: “We know from epidemiology studies that sun-seekers live longer than those who spend their lives in the shade. Studies such as this one are helping us to understand how the sun can be good for us. We need to remember that skin cancer is not the only disease that can kill us and should perhaps balance our advice on sun exposure.”

The research is published today in the journal Diabetes. Source

Posted in Diabetes, Environmental Health: Sunlight, Obesity | Leave a comment

Kidney Stones May Be Linked to Bone Fracture Risk

Newswise — Washington, DC (October 23, 2014) — People who develop kidney stones may be at increased risk of experiencing bone fractures, according to a study appearing in an upcoming issue of the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN). The findings suggest that preventive efforts may be needed to help protect stone formers’ bone health.

People who form stones in the kidneys and urinary tract—a condition called urolithiasis—may have reduced bone mineral density and an increased risk of bone fractures. To assess the link between urolithiasis and bone fractures, Michelle Denburg, MD, MSCE (The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania) and her colleagues analyzed information on 51,785 individuals in the UK who were diagnosed with urolithiaisis and 517,267 matched individuals without urolithiasis.

Over a median period of 4.7 years, being diagnosed with urolithiasis was significantly linked with fractures, and the excess risk affected all skeletal sites. In males, there was an overall 10% greater risk in those with urolithiasis, and the risk was greatest in adolescence (55% higher). In women, there was a 17% to 52% higher risk of fracture from the third through seventh decades of life, with the highest risk in those aged 30 to 39 years.

“The significantly higher risk at certain ages in males and females has profound public health implications,” said Dr. Denburg. “Given that the median time from diagnosis of urolithiasis to fracture was a decade, we might be able to intervene during this interval to reduce the burden of future fracture.”

Study co-authors include Mary Leonard, MD, MSCE, Kevin Haynes, PharmD, MSCE, Shamir Tuchman, MD, MPH, Gregory Tasian, MD, MSc, Justine Shults, PhD, and Lawrence Copelovitch, MD.

Disclosures: The authors reported no financial disclosures relevant to this work.

The article, entitled “Risk of Fracture in Urolithiasis: A Population-Based Cohort Study using The Health Improvement Network,” will appear online at http://cjasn.asnjournals.org/ on October 23, 2014.

Posted in Nephrology: Kidney Stones, Osteoporosis | Leave a comment

Homeless people’s health: the hidden truth

As many as 4 million Europeans and 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness every year, and the numbers are rising. Homeless people ‘are the sickest in our society,’ but just treating ill health might not be enough to help get people off the streets, according to a new two-part series on homelessness in high-income countries, published in The Lancet.

The Series highlights that being homeless is not only bad for your physical and mental health but also has dramatic effects on life expectancy [Paper 1]. Rates of tuberculosis infection, for example, are at least 20 times higher in the homeless population than the general population [page 5, table 2], while rates of depression are up to seven times higher in the homeless population and similar to levels of psychosis [page 7, table 4].

Homeless people are also two to five times more likely to die prematurely than the general population, especially from suicide and unintentional injuries. However, despite an expansion of services, this increased risk of death has remained similar over the past 20 years.

“Homeless people are the sickest in our society. The evidence on disease rates is very concerning not only for drug and alcohol abuse but also for a range of infectious diseases, heart disease and other age-related chronic conditions, and mental health disorders. The evidence shows that homeless people are old decades before the rest of the population because of their poor health”*, says Seena Fazel, lead author of the first paper and Professor of Forensic Psychiatry at the University of Oxford in the UK.

Across the European Union 400 000 individuals, and in the USA 600 000 people, are homeless on any given night [Paper 1, page 3, panel 2]. Figures from the past 5 years suggest that the number of homeless people is continuing to rise, and the number of children and families who are homeless has increased substantially. Therefore, the importance of tackling this issue is greater than ever, say the authors.

Homeless people use the most expensive acute health-care services, such as accident and emergency care, and need longer hospital stays than people with homes. In the UK, for example, homeless people are around four times more likely to use emergency hospital services than the general population, costing the National Health Service around £85 million a year**.

So what can be done to prevent adverse health outcomes [Paper 1, page 8, panels 3 and 4]? While national and state-wide targets to improve the health of homeless people should be introduced (eg, for the identification and management of infectious diseases, mental illness, and diseases of old age), the Series also calls for health-care providers to advocate for changes to the social policies and structural factors that result in homelessness, including the lack of affordable housing and employment opportunities for low-skilled workers.

Examples of integrated services across high-income countries are already bridging the gap between homelessness and health services, showing what can be achieved [Paper 2]. In the USA, for example, “Housing First” programmes that provide housing and support services for homeless individuals with severe mental illness or substance abuse problems not only improve lives but can also reduce health-care and social service costs. Medical respite programmes for homeless patients leaving hospital reduce the risk of readmission and the number of days spent in hospital [page 3, panel 1].

However, these examples are not the norm and much more needs to be done, says lead author of the second paper Dr Stephen Hwang from St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Canada: “It needs to be recognised that preventing homelessness, by creating more opportunities for housing, work, education, and health care during high risk periods, such as being discharged from institutional care, psychiatric hospital or prisons to the community, could effectively reduce homelessness and makes sound economic sense.”* Source

Posted in Homelessness, Poverty | Leave a comment

‘Swingers’ multiple drug use heightens risk of STDs

These so called ‘swingers’ need to be offered more tailored interventions by sexual health services to help encourage safer sexual practices and prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Swingers are described as heterosexuals who, as a couple, practise mate swapping or group sex, and/or visit sex clubs for couples.

Recreational drug use is associated with high-risk sexual behaviour or sexually transmitted infections and previous studies on the association between drug use and STI focused on women and on men who have sex with men, but there is little data on swingers, who have recently been classified as an emerging high risk group for STIs.

This group of people are known to engage in high risk sexual behaviour such as having multiple sexual partners, group sex, and unprotected sex, but there is little data on their use of drugs and what impact that has.

Dutch researchers, therefore, set out to assess the prevalence of drug use among swingers and its association with high-risk sexual behaviour and STIs.

They studied 289 people of average age 49, who identified themselves as swingers and who visited a STI clinic from 2009 to 2012 in South Limburg, The Netherlands.

The study participants filled in a self-administered questionnaire on their sexual and drug use behaviour while swinging, over the preceding six months.

The researchers assessed associations between sexual behaviour, drug use and STI diagnoses including Chlamydia trachomatis (CT), Neisseria gonorrhoea (NG), syphilis, HIV and hepatitis B.

Recreational drugs included methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB), laughing gas, cannabis, alkyl nitrites (poppers), (meth)amphetamines, cocaine, ketamine (LSD), and lysergic acid.

The results showed that a quarter of the male participants had had sex with male swing partners in the last six months, more than half of the participants of both sexes had had group sex in the same period and half of them did not use condoms.

Half of the respondents reported having six or more sex partners over the preceding six months, and had not used a condom during vaginal sex, but there was no differences in sexual risk behaviour between men and women

Further analysis of the results showed that overall, the prevalence of Chlamydia and/or gonorrhoea was 13%, but no other STIs were observed.

More than three quarters (79%) of swingers reported recreational drug use (including alcohol and use of erectile dysfunction drugs); while almost half (46%) of them reported multiple drug use.

Recreational drug use excluding alcohol and erectile dysfunction drugs (reported by 48%) was linked to high-risk behaviours in men and women while drug use was only independently associated with STIs in female swingers, especially those who practiced group sex.

The absence of an association for males could be due to a lack of statistical power to detect an association, said the researchers, but other studies had found there was only a link between sex-related drug use and STIs in women and men who have sex with men, and not in heterosexual men.

The researchers concluded: “Drug-using populations are a target for interventions that address the practice of safer sex along with secondary prevention of drug use.

“By dealing with all these items properly, more tailored prevention and enhanced STI screening are likely to produce gains for both individuals and the population (reduced STI burden).” Source

Posted in Drug Addiction, Sexually Transmitted Diseases | Leave a comment

Receiving gossip about others promotes self-reflection and growth

Gossip is pervasive in our society, and our penchant for gossip can be found in most of our everyday conversations. Why are individuals interested in hearing gossip about others’ achievements and failures? Researchers at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands studied the effect positive and negative gossip has on how the recipient evaluates him or herself. The study is published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

In spite of some positive consequences, gossip is typically seen as destructive and negative. However, hearing gossip may help individuals adapt to a social environment, illustrate how an individual can improve, or reveal potential threats.

Design of the study

The first study asked participants to recall an incident where they received either positive or negative gossip about another individual. Participants were then asked questions to measure the self-improvement, self-promotion, and self-protection value of the received gossip information. Individuals that received positive gossip had increased self-improvement value, whereas negative gossip had increased self-promotion value. Negative gossip also increased self-protection concerns.

“For example, hearing positive stories about others may be informative, because they suggest ways to improve oneself,” lead researcher Elena Martinescu explains. “Hearing negative gossip may be flattering, because it suggests that others (the gossip target) may function less well than we do. However, negative gossip may also be threatening to the self, because it suggests a malign social environment in which one may easily fall victim to negative treatments.”

Participants in the second study were assigned the role of a sales agent and asked to imagine they had written a job description that was presented to them. Participants received either negative or positive gossip about another’s job performance. This scenario included an achievement goal manipulation with two conditions; a performance goal condition, and a mastery goal condition. People who have a salient performance goal strive to demonstrate superior competence by outperforming other people. People who have a salient mastery goal strive to develop competence by learning new knowledge, abilities, and skills.

Results of the study

Consistent with the first study, positive gossip had more self-improvement value, whereas negative gossip had self-promotion value and raised self-protection concerns. Negative gossip elicited pride due to its self-promotion value since it provides individuals with social comparison

information that justifies self-promotional judgments. Negative gossip also elicits fear and anxiety due to increased self-protection concerns, since individuals may worry that their reputation could be at risk if they become targets of negative gossip in the future.

The second study found that individuals with a mastery goal are more likely to learn from positive gossip than individuals with a performance goal, while the latter experience more concern for self-protection in response to positive gossip. Individuals who pursue performance goals feel threatened by positive gossip because rivals’ success translates to their own failure.

The researchers expected that individuals would be more alert after receiving positive rather than negative gossip because they might find positive gossip provides a source of information they can learn from. However, the results were surprising, and alertness was high for both positive and negative gossip, presumably because both types of gossip are highly relevant for the receiver.

Gender differences between men and women were also observed. “Women who receive negative gossip experience higher self-protection concerns possibly because they believe they might experience a similar fate as the person being the target of the gossip, while men who receive positive gossip experience higher fear, perhaps because upward social comparisons with competitors are threatening,” Elena Martinescu elaborates.

Gossip provides individuals with indirect social comparison information, which is in-turn valued highly by receivers because it provides an essential resource for self-evaluation. Instead of eliminating gossip, Elena Martinescu and her colleagues suggest that individuals should “accept gossip as a natural part of our lives and receive it with a critical attitude regarding the consequences it may have on ourselves and on others.” Receiving gossip about other people is a valuable source of knowledge about ourselves, because we implicitly compare ourselves with the people we hear gossip about. Source

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