Dynamic Association of Mortality Hazard with Body Shape
Source: PLoS ONE
A Body Shape Index (ABSI) had been derived from a study of the United States National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 1999–2004 mortality data to quantify the risk associated with abdominal obesity (as indicated by a wide waist relative to height and body mass index). A national survey with longer follow-up, the British Health and Lifestyle Survey (HALS), provides another opportunity to assess the predictive power for mortality of ABSI. HALS also includes repeat observations, allowing estimation of the implications of changes in ABSI.
Methods and Findings
We evaluate ABSI z score relative to population normals as a predictor of all-cause mortality over 24 years of follow-up to HALS. We found that ABSI is a strong indicator of mortality hazard in this population, with death rates increasing by a factor of 1.13 (95% confidence interval, 1.09–1.16) per standard deviation increase in ABSI and a hazard ratio of 1.61 (1.40–1.86) for those with ABSI in the top 20% of the population compared to those with ABSI in the bottom 20%. Using the NHANES normals to compute ABSI z scores gave similar results to using z scores derived specifically from the HALS sample. ABSI outperformed as a predictor of mortality hazard other measures of abdominal obesity such as waist circumference, waist to height ratio, and waist to hip ratio. Moreover, it was a consistent predictor of mortality hazard over at least 20 years of follow-up. Change in ABSI between two HALS examinations 7 years apart also predicted mortality hazard: individuals with a given initial ABSI who had rising ABSI were at greater risk than those with falling ABSI.
ABSI is a readily computed dynamic indicator of health whose correlation with lifestyle and with other risk factors and health outcomes warrants further investigation.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Community Collective Efficacy following the 2004 Florida Hurricanes
There is a paucity of research investigating the relationship of community-level characteristics such as collective efficacy and posttraumatic stress following disasters. We examine the association of collective efficacy with probable posttraumatic stress disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder symptom severity in Florida public health workers (n = 2249) exposed to the 2004 hurricane season using a multilevel approach. Anonymous questionnaires were distributed electronically to all Florida Department of Health personnel nine months after the 2004 hurricane season. The collected data were used to assess posttraumatic stress disorder and collective efficacy measured at both the individual and zip code levels. The majority of participants were female (80.42%), and ages ranged from 20 to 78 years (median = 49 years); 73.91% were European American, 13.25% were African American, and 8.65% were Hispanic. Using multi-level analysis, our data indicate that higher community-level and individual-level collective efficacy were associated with a lower likelihood of having posttraumatic stress disorder (OR = 0.93, CI = 0.88–0.98; and OR = 0.94, CI = 0.92–0.97, respectively), even after adjusting for individual sociodemographic variables, community socioeconomic characteristic variables, individual injury/damage, and community storm damage. Higher levels of community-level collective efficacy and individual-level collective efficacy were also associated with significantly lower posttraumatic stress disorder symptom severity (b = −0.22, p<0.01; and b = −0.17, p<0.01, respectively), after adjusting for the same covariates. Lower rates of posttraumatic stress disorder are associated with communities with higher collective efficacy. Programs enhancing community collective efficacy may be an important part of prevention practices and possibly lead to a reduction in the rate of posttraumatic stress disorder post-disaster.
Investigating the Role of State Permitting and Agriculture Agencies in Addressing Public Health Concerns Related to Industrial Food Animal Production
Industrial food animal production (IFAP) operations adversely impact environmental public health through air, water, and soil contamination. We sought to determine how state permitting and agriculture agencies respond to these public health concerns.
We conducted semi-structured qualitative interviews with staff at 12 state agencies in seven states, which were chosen based on high numbers or rapid increase of IFAP operations. The interviews served to gather information regarding agency involvement in regulating IFAP operations, the frequency and type of contacts received about public health concerns, how the agency responds to such contacts, and barriers to additional involvement.
Permitting and agriculture agencies’ responses to health-based IFAP concerns are constrained by significant barriers including narrow regulations, a lack of public health expertise within the agencies, and limited resources.
State agencies with jurisdiction over IFAP operations are unable to adequately address relevant public health concerns due to multiple factors. Combining these results with previously published findings on barriers facing local and state health departments in the same states reveals significant gaps between these agencies regarding public health and IFAP. There is a clear need for regulations to protect public health and for public health professionals to provide complementary expertise to agencies responsible for regulating IFAP operations.
We developed linguistics-driven prediction models to estimate the risk of suicide. These models were generated from unstructured clinical notes taken from a national sample of U.S. Veterans Administration (VA) medical records. We created three matched cohorts: veterans who committed suicide, veterans who used mental health services and did not commit suicide, and veterans who did not use mental health services and did not commit suicide during the observation period (n = 70 in each group). From the clinical notes, we generated datasets of single keywords and multi-word phrases, and constructed prediction models using a machine-learning algorithm based on a genetic programming framework. The resulting inference accuracy was consistently 65% or more. Our data therefore suggests that computerized text analytics can be applied to unstructured medical records to estimate the risk of suicide. The resulting system could allow clinicians to potentially screen seemingly healthy patients at the primary care level, and to continuously evaluate the suicide risk among psychiatric patients.
Increased Risk of Non-Fatal Myocardial Infarction Following Testosterone Therapy Prescription in Men
An association between testosterone therapy (TT) and cardiovascular disease has been reported and TT use is increasing rapidly.
We conducted a cohort study of the risk of acute non-fatal myocardial infarction (MI) following an initial TT prescription (N = 55,593) in a large health-care database. We compared the incidence rate of MI in the 90 days following the initial prescription (post-prescription interval) with the rate in the one year prior to the initial prescription (pre-prescription interval) (post/pre). We also compared post/pre rates in a cohort of men prescribed phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors (PDE5I; sildenafil or tadalafil, N = 167,279), and compared TT prescription post/pre rates with the PDE5I post/pre rates, adjusting for potential confounders using doubly robust estimation.
In all subjects, the post/pre-prescription rate ratio (RR) for TT prescription was 1.36 (1.03, 1.81). In men aged 65 years and older, the RR was 2.19 (1.27, 3.77) for TT prescription and 1.15 (0.83, 1.59) for PDE5I, and the ratio of the rate ratios (RRR) for TT prescription relative to PDE5I was 1.90 (1.04, 3.49). The RR for TT prescription increased with age from 0.95 (0.54, 1.67) for men under age 55 years to 3.43 (1.54, 7.56) for those aged ≥75 years (ptrend = 0.03), while no trend was seen for PDE5I (ptrend = 0.18). In men under age 65 years, excess risk was confined to those with a prior history of heart disease, with RRs of 2.90 (1.49, 5.62) for TT prescription and 1.40 (0.91, 2.14) for PDE5I, and a RRR of 2.07 (1.05, 4.11).
In older men, and in younger men with pre-existing diagnosed heart disease, the risk of MI following initiation of TT prescription is substantially increased.
Climate Change Increases Reproductive Failure in Magellanic Penguins
Source: PLoS ONE
Climate change is causing more frequent and intense storms, and climate models predict this trend will continue, potentially affecting wildlife populations. Since 1960 the number of days with >20 mm of rain increased near Punta Tombo, Argentina. Between 1983 and 2010 we followed 3496 known-age Magellanic penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus) chicks at Punta Tombo to determine how weather impacted their survival. In two years, rain was the most common cause of death killing 50% and 43% of chicks. In 26 years starvation killed the most chicks. Starvation and predation were present in all years. Chicks died in storms in 13 of 28 years and in 16 of 233 storms. Storm mortality was additive; there was no relationship between the number of chicks killed in storms and the numbers that starved (P = 0.75) or that were eaten (P = 0.39). However, when more chicks died in storms, fewer chicks fledged (P = 0.05, R2 = 0.14). More chicks died when rainfall was higher and air temperature lower. Most chicks died from storms when they were 9–23 days old; the oldest chick killed in a storm was 41 days old. Storms with heavier rainfall killed older chicks as well as more chicks. Chicks up to 70 days old were killed by heat. Burrow nests mitigated storm mortality (N = 1063). The age span of chicks in the colony at any given time increased because the synchrony of egg laying decreased since 1983, lengthening the time when chicks are vulnerable to storms. Climate change that increases the frequency and intensity of storms results in more reproductive failure of Magellanic penguins, a pattern likely to apply to many species breeding in the region. Climate variability has already lowered reproductive success of Magellanic penguins and is likely undermining the resilience of many other species.
There are concerns about the safety of texting while walking. Although evidence of negative effects of mobile phone use on gait is scarce, cognitive distraction, altered mechanical demands, and the reduced visual field associated with texting are likely to have an impact. In 26 healthy individuals we examined the effect of mobile phone use on gait. Individuals walked at a comfortable pace in a straight line over a distance of ~8.5 m while; 1) walking without the use of a phone, 2) reading text on a mobile phone, or 3) typing text on a mobile phone. Gait performance was evaluated using a three-dimensional movement analysis system. In comparison with normal waking, when participants read or wrote text messages they walked with: greater absolute lateral foot position from one stride to the next; slower speed; greater rotation range of motion (ROM) of the head with respect to global space; the head held in a flexed position; more in-phase motion of the thorax and head in all planes, less motion between thorax and head (neck ROM); and more tightly organized coordination in lateral flexion and rotation directions. While writing text, participants walked slower, deviated more from a straight line and used less neck ROM than reading text. Although the arms and head moved with the thorax to reduce relative motion of the phone and facilitate reading and texting, movement of the head in global space increased and this could negatively impact the balance system. Texting, and to a lesser extent reading, modify gait performance. Texting or reading on a mobile phone may pose an additional risk to safety for pedestrians navigating obstacles or crossing the road.
A Year in Review: 2013 PLOS ONE Papers in the Media
Source: PLoS ONE
Tired of year-end lists? We know you’ve got room for at least one more. 2013 was a great year for PLOS ONE media coverage: We had over 5,000 news stories on over 1450 published articles.
The PLOS ONE press team poured tirelessly over the list to whittle down the papers that stood out the most. In celebration of the New Year, we’d like to share some of these titles with you.
Agricultural Policies Exacerbate Honeybee Pollination Service Supply-Demand Mismatches Across Europe
Declines in insect pollinators across Europe have raised concerns about the supply of pollination services to agriculture. Simultaneously, EU agricultural and biofuel policies have encouraged substantial growth in the cultivated area of insect pollinated crops across the continent. Using data from 41 European countries, this study demonstrates that the recommended number of honeybees required to provide crop pollination across Europe has risen 4.9 times as fast as honeybee stocks between 2005 and 2010. Consequently, honeybee stocks were insufficient to supply >90% of demands in 22 countries studied. These findings raise concerns about the capacity of many countries to cope with major losses of wild pollinators and highlight numerous critical gaps in current understanding of pollination service supplies and demands, pointing to a pressing need for further research into this issue.
We analyzed tornado-related injuries seen at hospitals and risk factors for tornado injury, and screened for post-traumatic stress following a statewide tornado-emergency in Alabama in April 2011.
We conducted a chart abstraction of 1,398 patients at 39 hospitals, mapped injured cases, and conducted a case-control telephone survey of 98 injured cases along with 200 uninjured controls.
Most (n = 1,111, 79.5%) injuries treated were non-life threatening (Injury Severity Score ≤15). Severe injuries often affected head (72.9%) and chest regions (86.4%). Mobile home residents showed the highest odds of injury (OR, 6.98; 95% CI: 2.10–23.20). No severe injuries occurred in tornado shelters. Within permanent homes, the odds of injury were decreased for basements (OR, 0.13; 95% CI: 0.04–0.40), bathrooms (OR, 0.22; 95% CI: 0.06–0.78), hallways (OR, 0.31; 95% CI: 0.11–0.90) and closets (OR, 0.25; 95% CI: 0.07–0.80). Exposure to warnings via the Internet (aOR, 0.20; 95% CI: 0.09–0.49), television (aOR, 0.45; 95% CI: 0.24–0.83), and sirens (aOR, 0.50; 95% CI: 0.30–0.85) decreased the odds of injury, and residents frequently exposed to tornado sirens had lower odds of injury. The prevalence of PTSD in respondents was 22.1% and screening positive for PTSD symptoms was associated with tornado-related loss events.
Primary prevention, particularly improved shelter access, and media warnings, seem essential to prevent severe tornado-injury. Small rooms such as bathrooms may provide some protection within permanent homes when no underground shelter is available.
Two Randomized Trials Provide No Consistent Evidence for Nonmusical Cognitive Benefits of Brief Preschool Music Enrichment
Young children regularly engage in musical activities, but the effects of early music education on children’s cognitive development are unknown. While some studies have found associations between musical training in childhood and later nonmusical cognitive outcomes, few randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have been employed to assess causal effects of music lessons on child cognition and no clear pattern of results has emerged. We conducted two RCTs with preschool children investigating the cognitive effects of a brief series of music classes, as compared to a similar but non-musical form of arts instruction (visual arts classes, Experiment 1) or to a no-treatment control (Experiment 2). Consistent with typical preschool arts enrichment programs, parents attended classes with their children, participating in a variety of developmentally appropriate arts activities. After six weeks of class, we assessed children’s skills in four distinct cognitive areas in which older arts-trained students have been reported to excel: spatial-navigational reasoning, visual form analysis, numerical discrimination, and receptive vocabulary. We initially found that children from the music class showed greater spatial-navigational ability than did children from the visual arts class, while children from the visual arts class showed greater visual form analysis ability than children from the music class (Experiment 1). However, a partial replication attempt comparing music training to a no-treatment control failed to confirm these findings (Experiment 2), and the combined results of the two experiments were negative: overall, children provided with music classes performed no better than those with visual arts or no classes on any assessment. Our findings underscore the need for replication in RCTs, and suggest caution in interpreting the positive findings from past studies of cognitive effects of music instruction.
Tens of millions of people are currently choosing health coverage on a state or federal health insurance exchange as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. We examine how well people make these choices, how well they think they do, and what can be done to improve these choices. We conducted 6 experiments asking people to choose the most cost-effective policy using websites modeled on current exchanges. Our results suggest there is significant room for improvement. Without interventions, respondents perform at near chance levels and show a significant bias, overweighting out-of-pocket expenses and deductibles. Financial incentives do not improve performance, and decision-makers do not realize that they are performing poorly. However, performance can be improved quite markedly by providing calculation aids, and by choosing a “smart” default. Implementing these psychologically based principles could save purchasers of policies and taxpayers approximately 10 billion dollars every year.
Conversational Flow Promotes Solidarity
Source: PLoS ONE
Social interaction is fundamental to the development of various aspects of “we-ness”. Previous research has focused on the role the content of interaction plays in establishing feelings of unity, belongingness and shared reality (a cluster of variables referred to as solidarity here). The present paper is less concerned with content, but focuses on the form of social interaction. We propose that the degree to which conversations flow smoothly or not is, of itself, a cue to solidarity. We test this hypothesis in samples of unacquainted and acquainted dyads who communicate via headsets. Conversational flow is disrupted by introducing a delay in the auditory feedback (vs. no delay). Results of three studies show that smoothly coordinated conversations (compared with disrupted conversations and a control condition) increase feelings of belonging and perceptions of group entitativity, independently of conversation content. These effects are driven by the subjective experience of conversational flow. Our data suggest that this process occurs largely beyond individuals’ control. We conclude that the form of social interaction is a powerful cue for inferring group solidarity. Implications for the impact of modern communication technology on developing a shared social identity are discussed.
Previously, we demonstrated the possibility of fMRI in two awake and unrestrained dogs. Here, we determined the replicability and heterogeneity of these results in an additional 11 dogs for a total of 13 subjects. Based on an anatomically placed region-of-interest, we compared the caudate response to a hand signal indicating the imminent availability of a food reward to a hand signal indicating no reward. 8 of 13 dogs had a positive differential caudate response to the signal indicating reward. The mean differential caudate response was 0.09%, which was similar to a comparable human study. These results show that canine fMRI is reliable and can be done with minimal stress to the dogs.
Amphibians with missing, misshapen, and extra limbs have garnered public and scientific attention for two decades, yet the extent of the phenomenon remains poorly understood. Despite progress in identifying the causes of abnormalities in some regions, a lack of knowledge about their broader spatial distribution and temporal dynamics has hindered efforts to understand their implications for amphibian population declines and environmental quality. To address this data gap, we conducted a nationwide, 10-year assessment of 62,947 amphibians on U.S. National Wildlife Refuges. Analysis of a core dataset of 48,081 individuals revealed that consistent with expected background frequencies, an average of 2% were abnormal, but abnormalities exhibited marked spatial variation with a maximum prevalence of 40%. Variance partitioning analysis demonstrated that factors associated with space (rather than species or year sampled) captured 97% of the variation in abnormalities, and the amount of partitioned variance decreased with increasing spatial scale (from site to refuge to region). Consistent with this, abnormalities occurred in local to regional hotspots, clustering at scales of tens to hundreds of kilometers. We detected such hotspot clusters of high-abnormality sites in the Mississippi River Valley, California, and Alaska. Abnormality frequency was more variable within than outside of hotspot clusters. This is consistent with dynamic phenomena such as disturbance or natural enemies (pathogens or predators), whereas similarity of abnormality frequencies at scales of tens to hundreds of kilometers suggests involvement of factors that are spatially consistent at a regional scale. Our characterization of the spatial and temporal variation inherent in continent-wide amphibian abnormalities demonstrates the disproportionate contribution of local factors in predicting hotspots, and the episodic nature of their occurrence.
The Power of the Web: A Systematic Review of Studies of the Influence of the Internet on Self-Harm and Suicide in Young People
There is concern that the internet is playing an increasing role in self-harm and suicide. In this study we systematically review and analyse research literature to determine whether there is evidence that the internet influences the risk of self-harm or suicide in young people.
An electronic literature search was conducted using the PsycINFO, MEDLINE, EMBASE, Scopus, and CINAHL databases. Articles of interest were those that included empirical data on the internet, self-harm or suicide, and young people. The articles were initially screened based on titles and abstracts, then by review of the full publications, after which those included in the review were subjected to data extraction, thematic analysis and quality rating.
Youth who self-harm or are suicidal often make use of the internet. It is most commonly used for constructive reasons such as seeking support and coping strategies, but may exert a negative influence, normalising self-harm and potentially discouraging disclosure or professional help-seeking. The internet has created channels of communication that can be misused to ‘cyber-bully’ peers; both cyber-bullying and general internet use have been found to correlate with increased risk of self-harm, suicidal ideation, and depression. Correlations have also been found between internet exposure and violent methods of self-harm.
Internet use may exert both positive and negative effects on young people at risk of self-harm or suicide. Careful high quality research is needed to better understand how internet media may exert negative influences and should also focus on how the internet might be utilised to intervene with vulnerable young people.
Research has shown that individuals have an optimal walking speed–a speed which minimizes energy expenditure for a given distance. Because the optimal walking speed varies with mass and lower limb length, it also varies with sex, with males in any given population tending to have faster optimal walking speeds. This potentially creates an energetic dilemma for mixed-sex walking groups. Here we examine speed choices made by individuals of varying stature, mass, and sex walking together. Individuals (N = 22) walked around a track alone, with a significant other (with and without holding hands), and with friends of the same and opposite sex while their speeds were recorded every 100 m. Our findings show that males walk at a significantly slower pace to match the females’ paces (p = 0.009), when the female is their romantic partner. The paces of friends of either same or mixed sex walking together did not significantly change (p>0.05). Thus significant pace adjustment appears to be limited to romantic partners. These findings have implications for both mobility and reproductive strategies of groups. Because the male carries the energetic burden by adjusting his pace (slowing down 7%), the female is spared the potentially increased caloric cost required to walk together. In energetically demanding environments, we will expect to find gender segregation in group composition, particularly when travelling longer distances.
See: Men tend to walk slower when walking with romantic partners (EurekAlert!)
The Relationship between Trait Emotional Intelligence and Interaction with Ostracized Others’ Retaliation
Regulation of emotions in others is distinct from other activities related to trait emotional intelligence in that only such behavior can directly change other people’s psychological states. Although emotional intelligence has generally been associated with prosociality, emotionally intelligent people may manipulate others’ behaviors to suit their own interests using high-level capabilities to read and manage the emotions of others. This study investigated how trait emotional intelligence was related to interacting with ostracized others who attempt retaliation.
We experimentally manipulated whether two people were simultaneously ostracized or not by using an online ball-tossing game called Cyberball. Eighty university students participated in Cyberball for manipulating ostracism and a “recommendation game,” a variation of the ultimatum game for assessing how to interact with others who attempt retaliation, with four participants. After the recommendation game, participants rated their intention to retaliate during the game.
People with higher interpersonal emotional intelligence were more likely to recommend that the ostracized other should inhibit retaliation and maximize additional rewards when they have a weaker intention to retaliate. However, they were more likely to recommend that the ostracized other should retaliate against the ostracizers when they have a stronger intention to retaliate.
This is the first laboratory study that empirically reveals that people with high interpersonal emotional intelligence influence others’ emotions based on their own goals contrary to the general view. Trait emotional intelligence itself is neither positive nor negative, but it can facilitate interpersonal behaviors for achieving goals. Our study offers valuable contributions for the refinement of the trait emotional intelligence concept in the respect of its social function.