Archive for the ‘scholarly publishing’ Category

‘I am not a depressed person’: How identity conflict affects help-seeking rates for major depressive disorder

October 2, 2012 Comments off

‘I am not a depressed person’: How identity conflict affects help-seeking rates for major depressive disorder

Source: BMC Psychiatry


There is a significant treatment gap for patients with depression. A third of sufferers never seek help, and the vast majority of those who do only do so after considerable delay. Little is understood regarding poor help-seeking rates amongst people with depression, with existing research mainly focussed on the impact of barriers to treatment. The current study explored psychological factors affecting help-seeking behaviour in clinically depressed individuals.


Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 20 current or previously clinically depressed participants who either had or had not sought professional help. Thematic analysis was used to analyse results.


The onset of depressive symptoms created conflict with participants’ identity and personal goals. Delays in seeking help were primarily attributed to the desire to protect identity and goals from the threat of depressive symptoms. Participants used avoidance strategies to reduce the perceived threat of depressive symptoms on identity. These strategies interfered with help-seeking. Help-seeking was only undertaken once participants reached a point of acceptance and began to make concessions in their identity and goals, at which time they reduced their use of avoidance.


Difficulties resolving conflict between identity and depressive symptoms may account for significant delays in seeking help for depression. The results have implications for predicting health behaviour and improving treatment uptake for depression, and may inform existing help-seeking models.

Duration Dependence and Labor Market Conditions: Theory and Evidence from a Field Experiment

October 2, 2012 Comments off

Duration Dependence and Labor Market Conditions: Theory and Evidence from a Field Experiment

Source: Social Science Research Network

This paper studies the role of employer behavior in generating "negative duration dependence" — the adverse effect of a longer unemployment spell — by sending fictitious resumes to real job postings in 100 U.S. cities. Our results indicate that the likelihood of receiving a callback for an interview significantly decreases with the length of a worker’s unemployment spell, with the majority of this decline occurring during the first eight months. We explore how this effect varies with local labor market conditions, and find that duration dependence is stronger when the labor market is tighter. We develop a theoretical framework that shows how the sign of this interaction effect can be used to discern among leading models of duration dependence based on employer screening, employer ranking, and human capital depreciation. Our results suggest that employer screening plays an important role in generating duration dependence; employers use the unemployment spell length as a signal of unobserved productivity and recognize that this signal is less informative in weak labor markets.

Psychological Distress, Depression, Anxiety, and Burnout among International Humanitarian Aid Workers: A Longitudinal Study

October 1, 2012 Comments off

Psychological Distress, Depression, Anxiety, and Burnout among International Humanitarian Aid Workers: A Longitudinal Study

Source: PLoS ONE


International humanitarian aid workers providing care in emergencies are subjected to numerous chronic and traumatic stressors.


To examine consequences of such experiences on aid workers’ mental health and how the impact is influenced by moderating variables.


We conducted a longitudinal study in a sample of international non-governmental organizations. Study outcomes included anxiety, depression, burnout, and life and job satisfaction. We performed bivariate regression analyses at three time points. We fitted generalized estimating equation multivariable regression models for the longitudinal analyses.


Study participants from 19 NGOs were assessed at three time points: 212 participated at pre-deployment; 169 (80%) post-deployment; and 154 (73%) within 3–6 months after deployment. Prior to deployment, 12 (3.8%) participants reported anxiety symptoms, compared to 20 (11.8%) at post-deployment (p = 0·0027); 22 (10.4%) reported depression symptoms, compared to 33 (19.5%) at post-deployment (p = 0·0117) and 31 (20.1%) at follow-up (p = .00083). History of mental illness (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] 4.2; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1·45–12·50) contributed to an increased risk for anxiety. The experience of extraordinary stress was a contributor to increased risk for burnout depersonalization (AOR 1.5; 95% CI 1.17–1.83). Higher levels of chronic stress exposure during deployment were contributors to an increased risk for depression (AOR 1·1; 95% CI 1·02–1.20) comparing post- versus pre-deployment, and increased risk for burnout emotional exhaustion (AOR 1.1; 95% CI 1.04–1.19). Social support was associated with lower levels of depression (AOR 0·9; 95% CI 0·84–0·95), psychological distress (AOR = 0.9; [CI] 0.85–0.97), burnout lack of personal accomplishment (AOR 0·95; 95% CI 0·91–0·98), and greater life satisfaction (p = 0.0213).


When recruiting and preparing aid workers for deployment, organizations should consider history of mental illness and take steps to decrease chronic stressors, and strengthen social support networks.

See: No Relief for Relief Workers: Humanitarian Aid Work Raises Risk of Depression and Anxiety (Science Daily)

Background Television in the Homes of US Children

October 1, 2012 Comments off

Background Television in the Homes of US Children

Source: Pediatrics

OBJECTIVE: US parents were surveyed to determine the amount of background television that their children are exposed to as well as to isolate demographic factors associated with increased exposure to background television. After this, we ask how certain home media practices are linked to children’s background television exposure.

METHODS: US parents/caregivers (N = 1454) with 1 child between the ages of 8 months and 8 years participated in this study. A nationally representative telephone survey was conducted. Parents were asked to report on their child’s exposure to background television via a 24-hour time diary. Parents were also asked to report relevant home media behaviors related to their child: bedroom television ownership, number of televisions in the home, and how often a television was on in the home.

RESULTS: The average US child was exposed to 232.2 minutes of background television on a typical day. With the use of multiple regression analysis, we found that younger children and African American children were exposed to more background television. Leaving the television on while no one is viewing and children’s bedroom television ownership were associated with increased background television exposure.

CONCLUSIONS: Although recent research has shown the negative consequences associated with background television, this study provides the first nationally representative estimates of that exposure. The amount of exposure for the average child is startling. This study offers practitioners potential pathways to reduce exposure.

Bisphenol A and Peripheral Arterial Disease: Results from the NHANES

September 28, 2012 Comments off

Bisphenol A and Peripheral Arterial Disease: Results from the NHANES
Source: Environmental Health Perspectives

Background: Bisphenol A (BPA) is a common chemical used in the manufacture of polycarbonate
plastics and epoxy resins, and > 93% of U.S. adults have detectable levels of urinary BPA. Recent animal studies have suggested that BPA exposure may have a role in several mechanisms involved in the development of cardiovascular disease (CVD), including weight gain, insulin resistance, thyroid dysfunction, endothelial dysfunction, and oxidative stress. However, few human studies have examined
the association between markers of BPA exposure and CVD. Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a subclinical measure of atherosclerotic vascular disease and a strong independent risk factor for CVD and mortality.

Objective: We examined the association between urinary BPA levels and PAD in a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults.

Methods: We analyzed data from 745 participants in the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey 2003–2004. We estimated associations between urinary BPA levels (in tertiles) and PAD (ankle–brachial index < 0.9, n = 63) using logistic regression models adjusted for potentialconfounders (age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, smoking, body mass index, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, urinary creatinine, estimated glomerular filtration rate, and serum cholesterol levels).

Results: We observed a significant, positive association between increasing levels of urinary BPA and PAD before and after adjusting for confounders. The multivariable-adjusted odds ratio for PAD associated with the highest versus lowest tertile of urinary BPA was 2.69 (95% confidence interval: 1.02, 7.09; p-trend = 0.01).

Conclusions: Urinary BPA levels were significantly associated with PAD, independent of traditional CVD risk factors.

Cross-Category Adaptation: Objects Produce Gender Adaptation in the Perception of Faces

September 27, 2012 Comments off

Cross-Category Adaptation: Objects Produce Gender Adaptation in the Perception of Faces

Source: PLoS ONE

Adaptation aftereffects have been found for low-level visual features such as colour, motion and shape perception, as well as higher-level features such as gender, race and identity in domains such as faces and biological motion. It is not yet clear if adaptation effects in humans extend beyond this set of higher order features. The aim of this study was to investigate whether objects highly associated with one gender, e.g. high heels for females or electric shavers for males can modulate gender perception of a face. In two separate experiments, we adapted subjects to a series of objects highly associated with one gender and subsequently asked participants to judge the gender of an ambiguous face. Results showed that participants are more likely to perceive an ambiguous face as male after being exposed to objects highly associated to females and vice versa. A gender adaptation aftereffect was obtained despite the adaptor and test stimuli being from different global categories (objects and faces respectively). These findings show that our perception of gender from faces is highly affected by our environment and recent experience. This suggests two possible mechanisms: (a) that perception of the gender associated with an object shares at least some brain areas with those responsible for gender perception of faces and (b) adaptation to gender, which is a high-level concept, can modulate brain areas that are involved in facial gender perception through top-down processes.

Heterogeneity in Discrimination?: A Field Experiment

September 27, 2012 Comments off

Heterogeneity in Discrimination?: A Field Experiment
Source: Social Science Research Network

We provide evidence from the field that levels of discrimination are heterogeneous across contexts in which we might expect to observe bias. We explore how discrimination varies in its extent and source through an audit study including over 6,500 professors at top U.S. universities drawn from 89 disciplines and 258 institutions. Faculty in our field experiment received meeting requests from fictional prospective doctoral students who were randomly assigned identity-signaling names (Caucasian, Black, Hispanic, Indian, Chinese; male, female). Faculty response rates indicate that discrimination against women and minorities is both prevalent and unevenly distributed in academia. Discrimination varies meaningfully by discipline and is more extreme in higher paying disciplines and at private institutions. These findings raise important questions for future research about how and why pay and institutional characteristics may relate to the manifestation of bias. They also suggest that past audit studies may have underestimated the prevalence of discrimination in the United States. Finally, our documentation of heterogeneity in discrimination suggests where targeted efforts to reduce discrimination in academia are most needed and highlights that similar research may help identify areas in other industries where efforts to reduce bias should focus.

Near-Roadway Pollution and Childhood Asthma: Implications for Developing “Win-Win” Compact Urban Development and Clean Vehicle Strategies

September 25, 2012 Comments off

Near-Roadway Pollution and Childhood Asthma: Implications for Developing “Win-Win” Compact Urban Development and Clean Vehicle Strategies

Source: Environmental Health Perspectives

Background: The emerging consensus that exposure to near-roadway traffic-related pollution causes asthma has implications for compact urban development policies designed to reduce driving and greenhouse gases.

Objectives: We estimated the current burden of childhood asthma-related disease attributable to near-roadway and regional air pollution in Los Angeles County (LAC) and the potential health impact of regional pollution reduction associated with changes in population along major traffic corridors.

Methods: The burden of asthma attributable to the dual effects of near-roadway and regional air pollution was estimated, using nitrogen dioxide and ozone as markers of urban combustion-related and secondary oxidant pollution, respectively. We also estimated the impact of alternative scenarios that assumed a 20% reduction in regional pollution in combination with a 3.6% reduction or 3.6% increase in the proportion of the total population living near major roads, a proxy for near-roadway exposure.

Results: We estimated that 27,100 cases of childhood asthma (8% of total) in LAC were at

least partly attributable to pollution associated with residential location within 75m of a major

road. As a result, a substantial proportion of asthma-related morbidity is a consequence of nearroadway

pollution, even if symptoms are triggered by other factors. Benefits resulting from a

20% regional pollution reduction varied markedly depending on the associated change in nearroadway


Conclusions: Our findings suggest that there are large and previously unappreciated public health consequences of air pollution in LAC and probably in other metropolitan areas with dense traffic corridors. To maximize health benefits, compact urban development strategies should be coupled with policies to reduce near-roadway pollution exposure.

Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students

September 25, 2012 Comments off

Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students

Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Despite efforts to recruit and retain more women, a stark gender disparity persists within academic science. Abundant research has demonstrated gender bias in many demographic groups, but has yet to experimentally investigate whether science faculty exhibit a bias against female students that could contribute to the gender disparity in academic science. In a randomized double-blind study (n = 127), science faculty from research-intensive universities rated the application materials of a student—who was randomly assigned either a male or female name—for a laboratory manager position. Faculty participants rated the male applicant as significantly more competent and hireable than the (identical) female applicant. These participants also selected a higher starting salary and offered more career mentoring to the male applicant. The gender of the faculty participants did not affect responses, such that female and male faculty were equally likely to exhibit bias against the female student. Mediation analyses indicated that the female student was less likely to be hired because she was viewed as less competent. We also assessed faculty participants’ preexisting subtle bias against women using a standard instrument and found that preexisting subtle bias against women played a moderating role, such that subtle bias against women was associated with less support for the female student, but was unrelated to reactions to the male student. These results suggest that interventions addressing faculty gender bias might advance the goal of increasing the participation of women in science.

Policy Intervention in Debt Renegotiation: Evidence from the Home Affordable Modification Program

September 24, 2012 Comments off

Policy Intervention in Debt Renegotiation: Evidence from the Home Affordable Modification Program

Source: Social Science Research Network

The main rationale for policy intervention in debt renegotiation is to enhance such activity when foreclosures are perceived to be inefficiently high. We examine the ability of the government to influence debt renegotiation by empirically evaluating the effects of the 2009 Home Affordable Modification Program that provided intermediaries (servicers) with sizeable financial incentives to renegotiate mortgages. A difference-in-difference strategy that exploits variation in program eligibility criteria reveals that the program generated an increase in the intensity of renegotiations while adversely affecting effectiveness of renegotiations performed outside the program. Renegotiations induced by the program resulted in a modest reduction in rate of foreclosures but did not alter the rate of house price decline, durable consumption, or employment in regions with higher exposure to the program. The overall impact of the program will be substantially limited since it will induce renegotiations that will reach just one-third of its targeted 3 to 4 million indebted households. This shortfall is in large part due to low renegotiation intensity of a few large servicers that responded at half the rate than others. The muted response of these servicers cannot be accounted by differences in contract, borrower, or regional characteristics of mortgages across servicers. Instead, their low renegotiation activity — which is also observed before the program — reflects servicer specific factors that appear to be related to their preexisting organizational capabilities. Our findings reveal that the ability of government to quickly induce changes in behavior of large intermediaries through financial incentives is quite limited, underscoring significant barriers to the effectiveness of such polices.

Addressing the Proximal Causes of Obesity: The Relevance of Alcohol Control Policies

September 23, 2012 Comments off

Addressing the Proximal Causes of Obesity: The Relevance of Alcohol Control Policies

Source: Preventing Chronic Disease (CDC)

Many policy measures to control the obesity epidemic assume that people consciously and rationally choose what and how much they eat and therefore focus on providing information and more access to healthier foods. In contrast, many regulations that do not assume people make rational choices have been successfully applied to control alcohol, a substance – like food – of which immoderate consumption leads to serious health problems. Alcohol-use control policies restrict where, when, and by whom alcohol can be purchased and used. Access, salience, and impulsive drinking behaviors are addressed with regulations including alcohol outlet density limits, constraints on retail displays of alcoholic beverages, and restrictions on drink "specials." We discuss 5 regulations that are effective in reducing drinking and why they may be promising if applied to the obesity epidemic.

Evaluation of Consumer Understanding of Different Front-of-Package Nutrition Labels, 2010–2011

September 21, 2012 Comments off

Evaluation of Consumer Understanding of Different Front-of-Package Nutrition Labels, 2010–2011
Source: Preventing Chronic Disease

Governments throughout the world are using or considering various front-of-package (FOP) food labeling systems to provide nutrition information to consumers. Our web-based study tested consumer understanding of different FOP labeling systems.

Adult participants (N = 480) were randomized to 1 of 5 groups to evaluate FOP labels: 1) no label; 2) multiple traffic light (MTL); 3) MTL plus daily caloric requirement icon (MTL+caloric intake); 4) traffic light with specific nutrients to limit based on food category (TL+SNL); or 5) the Choices logo. Total percentage correct quiz scores were created reflecting participants’ ability to select the healthier of 2 foods and estimate amounts of saturated fat, sugar, and sodium in foods. Participants also rated products on taste, healthfulness, and how likely they were to purchase the product. Quiz scores and product perceptions were compared with 1-way analysis of variance followed by post-hoc Tukey tests.

The MTL+caloric intake group (mean [standard deviation], 73.3% [6.9%]) and Choices group (72.5% [13.2%]) significantly outperformed the no label group (67.8% [10.3%]) and the TL+SNL group (65.8% [7.3%]) in selecting the more healthful product on the healthier product quiz. The MTL and MTL+caloric intake groups achieved average scores of more than 90% on the saturated fat, sugar, and sodium quizzes, which were significantly better than the no label and Choices group average scores, which were between 34% and 47%.

An MTL+caloric intake label and the Choices symbol hold promise as FOP labeling systems and require further testing in different environments and population subgroups.

Lifting the Veil of Morality: Choice Blindness and Attitude Reversals on a Self-Transforming Survey

September 20, 2012 Comments off

Lifting the Veil of Morality: Choice Blindness and Attitude Reversals on a Self-Transforming Survey

Source: PLoS ONE

Every day, thousands of polls, surveys, and rating scales are employed to elicit the attitudes of humankind. Given the ubiquitous use of these instruments, it seems we ought to have firm answers to what is measured by them, but unfortunately we do not. To help remedy this situation, we present a novel approach to investigate the nature of attitudes. We created a self-transforming paper survey of moral opinions, covering both foundational principles, and current dilemmas hotly debated in the media. This survey used a magic trick to expose participants to a reversal of their previously stated attitudes, allowing us to record whether they were prepared to endorse and argue for the opposite view of what they had stated only moments ago. The result showed that the majority of the reversals remained undetected, and a full 69% of the participants failed to detect at least one of two changes. In addition, participants often constructed coherent and unequivocal arguments supporting the opposite of their original position. These results suggest a dramatic potential for flexibility in our moral attitudes, and indicates a clear role for self-attribution and post-hoc rationalization in attitude formation and change.

See: People change moral position without even realizing it (Science Daily)

Global forecasts of urban expansion to 2030 and direct impacts on biodiversity and carbon pools

September 20, 2012 Comments off

Global forecasts of urban expansion to 2030 and direct impacts on biodiversity and carbon pools
Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Urban land-cover change threatens biodiversity and affects ecosystem productivity through loss of habitat, biomass, and carbon storage. However, despite projections that world urban populations will increase to nearly 5 billion by 2030, little is known about future locations, magnitudes, and rates of urban expansion. Here we develop spatially explicit probabilistic forecasts of global urban land-cover change and explore the direct impacts on biodiversity hotspots and tropical carbon biomass. If current trends in population density continue and all areas with high probabilities of urban expansion undergo change, then by 2030, urban land cover will increase by 1.2 million km2, nearly tripling the global urban land area circa 2000. This increase would result in considerable loss of habitats in key biodiversity hotspots, with the highest rates of forecasted urban growth to take place in regions that were relatively undisturbed by urban development in 2000: the Eastern Afromontane, the Guinean Forests of West Africa, and the Western Ghats and Sri Lanka hotspots. Within the pan-tropics, loss in vegetation biomass from areas with high probability of urban expansion is estimated to be 1.38 PgC (0.05 PgC yr−1), equal to ∼5% of emissions from tropical deforestation and land-use change. Although urbanization is often considered a local issue, the aggregate global impacts of projected urban expansion will require significant policy changes to affect future growth trajectories to minimize global biodiversity and vegetation carbon losses.

Misinformation and Its Correction: Continued Influence and Successful Debiasing

September 20, 2012 Comments off

Misinformation and Its Correction: Continued Influence and Successful Debiasing
Source: Psychological Science in the Public Interest

The widespread prevalence and persistence of misinformation in contemporary societies, such as the false belief that there is a link between childhood vaccinations and autism, is a matter of public concern. For example, the myths surrounding vaccinations, which prompted some parents to withhold immunization from their children, have led to a marked increase in vaccine-preventable disease, as well as unnecessary public expenditure on research and public-information campaigns aimed at rectifying the situation.

We first examine the mechanisms by which such misinformation is disseminated in society, both inadvertently and purposely. Misinformation can originate from rumors but also from works of fiction, governments and politicians, and vested interests. Moreover, changes in the media landscape, including the arrival of the Internet, have fundamentally influenced the ways in which information is communicated and misinformation is spread.

We next move to misinformation at the level of the individual, and review the cognitive factors that often render misinformation resistant to correction. We consider how people assess the truth of statements and what makes people believe certain things but not others. We look at people’s memory for misinformation and answer the questions of why retractions of misinformation are so ineffective in memory updating and why efforts to retract misinformation can even backfire and, ironically, increase misbelief. Though ideology and personal worldviews can be major obstacles for debiasing, there nonetheless are a number of effective techniques for reducing the impact of misinformation, and we pay special attention to these factors that aid in debiasing.

We conclude by providing specific recommendations for the debunking of misinformation. These recommendations pertain to the ways in which corrections should be designed, structured, and applied in order to maximize their impact. Grounded in cognitive psychological theory, these recommendations may help practitioners—including journalists, health professionals, educators, and science communicators—design effective misinformation retractions, educational tools, and public-information campaigns.

See: Misinformation: Why It Sticks and How to Fix It (Science Daily)

Facebook Surveillance of Former Romantic Partners: Associations with PostBreakup Recovery and Personal Growth

September 19, 2012 Comments off

Facebook Surveillance of Former Romantic Partners: Associations with PostBreakup Recovery and Personal Growth

Source: Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking

Previous research has found that continuing offline contact with an ex-romantic partner following a breakup may disrupt emotional recovery. The present study examined whether continuing online contact with an ex-partner through remaining Facebook friends and/or engaging in surveillance of the ex-partner’s Facebook page inhibited postbreakup adjustment and growth above and beyond offline contact. Analysis of the data provided by 464 participants revealed that Facebook surveillance was associated with greater current distress over the breakup, more negative feelings, sexual desire, and longing for the ex-partner, and lower personal growth. Participants who remained Facebook friends with the ex-partner, relative to those who did not remain Facebook friends, reported less negative feelings, sexual desire, and longing for the former partner, but lower personal growth. All of these results emerged after controlling for offline contact, personality traits, and characteristics of the former relationship and breakup that tend to predict postbreakup adjustment. Overall, these findings suggest that exposure to an ex-partner through Facebook may obstruct the process of healing and moving on from a past relationship.

See: Can post-breakup Facebook surveillance delay emotional recovery? (EurekAlert!)

One In Seven: Ranking Youth Disconnection in the 25 Largest Metro Areas

September 14, 2012 Comments off

One In Seven: Ranking Youth Disconnection in the 25 Largest Metro Areas

Source: Social Science Research Network (Measure of America)

An astonishing one in every seven Americans ages 16 to 24 is neither working nor in school—5.8 million young people in all. As their peers lay the foundation for a productive, fulfilling adulthood, these disconnected youth find themselves adrift at society’s margins, unmoored from the structures that confer knowledge, skills, identity, and purpose.

The cost is high for affected individuals—and for society as a whole. Lack of attachment to the anchor institutions of school or work at this stage of life can leave scars that last a lifetime, affecting everything from earnings and financial independence to physical and mental health and even marital prospects. And last year alone, youth disconnection cost taxpayers $93.7 billion in government support and lost tax revenue.

This brief ranks the country’s 25 largest metropolitan areas as well as the nation’s largest racial and ethnic groups in terms of youth disconnection. Key findings include the following:

  • Big gaps separate major metro areas; in bottom-ranked Phoenix, 19 percent of young people are disconnected from the worlds of work and school, whereas in Boston, which tops the chart, only about 9 percent are.
  • African American young people have the highest rate of youth disconnection, 22.5 percent nationally. In Pittsburgh, Seattle, Detroit, and Phoenix, more than one in four African American young people are disconnected.
  • Young men are slightly more likely to be disconnected than young women, a reversal of the situation found in decades past. The situation varies by race and ethnicity, however. The gender gap is largest among African Americans; nationally, 26 percent of African American male youth are disconnected, compared to 19 percent of their female counterparts.
  • Youth disconnection mirrors adult disconnection: household poverty rates and the employment and educational status of adults in a community are strongly associated with youth disconnection.
  • Where a young person lives is highly predictive of his or her likelihood of disconnection. The findings break down youth disconnection by neighborhoods within cities. The disparities between wealthy and poor communities are striking. For example, in New York, disconnection rates range from 3.7 percent in parts of Long Island to 35.6 percent in parts of the South Bronx.

The report concludes with a set of recommendations for preventing youth disconnection, including moving beyond the “college-for-all” mantra to provide meaningful support and guidance both to young people aiming for a four-year bachelor’s degree and to those whose interests and career aspirations would be better served by relevant, high-quality career and technical education certificates and associate’s degrees.

Low fertility increases descendant socioeconomic position but reduces long-term fitness in a modern post-industrial society

September 14, 2012 Comments off

Low fertility increases descendant socioeconomic position but reduces long-term fitness in a modern post-industrial society

Source: Proceedings of the Royal Society

Adaptive accounts of modern low human fertility argue that small family size maximizes the inheritance of socioeconomic resources across generations and may consequently increase long-term fitness. This study explores the long-term impacts of fertility and socioeconomic position (SEP) on multiple dimensions of descendant success in a unique Swedish cohort of 14 000 individuals born during 1915–1929. We show that low fertility and high SEP predict increased descendant socioeconomic success across four generations. Furthermore, these effects are multiplicative, with the greatest benefits of low fertility observed when SEP is high. Low fertility and high SEP do not, however, predict increased descendant reproductive success. Our results are therefore consistent with the idea that modern fertility limitation represents a strategic response to the local costs of rearing socioeconomically competitive offspring, but contradict adaptive models suggesting that it maximizes long-term fitness. This indicates a conflict in modern societies between behaviours promoting socioeconomic versus biological success. This study also makes a methodological contribution, demonstrating that the number of offspring strongly predicts long-term fitness and thereby validating use of fertility data to estimate current selective pressures in modern populations. Finally, our findings highlight that differences in fertility and SEP can have important long-term effects on the persistence of social inequalities across generations.

The Air That We Breathe: Addressing the Risks of Global Urbanization on Health

September 11, 2012 Comments off

The Air That We Breathe: Addressing the Risks of Global Urbanization on Health

Source: PLoS Medicine

More than half of the world’s population now live in cities [1], and while urbanization has the potential to allow greater access to health care for all, huge discrepancies in how resources are allocated within cities result in major inequities in health [2]. Addressing these discrepancies and improving health require accurate assessment. To that point, earlier this month PLOS Medicine published a Policy Forum article by Jason Corburn and Alison Cohen that focused on the urbanizing planet and the need for health equity indicators to guide public health policy in cities and urban areas [2].

The major theme of Corburn and Cohen’s argument is that if societies are to ensure those living in the poorest urban slums have the same right to health as people living on the richest boulevards, health indicators must allow for the identification of where health inequities exist. For example, while indicators in Nairobi measure population access to communal toilet blocks, they give no information as to whether the toilet blocks are hygienic or safe to use and therefore mask inequity within the city. Such indicators, however, would have little value in cities like London or New York, which illustrates the need for context-specific measures.

What Is the Relationship of Medical Humanitarian Organisations with Mining and Other Extractive Industries?

September 10, 2012 Comments off

What Is the Relationship of Medical Humanitarian Organisations with Mining and Other Extractive Industries?
Source: PLoS Medicine

Summary Points

  • In developing countries, extractive industries (including ore mineral mining and oil extraction) have far reaching consequences on health through environmental pollution, some communicable diseases, violence, destitution, and compromised food security.
  • The rapid expansion of extractive industries and the increasing frequency of environmental disasters are bound to engage medical humanitarian organisations in developing novel types of expertise.
  • While humanitarian organisations might be called to intervene in areas occupied by the extractive sector, in this Essay I argue that oil and mineral exploitation reveals a fundamental clash of values between humanitarianism, the for-profit sector, and privatised global philanthropy.
    Specific medical humanitarian organisations can respond to these challenges in different ways, based on their position between pragmatic or principled approaches, and their willingness to develop new technical capacities.

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