Study of One Million Americans Shows Obesity and Pain Linked

Newswise — STONY BROOK, N.Y., January 26, 2012 – A clear association between obesity and pain – with higher rates of pain identified in the heaviest individuals – was found in a study of more than one million Americans published January 19 in the online edition of Obesity. In “Obesity and Pain Are Associated in the United States,” Stony Brook University researchers Arthur A. Stone, PhD., and Joan E. Broderick, Ph.D. report this finding based on their analysis of 1,010,762 respondents surveyed via telephone interview by the Gallop Organization between 2008 and 2010.

Previous small-scale studies have shown links between obesity and pain. The Stony Brook study took a very large sample of American men and women who answered health survey questions. The researchers calculated respondents’ body mass index (BMI) based on questions regarding height and weight. Respondents answered questions about pain, including if they “experienced pain yesterday.”

“Our findings confirm and extend earlier studies about the link between obesity and pain. These findings hold true after we accounted for several common pain conditions and across gender and age,” says Dr. Stone, Distinguished Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, Stony Brook University School of Medicine, and an expert on patient reported measures of health, pain, and well-being.

Sixty three percent of the 1,010,762 people who responded to the survey were classified as overweight (38 percent) or obese (25 percent). Obese respondents were further classified into one of three obesity levels as defined by the World Health Organization. In comparison to individuals with low to normal weight, the overweight group reported 20 percent higher rates of pain. The percent increase of reported pain in comparison to the normal weight group grew rapidly in the obese groups: 68 percent higher for Obese 1 group, 136 percent higher for Obese 2 group, and 254 percent higher for Obese 3 group.

“We wanted to explore this relationship further by checking to see if it was due to painful diseases that cause reduced activity, which in turn causes increased weight,” says Joan E. Broderick, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science and School of Public Health at Stony Brook University, and lead investigator of a National Institutes of Health-funded study on how arthritis patients manage their own pain.

“We found that ‘pain yesterday’ was definitely more common among people with diseases that cause bodily pain. Even so, when we controlled for these specific diseases, the weight-pain relationship held up. This finding suggests that obesity alone may cause pain, aside from the presence of painful diseases,” Dr. Broderick explains.

Interestingly, the pain that obese individuals reported was not driven exclusively by musculoskeletal pain, a type of pain that individuals carrying excess weight might typically experience.

Drs. Broderick and Stone also suggest that there could be several plausible explanations for the close obesity/pain relationship. These include the possibility that having excess fat in the body triggers complex physiological processes that result in inflammation and pain; depression, often experienced by obese individuals, is also linked to pain; and medical conditions that cause pain, such as arthritis, might result in reduced levels of exercise thereby resulting in weight gain. The researchers also indicated that the study showed as people get older, excess weight is associated with even more pain, which suggests a developmental process.

Drs. Broderick and Stone believe that the study findings support the importance of metabolic investigations into the causes of pain, as well as the need for further investigation of the obesity—pain link in U.S. populations.

Released: 1/26/2012

Source:  Stony Brook University Medical Center

Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/study-of-one-million-americans-shows-obesity-and-pain-linked

Environmental Update….Affordable Solar: It’s Closer Than You Think!

Photo Credit: Sarah Bird, Affordable solar power is on the horizon, says Joshua Pearce, pictured here with a high-tech photovoltaic panel.

Newswise — It’s time to stop thinking of solar energy as a boutique source of power, says Joshua Pearce.

Sure, solar only generates about 1 percent of the electricity in the US. But that will change in a few years, says Pearce, an associate professor of electrical engineering and materials science at Michigan Technological University. The ultimate in renewable energy is about to go mainstream.

It’s a matter of economics. A new analysis by Pearce and his colleagues at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, shows that solar photovoltaic systems are very close to achieving the tipping point: they can make electricity that’s as cheap—sometimes cheaper—as what consumers pay their utilities.

Here’s why. First, the price of solar panels has plummeted. “Since 2009, the cost has dropped 70 percent,” says Pearce. But more than that, the assumptions used in previous studies have not given solar an even break.

“Historically, when comparing the economics of solar and conventional energy, people have been very conservative,” says Pearce.

To figure out the true cost of photovoltaic energy, analysts need to consider several variables, including the cost to install and maintain the system, finance charges, how long it lasts, and how much electricity it generates. Pearce and his colleagues performed an exhaustive review of the previous studies and concluded that the values given those variables were out of whack.

For example, most analyses assume that the productivity of solar panels will drop at an annual rate of 1 percent or more, a huge overestimation, according to Pearce. “If you buy a top-of-the-line solar panel, it’s much less, between 0.1 and 0.2 percent.”

In addition, “The price of solar equipment has been dropping, so you’d think that the older papers would have higher cost estimates,” Pearce says. “That’s not necessarily the case.”

Equipment costs are determined based on dollars per watt of electricity produced. One 2010 study estimated the cost per watt at $7.61, while a 2003 study set the amount at $4.16. The true cost in 2011, says Pearce, is under $1 per watt for solar panels purchased in bulk on the global market, though system and installation costs vary widely. In some parts of the world, solar is already economically superior, and the study predicts that it will become increasingly attractive in more and more places.

In regions with a burgeoning solar industry, often due to favorable government policies, there are lots of solar panel installers, which heats up the market.

“Elsewhere, installation costs have been high because contractors will do just one job a month,” says Pearce. Increasing demand and competition would drop installation costs. “If you had ten installers in Upper Michigan and enough work to keep them busy, the price would drop considerably.”

Furthermore, economic studies don’t generally taken into account solar energy’s intangible benefits, reduced pollution and carbon emissions. And while silicon-based solar panels do rely on a nonrenewable resource–sand–they are no threat to the world’s beaches. It only takes about a sandwich baggie of sand to make a roof’s worth of thin-film photovoltaic cells, Pearce says.

Based on the study, and on the fact that the cost of conventional power continues to creep upward, Pearce believes that solar energy will soon be a major player in the energy game. “It’s just a matter of time before market economics catches up with it,” he says.

The study, “A Review of Solar Photovoltaic Levelized Cost of Electricity,” was coauthored by Kadra Branker and Michael Pathak of Queen’s University and was published in the December 2011 edition of Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Volume 15, Issue 9, pages 4470-4482.

Released: 12/8/2011

Source: Michigan Technological University

Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/affordable-solar-it-s-closer-than-you-think

Study Suggests Women Score Low on Tech Aptitude Tests for Lack of Interest

Newswise — A new study by a University of Iowa researcher suggests that males score better on technical aptitude tests than females because boys and men are simply more interested than girls in technical things, like taking apart a bike.

The theory offered by Frank Schmidt, professor of management and organizations in the Tippie College of Business, seeks to explain why men score better than women on technical aptitude tests even though the two genders are of equal intelligence.

Aptitude tests are used to predict how well people will do in school and on jobs. These tests focus on particular skills or kinds of specific aptitude, like verbal or technical aptitude. But research over the last few decades by Schmidt and others has found that what really matters is general intelligence, not specific aptitudes. Smart people, researchers have found, are able to learn the requirements of any job if they are motivated.

“The factors that are measured by the specific aptitude tests independent of the general intelligence component in these tests don’t make any contribution to job performance,” he says.

Technical aptitude measures are often used as a component of general intelligence measures, so Schmidt wanted to know why women and men score differently on technical aptitude in particular. He analyzed data from the 10 subtest Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, to look at how men and women differed on the tests, including those on technical aptitude.

He found that at all intelligence levels women score lower on technical aptitude than men at the same intelligence level. Also, at all levels of technical aptitude women had higher levels of general intelligence. So if technical aptitude tests are used as part of a measure of general intelligence, women could receive intelligence scores that are too low. That is, technical aptitude tests may be biased indicators of general intelligence for girls and women.

In his paper “A Theory of Sex Differences in Technical Aptitude and Some Supporting Evidence,” Schmidt presents a theory that suggests this difference stems from sex differences in interest in technical pursuits. People who are more interested in technical things are led to acquire technical experience, which in turn increases technical aptitude scores.

He presents evidence that among men, technical experience does lead to better scores on technical aptitude tests. To find out for sure, he would need to conduct another long-term study — one that looks at whether early interests develop into later aptitudes, as opposed to the opposite theory that aptitudes cause interests. If his theory is right, it might be possible to narrow the gap in technical aptitude by getting girls more interested in technical areas. Interest should lead to aptitude.

But that may not work, Schmidt says.

“The research shows it’s very hard to change people’s interests,” he says. “They’re pretty stable and they form pretty early in life.”

It’s more important, he says, to make sure that the tests used to measure general intelligence aren’t using biased indicators. “That is quite possible today. You can either not use technical aptitude tests or you can use them and counterbalance them,” he says, with tests that women tend to do better on, like perceptual speed or some verbal tests.

Schmidt’s paper is published in the current issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science, published by the Association for Psychological Science.

Released: 11/1/2011

Source: University of Iowa

Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/uiowa-study-suggests-women-score-low-on-tech-aptitude-tests-for-lack-of-interest

New Study Reveals that Belief in God Cuts Two Ways

Reminders of God Hurt Motivation to Succeed But Help Resist Temptation

Newswise — WASHINGTON – Being reminded of the concept of God can decrease people’s motivation to pursue personal goals but can help them resist temptation, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.

“More than 90 percent of people in the world agree that God or a similar spiritual power exists or may exist,” said the study’s lead author, Kristin Laurin, PhD, of the University of Waterloo in Canada. “This is the first empirical evidence that simple reminders of God can diminish some types of self-regulation, such as pursuing one’s goals, yet can improve others, such as resisting temptation.”

A total of 353 college students, with an average age 19 and 186 of whom were women, participated in six experiments to determine how the idea of God can indirectly influence people’s motivations, even among those who said they were not religious. The students did not have to have an opinion on the existence of a god or any other spiritual power. The findings were reported in the online version of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

In one experiment, engineering students completed a “warm-up” word task. They were asked to form grammatically correct sentences using four words from sets of five. Some students were provided either God or God-related words (divine, sacred, spirit and prophet), while the control group used more neutral words (ball, desk, sky, track and box). Next, each student had to form as many words as they could in five minutes, using any combination of specific letters. The researchers determined the students’ motivation level by the number of words they produced. The more motivated they were, the more words they produced. They were told that a good performance could help predict if they would succeed in an engineering career.

Several weeks before this experiment, the students had been asked if they believed outside factors (other people, beings, forces beyond their control) had an influence on their careers. Among participants who said outside factors such as God might influence their career success, those who did the God-related word task performed worse than those who used neutral words. There was no difference in performance among the participants who did not believe outside factors influenced their career success.

Researchers also measured the importance participants placed on a number of values, including achievement. Participants reminded of God placed the same value on achievement as did participants primed with the more neutral words. “This suggests that our findings did not emerge because the participants reminded of God devalued achievement,” said Laurin.

A second set of experiments looked at participants’ ability to resist temptation after being reminded about God. In one study, participants who said eating healthy food was important to them ate fewer cookies after reading a short passage about God than those who read a passage unrelated to God.

Participants who read a short God-related passage reported greater willingness to resist temptations to achieve a major goal, such as maintaining a healthy weight, finding a long-term relationship or having a successful career. This effect was found only among participants who had previously said they believe an omniscient entity watches over them and notices when they misbehave.

The level of participants’ religious devotion had no impact on the outcomes in any of the experiments, according to the researchers.

Released: 10/27/2011

Source: American Psychological Association

Via Newswise

Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/belief-in-god-cuts-two-ways-study-finds

Number of First-Time Medical School Applicants Reaches New High

Medicine Continues to Attract Diverse, Robust Pool of Applicants

Newswise — Washington, D.C., October 24, 2011— First-time applicants to medical school reached an all-time high in 2011, increasing by 2.6 percent over last year to 32,654 students, according to new data released today by the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges). Total applicants rose by 2.8 percent to 43,919, with gains across most major racial and ethnic groups for a second year in a row.

“We are very pleased that medicine continues to be an attractive career choice at a time when our health care system faces many challenges, including a growing need for doctors coupled with a serious physician shortage in the near future,” said Darrell G. Kirch, M.D., AAMC president and CEO.

“At the same time the number of applicants is on the rise, we also are encouraged that the pool of medical school applicants and enrollees continues to be more diverse. This diversity will be important as these new doctors go out into communities across the country to meet the health care needs of all Americans,” Kirch added.

The total number of applicants and enrollees from most major racial and ethnic groups increased in 2011. After a slight decrease (0.2 percent) in 2010, Black/African American applicants increased by 4.8 percent while enrollees increased 1.9 percent. Hispanic/Latino applicants increased by 5.8 percent and enrollees increased 6.1 percent.

Even with greater numbers of applicants, medical schools continue to attract well-qualified individuals. The overall academic credentials of applicants remained strong, with an average GPA of 3.5 and an MCAT® exam score of 29. In addition, the majority of applicants reported slightly increased rates of premedical experiences in community service and medical research, with 82.5 percent reporting community service experience in medical and clinical settings, 68.4 percent in nonclinical community service, and 73 percent reporting experience in research.

Total enrollment increased by 3 percent over last year, with 19,230 students in the 2011 entering class. Medical schools have steadily been increasing their class sizes since the AAMC called for a 30 percent increase in enrollment in 2006 to help alleviate anticipated physician workforce shortages. The majority of this year’s growth came from existing schools while a smaller portion came from first-year enrollees at medical education programs newly established over the last decade. In total, there has been a 16.6 percent enrollment increase over 2002, the base year used in calculating the 30 percent goal. Current projections indicate that medical schools are on target to reach the 30 percent enrollment increase by 2017.

“U.S. medical schools have been responding to the nation’s health challenges by finding ways not only to select the right individuals for medicine, but also to educate and train more doctors for the future. However, to increase the nation’s supply of physicians, the number of residency training positions at teaching hospitals must also increase to accommodate the growth in the number of students in U.S. medical schools. We are very concerned that proposals to decrease federal support of graduate medical education will exacerbate the physician shortage, which is expected to reach 90,000 by 2020,” said Kirch.

Additional highlights:

•Medicine remains an attractive career choice for both men and women, with first-time female applicants increasing 3 percent to 15,953, and first-time male applicants growing nearly 2 percent to 16,698 in 2011. The percentage of male (53 percent) and female (47 percent) enrollees remained steady from last year.
•Asian American applicants increased by 3.8 percent and enrollees increased by 3.3 percent over 2010.
•American Indians applicants and enrollees decreased from 200 to 169 and 191 to 157, respectively.

Released: 10/24/2011

Source: Association of American Medical Colleges

Via Newswise

Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/number-of-first-time-medical-school-applicants-reaches-new-high

Economics and Society: New Study Shows That Minority Consumers Will Voluntarily Pay More for Goods and Services to Assert Status

Newswise — It has been well-documented that minorities are subject to discrimination in product pricing and customer service. What is startling is the result of a new study professors at the USC Marshall School of business in conjunction with University of San Diego’s School of Business Administration, that shows that sometimes ill-treatment can make African-American consumers voluntarily pay more for goods and services than they would normally, as well as pay more than their Caucasian counterparts.

Aarti S. Ivanic, assistant professor of marketing at the University of San Diego’s School of Business Administration; and Jennifer R. Overbeck, assistant professor of management and organization along with Joseph C. Nunes, associate professor of marketing at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, set out to understand inequities in transactions. In their study, “Status, Race and Money: The Impact of Racial Hierarchy on Willingness-to-Pay,” forthcoming in Psychological Science, the researchers found that African-Americans who felt their status was threatened by poor service because of their race were willing to pay more for products and services to assert their social standing.

While Caucasians and African-Americans showed equal interest in products such as headphones or luxury hotel upgrades in two studies conducted, researchers found that when race was explicitly activated (subjects were made aware of the stereotypes affiliated with their race), most African-American survey participants indicated a willingness to pay more for products than either Caucasian participants or other African-Americans for whom race was not raised. Meanwhile, when race was implicitly raised, the researchers found that African-American participants were less likely to counteract negative stereotypes and decreased their willingness to pay for products.

However, what was also uncovered in this study was that African-American participants who strongly identified with their race had a lower “willingness to pay,” suggesting that greater pride in group membership made them less vulnerable about their status.

In the concluding experiment with more than 500 participants, the researchers found that, as with Caucasians surveyed, when African-Americans were treated well, they did not indicate a willingness to pay more for goods or services even when race was made an issue. When African-American subjects were treated poorly, but race was not raised, they paid less.

Though the survey focused on African-Americans, USC Marshall Professor Jennifer Overbeck says the findings may be applicable to any group that has had a traditionally disadvantaged status throughout history.

“Minority consumers have tremendous buying power. We want to draw attention to the fact that these downstream forces of discrimination are important and to bring it to the attention of anyone who feels disadvantaged in the marketplace that he/she should not feel the need to prove themselves to people who don’t deserve it by paying more,” Overbeck said.

Released: 10/20/2011
Source: University of Southern California

Via Newswise

Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/study-finds-minority-consumers-will-voluntarily-pay-more-for-goods-and-services-to-assert-status

Business and Retailing News….Consumers Rely on Signage Over Other Ad Media

Newswise — Businesses looking for a sign on how to prosper in a down economy need look no further than their own indoor and outdoor signage.

That’s because University of Cincinnati analysis of a market research survey of more than 100,000 North American households found that shoppers are drawn into stores and make important quality inferences on the basis of signs.

In fact, one of the surprising finds of the UC research performed in collaboration with BrandSpark/Better Homes and Gardens American Shopper Study™ is just how highly ranked signage is among forms of communication used to provide new product information.

When consumers were asked to rate the perceived usefulness of various media, only television was ranked more highly than signage as the most useful source of new product information.

According to UC researcher James J. Kellaris, “Although television was rated as the most useful source of new-product information, indoor signage (such as those at point-of sale, e.g., signage at the ends of store aisles or at check outs) tied with magazine ads as the second most useful source. And outdoor signage ranked third, followed by radio ads, Internet ads and finally, newspaper ads.”

He added, “So, what we found was that signage, a basic form of technology and communication that evolved in antiquity still works even in today’s Internet age.”

Kellaris will present his findings at the National Signage Research and Education Conference held Oct. 12-13 in Cincinnati, Ohio, a city that serves as a premier global hub for the marketing industry. Kellaris holds the James S. Womack/Gemini Corporation Chair of Signage and Visual Marketing in the Carl H. Lindner College of Business at UC.

MORE FINDINGS: SMALL SIGNS A PROBLEM FOR SHOPPERS
The survey also explored an important visual acuity issue: driving by and failing to find a business because its signage was too small or unclear.

“This appears to be a major problem,” said Kellaris. “Nearly 50 percent of American consumers report that this has happened to them.”

Although the problem is universal across genders and regions, it varies across age groups.
Surprisingly, this is not a “senior citizen” phenomenon, as both younger and older age groups report more signage communication failure than the middle (35-49, 50-64) age groups.

“What we see is a U-shaped distribution with the younger shoppers being just as affected as boomers and seniors. Surprisingly, 64 percent of women aged 18 to 24 report having driven by and failed to find a business due to small, unclear signage.”

BACKGROUND ON THE SURVEY
The BrandSpark/Better Homes and Gardens American Shopper Study™ is performed annually by leading independent market research firm BrandSpark International in conjunction with the Better Homes and Gardens Best New Product Awards program. The sample for this survey includes over 100,000 North American households, with approximately 63 percent being U.S. consumers ages 18 to 65+.

“The survey provides a goldmine of data,” said Kellaris. “Our ongoing partnership with BrandSpark allows marketing faculty with varying interests to explore the database to uncover consumer insights relevant to many business areas, including the signage industry.”

The most recent survey included several items of interest to those in the signage business, including some critical issues—such as the economic value of signage.

For researchers like Kellaris, the importance of the collaboration with BrandSpark and Better Homes and Gardens Best New Product Awards program lies in the ability to track these initial findings with a massive sampling year after year.

“With an annual survey, one can tweak or add new questions. We can also spot trends, track changes over time,” said Kellaris. “We can even assess the impact of regulatory changes within geographic areas as sign codes are updated. This has implications for businesses and communities.”

Released: 10/10/2011

Source: University of Cincinnati

Related Link:

http://newswise.com/articles/consumers-rely-on-signage-over-other-ad-media

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