Hen party: U.S. cities allow residents to raise chickens

July 20, 2018

Talk about “urban chic.” Or should we say “urban chick”? Cities from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Ft. Collins, Colorado, are voting to allow residents to raise backyard poultry, according to a July 19 report by Worldwatch Institute.

It’s a serious issue – it’s no yolk,” Mayor Dave Cieslewicz of Madison, Wisconsin commented when his city reversed its poultry ban in 2004. “Chickens are really bringing us together as a community. For too long, they’ve been cooped up.”

Raising backyard chickens is an extension of an urban farming movement that has gained popularity nationwide. “Fresh is not what you buy at the grocery store. Fresh is when you go into your backyard, put it in your bag, and eat it,” said Carol-Ann Sayle, co-owner of a five-acre farm in Austin, Texas. “Everyone should have their own henhouse in their own backyard.”

In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, raising chickens has been legal since August 30, 2010. Since then Cedar Rapids’ urban chicken ordinance has been used as a model for other municipalities nationwide. The ordinance—which Rebecca Mumaw of the advocacy organization, Citizens for the Legalization of Urban Chickens (or CLUC) helped to draft, provides the following guidelines:

  • Residents are allowed to keep up to six hens (no roosters) on single family dwelling properties;
  • Permits are required for an annual fee of $25;
  • Applicants for permits are required to notify their neighbors of their intent to obtain a permit and to complete an approved two-hour class on raising chickens in an urban setting (cost $10-$12);
  • Chickens must be kept in an enclosed or fenced area and secured from predators at night;
  • Henhouses must provide at least four square feet of space per bird and meet certain design requirements;
  • Chicken enclosures must be kept in the backyard—located at least 10 feet from the property line and 25 feet from neighboring homes;
  • Chickens must be provided with adequate food and water—and kept in a manner to minimize noise, odor, and attraction of pests and predators; and
  • Slaughtering of chickens is not allowed.

Indeed, Mumaw told the local newspaper, the Dispatch Argus, “Raising a limited number of egg-laying hens will allow residents to raise their own food, just as they do in vegetable gardens now.”

“Buying local” also provides an alternative to factory farms that pollute local ecosystems with significant amounts of animal waste – which can at times exceed the waste from a small U.S. city, a government report revealed last month. In the United States alone, industrial livestock production generates 500 million tons of manure every year. The waste also emits potent greenhouse gases—especially methane, which has 23 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

Meanwhile, advocates insist that birds raised on a small scale are less likely to carry diseases than factory-farmed poultry, although some public health officials are concerned that backyard chickens could elevate avian flu risks.

The USDA is not yet providing specific figures on the number of chickens being raised in urban environments.

Research contact: worldwatch@worldwatch.org

‘Golden children’ suffer, too

July 19, 2018

Are you “best friends” with your mom? Surprisingly, being mom’s favorite child may not be good for your mental health, according to research findings from Purdue University. It turns out that, in a family in which mom plays favorites, the kids who are shafted—the “black sheep”—are not the only ones who are at risk for problems like depression. The favorite, or “golden,” child feels the strain, too.

Data for the study were collected seven years apart from 725 adult children within 309 families in which mothers were between the ages of 65 and 75 when the project began in 2001.

Of course, the word, “favorite,” comes with all kinds of connotations. But 90% of the mothers who participated in the study were able to identify one child who rose to the top of the heap in various contexts, according to a report by Slate. They knew which child they felt closer to; which child they especially liked to confide in; and which they would want around in a crisis. And that child also was aware of his or her status

“There is a cost for those who perceive they are the closest emotionally to their mothers, and these children report higher depressive symptoms [than do] those who experience the greatest conflict with their mothers—or who believe they are the children in whom their mothers are the most disappointed,” says Jill Suitor, a professor of Sociology.

But both are affected by the perceptions within the family. Why does the golden child feel the pain? “This [emotional] cost comes from higher sibling tension experienced by adult children who are favored…, or the greater feelings of responsibility for the emotional care of their older mothers,” said Megan Gilligan, an assistant professor in Human Development and Family Studies at Iowa State University and a former Purdue graduate student. She is a collaborator on the project

What’s more, they feel the resentment from their sibling(s), who did not live up to whatever expectations they realize their mother must have had—and who perceive that the golden child always gets the positive attention

The findings are based on the first and second phases of the Within-Family Differences Study—a research initiative sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The study was conducted in cooperation with Dr. Karl Pilleme, a professor of Gerontology in Medicine at the Weill Cornell Medical College.

The four dimensions of favoritism and disfavoritism are defined by the researchers as emotional closeness, conflict, pride, and disappointment.

The researchers also compared the patterns by race because much research shows there is greater closeness in black later-life families. In this study, approximately one-quarter of the families were black.

“What we found suggests that the black offspring were particularly distressed when they, as opposed to their siblings, were the children in whom mothers were most disappointed,” said Suitor. The research team also is looking at similar questions related to fathers and predicting favoritism in mother-adult child favoritism. Siyun Peng and Jong Hyun Jung, graduate students in Purdue’s Department of Sociology, also participated on this research team.

Research contact: jsuitor@purdue.edu

Researchers: Ties are a ‘socially desirable’ form of strangulation

July 18, 2018

Don’t tie that knot! The “business casual” dress code recently adopted by many firms actually has proven to be healthier for male workers. Indeed, findings of a study conducted at Germany’s Kiel University Hospital and released on June 30 show that wearing a tie actually can increase intraocular eye pressure—and decrease blood flow to the brain.

The researchers describe wearing a tie as a “socially desirable [form of] strangulation.”

To judge the ramifications of wearing a cravat, the study—due to be published in the journal, Neuroradiology, in August and covered by Business Insider on July 16—involved asking 15 men to wear ties, and 15 men to serve as a “control group” and go without them. The researchers then scanned the participants using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure cerebral blood flow and jugular venous flow.

What they discovered was that the brains of the tie-wearers were, on average, receiving 7.5% less “cerebral blood flow” than the brains of those subjects within the control group.The scientists attributed the lower blood flow to the narrowing of the carotid arteries, which carry blood away from the heart, under the pressure of the tie.

While a 7.5% reduction in blood flow may not appear substantial enough to cause noticeable health problems, people who already suffer with other health issues should be cautious: Whether you have high blood pressure, are elderly, or smoke cigarettes, you could end up suffering from headaches, dizziness, and nausea if you wear a tie for too long.

The restricted blood flow also can cause a backup of blood along the system to the eye—thus, raising eye pressure. Raised intraocular eye pressure is considered a risk factor for glaucoma and cataracts, and could possibly increase the risk of worsening existing glaucoma, according to the study.

What’s more, wearing a tie in a doctor’s office, hospital, or clinic could put others at potentially lethal risk, Businesss Insider reports. A study conducted by Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine showed that among 42 male surgical clinicians, nearly half had infection-causing pathogens on their ties.

“Researchers Eyal Zimlichman, Daniel Henderson, and Orly Tamir told Business Insider, “We estimated there are approximately 440,000 of these infections annually among U.S. adult in-patients and that their annual costs are $9.8 billion.”

That’s bad news for haberdashers, but potentially breakthrough information for the healthcare industry.

Research contact: r.lueddecke1992@googlemail.com

It’s about time: When the waiting room is the worst part of a doctor’s visit

July 17, 2018

When you go to your doctor’s office, does it seems as if the only person whose time is important is the physician you are waiting—seemingly endlessly—to see? Overbooking of appointments, disorganization, and lack of empathy often leave patients cooling their heels in the reception area or in a treatment room for longer than it will take to actually treat their illnesses.

In fact, the experience of waiting is an important component of overall patient satisfaction, based on a study by Nemschoff, a division of the furniture design firm Herman Miller that makes chairs and tables for reception rooms.

The number of minutes (or hours) depends on the situation, but the average time patients spend waiting to see their providers is 22 minutes.  And it is no surprise, Nemschoff found, that as the wait time lengthens, patient satisfaction lessens:

  • Respondents who waited five minutes or less expressed 95.4% satisfaction with their experience;
  • Those who stuck around for 11-15 minutes, said they were 91.6% satisfied; and
  • Patients who had to dilly dally for more than 30 minutes were only 80.4% satisfied—even before seeing the doctor.

If the staff keeps patients in the waiting room updated, that may positively influence the experience—but only if the doctor sees them within a “reasonable” amount of time.

Even in a perfectly supportive atmosphere, waiting can be stressful. One study showed that the most profound source of anxiety in waiting is wondering how long the wait will be, and when there is no visible order to the line, people feel nervous about whether their place in line is preserved.

Interestingly enough, perceived wait time is a more compelling indicator of patient satisfaction than actual wait time. A wait that “feels” long due to crowded, noisy surroundings or a lack of positive distractions—such as art, aquariums, or windows—can lower satisfaction scores even more. This suggests that focusing on the emotion-related component of waiting may be an important part of improving the patient experience.

Indeed, whenever patients are forced to wait, that experience influences their perception of quality of care. As public zones where people with illnesses gather, waiting rooms are sometimes seen as places where germs abound. This impression can create a sense of discomfort and urgency to leave the space as soon as possible—making it more difficult to tolerate service delays, errors, and inefficiencies.

It is not surprising that Nemschoff recommends using comfortable seating to help make the wait more pleasant. The company advises physicians to consider: Does the furniture in the waiting room fit the bodies of the people who are using it? For example, while most waiting rooms are equipped for average-sized adults, there are several other populations that deserve to be addressed. For example, furniture scaled for children and designed to support their play can improve their experience. Research has shown that waiting in healthcare settings can be anxiety-provoking for children and their families, but positive distractions have been shown to reduce this anxiety, leading to positive health outcomes.

Another group that deserves consideration is high-weight users. Current design recommendations suggest that a minimum of 10% of seating adjacent to bariatric areas should accommodate people up to 600 pounds. However, researchers at Herman Miller recommend that each institution should assess the weight of its own population using electronic medical records to determine the load rating and percentage of high-weight seating needed in the waiting rooms.

Of course, healthcare organizations aren’t the only places where people wait to be served. By looking to other industries that have experimented with innovative queuing methods, healthcare organizations may find new approaches that make “getting in line” less stressful.

The researchers suggest that making the following changes in the waiting area may help both staff and patients:

  1. Early check-in. Mayo Clinic is taking cues from the airline industry to let patients interact with one of three systems when they arrive. Regular visitors go to an automatic kiosk, guests who visit less frequently come to the front desk, and a roving facilitator with a tablet greets guests when lines back up or people need help filling out forms. A recent study found that implementing self-serve kiosks to speed up the registration process was associated with higher patient satisfaction.
  2. Posted waiting times. Displaying department waiting times enables people to relax while waiting, rather than having the anxiety of constantly wondering when their names will be called. In one study, patients who periodically received information regarding emergency department processes and medical procedures on devices such as TV monitors perceived significantly shorter stays and were more satisfied.3
  3. Pager or mobile phone updates. Commonly found in restaurants, these tools give people the option to wander when wait times are long and return when their check-in time nears.
  4. Progressive check-in. While overall wait time may or may not be shorter, research found that zoning the waiting area can aid understanding and the feeling of progression. The Stanford University Medical Center has divided its waiting areas into activity rooms that resemble a home, including a dining room and living room where patients and family members can watch TV. This approach may help people feel that they’re getting closer to being served and ward off boredom.

So, next time you have a doctor’s appointment, consider bringing a copy of this story with you. If you don’t get taken quickly or feel uncomfortable in the waiting area, you may want to “prescribe” some changes to your physician after he or she diagnoses what’s wrong with you!

Research contact: @Nemschoff

To have and to hold: Why people hoard

July 16, 2018

Do you have a friend who will not let you inside his or her home? That person may not be trying to keep a distance, so much as trying to keep a guilty secret about what is lurking behind the front door—belongings and trash piled from floor to ceiling.

There is more awareness of this issue today, thanks in part to the popular television series, Hoarders (on A&E) and Hoarding: Buried Alive (on TLC).

Before that, many people had heard of the Collyer brothers, Homer and Langley, who lived like hermits in a Harlem, New York, brownstone, where the obsessively collected books and newspapers. The brothers were found dead in the home in 1947, surrounded by over 140 tons of hoarded items that eventually had trapped them and killed them.

It is not surprising that the brothers took to hoarding together: Compulsive hoarding is can be an extreme form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which often is inherited among family members, according to Psych Central.

Today there are an estimated 700,000 to 1.4 million U.S. residents who hoard, based on findings by Gerald Nestadt, M.D., director of the OCD Clinic at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Between 18% and 42% of people with OCD experience some sort of compulsion to hoard, Netstadt says. Typically, the condition starts in childhood or adolescence, but does not advance to a severe state until adulthood.

However, there are other hoarders who do not have OCD. They may be affected by depression, bipolar disorder, or social anxiety that exhibits itself in symptoms of hoarding.

People who have the disorder typically become extremely anxious when they must discard anything, from trash to treasures. They also continue to acquire home goods, collectibles, and clothing, even when there is no room left to put them. Before long, every space inside the home—including the shower, the bed, the kitchen and the bathroom—is clogged and covered by belongings. Bugs and vermin flourish in this mess.

The Johns Hopkins researcher believes that many hoarders are perfectionists. They fear making the wrong decision about what to keep and what to throw out, so they keep everything.

Indeed, according to the website, Clutter Hoarding Cleanup, “Trust is key when approaching a hoarder about [his or her] condition. It is important to remember that majority of those in need of hoarding cleanup services have suffered from a trauma [ … or psychological distress] that triggered the condition.Often, the services of a psychologist who specializes in hoarding can help the sufferer to accept the cleanup process.

Finally, animal hoarding is a specific version of the problem that involves collecting dozens, if not hundreds, of cats or dogs to “save them” from shelters. While the hoarder loves the animals, it becomes impossible for him or her to clean up around them—leading to progressively deteriorating conditions in the home and rampant illness among the animals. About 1,500 new cases are discovered nationwide each year, according to Tufts University Professor Gary Patronek.

Research contact: @GeraldNestadt

Don’t let poor dental hygiene ‘gum up’ your sex life

July 13, 2018

If you sex life has been slacking off lately, something may literally be “gumming up the works.” A study published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology (2018;45:791-798) reveals that men with severe gum disease are more than twice as likely to suffer from impotence as those with healthy teeth and gums.

In the first study of its kind that involved a European population of more than 150 men, researchers determined that about three out of four men (74%) who had erectile dysfunction also had poor oral health.

Dr Nigel Carter, CEO of the UK’s Oral Health Foundation, says, “As startling as these findings may be, it may turn out to be a wake-up call for men to start paying greater attention to their oral health—particularly their gums.

“In recent years, gum disease has been linked with conditions such as diabetes, stroke, and heart disease—but an increased risk of coming up short in the bedroom may be the final straw for men who might have been reluctant to spend a little extra time looking after their gums.”

Gum disease happens when the tissues supporting the teeth swell and become sore or infected. If you fail to treat it in it’s early stages, the disease will continue to worsen, and can result in tooth loss.

The research found that treating gum disease by reducing inflammation of the gums can result in improved erectile function.

Research contact: mail@dentalhealth.org

Nearly 25% of Americans are apt to carry a lucky charm

July 12, 2018

Are you willing to trust “the luck of the draw”—or are you among the 24% of Americans who at least occasionally carry a talisman or charm, just to have an extra bit of confidence that things will go well?

Belief in the power of lucky charms may stem from age-old superstition, but today, many still see the appeal in a little extra good karma, based on findings of a poll by YouGov Omnibus released on July 11.In fact, that 24% of Americans comprises respondents who they wear a talisman every day (7%), frequently (4%), or occasionally (13%). The other 70% of U.S. adults said they are not superstitious and do not believe in good-luck trinkets.

However, in the sports arena, jujus are crowd-pleasers. Few lucky charms are more iconic than Michael Jordan’s college basketball shorts; or Tiger Woods’trademark red polo shirts —which he wears only on Sundays, at the instruction of his mom.

More women (26%) than men (20%) say they carry a lucky charm at least occasionally. Regionally, belief in lucky charms is highest in the U.S. West (26%), with the Northeast (25%) and Midwest (24%) boasting similar numbers. Those who live in the South are less likely to carry around a charm (20%).

Wearing or carrying around a talisman also has its appeal among all income levels. Fully 20% of Americans who earn more than $80,000 a year say they carry a charm at least occasionally.. That number ticks up slightly among those who earn $40,000 to $80,000 a year (21%)—and among those who earn $39,000 or less (23%).

Research contact:  Hoang.Nguyen@yougov.com

Would you give up your seat for a pregnant woman?

July 11, 2018

Standing up and offering your seat to a pregnant woman on a crowded subway may seem like the polite and considerate thing to do, but many commuters fail to do so, based on findings of a recent survey of 2,000 public transit customers in the United Kingdom.

Indeed, the survey—conducted by skincare company Mama Mio and posted by Study Finds on July 5—found that slightly more than half (60%) of straphangers think the gesture is necessary. And then only if a woman is past her first trimester and “showing” a baby bump.

Why are they so reluctant? First there is the embarrassing issue, Is she really pregnant or will I be implying that she is fat? Second, there is the philosophy, She chose to become pregnant, why pamper her? Third, of course, is apathy.

When asked why they don’t give up their seats, 25% of respondents reasoned they didn’t want to offer a woman their seat in case she wasn’t actually pregnant. Admittedly, 7% of women said they’d been mistaken for pregnant by another commuter when they weren’t.

“We were surprised at the findings, as we’d expected everyone would offer up their seat to a pregnant woman,” commented Natalie Cowley of Mama Mio in a statement. “We were particularly shocked that only 2% said you should offer a seat to a woman in her first trimester, considering how many suffer from severe symptoms during this time, including sickness and fatigue.”

The findings have led Mama Mio to launch an #ExpectingChange campaign in which they encourage pregnant women to be more vocal and ask people to give up their seats for them.

“Busy, hot, and cramped commuting conditions can be incredibly stressful both physically and mentally, and being able to sit down can make a difference. However, from my own experience, I find that people are either too engrossed in their phones to be aware of their surroundings, or won’t offer their seat unless prompted,” says Anna Whitehouse, founder of parenting blog Mother Pukka and an ambassador for the #ExpectingChange campaign.“I’d encourage anyone who needs a seat on public transport to wear a badge and make eye contact. If that fails, don’t suffer in silence – ask for one!”

Which is exactly what the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is espousing in New York City—where an awareness program launched in May 2017 encourages customers “to move their feet and offer a seat for pregnant riders, seniors, and those with a disability.”

Last year, the Big Apple’s MTA sponsored a pilot program, running from Mother’s Day through Labor Day in September, to examine ways to encourage courtesy by helping riders to easily identify fellow customers with specialized needs. Through the program, customers who are pregnant could choose from a “Baby on Board” button or a “Please Offer Me a Seat” courtesy button. The latter also was made available to customers with disabilities and seniors who chose to wear them.

“Pregnant riders, seniors and those with disabilities often need seats more than others, but their condition may not always be visible,” said the MTA’s then- Interim Executive Director Ronnie Hakim. “We hope this campaign will help their fellow riders to be more willing to offer them a seat without having to ask a personal question first.

“While we continue to designate ‘priority seating’ for riders with disabilities, this is another way to expand the availability of seating for those who need it most,” Hakim added.

We contacted the New York City MTA to find out about program results, but, at press time, we had not heard back yet.

Research contact: @mamamio 

Our dirty little secret: Cleaning the house before the maid arrives

July 10, 2018

We all view clean living as admirable—but are you among the two-thirds (66%) of householders who admit to spiffing up their homes even before the maid or housekeeper arrives? That figure is even higher (80%) for families with kids, based on findings of a survey for U.K. kitchen retailer Magnet.

It is literally our “dirty little secret.” The poll found that fully 95% of British respondents described themselves as “house proud”—and that they don’t want to admit how begrimed they really are at home, even to professional cleaning services.

The living room (46%) and kitchen (32%) are the two rooms we like to show off the most—and are, therefore, the spaces we tidy up the most before the cleaning staff shows up. While the poll doesn’t mention them, bathrooms also get attention from many of our friends—especially those with messy, young children—before the help can see them in their usual, squalid state.

One-quarter (25%) of us take greater pride in our homes than our parents did at the same age—and nearly one-third of us are prouder of our living quarters than we were just ten years ago.

Indeed, more than half of the homeowners polled confessed to having become more orderly (51%) on a regular basis after a past incident during which they were embarrassed to show their homes to unexpected guests.

And it’s not just the furniture and electrical items that matter: Half of us respondents believe it’s important that crockery matches—but only for special guests. The majority of Brits only get their best crockery and cutlery out less than twice a year (78%).

Tech takes top place for those who are trying to make a good impression, as the TV is the object in which we take greatest pride, (15%), followed by the oven (9%) and professional artwork (10%).

A Magnet spokesperson said: ‘We set out to identify how house-proud [the UK is] as a nation and we were reassured to see just how much a nice home means to us. In times of economic uncertainty, people want a home they can not only see as a haven they can relax and de-stress in, but also show off to friends and visitors as a marker of what they work hard for.”

Yorkshire (96%) is the most house-proud region of the country, while those in Wales considered cleanliness the least important. It’s the older generation (the over-70s) who are the most proud of their homes (98%),  closely followed by Millennials (96%).

Research contact: @MagnetUK

Move over, Americans: Europeans are way fitter!

July 9 ,2018

Most of us do not have the lithe, athletic “body beautiful” that we see on the covers of fitness magazines; but our anatomy gets us where we’re going every day, without too much huffing and puffing—so we assume we are in “good enough” shape.

Some of us even manage to go the gym for an hour or two a week, or to jog around the high school track. We assume that counts as physical fitness.

But we are wrong, according to the findings of an international study conducted in England, the Netherlands, and the United States, and published in April in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. In fact, the researchers found that most people do not objectively assess their level of physical activity.

For purposes of the study—which was fielded among 540 respondents from the United States; 748, from the Netherlands; and 248, from England –participants first reported their perceived level of activity during a specific week using a five-point scale, where answers range from inactive to very active. Then, researchers measured their actual level of activity using a fitness-tracking device worn on the respondent’s wrist.

Who miscalculates the most? In particular, U.S. respondents assumed that they are as active as their European counterparts, and older people believed that they have the same level of activity as young people.

For lead author Arie Kapteyn of the University of Southern California, the differences in how people perceive their fitness reflect their culture and environment. “People in different countries or … different age groups can [see] vastly different [meanings in] the same survey questions,” said Kapteyn, who is the executive director of the Center for Economic and Social Research at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

On the whole, however, Americans demonstrated less physical fitness than subjects from the other two countries. Most Americans, for instance, rely heavily on cars, while the Dutch usually walk or ride bicycles to get to work or run errands.

Overall, respondents from the Netherlands and England believe they have a “moderately active” lifestyle. Participants from the United States, on the other hand, swing heavily to the extremes—with their reports indicating that they were “very active” or “very inactive.”

Older people also over-reported their level of physical activity: Fully 60% of older participants in the U.S. have a more inactive lifestyle than they initially reported; with 42% among the same Dutch age group; and 32%among U.K. respondents.

“Individuals in different age groups simply have different standards of what it means to be physically active,” Kapteyn explained of the results. “They adjust their standards based on their circumstances, including their age.”

The gaps between self-reported data and data from a wearable device highlight a gap in measuring fitness levels. Self-evaluations tend to be inaccurate, Kapteyn added, since they can be interpreted differently by people, depending on their age group and geographic region.

“With the wide availability of low-cost activity tracking devices, we have the potential to make future studies more reliable,” she added.

Indeed, the American College of Sports Medicine said, in December 2016, that wearable technology would be the top fitness trend for 2017 and the near future.

For its own study ACSM surveyed health and fitness professionals worldwide and came up with five “standout” fitness trends for the next couple of years. Among them were:

  1. Wearable technology: Activity trackers, smartwatches, heart rate monitors, and GPS tracking devices;
  2. Body-weight training: Not limited to just push-ups and pull-ups, this trend allows people to get “back to basics” with fitness;
  3. High-intensity interval training: HIIT involves a circuit of short bursts of activity, followed by a short period of rest or recovery (performed in less than 30 minutes);
  4. Educated trainers: Professionals certified through programs accredited by the appropriate authorities; and
  5. Strength training: Rated as an essential part of a complete exercise program (along with aerobic exercise and flexibility) for all physical activity levels and genders.

Research contact: kapteyn@usc.edu