Monday, November 7, 2016

Will elections be bad for your health?

Elections may be bad for your health. Stress may be higher than you think (especially for the oldest and the youngest voters) and social media will make it worse.  


Monday, October 31, 2016

Healthy Halloween

Halloween is not the healthiest day of the year as it increases hospital statistics, including sugar-high accidents for kids and alcohol-/drug- related injuries for adults. But there are many other things we can learn from this celebration.

According to numerous scientific studies and less scientific surveys...


 Read more

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Friday the 13th

reproduced from Aurametrix
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Our health depends on a multitude of environmental factors, day in and day out.  And tomorrow is a special day - Friday the 13th.

How should you feel on this day?
Friday the 13th is one of the most feared dates, associated with bad luck in the West. And it is taken cautiously even in cultures that do not fear the 13th - for example, among Chinese mothers avoiding delivering their babies on the 13th.  But science says that those born on the 13th and even those born on Friday the 13th are not in any way less lucky than those born on any other day.

​Yet there were older studies indicating that Friday the 13th might be a bad day to drive (at least, for females), to invest in stocks and to be admitted in hospital. Is it really?  

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The truth is less people are driving on Friday the 13th (less people are flying too - thus air tickets on this day are always cheaper). And even though according to some data Friday is the most dangerous day to commute to work by car, there is nothing special about traffic accidents on Friday the 13th.

Scientific analysis does not support the belief Friday 13th influence medical emergencies, surgical blood loss and intestinal perforations. Although being hospitalized on Fridays, in general, might be slightly less lucky.

Stocks tend to perform better on Fridays - a phenomenon known as the “weekend effect.”  But many traders refuse to place new trades on Friday 13th. Yet, statistical analysis of trading data over 2 January 1991 to 30 December 2011 suggest that unlucky days (particularly Friday the 13th) generally exhibit higher stock returns. Analysis of FTSE world indices over 1988-2000, for 19 countries - also found that returns on Friday the 13th are statistically different from, and generally greater than, returns on other Friday returns.

The stress of work seems to carry right through until Friday night. But Fridays always generate better moods that peak on Saturdays. So Friday the 13th could be a really good day. And Saturday the 14th might be even better. 
Fidrmuc, J., & Tena, J. (2015). Friday the 13th: The Empirics of Bad Luck Kyklos, 68 (3), 317-334 DOI: 10.1111/kykl.12085

Lucey, B. (2002). Friday the 13th and the Philosophical Basis of Financial Economics SSRN Electronic Journal DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.962697

Chung, R., Darrat, A., & Li, B. (2014). Superstitions and stock trading: some new evidence Journal of the Asia Pacific Economy, 19 (4), 527-538 DOI: 10.1080/13547860.2014.920589

Stone, A., Schneider, S., & Harter, J. (2012). Day-of-week mood patterns in the United States: On the existence of ‘Blue Monday’, ‘Thank God it's Friday’ and weekend effects The Journal of Positive Psychology, 7 (4), 306-314 DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2012.691980

Smyth JM, Wonderlich SA, Sliwinski MJ, Crosby RD, Engel SG, Mitchell JE, & Calogero RM (2009). Ecological momentary assessment of affect, stress, and binge-purge behaviors: day of week and time of day effects in the natural environment. The International journal of eating disorders, 42 (5), 429-36 PMID: 19115371

Schuld J, Slotta JE, Schuld S, Kollmar O, Schilling MK, & Richter S (2011). Popular belief meets surgical reality: impact of lunar phases, Friday the 13th and zodiac signs on emergency operations and intraoperative blood loss. World journal of surgery, 35 (9), 1945-9 PMID: 21713579

Almond D, Chee CP, Sviatschi MM, & Zhong N (2015). Auspicious birth dates among Chinese in California. Economics and human biology, 18, 153-9 PMID: 26160600

Monday, February 29, 2016

From Limping to Leaping

ORIGINALLY POSTED by AURAMETRIX


"Anno bisesto, anno funesto” (leap year, gloomy year), say Italians. “Leap year was ne’er a good sheep year.” agrees an old Scottish proverb. "Високосный год "Урожай" соберет" (leap year will gather the "Harvest") warns a Russian saying implying that there will be plenty of disasters - calamities, catastrophes and cataclysms. But usually there are not.

​Leap years tend to be good for stocks (with the exception of the recent crashes in 2000 and 2008), although they are not among the greatest stock market years. Obvious math considerations tell that more goods will be produced in the leap year because of the extra day. But there also could be more confusion - as the leap year oddity of 29 days might throw off old software code in both the governmental and corporate worlds.

Events that disrupt usual routines are always a bit scary. Hence the precautions and the reluctance to do anything really important like starting a new business, especially on February 29th. 
“Nothing shall be built, planned or planted in a leap year; it does not prosper,” states the “Encyclopedia of Superstitions, Folklore and the Occult Sciences of the World.”

In many countries around the world, superstitions claim that bad luck will come to couples that marry during a leap year. Yet, according to a popularized legend, St. Patrick granted to St. Bridget the right for all single women to propose marriage during leap years. And any man who refuses a woman’s proposal on February 29th has to compensate her by buying 12 pairs of gloves or a skirt.

So perhaps a leap year is a good year if you think different and exceed expectations? As Steve Jobs said, "the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do." 


REFERENCES

Neumann, P. (1992). Leap-year problems Communications of the ACM, 35 (6) DOI: 10.1145/129888.129900

Cohen CF, & Bachofer HJ (1980). Hospital indicators: leap year distorts February statistics. Hospitals, 54 (11), 43-6 PMID: 7372291

Sue Lynn McDaniel. "Leap Year: Chance, Chase, or Curse?" The Ephemera Journal Vol. 18 Iss. 2 (2016) p. 15 - 19 

Rob Siltanen (14 Dec 2011). "The Real Story Behind Apple's 'Think Different' Campaign". Forbes

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Last Day of Summer

Is that it? Summer is finally over. And so is the sweet melancholy of August, listening to nature sounds - soothing ocean waves or a chorus of crickets while sitting on a porch, sun drying you with warm rays... It's the end of the holiday break.

Tomorrow is September, the second most stressful month of the year. It is known for stock market volatility and big financial crashes, strategic planning meetings, storms and tornadoes, hectic days at work, the season of "back to school" and the time for a change.

Healthwise, it's the time for children's asthma spikes,  mold spores and dust mites, triggering sneezes, wheezes, and runny noses, as we are exposed to an increased number of indoor allergens and approaching winter.

Yet, many people are looking forward to the first of September. Dr. Levy's pediatric patients, nostalgia marketers, fashion designers. Perhaps more of us should. As we prepare to change our clothes and daily schedules, we might as well plan to make a change to build a better life.

Why wait until the New Year for resolutions?

This might be your year!



REFERENCES

Levy, A. (2015). The Night Before the First Day of School Journal of Clinical Oncology, 33 (13), 1509-1510 DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2014.60.5790

Muehling, D., Sprott, D., & Sprott, D. (2004). THE POWER OF REFLECTION: An Empirical Examination of Nostalgia Advertising Effects Journal of Advertising, 33 (3), 25-35 DOI: 10.1080/00913367.2004.10639165

Sears MR, & Johnston NW (2007). Understanding the September asthma epidemic. The Journal of allergy and clinical immunology, 120 (3), 526-9 PMID: 17658590

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Cities of the Future

Picture your dream home. Chances are you did not think much about cutting edge technology, but more about luscious green grass, backyard oasis, fresh clean air, soothing pool of water or watching the sunset in your rocking chair.

Scientific studies and crowdsourcing projects  showed that the amount of greenery is usually associated with beauty, quietness, or happiness, while broad streets, fortress-like buildings, and council houses are associated with ugly, noisy, and unhappy environments.

But, as most people now live in cities and urban dwellers are likely to reach 70% of the world population by 2050, will it be actually possible to build happy cities where we can relax and rejuvenate?

Perhaps we could start from a cleaner air by spraying water from sprinklers? According to Shaocai Yu, this is a technologically feasible and cost efficient option reducing the particle load in a very short time. And it is already utilized in  Lanzhou, the largest city of China's Gansu province. Two giant water cannons will squirt water 2,000 feet into the air and bring the pollutants down to earth. It won't stop pollution elsewhere, though, will need to be done daily, and in addition to other measures.


How to design a mentally rejuvenating city? Research shows, that even in a dense urban area at the bottom of a concrete canyon, we could feel a little better if there is more architectural variety. Yet, isn't it better if the city keeps in touch with nature?

25 Verde, a five-story apartment complex in Turin, Italy designed by Luciano Pia, features 150 potted trees that absorb almost 200,000 liters of carbon dioxide an hour, offering extra shade during the summer months. And every plant and tree offer the needed variety of color, foliage, and blooms!


Meanwhile the Netherlands is experimenting with floating houses. Singapore, too, is thinking about syncing design with the environment. And, if you have a million to spare, you can buy a house in Dubai with underwater views and outdoor climate-controlled streets.

Most of the world's population growth will happen in low and middle income cities with unhealthy housing. The challenge is in finding affordable ways to improve the aesthetics and health of neighborhoods. And it might be easier than you think!

REFERENCES

Daniele Quercia, Neil Keith O'Hare, & Henriette Cramer (2014). Aesthetic capital: what makes London look beautiful, quiet, and happy? Proceedings of the 17th ACM conference on Computer supported cooperative work & social computing, 945-955 DOI: 10.1145/2531602.2531613

Lindal, P., & Hartig, T. (2013). Architectural variation, building height, and the restorative quality of urban residential streetscapes Journal of Environmental Psychology, 33, 26-36 DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2012.09.003

Shaocai Yu (2014). Water spray geoengineering to clean air pollution for mitigating haze in China’s cities Environmental Chemistry Letters : 10.1007/s10311-013-0444-0

Mitchell BW, & Waltman WD (2003). Reducing airborne pathogens and dust in commercial hatching cabinets with an electrostatic space charge system. Avian diseases, 47 (2), 247-53 PMID: 12887184

Kardan, O. et al. (2015) Neighborhood greenspace and health in a large urban center. Sci. Rep. 5, 11610; doi: 10.1038/srep11610. PMID: 26158911


Friday, November 28, 2014

The Day After Thanksgiving


Seasonal changes, holidays and shopping activities are among the environmental factors that can influence our health. What positive or negative effects can we expect on Black Friday and days right after?


The Friday-after-Thanksgiving was coined "Black" by police officers because of the fact that the traffic on the day after Thanksgiving is usually heavy and crowds are large. And they were right. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration & CDC, Thanksgiving is the most dangerous holiday of the year for drivers.

November is also one of the most financially stressful months. But stress is not always bad. The only stock market crash that happened the day after Thanksgiving (November 27, 2009) was in Dubai and did not affect global markets as much as "Black Fridays" in September and May of 1800s. What about the more common stress after Thanksigiving associated with holiday spending?

For retailers, "Black Friday" marks the transition from "red" to "black", indicating the start of Christmas Shopping Season. Should not this fact alone improve our mood and make us feel better? It definitely should. And researchers agree.

Even though there are many reasons not to participate in Black Friday, shopping can be good for you. It makes you burn calories, and feel happier. According to a recent study by Rick and colleagues, people often shop when they feel sad and making shopping decisions reduces their "residual sadness" as it restores a sense of personal control. Previous research, too, points that shopping can translate into rise of dopamine and activities of brain regions responsible for pleasure and positive thinking.

November is a great month for comforting food - and we do gain on average a pound after Thanksgiving. But it's also a great month for outdoors, bird watching, getting together and reflecting on the good things. According to academics, even people considering suicide are less likely to do it on or right after Thanksgiving Holidays. A paper from the 40s suggests we might be also a bit less sharp mentally (compared to the spring), but your brain does need some downtime. Mental breaks can increase productivity and creativity. Enjoy your holidays. Life only gets better after Thanksgiving.


REFERENCES

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2001). Reducing the risk for injury while traveling for Thanksgiving holidays. MMWR. Morbidity and mortality weekly report, 50 (45), 1016-7 PMID: 11724161

Hull HR, Radley D, Dinger MK, & Fields DA (2006). The effect of the Thanksgiving holiday on weight gain. Nutrition journal, 5 PMID: 17118202

Rick, S., Pereira, B., & Burson, K. (2014). The benefits of retail therapy: Making purchase decisions reduces residual sadness Journal of Consumer Psychology, 24 (3), 373-380 DOI: 10.1016/j.jcps.2013.12.004

Petrescu, M., & Murphy, M. (2013). Black Friday and Cyber Monday: a case study International Journal of Electronic Marketing and Retailing, 5 (3) DOI: 10.1504/IJEMR.2013.052884

Beauchamp GA, Ho ML, & Yin S (2014). Variation in suicide occurrence by day and during major American holidays. The Journal of emergency medicine, 46 (6), 776-81 PMID: 24462023

H.E.Jones (1941) Seasonal Variations in IQ. The Journal of Experimental Education. Vol. 10, No. 2, Dec., 1941

Knutson, Brian, Scott Rick, Elliott Wimmer, Drazen Prelec, and George Loewenstein (2007), "Neural Predictors of Purchases," Neuron, 53, 147-156.

Hull HR, Hester CN, & Fields DA. (2006) The effect of the holiday season on body weight and composition in college students. Nutrition & metabolism, 44. PMID: 17192197