Author Interviews, JAMA, OBGYNE, Pediatrics, Social Issues / 15.07.2019 Interview with: Dr. Marina Mendonca PhD RECAP project (Research on European Children and Adults Born Preterm) Department of Psychology University of Warwick, UK What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Previous research on the social lives of adults born preterm (under 37 weeks gestation) was inconsistent. This meta-analysis brought together data from up to 4.4m adult participants and has shown that those who were born preterm are less likely to form romantic relationships, to have had sexual relations or experience parenthood than full terms. For example, those born preterm were 28% less likely to form romantic relationships and 22% less likely to become parents, when compared to those born full term. When looking at sexual relations, preterm born adults were 2.3 times (or 57%) less likely to ever have a sexual partner. These associations were found for both men and women, and were stronger the lower gestational age. This means that the chances of finding a romantic partner or having children were lower for those born very (<28 weeks gestation) or extremely preterm (<28 weeks gestation), with the extremely pre-term born adults being for example 3.2 times (78%) less likely to ever having had sexual relations when compared to their full term peers. Despite having fewer relationships, we found that when adults who were born preterm had friends or a partner, the quality of these relationships was at least as good as those born full term.  (more…)
Author Interviews / 11.01.2019 Interview with: Gurit E. Birnbaum, Ph.D. Associate Professor Baruch Ivcher School of Psychology Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya Herzliya, Israel What is the background for this study? Response: Sexual desire evolved to serve as a powerful motivational force that brings potential romantic partners together initially and thereby helps to facilitate sexual intercourse and pregnancy. As such, sexual acts may be devoid of affectional bonding, as in the case of one night stands. And yet, sexual desire may play a major role not only in attracting potential partners to each other, but also in encouraging the formation of an attachment between them. Nevertheless, thus far it has been unclear whether desire motivates merely reproductive acts, with attachment between partners developing independently, or whether desire directly contributes to the building of an emotional bond between newly acquainted partners. Indeed, although sexual urges and emotional attachments are not necessarily connected with each other, evolutionary and social processes may have rendered humans particularly likely to become romantically attached to partners to whom they are sexually attracted. The present research sought to provide support for the latter option. (more…)
Author Interviews / 16.11.2018 Interview with: "Mothers and Daughters" by Joe Shlabotnik is licensed under CC BY 2.0Robert F. Lynch, PhD Department of Biology University of Turku Turku, Finland What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?  Response:  The take home message is that we were trying to experimentally induce something called a Trivers-Willard effect in humans. The Trivers-Willard hypothesis is a theory that uses evolutionary logic to predicts that parents who are in good condition will bias investment towards sons, while parents who are in poor condition will bias investment towards daughters.  The logic is that this should be the case because high-quality sons are expected to out-reproduce high quality daughters, while low-quality daughters are expected to out-reproduce low quality sons. We found almost nothing supporting this.  Instead we found strong and consistent effects across 4 dependent variables (explicitly stated preferences, implicit associations via IAT tests, actual donations to charities after an experimental prime and a forced choice adoption preference) of women preferring daughters or girls and men having either a slight or no preference for sons or boys. Of course we get into the details of why this may not be so surprising after all from an evolutionary point of view.  And we also discuss how things like sexual genetic conflict might mask TW effects and how cultural changes regarding the expected value of males and females may also play a role in explaining these differences.    (more…)
Author Interviews / 14.09.2018 Interview with: Dr. Tyler J. VanderWeele PhD Department of Epidemiology, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: There have been a number of prior studies on religious practices of adolescents, but this study is a relatively big step forward because it is considerably more rigorous than the vast majority of prior studies. The study uses a large sample of over 5,000 adolescents, it follows them up for more than eight years, it controls for many other variables to try to isolate the effect of religious upbringing, and it looks at many outcomes. In our analysis, we found that children who were raised in a religious or spiritual environment were subsequently better protected from the “big three” dangers of adolescence – depression, substance abuse and risky behaviors. For example, those who attended religious services regularly were subsequently:
  • 12% less likely to have high depressive symptoms
  • 33% less likely to use illicit drugs
Those who prayed or meditated frequently were:
  • 30% less likely to start having sex at a young age
  • 40% less likely to subsequently have a sexually transmitted infection.
Moreover, a religious upbringing also contributed towards to a number of positive outcomes as well such greater happiness, more volunteering in the community, a greater sense of mission and purpose, and higher levels of forgiveness. For example,those who attended religious services were subsequently:
  • 18% more likely to report high levels of happiness
  • 87% more likely to have high levels of forgivenessThose who prayed or meditated frequently were subsequently:
  • 38% more likely to volunteer in their community
  • 47% more likely to have a high sense of mission and purpose
These are relatively large effects across a variety of health and well-being outcomes.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Social Issues / 09.05.2018 Interview with: Dr. Doug Nemecek, MD MPH Co-chair National Quality Improvement Committee Senior medical director for CIGNA What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: We know that approximately 1 in 6 adults in the U.S. suffer from a mental health condition, and research has noted that mental health issues are one of the most rapidly increasing causes of long-term sick leave. But when looking closer, we found that most people with mental health or chronic conditions have a similar pathology: they also suffer from loneliness. It’s clear that loneliness has a tremendous impact on health – it actually has the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. We decided we needed to learn more. The key takeaway from our research is that most Americans are considered lonely, as measured by a score of 43 or higher on the UCLA Loneliness Scale. Specifically, we found that nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone or left out, and one in four Americans rarely or never feel as though there are people who really understand them. We also discovered that younger adults are lonelier and claim to be in worse health than older generations. However, our survey revealed several bright spots that reinforce the social nature of humans and the importance of community. Our results showed that people who report being less lonely are more likely to have regular, meaningful, in-person interactions; be in good overall physical and mental health; and have found a balance in their daily activities, including getting the right amount of sleep, socialization and work/life balance. We also hypothesized that the workplace played a role in this. It turns out that we were right – being employed and having good relationships with your co-workers is correlated with being less lonely and being more healthy.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Social Issues / 22.12.2017 Interview with: “Marriage” by sowrirajan s is licensed under CC BY 2.0Dr Akanksha Marphatia and co-authors, Dr Alice Reid and Dr Gabriel Amable Cambridge, UK What is the background for this study? Response: Although the total prevalence of girls marrying below the UN prescribed minimum age of 18 years has decreased over time, this is mostly due to a decrease in child marriages, <15 years. Marriages during adolescence, between 16-17 years, have increased. Women marring just after 18 years may also experience some of the consequences of those marrying under-age. These patterns are important to recognise because the predictors and consequences of marriage in these age groups are likely to differ. The aim of our review was to summarise research evidence on why women’s marriage age, independent of early child-bearing, is a major public health issue. In the four South Asian countries of our review, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan, marriage precedes reproduction. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cost of Health Care, Social Issues / 06.12.2017 Interview with: “Homeless” by Sonny Abesamis is licensed under CC BY 2.0Sarah Hunter, PhD Senior Behavioral Scientist, RAND Corporation Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School Santa Monica, CA 90401-3028 What is the background for this study? Response: In 2014, RAND was contracted by Brilliant Corners in collaboration with the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and Los Angeles County Department of Health Services to conduct an evaluation of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services’ Housing for Health (HFH) program.  The HFH program began in 2012 with the goal of providing permanent supportive housing for frequent utilizers of county health services who were experiencing homelessness.  (more…)
Aging, Author Interviews, BMJ, Cost of Health Care, Exercise - Fitness, Social Issues / 27.10.2017 Interview with: Dr. Scarlett McNally Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeo Eastbourne D.G.H. What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: There are vast differences between older people in their abilities and their number of medical conditions. Many people confuse ageing with loss of fitness. Ageing has specific effects (reduction in hearing and skin elasticity for example) but the loss of fitness is not inevitable. Genetics contributes only 20% to diseases. There is abundant evidence that adults who take up physical activity improve their fitness up to the level of someone a decade younger, with improvements in ‘up and go’ times. Physical activity can reduce the severity of most conditions, such as heart disease or the risk of onset or recurrence of many cancers. Inactivity is one of the top four risk factors for most long-term conditions. There is a dose-effect curve. Dementia, disability and frailty can be prevented, reduced or delayed. The need for social care is based on an individual’s abilities; for example, being unable to get to the toilet in time may increase the need for care from twice daily care givers to needing residential care or live-in care, which increases costs five-fold. Hospitals contribute to people reducing their mobility, with the ‘deconditioning syndrome’ of bed rest, with 60% of in-patients reducing their mobility. The total cost of social care in the UK is up to £100 billion, so even modest changes would reduce the cost of social care by several billion pounds a year. (more…)
Author Interviews, Psychological Science, Social Issues / 09.08.2017 Interview with: Mirkka Danielsbacka PhD, D.Soc.Sci Senior researcher University of Turku What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Relations between family generations are widely studied in disciplines such as family sociology and demography. However, relations between in-laws are often neglected in family studies of contemporary societies. Especially conflicts have been surprisingly little investigated. We were especially interested in how parenthood is associated with relations to in-laws in a contemporary Western society. Using nationally representative survey data from Finland with over 1,200 respondents, we studied conflicts that spouses reported having with their own parents and their in-laws. Overall, Finns more often reported having had any conflict with their own parents than with their in-laws. Compared to childless couples, couples with children were as likely to report conflicts with their own parents. However, couples with children were more likely to report conflicts with their parents-in-law. Our results took into account how frequently family members were in contact with each other and how emotionally close they felt, as well as other sociodemographic factors. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, Social Issues / 15.03.2017 Interview with: Emily Rauscher PhD Assistant Professor Department of Sociology University of Kansas What is the background for this study? Response: A lot of previous research has identified genotypes that increase sensitivity to context.  Much of this research, however, looks at particular aspects of health and is not able to address the methodological challenges of investigating gene-environment interactions.  To gain a better sense of the potential outcomes that may be susceptible to gene-environment interactions, I examine financial standing in young adulthood.  Testing this type of interaction is challenging because genotype and social environment are not randomly distributed throughout the population. Given this non-random distribution, unobserved confounders (such as parental behaviors, education, ethnicity, or social capital) could influence both parent and child financial standing. (more…)
Aging, Author Interviews, Geriatrics, Karolinski Institute, Social Issues / 14.03.2017 Interview with: Dr. Karin Modig, PhD Institute of Environmental Medicine,Epidemiology Karolinska Institute What is the background for this study? Response: The background to the study was that even though it is established that parents live longer than non-parents the underlying mechanisms are not clear. And it was not known how the association changed with the age of the parents. We hypothesize that if social support is one mechanism – the association between having children and the death risk of parents-non-parents would increase with age of the parents, when health starts to deteriorate and the need of support increases. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, Social Issues, Weight Research / 08.03.2017 Interview with: Professor Don Haider-Markel Chair, Department of Political Science University of Kansas Lawrence, KS 66045 What is the background for this study? Response: We have studied causal attributions for conditions and problems in society for some time. We noticed that public debate over obesity had increased and new policy proposals were being proposed to address what was deemed as a growing public health problem. As the salience of the issue increased so too did partisan views on the topic. Based on these observations, we wanted to explore individual beliefs about the causes, or attributions for, obesity. Existing research and theory suggested that Republicans following a conservative philosophy would be more likely to attribute obesity to personal choices, such as eating habits and lack of exercise—in short, putting the locus of control on individuals. Meanwhile liberal leaning Democrats, with a known predisposition to suggest conditions or problems are outside of the control of the individual, would be more likely to attribute obesity to either genetic or other biological factors, or the broader context of widely available low-cost high-fat food sources. Additionally, we know that individuals tend to make attributions that are self-serving. In other words, people tend to make attributions that put themselves in a positive light. Thus, personal weight should factor into obesity attributions. Here we expected that overweight people would be more likely to make attributions that removed personal blame, such as pointing to a genetic cause. People closer to an ideal weight would, on the other hand, be more likely to attribute weight-level to personal choices. (more…)
Abuse and Neglect, Author Interviews, Social Issues / 18.02.2017 Interview with: Andrew Fenelon PhD Assistant Professor, Department of Health Services Administration University of Maryland School of Public Health. College Park, MD 20742 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Despite the relatively large public investment in housing assistance at the federal level, there have been few nationwide analyses of the impacts of these programs on health and well-being. And as policymakers seek solutions to health disparities that incorporate some of the non-medical determinants of health (such as housing quality), our study can make an important contribution to both health and housing policy. We use an innovative data linkage program which links individuals in a federal household health survey and administrative housing records from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). We examine the health impacts of three HUD housing programs: public housing, housing choice vouchers, and multifamily housing. We find that public housing and multifamily housing lead to an improvement in self-reported health status, and public housing leads to a reduction in serious psychological distress. We do not find health impacts associated with housing choice vouchers. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Nutrition, Social Issues / 21.09.2016 Interview with: Lisa Harnack, DrPH, RD | Professor and Director Nutrition Coordinating Center Division of Epidemiology and Community Health School of Public Health, University of Minnesota Minneapolis, MN 55454-1087 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: There is interest in considering ways to reshape SNAP so that it better meets meet its objective to help families buy the food they need for good health. Prohibiting the purchase of foods such as soft drinks with SNAP benefits is one of the proposed program changes. Offering an incentive for the purchase of fruits and vegetables is another program change that is being discussed. Little is known about the effects of prohibitions and restrictions on food purchasing and consumption. Consequently, we carried out an experimental trial to evaluate effects. In our study we found that a food benefit program that includes both prohibitions on the purchase of less nutritious foods and incentives for purchasing nutritious foods may lead to a number of favorable changes in diet. To elaborate, we found those enrolled in a food benefit program that prohibited the purchase of sugar sweetened beverages, sweet bakes goods, and candies with food program benefits and provided a 30% financial incentive for fruit and vegetable purchases had a number of favorable dietary changes that were significantly different from changes among those enrolled in a food benefit program that had neither prohibitions or incentives. These favorable changes included reduced consumption of calories, sugar sweetened beverages, sweet baked goods, and candies; and increased consumption of fruit. The overall nutritional quality of the diet also improved. Fewer nutritional improvements were observed among those enrolled in food benefit programs that included prohibitions or incentives only. (more…)
Author Interviews, Diabetes, Social Issues, Weight Research / 16.09.2016 Interview with: Professor Timothy Frayling PhD Professor of Human Genetics University of Exeter Medical School Exeter, UK What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: We know that genes and environmental factors influence our Body mass index. We know less about if and how they interact. We wanted to answer the question of whether or not aspects of the environment and our lifestyles accentuate any genetic predisposition to obesity. The question is important as it may highlight aspects of the environment that cause some people to be particularly susceptible to gaining weight. Previous, separate, studies have suggested that specific aspects of the environment are to blame. These included sugary drinks, fried food and TV watching. (more…)
Author Interviews, Social Issues / 19.08.2016 Interview with: Emily H. Starr, M.A. Doctoral Candidate City, Culture, & Community Tulane University, New Orleans What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: This study examines the relationship between work, partnering, and parenthood through the perspectives of bartenders working in the New Orleans metro area. Bartenders frame work, intimate relationships, and family as interlocking matrices and view their lack of legitimate work (or their lack of a normative 9-5 job with security, benefits, and a salary) as a prohibitive or complicating factor in their ability to assume the roles of partner and parent. Some of the fastest growing segments of the U.S. labor market are low-wage and low-skill jobs meaning that young people will increasingly grapple with hegemonic "white picket fence" ideologies that prescribe certain family forms and occupational/labor relationships as ideal. Moreover, the matrices of performative adulthood are gendered with women and men framing their work as incompatible with family life for different reasons. Women more often experience sexual harassment/objectification, feel their skills and abilities are called into question, and perceive that women bartenders are marginalized as "certain types of women." These perceptions lend themselves towards women bartenders framing barwork as incompatible or undesirable with mothering. Men express anxiety about their long-term earning potential and combating the stigma of low-status work through the professionalization of the craft cocktail and spirits industry. Thus, men are more concerned about their role as breadwinner rather than viewing bartending and fatherhood roles as mutually-exclusive. These findings suggest that bartenders draw upon dominant ideologies of normative adulthood and invoke traditional gender roles to frame their perspectives about bartending and family life. Importantly, the contours and realities of their working lives are the prohibitive factor in bartenders' perspectives about the possibility for participating in long-term intimate relationships and parenthood. (more…)
Author Interviews, OBGYNE, Pediatrics, Social Issues / 17.06.2016 Interview with: Kelli A. Komro, MPH, PhD, Professor Director of Graduate Studies Behavioral Sciences and Health Education Jointly Appointed, Epidemiology Rollins School of Public Health Emory University Atlanta, GA 30322 What is the background for this study?  Dr. Komro: Epidemiologists have done a thorough job describing the income-health gradient, which shows a clear association between income and health. That is, as income increases, exposure to health risks and premature mortality decreases. Each step down on the income ladder decreases one’s health for many reasons related to material resources, physical environment exposures and social circumstances. The income to health association begins at birth, and more than one in four women giving birth in the U.S. are below the poverty level, putting nearly 1 million babies at risk each year. Low-income mothers are more likely to give birth prematurely, to have low birth weight babies, and to suffer the death of their infant during the post-neonatal period (28 to 364 days old). Given the importance of the income-health gradient, we set out to test the health effects of policies that are designed to increase economic security among low-income families. Our main question is: Do policies designed to reduce poverty and improve family economic security also improve health? One relevant policy is minimum wage laws. A federal minimum wage was first enacted in 1938. The real value (in 2015 dollars) of the federal minimum wage reached a high of $10.85 in 1968. The current federal rate is $7.25. Many cities and states have passed minimum wage laws that are higher than the federal rate, and currently there is a range of minimum wage increases under active public and policymaker discussion. Given that some states pass minimum wage standards and others do not, and that laws within states change over time, we took advantage of all the changes that have occurred to design a natural experiment. Our natural experiment examined the effects of state minimum wage laws on infant health. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues, Race/Ethnic Diversity, Social Issues / 03.06.2016 Interview with: Zhenmei Zhang, Ph.D. Associate Professor Department of Sociology Michigan State University East Lansing, MI48824 What is the background for this study? Dr. Zhang: Blacks are especially hard hit by cognitive impairment and dementia. Recent estimates of dementia prevalence and incidence were substantially higher for blacks than whites. Reducing racial/ethnic disparities in dementia has been identified as a national priority by the National Alzheimer’s Project Act, which was signed into law by President Obama in 2011. So I really want to contribute to the ongoing discussion of the origins and pathways through which racial disparities in cognitive impairment is produced. If we have a better understanding of the factors contributing to racial disparities in cognitive impairment in later life, more effective interventions can be conducted to reduce the racial disparities. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Pediatrics, Social Issues / 05.04.2016 Interview with: Paula Braitstein, PhD Division of Epidemiology, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada Department of Medicine, College of Health Sciences, School of Medicine, Moi University, Eldoret, Kenya Department of Epidemiology, Fairbanks School of Public Health, Indiana University, Indianapolis Regenstrief Institute Inc, Indianapolis, Indiana What is the background for this study? Dr. Braitstein: There are vast numbers of children and youth in the world who find themselves in street circumstances. Yet, there is an absence of consensus among academics, policymakers, stakeholders, and international organizations regarding the causes of child and youth street-involvement around the world. Without data concerning these reasons, policies are developed or implemented to mitigate street-involvement without taking these causes into account. Often, the prevailing paradigm assumes that children and youth on the street are juvenile delinquents and the government response is often characterized by social exclusion, criminalization, and oppression by police and civic authorities. Therefore we wanted to find out what reasons do children and youth self-report for their street-involvement globally. What are the main findings?  Dr. Braitstein: We systematically reviewed the literature and compiled data from 49 studies representing 24 countries globally. Street-connected children and youth most frequently reported poverty, family conflict, and abuse as their reasons for street-involvement. They infrequently identified delinquent behaviours for their circumstances. There were no significant differences between males and females reported reasons, with the exception of females in developed regions who were more likely to report abuse. (more…)
Author Interviews, Social Issues / 27.02.2016 Interview with: Aaron W. Lukaszewski, Ph.D. Assistant Professor Department of Psychology Oklahoma State University Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Lukaszewski: A large body of evidence from multiple social science fields indicates that physically formidable men tend to attain positions of leadership and prestige within cooperative groups (e.g., communities, businesses, nations). The most common explanation for this phenomenon is that strong men ascend hierarchies by aggressively intimidating their rivals and fellow group members into submission -- much like chickens use physical contests to establish "pecking orders" that define rank. The current research advances a different explanation for why formidable men attain high status. Specifically, we propose that members of cooperative groups willingly confer high status upon physically strong men, because they are perceived as possessing specific leadership capacities. To test this, we had people view photographs of men and women whose physical strength had been previously measured, and evaluate them along specific dimensions. As predicted, stronger men (but not women) were seen as deserving higher status, and this was explained by the fact that such men were seen as being better leaders (as defined by their apparent ability to enforce group policies and represent the group to outsiders). Moreover, physically strong men who were seen as being likely to aggressively intimidate others were projected to acquire less status than their apparently gentler counterparts. Taken together, the findings support the idea that strong men are given higher status by others because they are perceived as being likely to use their strength to benefit the group by cost-effectively providing valuable leadership services. (more…)
AHA Journals, Author Interviews, Duke, Exercise - Fitness, Heart Disease, Social Issues / 18.11.2015 Interview with: Lauren Cooper, MD Fellow in Cardiovascular Diseases Duke University Medical Center Duke Clinical Research Institute Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Cooper: The HF-ACTION study, published in 2009, showed that exercise training is associated with reduced risk of death or hospitalization, and is a safe and effective therapy for patients with heart failure and reduced ejection fraction. Subsequently, Medicare began to cover cardiac rehabilitation for patients with heart failure. However, many patients referred to an exercise training program are not fully adherent to the program. Our study looked at psychosocial reasons that may impact participation in an exercise program. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Cooper: We found that patients with higher levels of social support and fewer barriers to exercise exercised more than patients with lower levels of social support and more barriers to exercise. And patients who exercised less had a higher risk of cardiovascular death or heart failure hospitalization compared to patients who exercised more. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Mental Health Research, Pediatrics, Social Issues / 09.10.2013

Dr. Elisabeth Jeppesen MPH, PhD-fellow National Resource Center for Late Effects after Cancer Treatment, Department of Oncology, Oslo University, Hospital, The Norwegian Radiumhospitalet, Interview with: Dr. Elisabeth Jeppesen MPH, PhD-fellow National Resource Center for Late Effects after Cancer Treatment, Department of Oncology, Oslo University, Hospital, The Norwegian Radiumhospitalet, Oslo, Norway mobil +47 951 05271 
Wisit: Ullernchaussen 70 (Radiumhospitalet) What is the background of this study? Answer: Each year a considerable number of parents with children younger than 18 years of age are affected by cancer in a parent. Cancer in one of the parents might represent a potentially traumatic event and thereby may be a risk factor for psychosocial problems in the offspring. So far, teenagers’ psychosocial responses to parental cancer have only been studied to a limited extent in controlled trials. Using a trauma theory perspective many studies have shown significant direct associations between parental cancer and psychosocial problems in teenagers. However, the literature also indicates that most children and teenagers have normal stress reactions to such events. In order to identify the need for eventual prevention and intervention among teenagers exposed to such a stressor, we need more empirical knowledge of their psychosocial situation. (more…)