Five studies you may have missed

MGN Online
Friday, January 31, 2014 - 9:57am

Here's a roundup of five medical studies published this week that might give you new insights into your health, mind and body. Remember, correlation is not causation – so if a study finds a connection between two things, it doesn't mean that one causes the other.

Two stressed-out people are better than one

Journal: Social Psychological and Personality Science

As much as you want to appear calm, cool and collected in front of your colleagues, sharing the stress of an upcoming presentation may help you chill.

Researchers at the USC Marshall School of Business asked 52 female undergraduate students to pair off and share their feelings about giving an upcoming speech. The scientists measured each student's level of the stress hormone cortisol before, during and after the speech.

"Sharing a threatening situation with a person who is in a similar emotional state... buffers individuals from experiencing the heightened levels of stress that typically accompany threat," the study authors concluded. In other words: buddying up is a good idea in any stressful situation. We highly recommend it if you're being chased by a bear and you know someone slow.

Practice balancing -- your spine will thank you

Journal of Neurotrama

More people are suffering serious traumatic spinal cord injuries in the United States than ever before, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins. The leading cause of these injuries used to be car crashes; now, it's falls.

The rate of injury is rising fastest among older people, the study authors say. The average age of an adult with a traumatic spinal cord injury between 2000 and 2005 was 41; currently it's 51. The researchers believe reducing falls in the elderly is key to preventing these injuries and lowering health care costs.

Read more from Johns Hopkins Medicine

We have bigger worries than the 'freshman 15'

Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior

Contrary to popular belief, not all college students are padding their waistlines with cheeseburgers and fries. A study at Oregon State University found that 59% of students were "food insecure" at some point during the previous year. Food insecurity is a term used to describe people who do not always know where their next meal will be coming from. In simple terms? Sometimes they go hungry.

“Based on other research that’s been done, we expected some amount of food concerns among college students,” said Daniel López-Cevallos, associate director of research at OSU’s Center for Latino/a Studies and Engagement. “But it was shocking to find food insecurity of this severity."

The researchers believe several causes may be contributing to food insecurity on college campuses, including rising college costs and more low-income or first-generation students.

Read more from Oregon State University

Survival of the fastest

Journal: PLOS ONE

Now we know why Chuck Norris will live forever. If you're slow on the draw in middle age, new research suggests your life expectancy is shorter.

Scientists in the United Kingdom looked at data from more than 5,000 participants who took a reaction test in the early 1990s. The test was simple -- participants pressed a button when they saw an image appear on a screen. Over the next 15 years, those with slower reaction times were 25% more likely to have died from any cause than those with average reaction times.

"Speed of information processing is considered a basic cognitive ability," lead researcher Dr. Gareth Hagger-Johnson said in a statement. "Reaction time may indicate how well our central nervous and other systems in the body are working. People who are consistently slow to respond to new information may go on to experience problems that increase their risk of early death."

Music therapy helps young cancer patients cope

Journal: Cancer

More attention is being paid to the impact music can have on patients' ability to cope. In this study, researchers asked adolescents and young adults who were undergoing stem cell transplant treatments for cancer to write song lyrics and produce a music video. A separate control group of patients received audiobooks.

The Therapeutic Music Video group reported "significantly better courageous coping," according to study authors. And 100 days after the transplant, the same group exhibited better social integration, which upped their resilience.


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