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santamonicasignflickrJust as the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index tracks quality-of-life indicators nationally, the city of Santa Monica, Calif., is hoping to use a local well-being index to help guide policy decisions that affect the lives of local residents.

Fast Company reports that the initiative arose from a pair of tragedies — a gang shooting and the suicide of a 9th-grade student. That lead to creation of a youth well-being scorecard in 2012 that is now being expanded community-wide. The index is being funded by the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge; Santa Monica was one of five cities that won awards for projects that give mayors new tools to measure community well-being.

City officials are now trying to determine what to measure and how much to weight factors like economics, health, safety, employment, and community. By 2015 at the latest Santa Monica hopes to have a model local index that other cities can emulate. “We want to use it as not just a static report on the shelf, but something that’s going to be living and breathing in a way that will inform city policy over time,” says Julie Rusk, a city worker leading the Wellbeing Project.

(Photo © vxla via Flickr)

U.S. Economic Recovery Benefits Mostly the Rich

by Bob Curley on April 23, 2014

Money (US Dollars)In the United States, the rich have gotten richer while the standard of living for the middle class and poor have declined, the New York Times reported April 23.

For the first time, the American middle class is not the world’s most affluent, having been surpassed by Canada. That’s reflective of a broader trend that has seen low- and middle-income workers in other advanced countries getting larger raises than their counterparts in the U.S. Poor people in Europe, for example, earn more money than poor Americans, on average.

Median per-capita income in the U.S. has remained virtually flat since 2000, while it has risen in many other countries. By per-capita gross domestic product, the U.S. remains the world’s richest country. But that wealth is increasingly concentrated in fewer hands, experts say. Compared to other first-world countries, top executives in the U.S. get paid more, but the minimum wage is lower and unions are weaker. Rich Americans also pay less in taxes than in many other leading nations.

(Photo © Wikipedia)




Daily Naps May Be Health Warning

by Bob Curley on April 23, 2014

powernapbarkFlickrEveryone needs the occasionally nap, but older adults who nap daily were at greater risk of dying during a 13-year study period — with those who napped longest at the highest risk — researchers say.

Fox News reported April 22 that daily nappers ages 40-79 were especially at risk of dying from respiratory illnesses.

Individuals who napped for less than an hour daily were 14 percent more likely to die during the study period than non-nappers, while those who napped for longer than an hour were 32 percent more likely to die. The link between napping and mortality risk was highest among the younger people in the study — those ages 40-65.

The results held up even when researchers controlled for other health and lifestyle factors. The study could not say whether napping itself was unhealthy or if it was an indicator of other problems. ”Excessive daytime napping might be a useful marker of underlying health risks, particularly respiratory problems, especially among those 65 years of age or younger,” according to the study from the University of Cambridge.

The findings were published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

(Photo © bark via Flickr)

Seeing Life as a Highway, Not a Battle

by Bob Curley on April 23, 2014

roadkingflickrShould the end of life be viewed as a struggle, or part of a journey? It’s an important question to answer before the inevitable end arrives.

he New York Times reported April 22 that major illness is often described in combat-related terms — terminally ill people are described as “fighting” a disease and urged not to surrender; those who die are said to have “lost the battle” with their illness. In some cases, critical healthcare decisions — such as whether to continue chemotherapy — can be influenced more by a sense of shame about “surrendering” than what will offer the best quality of life in the patient’s remaining time.

“The fight metaphor assumes an opponent. Fighting has connotations of violence and competitiveness. The goal is to win, and if you don’t succeed, you can feel like a failure,” says  linguistics expert Elena Semino of Lancaster University in England.

In the U.K., however, doctors are more likely to talk about the end of life as the final steps on a journey, with milestones along the way. “There’s a lot of awareness that battle metaphors can be very harmful to patients,” says Semino. “Professionals are conscious of the problems, and they’re advised not to use them.”

(Photo © Al King via Flickr)


Designing Offices with Mindfulness in Mind

by Bob Curley on April 23, 2014

officedavidwallflickrMindfulness could be a powerful tool for workplace productivity,  suggests a new study that finds on-the-job distractions to be commonplace.

According to the report from Steelcase, 41 percent of workers say that have difficulty concentrating at work, resulting in an average of 86 minutes of lost productivity daily.

“Mindfulness means balancing the intense pace of life with being fully present in the moment,” says Donna Flynn, director of Workspaces Futures at Steelcase. “With the proliferation of technology and growth of distributed work across time and space, workers are facing unprecedented distractions combined with pressures to be always on, leaving them stressed, tired, and overwhelmed. Healthy and mindful employees are a competitive advantage in today’s business world, but to achieve it workers need supportive environments that give them the emotional capacity to interpret and experience events in a way that leads to productive, positive actions.”

Steelcase says employers can encourage more mindfulness by:

  • Offering spaces where people can seek solitude and respite, or connect with others without distractions or interference.
  • Designing areas that allow workers to control the amount of sensory stimulation they are exposed to and enable them to amp it up or down.
  • Creating spaces that help people stay focused as they interact with others one-on-one and eye-to-eye.
  • Offering places that are calming, through the materials, textures, colors, lighting and views.

Mindfulness is one of six dimensions of worker wellbeing described by Steelcase; the others are optimism, vitality, belonging, authenticity, and meaning. ”Creative work is all about making connections, being open to new ideas, taking risks and experimenting,” says Flynn. “These behaviors are impossible in a stressed state of mind. For creative work to thrive, the workplace needs to be a supportive and positive environment.”

supplementsAndreannaMoyaFlickrAlmost one in five Americans take some sort of non-vitamin herbal supplement, making these the most common form of alternative/complementary medicine in the U.S., LiveScience reported April 16.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the most popular types of alternative medicine are:

  • herbal supplements: used by 18 percent of Americans
  • chiropractic and osteopathic treatment: 8.5 percent
  • yoga: 8.4 percent
  • massage: 6.8 percent
  • meditation: 4.1 percent

About half of Americans take some type of dietary supplement, mostly multivitamins.

(Photo © Andreanna Moya Photography via Flickr)



Few Americans Can Thrive Long without a Job

Many Americans are little more than one missed paycheck away from serious financial problems, a new poll from Gallup indicates. Fourteen percent of workers polled say they couldn’t last a week without a job before experiencing significant financial hardship; 29 percent say it would take a month out of work, 26 percent said up to […]

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Could a Snack Save Your Marriage?

If you find yourself irrationally angry at your spouse, the reason may have more to do with your blood sugar than anything your significant other has done wrong, the Associated Press reported April 15. In a study, researchers asked participants to stick pins in voodoo dolls representing their spouses whenever they experienced negative interpersonal emotions. […]

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Cash Crawls with Bacteria, Researchers Say

The term “filthy lucre” may have some literal truth, the Wall Street Journal reported April 21. New York University scientists found that thousands of types of bacteria reside on American currency, including those that can cause acne, gastric ulcers, pneumonia, food poisoning, and staph infections. On the other hand, some beneficial bacteria were found, as well. […]

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Childhood Obesity Linked with Weight Gain in Pregnancy

Women who gain too much (or too little) weight while pregnant are much more likely to have obese children, the New York Times reported April 17. Compared to women whose weight gain fell within accepted clinical guidelines, mothers whose weight increased excessively during pregnancy were 46 percent more likely to have overweight or obese children, […]

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Rice Absorbs Metals, for Good or Ill

Rice, a staple of many diets, has an unfortunate habit of absorbing metallic compounds like arsenic and cadmium as it grows, the New York Times reported April 18. Arsenic and cadmium occur naturally in soil, as well as being industrial byproducts. In recent years, rice-borne arsenic in baby food has raised concerns and led the […]

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