Tag Archives: health

In Brief

The Marriage Diet

Corey Fields

Corey Fields

Getting married may lead to weight gain—and not just because of that extra piece of wedding cake.

Newlyweds’ body mass index (BMI) increases after marriage, according to economists Susan Averett, Asia Sikora, and Laura Argys (Economics and Human Biology, 2008). Married men have a higher BMI than unmarried men, and married women are more likely to be overweight or obese.

Perhaps this is due to the fact that marriage offers new social occasions involving food and eating, compelling couples to eat more—and more often—than they otherwise would. But another possible explanation is the marriage market hypothesis: maintaining a healthy weight becomes less important after one has found a marital partner.

In a study published in Appetite in 2011, sociologists Caron Bove and Jeffery Sobal found that while weight was a salient issue when couples were dating, it became less relevant once they settled into romantic relationships.

And scholars Debra Umberson, Hui Liu, and Daniel Powers, writing in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior in 2009, found the transition out of marriage, either through divorce or widowhood, is an even more important determinant of weight trajectories than getting married.

Perhaps the solution is to just live together: cohabiting men and women have lower BMIs than their married counterparts, according to sociologists Jeffrey Sobal and Karla Hanson, in a study published in the Marriage and Family Review in 2009.

What this suggests is that declining marriage rates may lead to slimmer national waistlines in the coming years.

About the Author

Bill Millard is a New York-based writer on architecture, culture, and health. Assisted by a research grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, he is writing The Vertical and Horizontal Americas: The Built Environment, Cultural Formations, and the Post-Automotive Era, from which this article is adapted.

Feature

Challenging Motorism In New York City

Public contention over recent changes in New York City’s streetscape, allocating more space and priority to pedestrians and cyclists, illuminates an underlying conflict between a belief system regarding motor vehicles as central to American life—the windshield-perspective assumptions here termed Motorism—and dissenting beliefs questioning the rationality of automotive monoculture. New York-based writer Bill Millard argues that during the twentieth century, Motorism attained a level of dominance thorough enough to be unrecognized and unquestioned in most locales; though it encounters enough opposition to be visible as an ideology only in a few places (particularly New York), its ill effects on the environment, the economy, health, and other values are increasingly apparent, suggesting that the New York “streetfight” has social ramifications extending well beyond New York.

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About the Author

Theresa Morris is in the department of sociology at Trinity College. She is the author of Cut It Out: The C-Section Epidemic in America.

Trends

C-Section Epidemic

How can we explain the exponential increase of the cesarean section in the U.S. in recent decades? Drawing from 130 in-depth interviews with women, obstetricians, midwives, and labor and delivery nurses, sociologist Theresa Morris explains the epidemic that affects the lives, health, and families of every woman in America.

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Further Reading

Check out the The New York Times review of Theresa Morris's Cut It Out and then get the book.

In Brief

Kidneys and Kin

While organ donation systems in the United States are designed to be efficient and equitable, distributing organs harvested from recently deceased individuals to those who need them most, the system often falls short of these goals. As an aging, increasingly diabetic population has sparked a greater demand for donated kidneys, for example, deceased kidney donations cannot keep pace with demand. To address this need, healthcare professionals are encouraging patients to seek out live donors from their existing social networks.

African Americans suffer the most from the shortage in kidneys, consistently receiving a smaller proportion of kidneys from deceased donors than their rates of need indicate. But in his 2011 dissertation, “Social Inequalities in the Kidney Transplantation System,” sociologist Jonathan Daw finds that African Americans, because of their larger and more genetically varied kinship networks, are more likely than whites to know a suitable live donor.

These larger, more varied networks have not yet worked to African Americans’ advantage, however. Whites are more likely than blacks to have someone with a close genetic match that is also healthy enough to donate a kidney. But new medical advances may permit genetically incompatible individuals to donate kidneys, alleviating such health disparities.

In Brief

Second Life’s Second Life

©2013 Linden Lab

©2013 Linden Lab

Experts have voiced concerns about digital addiction and social isolation among online gaming enthusiasts. But virtual platforms, such as Second Life, which offers its users custom designed, computer-simulated 3-D environments, have proven to have useful everyday applications.

By distributing information and providing services to at-risk veterans through audio, video, and text communication, the Department of Defense uses Second Life to help those battling Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Veterans who exhibit PTSD symptoms, who are fearful of social stigma, no longer need to suffer in silence: they can interact anonymously with service providers and with one another through avatars, or customizable digital self-representations—virtual alter egos.

Weight loss program participants also use Second Life. Health researcher Debra Sullivan and her colleagues monitored a group of individuals who were trying to lose weight. Their 2013 article in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior shows that face-to-face participants lost more weight initially, but Second Life participants were more successful in keeping the weight off. During the weight maintenance phase, researchers found that the Second Life-only group experienced an additional 4 percent loss in weight.

Finally, educators have used Second Life to enable what researchers Palitha Edirisingha, Ming Nie, Mark Pluciennik, and Ruth Young call “border crossing from virtual world to physical world.” In a 2009 issue of the British Journal of Educational Technology, they reported that “In-world socialization had led to real-world network building” among college archaeology students.

As digital technology continues to extend its global reach, these successful applications show that virtual behavior can have beneficial real-life results.

In Brief

Table For One, Please

Kimberly Holtz

Kimberly Holtz

While meals give us a chance to bond with friends and family, a growing number of studies find that fellow diners may bring more than just a bottle of wine to the table.

Writing in Appetite in 1990, psychologist John de Castro and colleagues found that the more people were present at the table, the more calories diners consumed. Psychologist Patricia Pliner and coauthors, in a 2006 article published in Appetite (“Meal Duration Mediates the Effect of ‘Social Facilitation’ on Eating in Humans”), attribute this change to a “time extension” hypothesis: the more eaters are present, the more we chat, the longer the meal lasts, and the more we eat.

In contrast, solo diners consume fewer calories. One might imagine this is because they spend less time eating, but even those who occupy themselves by reading or working during a solo meal don’t consume more calories.

It turns out that eating with others does more than just lengthen meal times: it leads us to engage in impression management, according to clinical psychologist Sarah-Jeanne Salvy and colleagues in a 2007 article published in Appetite. When we dine with friends and family, we’re more comfortable, so we monitor ourselves less and tend to eat more.

Even if it leads us to eat more, many people still prefer to dine in the company of others. But the next time you ask for a table for one, you can take solace in the fact that it may lead to a slimmer waistline.

About the Author

John Bateson was executive director of a Bay Area crisis intervention and suicide prevention center for 16 years, and helped draft the California Strategic Plan on Suicide Prevention. He is the author of The Final Leap: Suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge.

Feature

The Deadly Span

The Golden Gate Bridge continues to be the top suicide site in the world. John Bateson argues that a barrier will save lives, end the tragedies, and not detract from the bridge’s beauty or the view–but it remains far off.

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Further Reading

The New York Times talks with John Bateson about plans to add a suicide barrier to the Golden Gate Bridge.

About the Author

Jacob Avery is in the sociology department at the University of California Irvine. There, he enjoys teaching introductory sociology, and he is writing about homelessness in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Books

Slot Machine Capitalism

What is seductive about casino gambling? Sociologist Jacob Avery reviews the books Addiction by Design and Gambling for Profit in a desperate attempt to win some answers.

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About the Author

John A. Stover III is in the sociology department at the University of San Francisco. He teaches and studies social movements and the media, queer sexualities and gender, and religious change and conflict.

Mediations

Framing Social Movements Through Documentary Films

Sociologist John A. Stover III highlights the significant impact documentary filmmakers can have on social movement agendas and frames via their production, distribution, and outreach strategies. New Day Films, a cooperative collective of social issue filmmakers, is spotlighted as particularly effective in promoting social change and justice.

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Recommended Resources from John Stover