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Concept: Demographics


Both social isolation and loneliness are associated with increased mortality, but it is uncertain whether their effects are independent or whether loneliness represents the emotional pathway through which social isolation impairs health. We therefore assessed the extent to which the association between social isolation and mortality is mediated by loneliness. We assessed social isolation in terms of contact with family and friends and participation in civic organizations in 6,500 men and women aged 52 and older who took part in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing in 2004-2005. A standard questionnaire measure of loneliness was administered also. We monitored all-cause mortality up to March 2012 (mean follow-up 7.25 y) and analyzed results using Cox proportional hazards regression. We found that mortality was higher among more socially isolated and more lonely participants. However, after adjusting statistically for demographic factors and baseline health, social isolation remained significantly associated with mortality (hazard ratio 1.26, 95% confidence interval, 1.08-1.48 for the top quintile of isolation), but loneliness did not (hazard ratio 0.92, 95% confidence interval, 0.78-1.09). The association of social isolation with mortality was unchanged when loneliness was included in the model. Both social isolation and loneliness were associated with increased mortality. However, the effect of loneliness was not independent of demographic characteristics or health problems and did not contribute to the risk associated with social isolation. Although both isolation and loneliness impair quality of life and well-being, efforts to reduce isolation are likely to be more relevant to mortality.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Statistics, Sample size, Proportional hazards models, Sociology, Interval finite element, Demographics, Confidence interval


We conduct a detailed investigation of correlations between real-time expressions of individuals made across the United States and a wide range of emotional, geographic, demographic, and health characteristics. We do so by combining (1) a massive, geo-tagged data set comprising over 80 million words generated in 2011 on the social network service Twitter and (2) annually-surveyed characteristics of all 50 states and close to 400 urban populations. Among many results, we generate taxonomies of states and cities based on their similarities in word use; estimate the happiness levels of states and cities; correlate highly-resolved demographic characteristics with happiness levels; and connect word choice and message length with urban characteristics such as education levels and obesity rates. Our results show how social media may potentially be used to estimate real-time levels and changes in population-scale measures such as obesity rates.

Concepts: Demography, United States, U.S. state, Demographics, Web 2.0, Social network, Social network service, Facebook


INTRODUCTION: The elastic ligature is the most used method for the out-patient treatment of haemorrhoids, with excellent results in control of bleeding. However, the recurrences in prolapse vary between 15 and 40%. We propose a new method for applying the elastic ligatures. PATIENTS: A total of 17 patients with grade iii haemorrhoids were chosen for the vertical ligatures (VL). The first elastic band was placed 3 to 4cm from the pectineal line and 1 or 2 more in the root of the haemorrhoid group. Another 34 randomly selected patients were used as a control group. Data collected included, demographic details, number of bands and sessions, pain scale, complications and results. The patients were followed up at week one, week 3, and 3 months and one year after the intervention. RESULTS: A total of 12 males and 5 females, with a median age of 46 years, were treated with VL. The median follow-up was 10 (from 8 to 19) months. A median of 3 sessions and 7 elastic bands were used, with 6 patients having moderate pain that required analgesic treatment. None of the patients needed urgent treatment for pain or bleeding. There was a complete response to bleeding in 15 patients (88.2%) and to prolapse in 14 (82.2%). Two patients required haemorrhoidectomy due to treatment failure. The measurements of therapeutic effect after one year were: number needed to treat (NNT) of 4 (95% CI, 2 to 22), for prolapse, and NNT of 4 (95% CI, 2 a 15), for bleeding. CONCLUSIONS: Elastic ligatures could become a new treatment option for Grade iii haemorrhoids, improving control of bleeding and prolapse.

Concepts: Controlling for a variable, Scientific control, Patient, Pain, Demographics, Prolapse, Hemorrhoid, Rubber band


Anthropogenic changes in land use and the extirpation of apex predators have facilitated explosive growth of mesopredator populations. Consequently, many species have been subjected to extensive control throughout portions of their range due to their integral role as generalist predators and reservoirs of zoonotic disease. Yet, few studies have monitored the effects of landscape composition or configuration on the demographic or behavioral response of mesopredators to population manipulation. During 2007 we removed 382 raccoons (Procyon lotor) from 30 forest patches throughout a fragmented agricultural ecosystem to test hypotheses regarding the effects of habitat isolation on population recovery and role of range expansion and dispersal in patch colonization of mesopredators in heterogeneous landscapes. Patches were allowed to recolonize naturally and demographic restructuring of patches was monitored from 2008-2010 using mark-recapture. An additional 25 control patches were monitored as a baseline measure of demography. After 3 years only 40% of experimental patches had returned to pre-removal densities. This stagnant recovery was driven by low colonization rates of females, resulting in little to no within-patch recruitment. Colonizing raccoons were predominantly young males, suggesting that dispersal, rather than range expansion, was the primary mechanism driving population recovery. Contrary to our prediction, neither landscape connectivity nor measured local habitat attributes influenced colonization rates, likely due to the high dispersal capability of raccoons and limited role of range expansion in patch colonization. Although culling is commonly used to control local populations of many mesopredators, we demonstrate that such practices create severe disruptions in population demography that may be counterproductive to disease management in fragmented landscapes due to an influx of dispersing males into depopulated areas. However, given the slow repopulation rates observed in our study, localized depopulation may be effective at reducing negative ecological impacts of mesopredators in fragmented landscapes at limited spatial and temporal scales.

Concepts: Demography, Population, Population ecology, Demographics, Demographic economics, Apex predator, Raccoon, Nurgaliev's law


In four large, nationally representative surveys (N = 11.2 million), American adolescents and emerging adults in the 2010s (Millennials) were significantly less religious than previous generations (Boomers, Generation X) at the same age. The data are from the Monitoring the Future studies of 12th graders (1976-2013), 8th and 10th graders (1991-2013), and the American Freshman survey of entering college students (1966-2014). Although the majority of adolescents and emerging adults are still religiously involved, twice as many 12th graders and college students, and 20%-40% more 8th and 10th graders, never attend religious services. Twice as many 12th graders and entering college students in the 2010s (vs. the 1960s-70s) give their religious affiliation as “none,” as do 40%-50% more 8th and 10th graders. Recent birth cohorts report less approval of religious organizations, are less likely to say that religion is important in their lives, report being less spiritual, and spend less time praying or meditating. Thus, declines in religious orientation reach beyond affiliation to religious participation and religiosity, suggesting a movement toward secularism among a growing minority. The declines are larger among girls, Whites, lower-SES individuals, and in the Northeastern U.S., very small among Blacks, and non-existent among political conservatives. Religious affiliation is lower in years with more income inequality, higher median family income, higher materialism, more positive self-views, and lower social support. Overall, these results suggest that the lower religious orientation of Millennials is due to time period or generation, and not to age.

Concepts: Demographics, Religion, Meditation, Household income in the United States, Spirituality, Generation Y, Generation, Generation X


This paper specifies, designs and critically evaluates two tools for the automated identification of demographic data (age, occupation and social class) from the profile descriptions of Twitter users in the United Kingdom (UK). Meta-data data routinely collected through the Collaborative Social Media Observatory (COSMOS: relating to UK Twitter users is matched with the occupational lookup tables between job and social class provided by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) using SOC2010. Using expert human validation, the validity and reliability of the automated matching process is critically assessed and a prospective class distribution of UK Twitter users is offered with 2011 Census baseline comparisons. The pattern matching rules for identifying age are explained and enacted following a discussion on how to minimise false positives. The age distribution of Twitter users, as identified using the tool, is presented alongside the age distribution of the UK population from the 2011 Census. The automated occupation detection tool reliably identifies certain occupational groups, such as professionals, for which job titles cannot be confused with hobbies or are used in common parlance within alternative contexts. An alternative explanation on the prevalence of hobbies is that the creative sector is overrepresented on Twitter compared to 2011 Census data. The age detection tool illustrates the youthfulness of Twitter users compared to the general UK population as of the 2011 Census according to proportions, but projections demonstrate that there is still potentially a large number of older platform users. It is possible to detect “signatures” of both occupation and age from Twitter meta-data with varying degrees of accuracy (particularly dependent on occupational groups) but further confirmatory work is needed.

Concepts: Demography, Population, Sociology, United Kingdom, Demographics, Broadsheet, Twitter, Demographic gift


The effects of climate change on high latitude regions are becoming increasingly evident, particularly in the rapid decline of sea ice cover in the Arctic. Many high latitude species dependent on sea ice are being forced to adapt to changing habitats. Harp seals (Pagophilus groenlandicus) are an indicator species for changing high-latitude ecosystems. This study analyzed multiple factors including ice cover, demographics, and genetic diversity, which could affect harp seal stranding rates along the eastern coast of the United States. Ice cover assessments were conducted for the month of February in the Gulf of St. Lawrence whelping region from 1991-2010 using remote sensing data, and harp seal stranding data were collected over the same time period. Genetic diversity, which may affect how quickly species can adapt to changing climates, was assessed using ten microsatellite markers to determine mean d (2) in a subset of stranded and by-caught (presumably healthy) seals sampled along the northeast U.S. coast. Our study found a strong negative correlation (R (2) = 0.49) between ice cover in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and yearling harp seal strandings, but found no relationship between sea ice conditions and adult strandings. Our analysis revealed that male seals stranded more frequently than females during the study period and that this relationship was strongest during light ice years. In contrast, we found no significant difference in mean d (2) between stranded and by-caught harp seals. The results demonstrate that sea ice cover and demographic factors have a greater influence on harp seal stranding rates than genetic diversity, with only a little of the variance in mean d (2) among stranded seals explained by ice cover. Any changes in these factors could have major implications for harp seals, and these findings should be considered in the development of future management plans for the Arctic that incorporate climate variability.

Concepts: Climate, Climate change, Demographics, Canada, Arctic Ocean, Latitude, Harp Seal, Pagophilus


The recent proliferation of digital databases of cultural and linguistic data, together with new statistical techniques becoming available has lead to a rise in so-called nomothetic studies [1]-[8]. These seek relationships between demographic variables and cultural traits from large, cross-cultural datasets. The insights from these studies are important for understanding how cultural traits evolve. While these studies are fascinating and are good at generating testable hypotheses, they may underestimate the probability of finding spurious correlations between cultural traits. Here we show that this kind of approach can find links between such unlikely cultural traits as traffic accidents, levels of extra-martial sex, political collectivism and linguistic diversity. This suggests that spurious correlations, due to historical descent, geographic diffusion or increased noise-to-signal ratios in large datasets, are much more likely than some studies admit. We suggest some criteria for the evaluation of nomothetic studies and some practical solutions to the problems. Since some of these studies are receiving media attention without a widespread understanding of the complexities of the issue, there is a risk that poorly controlled studies could affect policy. We hope to contribute towards a general skepticism for correlational studies by demonstrating the ease of finding apparently rigorous correlations between cultural traits. Despite this, we see well-controlled nomothetic studies as useful tools for the development of theories.

Concepts: Scientific method, Statistics, Culture, Hypothesis, Demographics, Anthropology, Theory, Spurious relationship


BACKGROUND: Human perception of the odour environment is highly variable. People vary both in their general olfactory acuity as well as in if and how they perceive specific odours. In recent years, it has been shown that genetic differences contribute to variability in both general olfactory acuity and the perception of specific odours. In addition, odour perception also depends on other factors such as age and gender. Here we investigate the influence of these factors on both general olfactory acuity and on the perception of 66 structurally and perceptually different odours in a diverse subject population. RESULTS: We carried out a large human olfactory psychophysics study of 391 adult subjects in metropolitan New York City, an ethnically and culturally diverse North American metropolis. 210 of the subjects were women and the median age was 34.6 years (range 19–75). We recorded ~2,300 data points per subject to obtain a comprehensive perceptual phenotype, comprising multiple perceptual measures of 66 diverse odours. We show that general olfactory acuity correlates with gender, age, race, smoking habits, and body type. Young, female, non-smoking subjects had the highest average olfactory acuity. Deviations from normal body type in either direction were associated with decreased olfactory acuity. Beyond these factors we also show that, surprisingly, there are many odour-specific influences of race, age, and gender on olfactory perception. We show over 100 instances in which the intensity or pleasantness perception of an odour is significantly different between two demographic groups. CONCLUSIONS: These data provide a comprehensive snapshot of the olfactory sense of a diverse population. Olfactory acuity in the population is most strongly influenced by age, followed by gender. We also show a large number of diverse correlations between demographic factors and the perception of individual odours that may reflect different prior experiences with these odours between demographic groups.

Concepts: Demography, Perception, Sense, Olfaction, Demographics, Odor, Olfactory fatigue, Electronic nose


Objective: Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a secular meditation training program that reduces depressive symptoms. Little is known, however, about the degree to which a participant’s spiritual and religious background, or other demographic characteristics associated with risk for depression, may affect the effectiveness of MBSR. Therefore, this study tested whether individual differences in religiosity, spirituality, motivation for spiritual growth, trait mindfulness, sex, and age affect MBSR effectiveness. Methods: As part of an open trial, multiple regression was used to analyze variation in depressive symptom outcomes among 322 adults who enrolled in an 8-week, community-based MBSR program. Results: As hypothesized, depressive symptom severity decreased significantly in the full study sample (d=0.57; p<0.01). After adjustment for baseline symptom severity, moderation analyses revealed no significant differences in the change in depressive symptoms following MBSR as a function of spirituality, religiosity, trait mindfulness, or demographic variables. Paired t tests found consistent, statistically significant (p<0.01) reductions in depressive symptoms across all subgroups by religious affiliation, intention for spiritual growth, sex, and baseline symptom severity. After adjustment for baseline symptom scores, age, sex, and religious affiliation, a significant proportion of variance in post-MBSR depressive symptoms was uniquely explained by changes in both spirituality (β=-0.15; p=0.006) and mindfulness (β=-0.17; p<0.001). Conclusions: These findings suggest that MBSR, a secular meditation training program, is associated with improved depressive symptoms regardless of affiliation with a religion, sense of spirituality, trait level of mindfulness before MBSR training, sex, or age. Increases in both mindfulness and daily spiritual experiences uniquely explained improvement in depressive symptoms.

Concepts: Statistical significance, Demographics, Major depressive disorder, Religion, Meditation, Spirituality, God, Religious experience