Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Hazard


Social and political tensions keep on fueling armed conflicts around the world. Although each conflict is the result of an individual context-specific mixture of interconnected factors, ethnicity appears to play a prominent and almost ubiquitous role in many of them. This overall state of affairs is likely to be exacerbated by anthropogenic climate change and in particular climate-related natural disasters. Ethnic divides might serve as predetermined conflict lines in case of rapidly emerging societal tensions arising from disruptive events like natural disasters. Here, we hypothesize that climate-related disaster occurrence enhances armed-conflict outbreak risk in ethnically fractionalized countries. Using event coincidence analysis, we test this hypothesis based on data on armed-conflict outbreaks and climate-related natural disasters for the period 1980-2010. Globally, we find a coincidence rate of 9% regarding armed-conflict outbreak and disaster occurrence such as heat waves or droughts. Our analysis also reveals that, during the period in question, about 23% of conflict outbreaks in ethnically highly fractionalized countries robustly coincide with climatic calamities. Although we do not report evidence that climate-related disasters act as direct triggers of armed conflicts, the disruptive nature of these events seems to play out in ethnically fractionalized societies in a particularly tragic way. This observation has important implications for future security policies as several of the world’s most conflict-prone regions, including North and Central Africa as well as Central Asia, are both exceptionally vulnerable to anthropogenic climate change and characterized by deep ethnic divides.

Concepts: Scientific method, Greek loanwords, Observation, Climate change, Ethnic group, Disaster, Hazard, Global warming


Safety of evacuation is of paramount importance in disaster planning for elderly people; however, little effort has been made to investigate evacuation-related mortality risks. After the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant accident we conducted a retrospective cohort survival survey of elderly evacuees.

Concepts: Cohort study, Chernobyl disaster, Actuarial science, Nuclear fission, Geriatrics, Hazard, Emergency evacuation, Three Mile Island accident


Prospective Hazard Analysis techniques such as Healthcare Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (HFMEA) and Structured What If Technique (SWIFT) have the potential to increase safety by identifying risks before an adverse event occurs. Published accounts of their application in healthcare have identified benefits, but the reliability of some methods has been found to be low. The aim of this study was to examine the validity of SWIFT and HFMEA by comparing their outputs in the process of risk assessment, and comparing the results with risks identified by retrospective methods.

Concepts: Risk, Psychometrics, Risk management, Probability, Hazard, Risk assessment, Failure mode and effects analysis, Safety engineering


PURPOSE: Running and other strenuous sports activities are purported to increase osteoarthritis (OA) risk, more so than walking and less-strenuous activities. Analyses were therefore performed to test whether running, walking, and other exercise affect OA and hip replacement risk, and to assess BMI’s role in mediating these relationships. METHODS: Proportional hazards analyses of patients' report of having physician-diagnosed OA and hip replacement vs. exercise energy expenditure (metabolic equivalents, METs). RESULTS: 74,752 runners reported 2004 OA and 259 hip replacements during 7.1-year follow-up, while the 14,625 walkers reported 696 OA and 114 hip replacements over 5.7 years. Compared to running <1.8 METhr/d, the risks for OA and hip replacement decreased: 1) 18.1% (P=0.01) and 35.1% (P=0.03), respectively, for 1.8 to 3.6 METhr/d run; 2) 16.1% (P=0.03) and 50.4% (P=0.002), respectively, for 3.6 to 5.4 METhr/d run; and 3) 15.6% (P=0.02) and 38.5% (P=0.01), respectively, for ≥5.4 METhr/d run, suggesting that the risk reduction mostly occurred by 1.8 METhr/d. Baseline BMI was strongly associated with both OA (5.0% increase per kg/m, P=2x10) and hip replacement risks (9.8% increase per kg/m, P=4.8x10), and adjustment for BMI substantially diminished the risk reduction from running ≥1.8 METhr/d for OA (from 16.5%, P=0.01 to 8.6%, P=0.21) and hip replacement (from 40.4%, P=0.005 to 28.5%, P=0.07). The reductions in OA and hip replacement risk by exceeding 1.8 METhr/d did not differ significantly between runners and walkers. Other (non-running) exercise increased the risk of OA by 2.4% (P=0.009) and hip replacement by 5.0% per METhr/d (P=0.02), independent of BMI. CONCLUSIONS: Whereas other exercise increased OA and hip replacement risk, running significantly reduced their risk due, in part, to running's association with lower BMI.

Concepts: Risk, Hip replacement, Running, Walking, Hazard, Indian Reductions, Replacements


The 2011 Fukushima disaster led to increases in multiple risks (e.g., lifestyle diseases and radiation exposure) and fear among the public. Here, we assessed the additional risks of cancer caused by radiation and diabetes related to the disaster and the cost-effectiveness of countermeasures against these conditions. Our study included residents of the cities of Minamisoma and Soma (10-40 km and 35-50 km north of the Fukushima Daiichi (N° 1) Nuclear Power Station, respectively). We used the loss of life expectancy (LLE) as an indicator to compare risks between radiation exposure and diabetes. We also estimated the cost-effectiveness of radiation-related countermeasures, including restricted food distribution, decontamination, and whole-body counter tests and interventions. Metformin therapy was selected as a representative management for diabetes. The diabetes-related LLEs among residents were 4.1 (95% confidence interval: 1.4-6.8) ×10-2 years for the whole population and 8.0 (2.7-13.2) ×10-2 years for 40s to 70s in a scenario that considered the additional incidence of diabetes during the first 10 years. The cancer-related LLEs caused by lifetime exposure to radiation were 0.69 (2.5-97.5 percentile: 0.61-0.79) ×10-2 years for the whole population and 0.24 (0.20-0.29) ×10-2 years for 40s to 70s. The diabetes-related LLEs among residents in the above-mentioned scenario were 5.9-fold and 33-fold higher than those attributed to average radiation among the whole population and among the 40s to 70s age groups, respectively. The costs per life-years saved of the radiation countermeasures (i.e., restricted food distribution, decontamination, and whole-body counter tests and interventions) were >1 to >4 orders of magnitude higher than those of general heath checkups and conventional management for diabetes. Our findings indicate that countermeasures to mitigate diabetes are warranted. Policy-makers' and individuals' understanding of multiple risks after any disaster will be essential to saving the lives of victims.

Concepts: Cancer, Demography, Chernobyl disaster, Risk, Life expectancy, Hazard, Nuclear weapon, Nuclear power


As the world’s population grows to a projected 11.2 billion by 2100, the number of people living in low-lying areas exposed to coastal hazards is projected to increase. Critical infrastructure and valuable assets continue to be placed in vulnerable areas, and in recent years, millions of people have been displaced by natural hazards. Impacts from coastal hazards depend on the number of people, value of assets, and presence of critical resources in harm’s way. Risks related to natural hazards are determined by a complex interaction between physical hazards, the vulnerability of a society or social-ecological system and its exposure to such hazards. Moreover, these risks are amplified by challenging socioeconomic dynamics, including poorly planned urban development, income inequality, and poverty. This study employs a combination of machine learning clustering techniques (Self Organizing Maps and K-Means) and a spatial index, to assess coastal risks in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) on a comparative scale. The proposed method meets multiple objectives, including the identification of hotspots and key drivers of coastal risk, and the ability to process large-volume multidimensional and multivariate datasets, effectively reducing sixteen variables related to coastal hazards, geographic exposure, and socioeconomic vulnerability, into a single index. Our results demonstrate that in LAC, more than 500,000 people live in areas where coastal hazards, exposure (of people, assets and ecosystems) and poverty converge, creating the ideal conditions for a perfect storm. Hotspot locations of coastal risk, identified by the proposed Comparative Coastal Risk Index (CCRI), contain more than 300,00 people and include: El Oro, Ecuador; Sinaloa, Mexico; Usulutan, El Salvador; and Chiapas, Mexico. Our results provide important insights into potential adaptation alternatives that could reduce the impacts of future hazards. Effective adaptation options must not only focus on developing coastal defenses, but also on improving practices and policies related to urban development, agricultural land use, and conservation, as well as ameliorating socioeconomic conditions.

Concepts: Poverty, United States, Hazard, Caribbean, Central America, Nicaragua, Indigenous peoples of the Americas, El Salvador


Background The distribution of malpractice claims among physicians is not well understood. If claim-prone physicians account for a substantial share of all claims, the ability to reliably identify them at an early stage could guide efforts to improve care. Methods Using data from the National Practitioner Data Bank, we analyzed 66,426 claims paid against 54,099 physicians from 2005 through 2014. We calculated concentrations of claims among physicians. We used multivariable recurrent-event survival analysis to identify characteristics of physicians at high risk for recurrent claims and to quantify risk levels over time. Results Approximately 1% of all physicians accounted for 32% of paid claims. Among physicians with paid claims, 84% incurred only one during the study period (accounting for 68% of all paid claims), 16% had at least two paid claims (accounting for 32% of the claims), and 4% had at least three paid claims (accounting for 12% of the claims). In adjusted analyses, the risk of recurrence increased with the number of previous paid claims. For example, as compared with physicians who had one previous paid claim, the 2160 physicians who had three paid claims had three times the risk of incurring another (hazard ratio, 3.11; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.84 to 3.41); this corresponded in absolute terms to a 24% chance (95% CI, 22 to 26) of another paid claim within 2 years. Risks of recurrence also varied widely according to specialty - for example, the risk among neurosurgeons was four times as great as the risk among psychiatrists. Conclusions Over a recent 10-year period, a small number of physicians with distinctive characteristics accounted for a disproportionately large number of paid malpractice claims.

Concepts: Statistics, Risk, Physician, Hazard, Large numbers, Recurrence relation, Specialty, Medical malpractice


Novelty preference or sensation seeking is associated with disorders of addiction and predicts rodent compulsive drug use and adolescent binge drinking in humans. Novelty has also been shown to influence choice in the context of uncertainty and reward processing. Here we introduce a novel or familiar neutral face stimuli and investigate its influence on risk-taking choices in healthy volunteers. We focus on behavioural outcomes and imaging correlates to the prime that might predict risk seeking. We hypothesized that subjects would be more risk seeking following a novel relative to familiar stimulus. We adapted a risk-taking task involving acceptance or rejection of a 50:50 choice of gain or loss that was preceded by a familiar (pre-test familiarization) or novel face prime. Neutral expression faces of males and females were used as primes. Twenty-four subjects were first tested behaviourally and then 18 scanned using a different variant of the same task under functional MRI. We show enhanced risk taking to both gain and loss anticipation following novel relative to familiar images and particularly for the low gain condition. Greater risk taking behaviour and self-reported exploratory behaviours was predicted by greater right ventral putaminal activity to novel versus familiar contexts. Social novelty appears to have a contextually enhancing effect on augmenting risky choices possibly mediated via ventral putaminal dopaminergic activity. Our findings link the observation that novelty preference and sensation seeking are important traits predicting the initiation and maintenance of risky behaviours, including substance and behavioural addictions.

Concepts: Risk, Decision theory, Risk management, Drug addiction, Behavior, Motivation, Uncertainty, Hazard


Humans adapt their risk-taking behavior on the basis of perceptions of safety; this risk-compensation phenomenon is typified by people taking increased risks when using protective equipment. Existing studies have looked at people who know they are using safety equipment and have specifically focused on changes in behaviors for which that equipment might reduce risk. Here, we demonstrated that risk taking increases in people who are not explicitly aware they are wearing protective equipment; furthermore, this happens for behaviors that could not be made safer by that equipment. In a controlled study in which a helmet, compared with a baseball cap, was used as the head mount for an eye tracker, participants scored significantly higher on laboratory measures of both risk taking and sensation seeking. This happened despite there being no risk for the helmet to ameliorate and despite it being introduced purely as an eye tracker. The results suggest that unconscious activation of safety-related concepts primes globally increased risk propensity.

Concepts: Psychology, Risk, Decision theory, Risk management, Uncertainty, Hazard, Security


Bullying is a serious problem for schools, parents, and public-policymakers alike. Bullying creates risks of health and social problems in childhood, but it is unclear if such risks extend into adulthood. A large cohort of children was assessed for bullying involvement in childhood and then followed up in young adulthood in an assessment of health, risky or illegal behavior, wealth, and social relationships. Victims of childhood bullying, including those that bullied others (bully-victims), were at increased risk of poor health, wealth, and social-relationship outcomes in adulthood even after we controlled for family hardship and childhood psychiatric disorders. In contrast, pure bullies were not at increased risk of poor outcomes in adulthood once other family and childhood risk factors were taken into account. Being bullied is not a harmless rite of passage but throws a long shadow over affected people’s lives. Interventions in childhood are likely to reduce long-term health and social costs.

Concepts: Risk, Actuarial science, Sociology, Risk management, Uncertainty, Hazard, Bullying, Coming of age