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Journal: Journal of women's health (2002)


Abstract Background: No prior study has empirically characterized the association between health risks and reading popular fiction depicting violence against women. Fifty Shades-a blockbuster fiction series-depicts pervasive violence against women, perpetuating a broader social narrative that normalizes these types of risks and behaviors in women’s lives. The present study characterized the association between health risks in women who read and did not read Fifty Shades; while our cross-sectional study design precluded causal determinations, an empirical representation of the health risks in women consuming the problematic messages in Fifty Shades is made. Methods: Females ages 18 to 24 (n=715), who were enrolled in a large Midwestern university, completed a cross-sectional online survey about their health behaviors and Fifty Shades' readership. The analysis included 655 females (219 who read at least the first Fifty Shades novel and 436 who did not read any part of Fifty Shades). Age- and race-adjusted multivariable models characterized Fifty Shades' readers and nonreaders on intimate partner violence victimization (experiencing physical, sexual and psychological abuse, including cyber-abuse, at some point during their lifetime); binge drinking (consuming five or more alcoholic beverages on six or more days in the last month); sexual practices (having five or more intercourse partners and/or one or more anal sex partner during their lifetime); and using diet aids or fasting for 24 or more hours at some point during their lifetime. Results: One-third of subjects read Fifty Shades (18.6%, or 122/655, read all three novels, and 14.8%, or 97/655, read at least the first novel but not all three). In age- and race-adjusted models, compared with nonreaders, females who read at least the first novel (but not all three) were more likely than nonreaders to have had, during their lifetime, a partner who shouted, yelled, or swore at them (relative risk [RR]=1.25) and who delivered unwanted calls/text messages (RR=1.34); they were also more likely to report fasting (RR=1.80) and using diet aids (RR=1.77) at some point during their lifetime. Compared with nonreaders, females who read all three novels were more likely to report binge drinking in the last month (RR=1.65) and to report using diet aids (RR=1.65) and having five or more intercourse partners during their lifetime (RR=1.63). Conclusions: Problematic depictions of violence against women in popular culture-such as in film, novels, music, or pornography-create a broader social narrative that normalizes these risks and behaviors in women’s lives. Our study showed strong correlations between health risks in women’s lives-including violence victimization-and consumption of Fifty Shades, a fiction series that portrays violence against women. While our cross-sectional study cannot determine temporality, the order of the relationship may be inconsequential; for example, if women experienced adverse health behaviors first (e.g., disordered eating), reading Fifty Shades might reaffirm those experiences and potentially aggravate related trauma. Likewise, if women read Fifty Shades before experiencing the health behaviors assessed in our study, it is possible that the book influenced the onset of these behaviors by creating an underlying context for the behaviors.

Concepts: Domestic violence, Cross-sectional study, Alcoholism, Fiction, Novel


Abstract Background: Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use is common among breast cancer survivors, but little is known about its impact on survival. Methods: We pooled data from four studies conducted in Hawaii in 1994-2003 and linked to the Hawaii Tumor Registry to obtain long-term follow-up information. The effect of CAM use on the risk of breast cancer-specific death was evaluated using Cox regression. Results: The analysis included 1443 women with a median follow-up of 11.8 years who had a primary diagnosis of in situ and invasive breast cancer. The majority were Japanese American (36.4%), followed by white (26.9%), Native Hawaiian (15.9%), other (10.6%), and Filipino (10.3%). CAM use was highest in Native Hawaiians (60.7%) and lowest in Japanese American (47.8%) women. Overall, any use of CAM was not associated with the risk of breast cancer-specific death (hazard ratio [HR] 1.47, confidence interval [CI] 0.91-2.36) or all-cause death (HR 0.82, 95% CI 0.63-1.06). However, energy medicine was associated with an increased risk of breast cancer-specific death (HR 3.19, 95% CI 1.06-8.52). When evaluating CAM use within ethnic subgroups, Filipino women who used CAM were at increased risk of breast cancer death (HR 6.84, 95% CI 1.23-38.19). Conclusions: Our findings suggest that, overall, CAM is not associated with breast cancer-specific death but that the effects of specific CAM modalities and possible differences by ethnicity should be considered in future studies.

Concepts: Hawaii, Cancer, Breast cancer, Oncology, United States, Alternative medicine, Native Americans in the United States, Native Hawaiians


Abstract Background: Of postpartum women, 15%-20% retain≥5 kg of their gestational weight gain, increasing risk for adult weight gain. Postpartum women are also in a persistent elevated inflammatory state. Both factors could increase the risk of obesity-related chronic disease. We hypothesized that breastfeeding women randomized to a Mediterranean-style (MED) diet for 4 months would demonstrate significantly greater reductions in body weight, body fat, and inflammation than women randomized to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) MyPyramid diet for Pregnancy and Breastfeeding (comparison diet). Methods: A randomized, controlled dietary intervention trial was conducted in 129 overweight (body mass index [BMI] 27.2±4.9 kg/m(2)), mostly exclusively breastfeeding (73.6%) women who were a mean 17.5 weeks postpartum. Dietary change was assessed using a validated Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ) before and after intervention as well as plasma fatty acid measures (gas chromatography/flame ionization detector [GC/FID]). Anthropometric measurements and biomarkers of inflammation, tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and interleukin-6 (IL-6), also were assessed at baseline and 4 months via enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Results: Participants in both diet groups demonstrated significant (p<0.001) reductions in body weight (-2.3±3.4 kg and -3.1±3.4 kg for the MED and comparison diets, respectively) and significant (p≤0.002) reductions in all other anthropometric measurements; no significant between-group differences were shown as hypothesized. A significant decrease in TNF-α but not IL-6 was also demonstrated in both diet groups, with no significant between-group difference. Conclusions: Both diets support the promotion of postpartum weight loss and reduction in inflammation (TNF-α) in breastfeeding women.

Concepts: Nutrition, Obesity, Mass, Fat, Body mass index, ELISA, Eva Engvall, Body weight


Abstract Anemia is a global health issue with disproportionately high prevalence in women. In addition to being an independent risk factor for decreased quality of life and increased morbidity and mortality, anemia in women has been linked to unfavorable outcomes of pregnancy and other issues for children born to anemic women. Iron deficiency is the leading cause of anemia in many populations. Guidelines recommend proactive screening for anemia, particularly in the preoperative setting. Once anemia is diagnosed, treatment should be based on etiology (most commonly, iron deficiency followed, in order of prevalence, by inflammation or chronic disease). Iron supplementation (oral and intravenous) offers safe and effective treatment for anemia associated with iron deficiency. Anemia of chronic disease may be more challenging to treat, and attention must be given to the underlying disease, along with use of hematinic agents. Given its enormous impact on the health and well-being of women and the availability of simple and effective treatment options, anemia should never be left unmanaged.

Concepts: Hemoglobin, Medicine, Epidemiology, Anemia, Iron deficiency anemia, Transferrin, Human iron metabolism, Microcytic anemia


Abstract Background: Both female reproductive hormones and childhood sexual abuse (CSA) are implicated in migraine and in menstrually related mood disorders (MRMD). We examined the association of migraine, including migraine with aura (MA), and history of MRMD or CSA. Methods: A total of 174 women (mean age 33.9±7.6 years) in this cross-sectional study were evaluated for (1) current MRMD using prospective daily ratings; (2) history of CSA using structured interview; and (3) MA and migraine without aura using the International Classification of Headaches Disorders II criteria. Results: Ninety-six women met MRMD criteria (21 of whom had history of CSA) and 78 women were non-MRMD controls (16 with CSA histories). Migraine with aura was more prevalent in women with MRMD when compared to non-MRMD controls (11/88 and 0/86, respectively, p=0.001). In MRMD women only, a CSA history was associated with higher MA rates (6/21 and 5/67, respectively, p=0.019). A combination of current MRMD diagnosis and a history CSA was associated with increased risk for MA, even after adjusting for potential confounders (odds ratio=12.08, 95% confidence interval 2.98-48.90, p<0.001). Conclusions: Women with MRMD may be vulnerable to the development of MA, and a history of CSA in women with a MRMD appears to increase that vulnerability. MRMDs and MA should be included among other poor mental and physical health outcomes of an abuse history. Routine screening for abuse histories would potentially improve identification of women with increased risk of experiencing abuse-related disorders.

Concepts: Cross-sectional study, Migraine, Epilepsy, Child abuse, History, Mood, Aura, Scintillating scotoma


Abstract After the publication of the Women’s Health Initiative, attitudes towards management of menopausal symptoms changed dramatically. One alternative that has received much media attention is the use of bioidentical hormone therapy (BHT). The media and celebrity endorsements have promoted a number of misconceptions about the risks and benefits associated with the various forms of BHT. This article will review the available evidence regarding the safety and efficacy of BHT in comparison to conventional hormone therapy. We will also review several cases seen in our midlife women’s referral clinics, which demonstrate concerns for the safety and efficacy of BHT, including unexplained endometrial cancer in otherwise healthy BHT users. Due to the lack of sufficient data to support the efficacy or safety of BHT, we recommend the use of United States Food and Drug Administration-approved regimens in the management of menopausal symptoms.

Concepts: Hormone replacement therapy, Medicine, Menopause, Estrogen, Endocrinology, Endometrium, Endometrial cancer, Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy


Abstract Background: While intimate partner violence (IPV) affects 25% of women and impairs health, current societal conditions-including the normalization of abuse in popular culture such as novels, film, and music-create the context to support such violence. Fifty Shades of Grey, a best-selling novel, depicts a “romantic” and “erotic” relationship involving 28-year-old megamillionaire, Christian Grey, and a 22-year-old college student, Anastasia Steele. We argue that the relationship is characterized by IPV, which is harmful to Anastasia. Methods: All authors engaged in iterative readings of the text, and wrote narrative summaries to elucidate themes. Validity checks included double review of the first eight chapters of the novel to establish consistency in our analysis approach, iterative discussions in-person and electronically to arbitrate discrepancies, and review of our analysis with other abuse and sexual practice experts. To characterize IPV, we used the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s definitions of emotional abuse (intimidation/threats; isolation; stalking; and humiliation) and sexual violence (forced sex acts/contact against a person’s will, including using alcohol/drugs or intimidation/pressure). To characterize harm, we used Smith’s conceptualizations of perceived threat, managing, altered identity, yearning, entrapment, and disempowerment experienced by abused women. Results: Emotional abuse is present in nearly every interaction, including: stalking (Christian deliberately follows Anastasia and appears in unusual places, uses a phone and computer to track Anastasia’s whereabouts, and delivers expensive gifts); intimidation (Christian uses intimidating verbal and nonverbal behaviors, such as routinely commanding Anastasia to eat and threatening to punish her); and isolation (Christian limits Anastasia’s social contact). Sexual violence is pervasive-including using alcohol to compromise Anastasia’s consent, as well as intimidation (Christian initiates sexual encounters when genuinely angry, dismisses Anastasia’s requests for boundaries, and threatens her). Anastasia experiences reactions typical of abused women, including: constant perceived threat (“my stomach churns from his threats”); altered identity (describes herself as a “pale, haunted ghost”); and stressful managing (engages in behaviors to “keep the peace,” such as withholding information about her social whereabouts to avoid Christian’s anger). Anastasia becomes disempowered and entrapped in the relationship as her behaviors become mechanized in response to Christian’s abuse. Conclusions: Our analysis identified patterns in Fifty Shades that reflect pervasive intimate partner violence-one of the biggest problems of our time. Further, our analysis adds to a growing body of literature noting dangerous violence standards being perpetuated in popular culture.

Concepts: Sexual intercourse, Domestic violence, Child abuse, Abuse, Psychological abuse, Bullying, Psychological manipulation, Intimidation


It has been hypothesized that depression and obesity are bi-directionally associated, and when overweight people appear to show a lower risk of depression, this supports the “Jolly Fat” hypothesis. The aim of this study was to examine the “Jolly Fat” hypothesis in middle-aged women in Korea, by different perceived stress levels.

Concepts: Nutrition, Obesity, Adipose tissue, Dieting, Hangul


Abstract Fifty years after Title IX, women remain sparsely represented in high ranks and leadership in academic medicine. Although men and women enter the career pipeline at similar rates, academic medicine does not equivalently advance them. Currently, women account for 32% of associate professors, 20% of full professors, 14% of department chairs, and 11% of deans at U.S. medical schools-far from the near sex parity seen in medical students since the 1990s. Over 30 years of research confirms that gender stereotypes can operate to disadvantage women in review processes and consequently bar their advancement in domains like science and medicine. The authors present three vignettes to illustrate how gender stereotypes can also operate to disadvantage women in social interactions by positioning them in the “out-group” for many career-advancing opportunities. The authors argue that policies alone will not achieve gender equity in the academic medicine workforce. Addressing stereotype-based gender bias is critical for the future of academic medicine. Interventions that treat gender bias as a remediable habit show promise in promoting gender equity and transforming institutional culture to achieve the full participation of women at all career stages. A critical step is to recognize when gender stereotyped assumptions are influencing judgments and decision making in ourselves and others, challenge them as unjust, and deliberately practice replacing them with accurate and objective data.

Concepts: Critical thinking, Gender, University, Sexism, Professor, Tenure, Gender equality, Feminism


Historically, marital status has been associated with lower mortality and transitions into marriage were generally accompanied by improved health status. Conversely, divorce has been associated with increased mortality, possibly mediated by changes in health behaviors.

Concepts: Marriage, Estrogen, Family law, Marital status, Status