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

Journal: Social science & medicine (1982)


There has been extensive outsourcing of hospital cleaning services in the NHS in England, in part because of the potential to reduce costs. Yet some argue that this leads to lower hygiene standards and more infections, such as MRSA and, perhaps because of this, the Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish health services have rejected outsourcing. This study evaluates whether contracting out cleaning services in English acute hospital Trusts (legal authorities that run one or more hospitals) is associated with risks of hospital-borne MRSA infection and lower economic costs. By linking data on MRSA incidence per 100,000 hospital bed-days with surveys of cleanliness among patient and staff in 126 English acute hospital Trusts during 2010-2014, we find that outsourcing cleaning services was associated with greater incidence of MRSA, fewer cleaning staff per hospital bed, worse patient perceptions of cleanliness and staff perceptions of availability of handwashing facilities. However, outsourcing was also associated with lower economic costs (without accounting for additional costs associated with treatment of hospital acquired infections).

Concepts: Staphylococcus aureus, Hospital, England, Scotland, Hygiene, Cleanliness, Irish language, Irish people


There are predictions that in future rapid technological development could result in a significant shortage of paid work. A possible option currently debated by academics, policy makers, trade unions, employers and mass media, is a shorter working week for everyone. In this context, two important research questions that have not been asked so far are: what is the minimum amount of paid employment needed to deliver some or all of the well-being and mental health benefits that employment has been shown to bring? And what is the optimum number of working hours at which the mental health of workers is at its highest? To answer these questions, this study used the UK Household Longitudinal Study (2009-2018) data from individuals aged between 16 and 64. The analytical sample was 156,734 person-wave observations from 84,993 unique persons of whom 71,113 had two or more measurement times. Fixed effects regressions were applied to examine how changes in work hours were linked to changes in mental well-being within each individual over time. This study found that even a small number of working hours (between one and 8 h a week) generates significant mental health and well-being benefits for previously unemployed or economically inactive individuals. The findings suggest there is no single optimum number of working hours at which well-being and mental health are at their highest - for most groups of workers there was little variation in wellbeing between the lowest (1-8 h) through to the highest (44-48 h) category of working hours. These findings provide important and timely empirical evidence for future of work planning, shorter working week policies and have implications for theorising the future models of organising work in society.


Despite weak theoretical grounding and ample research indicating women feel high levels of decision rightness and relief post-abortion, claims that abortion is inherently stressful and causes emergent negative emotions and regret undergirds state-level laws regulating abortion in the United States. Nonetheless, scholarship does identify factors that put a woman at risk for short-term negative postabortion emotions-including decision difficulty and perceiving abortion stigma in one’s community-pointing to a possible mechanism behind later emergent or persistent post-abortion negative emotions.


Patients collectively made Long Covid - and cognate term ‘Long-haul Covid’ - in the first months of the pandemic. Patients, many with initially ‘mild’ illness, used various kinds of evidence and advocacy to demonstrate a longer, more complex course of illness than laid out in initial reports from Wuhan. Long Covid has a strong claim to be the first illness created through patients finding one another on Twitter: it moved from patients, through various media, to formal clinical and policy channels in just a few months. This initial mapping of Long Covid - by two patients with this illness - focuses on actors in the UK and USA and demonstrates how patients marshalled epistemic authority. Patient knowledge needs to be incorporated into how COVID-19 is conceptualised, researched, and treated.


Although books can expose people to new people and places, whether books also have health benefits beyond other types of reading materials is not known. This study examined whether those who read books have a survival advantage over those who do not read books and over those who read other types of materials, and if so, whether cognition mediates this book reading effect. The cohort consisted of 3635 participants in the nationally representative Health and Retirement Study who provided information about their reading patterns at baseline. Cox proportional hazards models were based on survival information up to 12 years after baseline. A dose-response survival advantage was found for book reading by tertile (HRT2 = 0.83, p < 0.001, HRT3 = 0.77, p < 0.001), after adjusting for relevant covariates including age, sex, race, education, comorbidities, self-rated health, wealth, marital status, and depression. Book reading contributed to a survival advantage that was significantly greater than that observed for reading newspapers or magazines (tT2 = 90.6, p < 0.001; tT3 = 67.9, p < 0.001). Compared to non-book readers, book readers had a 23-month survival advantage at the point of 80% survival in the unadjusted model. A survival advantage persisted after adjustment for all covariates (HR = .80, p < .01), indicating book readers experienced a 20% reduction in risk of mortality over the 12 years of follow up compared to non-book readers. Cognition mediated the book reading-survival advantage (p = 0.04). These findings suggest that the benefits of reading books include a longer life in which to read them.

Concepts: Proportional hazards models, Educational psychology, David Cox, Book, Place name disambiguation pages


Maternity care continues to be associated with avoidable harm that can result in serious disability and profound anguish for women, their children, and their families, and in high costs for healthcare systems. As in other areas of healthcare, improvement efforts have typically focused either on implementing and evaluating specific interventions, or on identifying the contextual features that may be generative of safety (e.g. structures, processes, behaviour, practices, and values), but the dialogue between these two approaches has remained limited. In this article, we report a positive deviance case study of a high-performing UK maternity unit to examine how it achieved and sustained excellent safety outcomes. Based on 143 h of ethnographic observations in the maternity unit, 12 semi-structured interviews, and two focus groups with staff, we identified six mechanisms that appeared to be important for safety: collective competence; insistence on technical proficiency; monitoring, coordination, and distributed cognition; clearly articulated and constantly reinforced standards of practice, behaviour, and ethics; monitoring multiple sources of intelligence about the unit’s state of safety; and a highly intentional approach to safety and improvement. These mechanisms were nurtured and sustained through both a specific intervention (known as the PROMPT programme) and, importantly, the unit’s contextual features: intervention and context shaped each other in both direct and indirect ways. The mechanisms were also influenced by the unit’s structural conditions, such as staffing levels and physical environment. This study enhances understanding of what makes a maternity unit safe, paving the way for better design of improvement approaches. It also advances the debate on quality and safety improvement by offering a theoretically and empirically grounded analysis of the interplay between interventions and context of implementation.


The United States has a mortality disadvantage relative to its political and economic peer group of other rich democracies. Recently it has been suggested that there could be a role for social policy in explaining this disadvantage. In this paper, we test this “social policy hypothesis” by presenting a time-series cross-section analysis from 1970 to 2010 of the association between welfare state generosity (for unemployment insurance, sickness benefits, and pensions) and life expectancy, for the US and 17 other high-income countries. Fixed-effects estimation with autocorrelation-corrected standard errors (robust to unmeasured between-country differences and serial autocorrelation of repeated measures) found strong associations between welfare generosity and life expectancy. A unit increase in overall welfare generosity yields a 0.17 year increase in life expectancy at birth (p < 0.001), and a 0.07 year increase in life expectancy at age 65 (p < 0.001). The strongest effects of the welfare state are in the domain of pension benefits (b = 0.439 for life expectancy at birth, p < 0.001; b = 0.199 for life expectancy at age 65, p < 0.001). Models that lag the measures of social policy by ten years produce similar results, suggesting that the results are not driven by endogeneity bias. There is evidence that the US mortality disadvantage is, in part, a welfare-state disadvantage. We estimate that life expectancy in the US would be approximately 3.77 years longer, if it had just the average social policy generosity of the other 17 OECD nations.

Concepts: United States, Life expectancy, Sweden, Estimation, Canada, Unemployment, Social security, Pension


Self-limited diseases resolve spontaneously without treatment or intervention. From the patient’s viewpoint, this means experiencing an improvement of the symptoms with increasing probability over time. Previous studies suggest that the observation of this pattern could foster illusory beliefs of effectiveness, even if the treatment is completely ineffective. Therefore, self-limited diseases could provide an opportunity for pseudotherapies to appear as if they were effective.


Although the benefits of vaccines are widely recognized by medical experts, public opinion about vaccination policies is mixed. We analyze public opinion about vaccination policies to assess whether Dunning-Kruger effects can help to explain anti-vaccination policy attitudes.


The purpose of this study was to explore the link between classroom teachers' burnout levels and students' physiological stress response. Drawing from a stress-contagion framework, we expected higher levels of teacher burnout to be related to elevated cortisol levels in elementary school students (N = 406, 50% female, Mean age = 11.26, SD = .89).

Concepts: Anxiety, Education, Metabolic syndrome, Stress, Primary school, School, Teacher, History of education