Today’s Headlines: Phone Email, Midlife Crisis and Secondhand Smoke

Work email on your phone can negatively impact your health. It used to be that leaving work meant the end of the work day. Today, many people carry work with them and continue to be available long after leaving the office, which could be harming their health. “52% of Americans check their e-mail before and after work, even when they take a sick day. Ignoring email can seem more stressful than dashing off a quick response. This phenomenon is known as telepressure and has very real health effects. The study found that employees who reported more telepressure also reported worse sleep, higher levels of burnout and more health-related absences from work.” As one author mentioned, “when people don’t have recovery time, it switches them into an exhaustion state.” Interestingly, it wasn’t about personality. “Individual differences were only weakly associated, indicating that telepressure is a workplace problem, not a worker problem. We learn how to respond to email through our colleagues’ behavior.” The researchers recommend determining reply policies with your boss and keeping the tone of emails business, not conversational which implies quick response. (TIME)

Happiness among wealthier Western populations dips in midlife. Buying a sports car in your 40s may be more about your happiness than a need to spice things up. New research based on global data has found that “life satisfaction followed a predictable trajectory depending on where people lived. In countries such as the U.K. and the U.S., life satisfaction followed a U-shape, dipping to a low in midlife. In Africa it was low throughout, and in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union and Latin America it declined with age.” The researchers think the dip has to do with work sacrifices. “This is the period at which wage rates typically peak and is the best time to work and earn the most, even at the expense of present wellbeing, so as to have increased wealth and wellbeing later in life.” Transition countries like those of Eastern Europe saw a decline with age likely because transition to a new economic system had taken their pensions and healthcare away. Those living in chronic insecurity, like those in many sub-Saharan African nations, had chronically high levels of stress and worry, regardless of age. As the researchers point out, “money does not equate to happiness, but economic progress did promote wellbeing to an extent.” (BBC)

Secondhand smoke could cause weight gain. In spite of the numerous harmful health consequences of smoking, some smokers still hold to the idea that at least it helps with weight. While this may be marginally true for some smokers, it seems the opposite is happening to those around them. “In an animal study, researchers exposed lab mice to secondhand smoke and followed their metabolic progression. The findings showed that those who were exposed to smoke gained weight. Researchers found that smoke triggered an alteration in cell mitochondria, disrupting normal function and inhibiting cells’ ability to respond to insulin.” Smokers tend to lose a small amount of weight initially because nicotine decreases their appetite. But those around them get only the hazardous chemicals present in second-hand smoke, which moves from their lungs into their blood stream to affect their body. This likely contributes to childhood obesity and diabetes at a young age, given that “approximately 20 percent of young children live with someone who smokes in the home.”  (Fox)