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For Immediate Release

News from the November 2011 AJPH

AJPH News Release


EMBARGOED UNTIL Sept. 22, 2011, 4 PM (ET)


CONTACT:  For copies of articles or full table of contents of issue, call APHA Communications at 202-777-2511 or email us


The articles below will be published online September 22, 2010, at 4 p.m. (ET) by the American Journal of Public Health under “First Look,” and they are currently scheduled to appear in the November 2011 print issue of the Journal. “First Look” articles have undergone peer review, copyediting and approval by authors but have not yet been printed to paper or posted online by issue. The American Journal of Public Health is published by the American Public Health Association.


American Journal of Public Health Highlights:

·         Spouses are often influenced by their partner’s eating choices

·         U.S. obesity epidemic contributes to its poor international ranking in longevity

·         Rise in U.S. mental illness compounded by decline in those seeking care

Spouses are often influenced by their partner’s eating choices

A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health finds that certain eating patterns appear to be socially transmissible across different kinds of relationships, particularly spouses.

Researchers investigated whether eating behaviors were concordant among diverse sets of social ties. They analyzed the socioeconomic and demographic distribution of eating among 3,418 members of the Framingham Heart Study (1991-2001). They examined associations among four types of peers, including spouses, friends, brothers and sisters. They found that spouses showed the strongest concordances in eating patterns over time after adjustment for social context factors. They discovered the eating pattern most likely to be shared by socially connected individuals was one characterized by high levels of alcohol and snacks.

“The knowledge that our eating patterns are similar to the eating patterns of those with whom we are socially connected contributes to the perspective — increasingly more supported in the public health field — that when people are connected, their health is connected. To the extent that people’s eating choices are influenced by the eating choices of those to whom they are connected, it may not simply be that ‘you are what you eat.’ It may be that ‘you are what people in your social network eat’ as well,” the study’s authors commented.

[From: "Social Network Concordance in Food Choice Among Spouses, Friends, and Siblings." Contact: Mark A. Pachucki, PhD, Robert Wood Johnson Health & Society Scholars Program, University of California, Berkeley, and University of California, San Francisco

U.S. obesity epidemic contributes to its poor international ranking in longevity

A new study from the American Journal of Public Health reports that the high prevalence of obesity in the United States is a significant contributing factor to the country’s lower life expectancy.

The United States has the highest prevalence of obesity, measured by body mass index, with one of the lowest life expectancies among high-income countries. The results of the study demonstrated that obesity reduced U.S. life expectancy at age 50 years in 2006 as much as 1.54 years for women and by 1.85 years for men. Removing the effects of obesity reduced the U.S. shortfall by 42 percent for women and 67 percent for men, relative to countries with higher life expectancies.

The study’s authors reported, “These effects (of obesity) have been more severe in the United States than in other countries. Two key features of the U.S. distribution of BMI that distinguish it from comparison countries include an unusually high rate of obesity in younger age groups and significantly higher rates of severe obesity.”

[From: “Contribution of Obesity to International Differences in Life Expectancy.” Contact: Samuel H. Preston, PhD, Population Studies Center, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa.


Rise in U.S. mental illness compounded by decline in those seeking care

In recent years, there has been an increase of non-elderly adults with self-reported mental health disabilities, compounded by an increasing number of those not seeking mental health care, reports a new national study released today in the American Journal of Public Health. 

Researchers reviewed data for 312,364 adults aged 18 to 24 years from the U.S. National Health Interview Survey, 1997 to 2009, and examined trends in self-reported disability attributed to mental health conditions, disability attributed to other chronic problems and significant psychological distress. They found that the prevalence of self-reported mental health disability increased from 2 percent of the nonelderly adult population in the first three years (1997-1999) to 2.7 percent in the last three years (2007-2009), accounting for an increase of almost 2 million disabled adults. The percentage of disability attributed to other chronic conditions did not change. The increasing trend of mental health disability was limited to individuals with significant psychological distress and disability attributed to other chronic conditions who did not use mental health services. A total of 3.2 percent of participants in 2007-2009 reported not receiving mental health care because they could not afford it, up from 2 percent in 1997-1999, perhaps a sign of the economic downturn.

The study’s author said, “The growing trend in mental health disability, especially among individuals with physical disability or significant psychological distress and limited access to mental health professionals, points to the growing need for mental health care in this population. Despite advances in mental health care, large segments of the population with common mental disorders remain out of care or receive substandard care as a result of rising financial and structural barriers.”

[From: “National Trends in Mental Health Disability, 1997-2009.” Contact: Ramin Mojtabai, MD, PhD, MPH, Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Md.]      





The American Journal of Public Health is the monthly Journal of the American Public Health Association. APHA is a leading publisher of books and periodicals promoting sound scientific standards, action programs and public policy to enhance health. 


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