Mass Spectrometry & Spectroscopy

  • Which Social and Behavioural Factors Have the Closest Link with Death?

Which Social and Behavioural Factors Have the Closest Link with Death?

Jul 25 2020 Read 312 Times

New research from the University of British Columbia (UBC) has revealed insight into the most common social and behavioural factors associated with death. Smoking, alcohol abuse and divorce were three of 57 factors analysed in the study, which drew on responses from 13,611 US adults.

The findings were published in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, with lead author and assistant professor at the UBC School of Kinesiology Eli Puterman saying the study “shows that a lifespan approach is needed to really understand health and mortality."

A holistic approach to mortality rates

He cites the importance of a holistic approach to research, adding “for example, instead of just asking whether people are unemployed, we looked at their history of unemployment over 16 years. If they were unemployed at any time, was that a predictor of mortality? It's more than just a one-time snapshot in people's lives, where something might be missed because it did not occur. Our approach provides a look at potential long-term impacts through a lifespan lens."

For the past three decades life expectancy in the United States has flatlined, a contrast to other industrialised countries that have enjoyed a steady increase. This has raised questions over possible contributing factors, with Puterman and his team ruling out medical and biological variables and instead focusing on social, psychological, economic and behavioural patterns.

Financial difficulties and chronic unemployment identified as drivers

In addition to Smoking, alcohol abuse and divorce, other factors closely associated with death include recent financial difficulties, chronic unemployment and a previous history as a smoker. Lower life satisfaction was another factor, as was never getting married. A history of food stamps and negative affectivity were also associated with death.

"If we're going to put money and effort into interventions or policy changes, these areas could potentially provide the greatest return on that investment," adds Puterman. "Smoking has been understood as one of the greatest predictors of mortality for 40 years, if not more, but by identifying a factor like negative affectivity -- this idea that you tend to see and feel more negative things in your life -- we can see that we might need to start targeting this with interventions. Can we shift it and have an impact on mortality rates? Similarly, can we target interventions for the unemployed and those with financial difficulties to reduce their risk?"

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