health

Some companies claim remote work hurts wellbeing. Research shows the opposite.

Leaders at Google and other companies are trying to get workers to return to the office, saying remote and hybrid work disrupt work-life boundaries and well-being. These arguments conflict with research on remote work and wellness.

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Many leaders at top companies are trying to get workers to return to the office. They say remote and hybrid work are bad for their employees’ mental well-being and lead to a sense of social isolation, meaninglessness, and lack of work-life boundaries, so we should just all go back to office-centric work.

One example is Google, where the company’s leadership is defending its requirement of mostly in-office work for all staff as necessary to protect social capital, meaning people’s connections to and trust in one another. That’s despite a survey of over 1,000 Google employees showing that two-thirds feel unhappy about being forced to work in the office three days per week. In internal meetings and public letters, many have threatened to leave, and some are already quitting to go to other companies with more flexible options.

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Gleb Tsipursky
Dr. Gleb Tsipursky is an internationally recognized thought leader on a mission to protect leaders from dangerous judgment errors known as cognitive biases by developing the most effective decision-making strategies. A best-selling author, he wrote Resilience: Adapt and Plan for the New Abnormal of the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic and Pro Truth: A Practical Plan for Putting Truth Back Into Politics. His expertise comes from over 20 years of consulting, coaching, and speaking and training as the CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts, and over 15 years in academia as a behavioral economist and cognitive neuroscientist. He co-founded the Pro-Truth Pledge project.
Podcast with Dr. Shai Efrati: Can Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Boost Health?

On today’s podcast episode, Leaps.org spoke with Shai Efrati, a physician and professor in the schools of medicine and neuroscience at Tel Aviv University, about the potential health benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Shai Efrati

On today’s podcast episode, I had a chance to speak with Shai Efrati, a physician and professor in the schools of medicine and neuroscience at Tel Aviv University. Efrati also directs the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research, and our conversation in this episode focuses on the potential health benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Efrati's studies point to a connection between the use of hyperbaric chambers and improvements for a range of health problems such as Long Covid, strokes and traumatic brain injuries. Plus, Efrati has an early line of research suggesting that hyperbaric oxygen therapy could help protect against cognitive decline in healthy people and perhaps even slow down the overall aging process.

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Matt Fuchs

Matt Fuchs is the editor-in-chief of Leaps.org. He is also a contributing reporter to the Washington Post and has written for the New York Times, Time Magazine, WIRED and the Washington Post Magazine, among other outlets. Follow him on Twitter @fuchswriter.

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The Toxic Effects of Noise and What We’re Not Doing About It

Our daily soundscape is a cacophony of earsplitting jets, motorcycles, and construction sites. Engineers know how to eliminate and control noise, but other countries are ahead of the U.S. when it comes to keeping the quiet - with related health benefits.

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Erica Walker had a studio in her Brookline, Mass. apartment where she worked as a bookbinder and furniture maker. That was until a family with two rowdy children moved in above her.

The kids ran amuck, disrupting her sleep and work. Ear plugs weren’t enough to blot out the commotion. Aside from anger and a sense of lost control, the noise increased her heart rate and made her stomach feel like it was dropping, she says.

That’s when Walker realized that noise is a public health problem, not merely an annoyance. She set up her own “mini study” on how the clamor was affecting her. She monitored sound levels in her apartment and sent saliva samples to a lab to measure her stress levels.

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Eve Glicksman
Eve Glicksman is a freelance writer and editor in the Washington, DC, area following a long career in Philadelphia. She writes for the health and science section of The Washington Post along with a mix of stories for other media and associations on trends, culture, psychology, lifestyle, business and travel. Previously, she served as a managing editor for UnitedHealth Group and the Association for American Medical Colleges. To see more of her work, visit eveglicksman.com. 
Did researchers finally find a way to lick COVID?

A professor of medicine at the University of Michigan is researching whether lactoferrin, which is found in dairy products such as ice cream, can help to prevent COVID-19 infections.

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Already vaccinated and want more protection from COVID-19? A protein found in ice cream could help, some research suggests, though there are a bunch of caveats.

The protein, called lactoferrin, is found in the milk of mammals and thus in dairy products, including ice cream. It has astounding antiviral properties that have been taken for granted and remain largely unexplored because it is a natural product, meaning that it cannot be patented and exploited by pharmaceutical companies.

Still, a few researchers in Europe and elsewhere have sought to better understand the compound.

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Bob Roehr
Bob Roehr is a biomedical journalist based in Washington, DC. Over the last twenty-five years he has written extensively for The BMJ, Scientific American, PNAS, Proto, and myriad other publications. He is primarily interested in HIV, infectious disease, immunology, and how growing knowledge of the microbiome is changing our understanding of health and disease. He is working on a book about the ways the body can at least partially control HIV and how that has influenced (or not) the search for a treatment and cure.
Podcast: The Science of Recharging Your Energy with Sara Mednick

For today's podcast episode, Leaps.org talks with Sara Mednick, author of The Power of the Downstate, a book about the science of relaxation - why it's so important, the best ways to get more of it, and the time of day when our bodies are biologically suited to enjoy it the most.

Aleksey

If you’re like me, you may have a case of email apnea, where you stop taking restful breaths when you open a work email. Or maybe you’re in the habit of shining blue light into your eyes long after sunset through your phone. Many of us are doing all kinds of things throughout the day that put us in a constant state of fight or flight arousal, with long-term impacts on health, productivity and happiness.

My guest for today’s episode is Sara Mednick, author of The Power of the Downstate, a book about the science of relaxation – why it’s so important, the best ways to go about getting more of it, and the time of day when our bodies are biologically suited to enjoy it the most. As a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of California, Irvine, Mednick has a great scientific background on this topic. After getting her PhD at Harvard, she filled her sleep lab with 7 bedrooms, and this is where she is federally funded to study people sleeping around the clock, with her research published in top journals such as Nature Neuroscience. She received the Office Naval Research Young Investigator Award in 2015, and her previous book, Take a Nap! Change Your Life was based on her groundbreaking research on the benefits of napping.

In our conversation, we talk about how work and society make it tough to get stimulation like food and exercise in ways that support our circadian rhythms, and there just as many obstacles to getting sleep and restoration like our ancestors enjoyed for 99 percent of human history. Sara shares some fascinating ways to get around these challenges, as well as her insights about the importance of exposure to daylight and nature vs nurture when it comes to whether you’re a night owl or an early bird. And we talk about how things could change with work and lifestyles to make it easier to live in accordance with our biological rhythms.

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Matt Fuchs

Matt Fuchs is the editor-in-chief of Leaps.org. He is also a contributing reporter to the Washington Post and has written for the New York Times, Time Magazine, WIRED and the Washington Post Magazine, among other outlets. Follow him on Twitter @fuchswriter.

After Dobbs v. Jackson, the Battle Shifts to Digital Privacy v. Surveillance

The limits of digital privacy are becoming clearer in the post-Dobbs era, as a wide range of data sources can reveal online and offline activities, including whether a woman seeks an abortion.

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Since the recent reversal of Roe v. Wade — the landmark decision establishing a constitutional right to abortion — the vulnerabilities of reproductive health data and various other information stored on digital devices or shared through the Web have risen to the forefront.

Menstrual period tracking apps are an example of how technologies that collect information from users could be weaponized against abortions seekers. The apps, which help tens of millions of users in the U.S. predict when they’re ovulating, may provide evidence that leads to criminal prosecution in states with abortion bans, says Anton T. Dahbura, executive director of the Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute. In states where abortion is outlawed, “it’s probably best to not use a period tracker,” he says.

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Susan Kreimer
Susan Kreimer is a New York-based freelance journalist who has followed the landscape of health care since the late 1990s, initially as a staff reporter for major daily newspapers. She writes about breakthrough studies, personal health, and the business of clinical practice. Raised in the Chicago area, she holds a B.A. in Journalism/Mass Communication and French from the University of Iowa and an M.S. from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
How Roadside Safety Signs Backfire—and Why Policymakers Don’t Notice

Interventions in health and safety often yield results that are the opposite of what policymakers were hoping for. Officials can take a science-based approach by measuring what really works instead of relying on gut intuitions.

You are driving along the highway and see an electronic sign that reads: “3,238 traffic deaths this year.” Do you think this reminder of roadside mortality would change how you drive? According to a recent, peer-reviewed study in Science, seeing that sign would make you more likely to crash. That’s ironic, given that the sign’s creators assumed it would make you safer.

The study, led by a pair of economists at the University of Toronto and University of Minnesota, examined seven years of traffic accident data from 880 electric highway sign locations in Texas, which experienced 4,480 fatalities in 2021. For one week of each month, the Texas Department of Transportation posts the latest fatality messages on signs along select traffic corridors as part of a safety campaign. Their logic is simple: Tell people to drive with care by reminding them of the dangers on the road.

But when the researchers looked at the data, they found that the number of crashes increased by 1.52 percent within three miles of these signs when compared with the same locations during the same month in previous years when signs did not show fatality information. That impact is similar to raising the speed limit by four miles or decreasing the number of highway troopers by 10 percent.

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Gleb Tsipursky
Dr. Gleb Tsipursky is an internationally recognized thought leader on a mission to protect leaders from dangerous judgment errors known as cognitive biases by developing the most effective decision-making strategies. A best-selling author, he wrote Resilience: Adapt and Plan for the New Abnormal of the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic and Pro Truth: A Practical Plan for Putting Truth Back Into Politics. His expertise comes from over 20 years of consulting, coaching, and speaking and training as the CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts, and over 15 years in academia as a behavioral economist and cognitive neuroscientist. He co-founded the Pro-Truth Pledge project.
Q&A with Holden Thorp: Finding Better Ways to Communicate Science

Leaps.org spoke with Holden Thorp, Editor-in-Chief of the prestigious Science family of journals, about ways to improve science journalism, the challenges faced by experts, the lab leak theory and much more.

Cameron Davidson

This month, Leaps.org had a chance to speak with Holden Thorp, Editor-in-Chief of the Science family of journals. We talked about the best ways to communicate science to the public, mistakes by public health officials during the pandemic, the lab leak theory, and bipartisanship for funding science research.

Before becoming editor of the Science journals, Thorp spent six years as provost of Washington University in St. Louis, where he is Rita Levi-Montalcini Distinguished University Professor and holds appointments in both chemistry and medicine. He joined Washington University after spending three decades at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he served as the UNC's 10th chancellor from 2008 through 2013.

A North Carolina native, Thorp earned a doctorate in chemistry in 1989 at the California Institute of Technology and completed postdoctoral work at Yale University. He is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Read his full bio here.

This conversation was lightly edited by Leaps.org for style and format.

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Matt Fuchs

Matt Fuchs is the editor-in-chief of Leaps.org. He is also a contributing reporter to the Washington Post and has written for the New York Times, Time Magazine, WIRED and the Washington Post Magazine, among other outlets. Follow him on Twitter @fuchswriter.