In a recent column for The New York Times, economist Paul Krugman wrote about the ongoing effects of the Reagan era in the United States. In the opinion piece, he refers to an article written by fellow economist Austin Frakt, who dove into the increase of U.S. health spending from the 1980s. In most developed countries, Frakt writes, health spending coincides with the increase in life expectancy. However, for the US, things took a turn for the worse since the 1980s. Healthcare spending began soaring beyond that of other advanced nations, but without the same benefits in life expectancy. Krugman uses Frakt’s findings and uses them to paint a broader picture: he looks at inequality (by Gini coefficient), household debt relative to income soaring and party polarisation. Each of these categories worsened since the beginning of the 80s: inequality increased, household debt rose and political parties became more polarised. His hypothesis on how this happened?
“A good guess, surely, is that the whole story is connected with the rise of modern movement conservatism”, Krugman writes, “which brought with it unequalizing economic policies, retreat from antitrust, financial deregulation, and more.” (source)
Deforestation in Brazil has led to an increase in malaria cases, according to a new study in Nature. The study found that areas affected by one kilometre square of deforestation produced 27 new malaria cases. Moreover, their results emphasise not only that deforestation promotes malaria incidence, but also that it directly or indirectly results in a low Human Development Index (HDI), and favours environmental conditions that promote malaria vector conception. As shown in the figures above, the impact of deforestation on malaria cases is bigger than it is with forest degradation and impacted forests. Simple linear regression analyses showed that each km² of deforestation corresponded to an increase of 27 new malaria cases, whereas each km² of impacted forest corresponded to an increase of 16 new cases. (source)
Elite chess players live longer than the general population and have a similar survival advantage to elite competitors in physical sports. This is the conclusion of a recent study, performed by the University of Queensland, aimed to examine if the survival advantage of elite athletes counted for mind sports as well. The study found that life expectancy of chess grandmasters (GMs) at the age of thirty, was 53.6, compared to 45.9 for the general population. There was little statistical difference between chess masters and Olympic medallists. The accompanying figure shows the survival rate of GMs and OMs from 28 countries relative to the general population from the same countries, and shows just how much longer both GMs and OMs live compared to a regular Joe. The study brings up multiple arguments for the statistical differences between GMs and the general population:
- To be able to attain the Grandmaster title an individual may be encouraged to make necessary health improvements (e.g. reduced smoking and alcohol consumption, improved nutrition, more regular cardiovascular exercise, etc.) to improve one’s cognitive performance.
- There is evidence that suggests that playing chess can reduce the risk of dementia, as well as physically alter the structure of the brain
- Becoming a chess grandmaster may provide an economic and social boost, which has been strongly linked to increased life expectancy
The World Health Organisation dropped a massive report on air quality all around the world on Wednesday. Here are their key findings:
- Data from WHO shows that 9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants
- 7 million people die each year because of air pollution
- 3 billion people people (+- 40%) are breathing in polluted air on a daily basis
- The fine particles in polluted air penetrate deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system, causing diseases including stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and respiratory infections, including pneumonia
- Air pollution is a critical risk factor for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), causing an estimated 24% of all adult deaths from heart disease, 25% from stroke, 43% from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and 29% from lung cancer
One of things this report focuses on the most, is the air pollution inequality. In rich cities around the world, the air quality is improving. The worst air quality can be found in poor regions, most notably south and south-east Asia. These parts of the world not only have the worst air quality, but it is also worsening the fastest: 70% of the poor cities in this region suffered worsening air quality. Delhi has the worst air pollution out of the world’s mega-cities with more than 14 million habitants, followed by Cairo and Dhaka. The figure, made by The Guardian, shows the inequality and the widening gap between the world regions. (source)
If you’re interested in the air quality in your region: http://maps.who.int/airpollution/
Three agriculture economists, Lynn Brown, Aira Maria Htenas and Yurie Tanimichi-Hoberg, in a report on agriculture and food systems’ role in obesity, made this graph showing that obesity is positively correlated with a country’s wealth level to a certain degree, especially with income levels up to US$ 5000 per capita per year. Above this level, it becomes complicated: Mexico and Turkey, for instance, have prevalence rates higher than many Western European countries. And South Korea and Japan have much lower obesity levels than lower-, middle-, and high-income countries. (source)