Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Life's a beach: Living near the coast is healthier than living inland, researchers say

Living by the sea is generally esteemed so it is the wealthier members of any given community who will get the limited real estate available by the sea.  And the richer you are, the healthier you generally are.  So this is a wealth effect not an effect of the  sea

Not only do we like to be beside the seaside, but it seems it may actually be good for us.  Those who live near the coast tend to be healthier than those who set up home further inland, according to a study.

Scientists analysed data from the 2001 census and compared how healthy respondents said they were with how close they lived to the sea.

The researchers from the European Centre for Environment and Human Health – part of the Peninsula College of Medicine at the University of Exeter – concluded that, on average, the closer we live to the sea, the more likely we are to report good health.

The analysis also showed that the link between living near the coast and good health was strongest in the most economically deprived communities.

Study lead author Dr Ben Wheeler said: 'We know that people usually have a good time when they go to the beach, but there is strikingly little evidence of how spending time at the coast can affect health and well-being.

'By analysing data for the whole population, our research suggests that there is a positive effect, although this type of study cannot prove cause and effect.'

Researchers looked at the proportion of people who reported their health as being 'good', rather than 'fairly good' or 'not good' and then compared this with how close those respondents lived to the coastline.

They also took into account the way that age, sex and a range of social and economic factors, like education and income, vary across the country.

The results show that, on average, populations living by the sea report rates of good health more than similar populations living inland.

Previous research from the Devon-based academics had shown that the coastal environment also provided significant benefits in terms of stress reduction.

Researchers said one reason those living in coastal communities may attain better physical health could be due to the stress relief offered by spending time near the sea.

Dr Wheeler added: 'We need to carry out more sophisticated studies to try to unravel the reasons that may explain the relationship we're seeing.

'If the evidence is there, it might help to provide governments with the guidance necessary to wisely and sustainably use our valuable coasts to help improve the health of the whole UK population.'


Three glasses of wine a week could reduce chance of arthritis by half

The old merry-go-round.  Alcohol is good for you one day and bad the next.  They actually say that nobody knows the effect of heavy drinking below, which is some relief from the usual dogmatism

The next time someone offers you a glass of wine, be grateful - it could save you from the agony of arthritis.  Women who indulge in moderate drinking halve the risk of certain forms of the illness, researchers have found.

Swedish academics found that women who drank at least three medium-sized glasses of wine a week - or the equivalent in beer or spirits - were up to 52 per cent less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis.

Around 400,000 Britons are affected by this type of arthritis and the majority are women, aged 40 to 70.  It causes pain and swelling in the hands, wrists and feet and can make everyday tasks almost impossible.

Currently doctors are unable to prevent or cure the illness and they can only offer treatment to alleviate pain.  The illness is caused by the body's own immune system - which normally fights infection - attacking the cells lining the joints.

Scientists believe that alcohol can counter this process because it lowers the body's immune response.  But they have not been able to establish whether drinking more alcohol reduces the risk even further.

In this latest study, scientist from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm studied 34,100 women aged 39 to 84.  They had all filled in surveys on how often they had drunk wine, spirits or beer over the course of a year

Those who drank at least three 150 ml glasses of wine, one pint of beer or two measures of spirits over a week were 52 per cent less at risk from rheumatoid arthritis.

Daniela Di Guiseppe, a PhD student who contributed to the research said: `The results of this study indicate that moderate consumption of alcohol may reduce the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis among women.'

`These results are in accordance with the inverse association between moderate alcohol consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease and add to the evidence that moderate alcohol consumption is not harmful and can be protective against such a chronic disease as rheumatoid arthritis.

`However, the effect of higher doses of alcohol on the risk of rheumatoid arthritis remains unknown.'

Professor Alan Silman, medical research director of Arthritis Research UK said: `Small amounts of alcohol are also known to be beneficial in reducing the risk of other conditions such as heart disease, also an inflammatory disease, so the study is also telling us something about the mechanism of inflammation.

`However, it's important to stress that the paper isn't saying that excessive amounts of alcohol are good for you.

`And it must be remembered that drinking alcohol in excess can be especially dangerous in rheumatoid arthritis patients who are taking some anti-rheumatoid drugs that may cause liver damage, and anti-inflammatory painkillers which can lead to gastro-intestinal problems, which can be exacerbated by alcohol.'

This latest study will add to the debate over whether alcohol is healthy - and if so, how much we should drink.

For years scientists have claimed that drinking small amounts every day may help prevent heart attacks and strokes.  But recently Oxford academics cast doubt on this evidence by urging the public not to drink any more than three glasses of wine a week.


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