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Is There Actually a Doctor in the House?

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It’s a stock situation in movies and TV shows: Someone collapses, and a crowd gathers around them trying to help or wondering what to do. Inevitably, two things will happen. Someone will tell everyone to step back and give the victim some room to breathe, and someone will shout out to no one in particular, “Is there a doctor in the house!?”

Usually there is, and they save the day. If this ever happened to you in real life, though, how likely is it that there would be someone around who could save you?

Well, if you’re in an airplane, you should be OK. Christian Martin-Gill, a physician and assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, recently combed through the in-flight communications of five different airlines covering a period of almost three years. In them, he found almost 12,000 calls to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s STAT-MD Communications Center, an always-open medical command center that some airlines use to consult with doctors during flight emergencies. 

Going through these calls, Martin-Gill found that a medical emergency happens on one out of every 604 commercial flights. The most common problems are people fainting, experiencing severe air or motion sickness, or experiencing respiratory or cardiac distress.

Physicians who happened to be passengers on the flight were able to treat the victims in about half of the emergencies that Martin-Gill examined. In more than a quarter of the other instances, a nurse or EMT who was on the plane stepped in to help. 

So, the next time you get sick midair, there’s a good chance that shouting “Is there a doctor on the plane?” will actually get you some help.

Martin-Gill also discovered that the passengers treated in these emergencies generally came out of things OK. Of the almost 12,000 cases covered in the study, only 36 deaths occurred, 30 of those during the flight. Of the patients who made it to their original destinations (only 7 percent of the flights had to be diverted because of medical emergency), only a quarter had to be taken to the hospital upon landing, and only 8 percent of those actually had to be admitted. 

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The Surprising Link Between Language and Depression
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Skim through the poems of Sylvia Plath, the lyrics of Kurt Cobain, or posts on an internet forum dedicated to depression, and you'll probably start to see some commonalities. That's because there's a particular way that people with clinical depression communicate, whether they're speaking or writing, and psychologists believe they now understand the link between the two.

According to a recent study published in Clinical Psychological Science, there are certain "markers" in a person's parlance that may point to symptoms of clinical depression. Researchers used automated text analysis methods to comb through large quantities of posts in 63 internet forums with more than 6400 members, searching for certain words and phrases. They also noted average sentence length, grammatical patterns, and other factors.

What researchers found was that a person's use (or overuse) of first-person pronouns can provide some insight into the state of their mental health. People with clinical depression tend to use more first-person singular pronouns, such as "I" and "me," and fewer third-person pronouns, like "they," "he," or "she." As Mohammed Al-Mosaiwi, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at the University of Reading and the head of the study, writes in a post for IFL Science:

"This pattern of pronoun use suggests people with depression are more focused on themselves, and less connected with others. Researchers have reported that pronouns are actually more reliable in identifying depression than negative emotion words."

What remains unclear, though, is whether people who are more focused on themselves tend to depression, or if depression turns a person's focus on themselves. Perhaps unsurprisingly, people with depression also use more negative descriptors, like "lonely" and "miserable."

But, Al-Mosaiwi notes, it's hardly the most important clue when using language to assess clinical depression. Far better indicators, he says, are the presence of "absolutist words" in a person's speech or writing, such as "always," "constantly," and "completely." When overused, they tend to indicate that someone has a "black-and-white view of the world," Al-Mosaiwi says. An analysis of posts on different internet forums found that absolutist words were 50 percent more prevalent on anxiety and depression forums, and 80 percent more prevalent on suicidal ideation forums.

Researchers hope these types of classifications, supported by computerized methods, will prove more and more beneficial in a clinical setting.

[h/t IFL Science]

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Just 5 Alcoholic Drinks a Week Could Shorten Your Lifespan
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Wine lovers were elated when a scientific study last year suggested that drinking a glass of wine a day could help them live longer. Now a new study, published in The Lancet, finds that having more than 100 grams of alcohol a week (the amount in about five glasses of wine or pints of beer) could be detrimental to your health.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge and the British Heart Foundation studied the health data of nearly 600,000 drinkers in 19 countries and found that five to 10 alcoholic drinks a week (yes, red wine included) could shave six months off the life of a 40-year-old.

The penalty is even more severe for those who have 10 to 15 drinks a week (shortening a person’s life by one to two years), and those who imbibe more than 18 drinks a week could lose four to five years of their lives. In other words, your lifespan could be shortened by half an hour for every drink over the daily recommended limit, according to The Guardian, making it just as risky as smoking.

"The paper estimates a 40-year-old drinking four units a day above the guidelines [the equivalent of drinking three glasses of wine in a night] has roughly two years' lower life expectancy, which is around a 20th of their remaining life," David Spiegelhalter, a statistician at the University of Cambridge who was not involved with the study, tells The Guardian. "This works out at about an hour per day. So it's as if each unit above guidelines is taking, on average, about 15 minutes of life, about the same as a cigarette."

[h/t The Guardian]

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