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Large Norwegian Study Links Workaholism to Other Conditions

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Do you regularly and voluntarily put in more than a 40-hour work week? Push aside social commitments and family time so you can keep working? Feel anxious when you don’t have access to your work email? You may have a work addiction. And if you have that, say Norwegian researchers, you may also be depressed, anxious, or dealing with ADHD. They published their findings in the journal PLOS One.

Let’s rewind a little bit. Work addiction (we’re not going to call it workaholism, because nobody is addicted to "workahol") is a relatively new concept that means different things to different people. Here in the U.S., working long hours is considered a noble act. We boast about waiving our vacation days, never unplugging, and being the first one in the office and the last to leave. Our culture celebrates these martyr-like behaviors—even though they’re not actually increasing our productivity

Elsewhere—in Norway, for example—metaphorically chaining oneself to one’s office chair is considered a sign of mental illness. Europeans liken Americans' grim determination to keep working to sad lab rats on a sad lab wheel. Four years ago, the authors of the most recent paper actually developed diagnostic criteria for work addiction:

“Experiences occurring over the past year are rated from 1 (never) to 5 (always):

- You think of how you can free up more time to work.
- You spend much more time working than initially intended.
- You work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness or depression.
- You have been told by others to cut down on work without listening to them.
- You become stressed if you are prohibited from working.
- You deprioritize hobbies, leisure activities, and/or exercise because of your work.
- You work so much that it has negatively influenced your health."

If you scored 4 (often) or 5 (always) on four or more criteria, congratulations! You’ve earned your Work Addict badge.

The research team’s latest project investigated whether work addiction was associated with other psychiatric problems. They surveyed 16,426 working adults, asking questions about their work behaviors as well as their general outlook on life.

Of all the respondents, 7.8 percent met the criteria for work addiction. And across the board, self-identified work addicts scored higher on all psychiatric symptoms. They were more than 2.5 times as likely to meet criteria for ADHD (32.7 percent vs. 12.7 percent); almost 3 times more likely to have obsessive-compulsive disorder (25.6 percent vs. 8.7 percent); almost 3 times more likely to have an anxiety disorder (33.8 percent vs. 11.9 percent); and almost 3.5 times more likely to be depressed (8.9 percent vs. 2.6 percent). 

"Thus, taking work to the extreme may be a sign of deeper psychological or emotional issues,” lead author and University of Bergen clinical psychologist Cecilie Schou Andreassen said in a press statement. "Whether this reflects overlapping genetic vulnerabilities, disorders leading to workaholism or, conversely, workaholism causing such disorders, remain uncertain." 

Here’s the thing, though: All of these respondents were Norwegian, and their addiction and psychiatric symptoms were self-reported. Imagine if they’d sent that survey around the U.S.; a whole lot more than 7.8 percent of us would qualify as work addicts. At the same time, work addiction is more acceptable—even valued—here in the U.S. Does that mean we're more likely to be clinically depressed, anxious, obsessive compulsive, or hyperactive than Norwegians are? 

We’ll have to wait for future studies to find out. 

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Why You Should Think Twice About Drinking From Ceramics You Made by Hand
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Ceramic ware is much safer than it used to be (Fiesta ware hasn’t coated its plates in uranium since 1973), but according to NPR, not all new ceramics are free of dangerous chemicals. If you own a mug, bowl, plate, or other ceramic kitchen item that was glazed before entering the kiln, it may contain trace amounts of harmful lead.

Earthenware is often coated with a shiny, ceramic glaze. If the clay used to sculpt the vessel is nontoxic, that doesn’t necessarily mean the glaze is. Historically, the chemical has been used in glazes to give pottery a glossy finish and brighten colors like orange, yellow, and red.

Sometimes the amount of lead in a product is minuscule, but even trace amounts can contaminate whatever you're eating or drinking. Over time, exposure to lead in small doses can lead to heightened blood pressure, lowered kidney function, and reproductive issues. Lead can cause even more serious problems in kids, including slowed physical and mental development.

As the dangers of even small amounts of lead have become more widely known, the ceramics industry has gradually eliminated the additive from its products. Most of the big-name commercial ceramic brands, like Crock-Pot and Fiesta ware, have cut it out all together. But there are still some manufacturers, especially abroad, that still use it. Luckily, the FDA keeps a list of the ceramic ware it tests that has been shown to contain lead.

Beyond that list, there’s another group of products consumers should be wary of: kiln-baked dishware that you either bought from an independent artist or made yourself. The ceramic mug you crafted at your local pottery studio isn’t subject to FDA regulations, and therefore it may be better suited to looking pretty on your shelf than to holding beverages. This is especially true when consuming something acidic, like coffee, which can cause any lead hiding in the glaze to leach out.

If you’re not ready to retire your hand-crafted ceramic plates, the FDA offers one possible solution: Purchase a home lead testing kit and analyze the items yourself. If the tests come back negative, your homemade dishware can keep its spot on your dinner table.

[h/t NPR]

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Marathon Running Won't Undo Poor Lifestyle Choices, Study Suggests
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Even marathon participants can't outrun an unhealthy lifestyle, according to a new study highlighted by The New York Times.

For years, expert opinion has been mixed on whether long-distance running helps or hurts hearts. In the 1970s, research suggested that marathon running and a heart-healthy diet would completely prevent atherosclerosis (a buildup of harmful plaque in the arteries). But since high-profile runners have died of heart attacks, scientists in the 1980s began to worry that running might actually harm the vital organ. Compounding this fear in recent years were studies suggesting that male endurance athletes exhibited more signs of heart scarring or plaques than their less-active counterparts.

Experts don't have a verdict quite yet, but researchers from the University of Minnesota and Stanford and their colleagues have some good news—running doesn't seem to harm athletes' hearts, but it's also not a panacea for heart disease. They figured this out by asking 50 longtime marathon runners, all male, with an average age of 59, to fill out questionnaires about their training, health history, and habits, and then examining them for signs of atherosclerosis.

Only 16 of the runners ended up having no plaque in their arteries, and the rest exhibited slight, moderate, or worrisome amounts. The men who had unhealthy hearts also had a history of smoking and high cholesterol. A grueling training regime seemed to have no effect on these levels.

Bottom line? Marathon running won't hurt your heart, but it's not a magic bullet for poor lifestyle choices.

[h/t The New York Times]

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