Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Panel data


While experimental and observational studies suggest that sugar intake is associated with the development of type 2 diabetes, independent of its role in obesity, it is unclear whether alterations in sugar intake can account for differences in diabetes prevalence among overall populations. Using econometric models of repeated cross-sectional data on diabetes and nutritional components of food from 175 countries, we found that every 150 kcal/person/day increase in sugar availability (about one can of soda/day) was associated with increased diabetes prevalence by 1.1% (p <0.001) after testing for potential selection biases and controlling for other food types (including fibers, meats, fruits, oils, cereals), total calories, overweight and obesity, period-effects, and several socioeconomic variables such as aging, urbanization and income. No other food types yielded significant individual associations with diabetes prevalence after controlling for obesity and other confounders. The impact of sugar on diabetes was independent of sedentary behavior and alcohol use, and the effect was modified but not confounded by obesity or overweight. Duration and degree of sugar exposure correlated significantly with diabetes prevalence in a dose-dependent manner, while declines in sugar exposure correlated with significant subsequent declines in diabetes rates independently of other socioeconomic, dietary and obesity prevalence changes. Differences in sugar availability statistically explain variations in diabetes prevalence rates at a population level that are not explained by physical activity, overweight or obesity.

Concepts: Scientific method, Nutrition, Insulin, Obesity, Econometrics, Overweight, Cross-sectional data, Panel data


Polls examining public opinion on the subject of climate change are now commonplace, and one-off public opinion polls provide a snapshot of citizen’s opinions that can inform policy and communication strategies. However, cross-sectional polls do not track opinions over time, thus making it impossible to ascertain whether key climate change beliefs held by the same group of individuals are changing or not. Here we examine the extent to which individual’s level of agreement with two key beliefs (“climate change is real” and “climate change is caused by humans”) remain stable or increase/decrease over a six-year period in New Zealand using latent growth curve modelling (n = 10,436). Data were drawn from the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study, a probabilistic national panel study, and indicated that levels of agreement to both beliefs have steadily increased over the 2009-2015 period. Given that climate change beliefs and concerns are key predictors of climate change action, our findings suggest that a combination of targeted endeavors, as well as serendipitous events, may successfully convey the emergency of the issue.

Concepts: Critical thinking, Belief, Truth, Epistemology, Opinion poll, Panel data, Opinion, Public opinion


Research on poverty in the United States has largely consisted of examining cross-sectional levels of absolute poverty. In this analysis, we focus on understanding relative poverty within a life course context. Specifically, we analyze the likelihood of individuals falling below the 20th percentile and the 10th percentile of the income distribution between the ages of 25 and 60. A series of life tables are constructed using the nationally representative Panel Study of Income Dynamics data set. This includes panel data from 1968 through 2011. Results indicate that the prevalence of relative poverty is quite high. Consequently, between the ages of 25 to 60, 61.8 percent of the population will experience a year below the 20th percentile, and 42.1 percent will experience a year below the 10th percentile. Characteristics associated with experiencing these levels of poverty include those who are younger, nonwhite, female, not married, with 12 years or less of education, or who have a work disability.

Concepts: United States, Econometrics, Statistical data types, Cross-sectional data, Poverty threshold, Panel data, Panel Study of Income Dynamics, German Socio-Economic Panel


Despite growing evidence of public health benefits from urban green space there has been little longitudinal analysis. This study used panel data to explore three different hypotheses about how moving to greener or less green areas may affect mental health over time. The samples were participants in the British Household Panel Survey with mental health data (General Health Questionnaire scores) for five consecutive years, and who relocated to a different residential area between the second and third years (n = 1064; observations = 5,320). Fixed-effects analyses controlled for time-invariant individual level heterogeneity and other area and individual level effects. Compared to pre-move mental health scores, individuals who moved to greener areas (n=594) had significantly better mental health in all three post-move years (P=.015; P=.016; P=.008), supporting a ‘shifting baseline’ hypothesis. Individuals who moved to less green areas (n=470) showed significantly worse mental health in the year preceding the move (P=.031) but returned to baseline in the post-move years. Moving to greener urban areas was associated with sustained mental health improvements, suggesting that environmental policies to increase urban green space may have sustainable public health benefits.

Concepts: Health care, Scientific method, Health economics, Observation, Hypothesis, Panel data, British Household Panel Survey, Panel Study of Income Dynamics


OBJECTIVES:Constipation is common in the community, and may affect survival adversely. An association between constipation and development of colorectal cancer (CRC) could be one possible explanation. We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis examining this issue.METHODS:We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, and EMBASE Classic (through July 2012). Eligible studies were cross-sectional surveys, cohort studies, or case-control studies reporting the association between constipation and CRC. For cross-sectional surveys and cohort studies, we recorded number of subjects with CRC according to the constipation status, and for case-control studies, number of subjects with constipation according to CRC status were recorded. Study quality was assessed according to published criteria. Data were pooled using a random effects model, and the association between CRC and constipation was summarized using an odds ratio (OR) with a 95% confidence interval (CI).RESULTS:The search strategy identified 2,282 citations, of which 28 were eligible. In eight cross-sectional surveys, presence of constipation as the primary indication for colonoscopy was associated with a lower prevalence of CRC (OR=0.56; 95% CI 0.36-0.89). There was a trend toward a reduction in odds of CRC in constipation in three cohort studies (OR=0.80; 95% CI 0.61-1.04). The prevalence of constipation in CRC was significantly higher than in controls without CRC in 17 case-control studies (OR=1.68; 95% CI 1.29-2.18), but with significant heterogeneity, and possible publication bias.CONCLUSIONS:Prospective cross-sectional surveys and cohort studies demonstrate no increase in prevalence of CRC in patients or individuals with constipation. The significant association observed in case-control studies may relate to recall bias.Am J Gastroenterol advance online publication, 12 March 2013; doi:10.1038/ajg.2013.52.

Concepts: Scientific method, Experimental design, Epidemiology, Colorectal cancer, Constipation, Study design, Random effects model, Panel data


Previous research shows that generalized trust, the belief that most people can be trusted, is conducive to people’s health. However, only recently have longitudinal studies suggested an additional reciprocal pathway from health back to trust. Drawing on a diverse body of literature that shows how egalitarian social policy contributes to the promotion of generalized trust, we hypothesize that this other ‘reverse’ pathway could be sensitive to health insurance context. Drawing on nationally representative US panel data from the General Social Survey, we examine whether the Affordable Care Act of 2010 could have had influence on the deteriorating impact of worsening self-rated health (SRH) on generalized trust. Firstly, using two-wave panel data (2008-2010, N = 1403) and employing random effects regression models, we show that a lack of health insurance coverage negatively determines generalized trust in the United States. However, this association is attenuated when additionally controlling for (perceived) income inequality. Secondly, utilizing data from two separate three-wave panel studies from the US General Social Survey (2006-10; N = 1652; 2010-2014; N = 1187), we employ fixed-effects linear regression analyses to control for unobserved heterogeneity from time-invariant factors. We demonstrate that worsening SRH was a stronger predictor for a decrease in generalized trust prior (2006-2010) to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Further, the negative effect of fair/poor SRH seen in the 2006-2010 data becomes attenuated in the 2010-2014 panel data. We thus find evidence for a substantial weakening of the previously established negative impact of decreasing SRH on generalized trust, coinciding with the most significant US healthcare reforms in decades. Social policy and healthcare policy implications are discussed.

Concepts: Health care, Regression analysis, Linear regression, Longitudinal study, Econometrics, Sociology, Panel data, British Household Panel Survey


A critical aspect of the opioid epidemic is its effect on the ability of opioid-dependent parents to care for their children. In this article we investigate the association between the rate of removals of children from their homes and the opioid prescription rate in Florida counties during 2012-15. We performed a panel data analysis of opioid prescriptions that also controlled for the prescription rates of benzodiazepines and stimulants and for other risk factors for child removal. We found that a one-standard-deviation increase in the opioid prescription rate was associated with a 32 percent increase in the removal rate for parental neglect. When we obtained subset samples by percentage of white residents, the estimated relationships were approximately twice as large in the counties with the highest concentration of whites than in the counties with the lowest. Policy makers should consider the opioid epidemic’s effects on child welfare when determining the appropriate public health response.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Effect, Parent, Rates, Child, Panel data, Panel analysis


Flooding remains a major problem for the United States, causing numerous deaths and damaging countless properties. To reduce the impact of flooding on communities, the U.S. government established the Community Rating System (CRS) in 1990 to reduce flood damages by incentivizing communities to engage in flood risk management initiatives that surpass those required by the National Flood Insurance Program. In return, communities enjoy discounted flood insurance premiums. Despite the fact that the CRS raises concerns about the potential for unevenly distributed impacts across different income groups, no study has examined the equity implications of the CRS. This study thus investigates the possibility of unintended consequences of the CRS by answering the question: What is the effect of the CRS on poverty and income inequality? Understanding the impacts of the CRS on poverty and income inequality is useful in fully assessing the unintended consequences of the CRS. The study estimates four fixed-effects regression models using a panel data set of neighborhood-level observations from 1970 to 2010. The results indicate that median incomes are lower in CRS communities, but rise in floodplains. Also, the CRS attracts poor residents, but relocates them away from floodplains. Additionally, the CRS attracts top earners, including in floodplains. Finally, the CRS encourages income inequality, but discourages income inequality in floodplains. A better understanding of these unintended consequences of the CRS on poverty and income inequality can help to improve the design and performance of the CRS and, ultimately, increase community resilience to flood disasters.

Concepts: Risk, United States, Insurance, Economic inequality, Household income in the United States, Flood, Panel data, National Flood Insurance Program


Personality may influence the risk of death, but the evidence remains inconsistent. We examined associations between personality traits of the five-factor model (extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness to experience) and the risk of death from all causes through individual-participant meta-analysis of 76,150 participants from 7 cohorts (the British Household Panel Survey, 2006-2009; the German Socio-Economic Panel Study, 2005-2010; the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey, 2006-2010; the US Health and Retirement Study, 2006-2010; the Midlife in the United States Study, 1995-2004; and the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study’s graduate and sibling samples, 1993-2009). During 444,770 person-years at risk, 3,947 participants (54.4% women) died (mean age at baseline = 50.9 years; mean follow-up = 5.9 years). Only low conscientiousness-reflecting low persistence, poor self-control, and lack of long-term planning-was associated with elevated mortality risk when taking into account age, sex, ethnicity/nationality, and all 5 personality traits. Individuals in the lowest tertile of conscientiousness had a 1.4 times higher risk of death (hazard ratio = 1.37, 95% confidence interval: 1.18, 1.58) compared with individuals in the top 2 tertiles. This association remained after further adjustment for health behaviors, marital status, and education. In conclusion, of the higher-order personality traits measured by the five-factor model, only conscientiousness appears to be related to mortality risk across populations.

Concepts: Longitudinal study, Epidemiology, Death, Big Five personality traits, Trait theory, Panel data, British Household Panel Survey, Panel Study of Income Dynamics


Urbanization is a potential threat to mental health and well-being. Cross-sectional evidence suggests that living closer to urban green spaces, such as parks, is associated with lower mental distress. However, earlier research was unable to control for time-invariant heterogeneity (e.g., personality) and focused on indicators of poor psychological health. The current research advances the field by using panel data from over 10,000 individuals to explore the relation between urban green space and well-being (indexed by ratings of life satisfaction) and between urban green space and mental distress (indexed by General Health Questionnaire scores) for the same people over time. Controlling for individual and regional covariates, we found that, on average, individuals have both lower mental distress and higher well-being when living in urban areas with more green space. Although effects at the individual level were small, the potential cumulative benefit at the community level highlights the importance of policies to protect and promote urban green spaces for well-being.

Concepts: Psychology, City, Urban area, Developed environments, Urbanization, Cross-sectional data, Village, Panel data