Sunday, 8 January 2012

Sally, Terri, Penny and Viv on Alcohol, Cigarettes, Sex, and no Mischief

Its estimated that 7 million of the UK population will have made a New Year’s resolution last week and by the time you are reading this blog posting, it’s likely that the vast majority of these people will have already abandoned any attempt at being a Size Zero, Smoke-less, Teetotal Worshipper at the Church of Self Denial and Health and Well Being.

This week the NICE website main headline was: ‘New Year, new lifestyle, new you’. The narrative noted that making lifestyle changes like exercising more or cutting down on alcohol and cigarettes tend to top the list of New Years resolutions. Spookily, and in some clever fleet of foot use of evidence our Chief Medical Officer (Professor Dame Sally Davies) suggest that the just making one healthy resolution can result in individuals enjoying double the benefits – a lovely example of this is helpfully provided: allegedly those who quit smoking are more likely to eat fruit and vegetables. Conversely, people who regularly eat fried products are more likely to add extra salt to their food.

Smoking is the single greatest avoidable health risk factor. The WHO note that worldwide, tobacco consumption caused an estimated 100 million deaths in the last century and if current trends continue it will kill 1,000 million in the 21st century. Sadly, around half of all regular smokers will die from the habit, half of these in middle age. The NICE site does include guidance on the kind of self administered help that individuals can use to help them stop smoking.

As my waist line will attest, Christmas can also be a time of overindulgence, and many of my colleagues I have talked to this week have noted the need to start the New Year by trying to lose the extra pounds we’ve gained. Obesity adds nearly £1.9 billion in costs to the NHS each year. Again NICE provides plenty of advice on how to maintain a healthy weight. But one has to say that the advice is not half as interesting as that to be found on the GoodtoKnow Diets website. This website notes that if you have sex every night for a week you will burn off just less than 5000 calories in a month. Unfortunately you need to burn off some 3500 calories in order to lose each pound of weight, but it sounds like more fun than going to the gym.

And the GoodtoKnow Diet outcomes apply to both genders, although having fun together might be a little difficult. Research undertaken by Dr Terri Fisher a Professor of Psychology at Ohio State University discredits the somewhat persistent stereotype that men think about sex every 7 seconds, (which would amount to more than 8,000 thoughts about sex in 16 waking hours). It appears that men also think about eating and sleeping too. The study found that whilst young men thought about sex almost 19 times per day they also thought about food almost 18 times per day and sleep almost 11 times per day. Likewise, women thought about sex 10 times a day, eating 15 times and sleeping 9 times a day.

A different but related study led by Penelope Phillips-Howard of Liverpool John Moores University (and colleagues) examined the link between wellbeing, drinking alcohol and engaging in sexual activity. Their cross-sectional survey using self-completed questionnaires was conducted with 3,641 schoolchildren aged 11-14 years. The strength of the association between alcohol use and the prevalence of sexual activity in 13-14 year olds, increased incrementally with the higher frequency of alcohol use. Penelope’s first degree was in Nursing.

And in a symmetrically interesting development this week, Professor Viv Bennett took up her appointment as Director of Nursing in the  Department of Health and the Government's Principal Advisor on Public Health Nursing. Viv was previously the Deputy Chief Nursing Officer. This is a new post which will enhance the role of nursing leadership and replace the current role of Chief Nursing Officer in the Department of Health. This new role will see Viv acting as champion for health improvement at all stages in the life course; providing nursing advice to the development of social care; and provide professional nurse leadership for nurses, midwives and health visitors and develop and extend the public health role of all nurses. However, this will not be an easy job. Given the evidence above, Viv will have to work hard to ensure our young people are kept out of mischief.

Finally, sleep and sex combined in another story that made me smile this week. The story was about the 40,000 women in the UK who received breast implants, filled with a silicone originally intended for bed mattresses. 95% of these women had the breast enhancement operation for cosmetic rather than medical reasons. These implants were manufactured by the now-defunct French company, Poly Implant Prosthese, or as Jon Snow described them on the Channel 4 News programme last Friday, the company that’s gone bust.