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Indiana University research at American Public Health Association meeting

Caregivers in a pickle

People taking care of more than one generation -- such as their children and parents -- engaged in fewer healthy behaviors, found a study by researchers from Indiana University and Arizona State University. As the U.S. population continues to age, more and more midlife adults find themselves similarly "sandwiched," leading the research team to conclude that "encouraging healthy behaviors among caregivers has the potential to prevent significant illness and premature mortality." The study involved 4,943 participants in a longitudinal study who reported the number of hours per week they spent caring for their children, parents and in-laws. The researchers looked at five health behaviors: checking food labels for health value when buying foods, using a seat belt, choosing foods based on health value, exercising regularly and cigarette smoking. Compared with people caring for a single generation, people in the sandwich generation were less likely to check food labels, wear seat belts or choose foods based on health values. They also smoked more cigarettes each day. Dong-Chul Seo, assistant professor in the Department of Applied Health Science in IU's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, will discuss the findings during a poster presentation on Monday, Oct. 27, at 2:30 p.m.

For more information, contact Seo at 812-855-9379 or Co-authors include Seo, Laurie Chassin, Department of Psychology at ASU; Jonathan T. Macy, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at IU; Clark C. Presson, Department of Psychology at ASU; and Steven J. Sherman, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at IU.

Activity and aging

Indiana University researchers studied 730 highly active people, ages 20 to 93, to see how their physical and mental quality of life and rates of obesity-related diseases compare to the general population. Their study participants, United States Master Swimmers, reported swimming regularly for an average of 18.6 years. The percentage of Master Swimmers classified as obese (5.4 percent) and the prevalence of obesity-related diseases such as hypertension (6.5 percent), diabetes (1 percent) and coronary artery disease (1.3 percent), was significantly less than the general population. Their measures of physical and mental quality of life also were significantly better than the general public, with the typical decline in physical quality of life occurring later for them -- around the age of 55. Jeanne Johnston, assistant professor in IU's Department of Kinesiology, said research involving physical activity and obesity-related diseases typically begins by looking at sedentary people and uses this population to establish baseline data, rather than examining active people who could represent model behavior. "The low incidence of overweight and obesity as well as the self-reported diseases demonstrates that active engagement in physical activity improves both physical and mental health as well as the diseases people might have," she said. Examining highly active people, Johnston and her colleagues wrote, might lead to a better understanding of the relationship between lifelong physical activity, successful aging, morbidity and quality of life.

Johnston can be reached at 812-855-5073 and Researcher Kelly Pfaffenberger, a student in the Department of Kinesiology in IU's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, will discuss the findings Monday, Oct. 27, during the session Promoting Physical Activity through Health Education, from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Co-authors are Johnston, Pfaffenberger, Fernando Ona, Department of Applied Health Science in the School of HPER; Joel Stager, Department of Kinesiology; and Colleen McCraken, Department of Kinesiology.

Smoking behavior--influenced by what others think

A growing amount of research is finding that smoke-free air laws help smokers quit or reduce the amount that they smoke. Rather than changing smokers' own attitudes about smoking, the influence of the policies, particularly the strong ones, might lie more in changing smokers' perceptions of other people's attitudes about smoking -- changing the perceived social norms, according to an Indiana University study involving smoke-free air laws in four Texas communities. "Everyone knows it's unhealthy to smoke," said Jon Macy, the study's lead researcher. "Our study suggests that the success of strong smoke-free air policies may be more about changing the social acceptability of smoking." The IU study used a telephone survey of 407 adults to compare perceived norms about smoking between adults living in two cities with strong smoke-free air laws and adults living in two cities with weak smoke-free air laws. Those who lived in cities with a strong smoke-free air law perceived a lower prevalence of smoking in their city, were less likely to report that other people in their city believed smoking was acceptable, and were more likely to report that people in their city believed that smokers should take measures to not smoke. Macy said that while researchers are aware that smoke-free air policies, which are designed primarily to protect the public from the harm of secondhand tobacco smoke, also influence smoking behavior, the mechanism or cause has not been nailed down. This study offers one possible explanation. Macy said insights provided by this study could help with public communication messages that accompany smoke-free air policies. The messages, for example, could tap into the impact societal norms have on smoking behavior.

Macy, a researcher in IU's Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, can be reached at 812-856-0840 and Rachel Gross, with the Center for Applied Behavioral and Evaluation Research at the Academy for Educational Development, will discuss the findings on Monday, Oct. 27, at 4:30 p.m. The study was supported by the National Cancer Institute. Co-authors include Macy, Gross, Susan E. Middestadt, Department of Applied Health Science in IU's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation; Nathan Stupiansky, Department of Applied Health Science in IU's School of HPER; and Jesse Gelwicks, Center for Applied Behavioral and Evaluation Research at the Academy for Educational Development.

Eating in a grab and go world

A nutritious diet is not seen as being as important as physical activity when it comes to college students' health and wellness efforts, according to Indiana University researchers, even when the students live in an environment that provides classes, cues and motivation to eat healthily. "Personal preferences triumph over discipline," the researchers note. The researchers examined the eating habits of college students as they transitioned from high school to university life and to living in residence halls or apartments. Habits that college students establish as they leave home may have long-reaching effects on their health and that of their future families, the researchers note. The students, they say, bring to college the eating habits established at home, where most skipped breakfast and almost 40 percent ate out for dinner or were on their own. This "grab and go" view of food and a preference for restaurant-style foods was apparent in the study. Researchers found that regardless of the variety available in the residence hall or the need to prepare meals in apartment living, foods that can require more preparation or are more perishable are eaten less often. The researchers studied three groups of students -- students in apartments, students living in a residence hall and students living in a Fitness and Wellness Living-Learning Center, a themed residential community that provides students with an onsite fitness facility and educational material -- including a required course on healthy living. Students in all three groups achieved similar levels of physical activity, with around 56 percent meeting the recommended three bouts of exercise weekly. Compared to how they ate at home, the students reported eating the same amount or less of the healthy foods examined. Students in the Living and Learning Center reported eating even less of these healthy foods. The findings suggest that school and college health educators should consider providing students with tools to "internalize that fitness = exercise = healthy food," and to find ways for them to eat healthy in our grab-and-go world.

Alice K. Lindeman, associate professor in the Department of Applied Health Science in IU's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, will discuss the findings Sunday, Oct. 26. Lindeman can be reached at 812-855-6437 and

Co-authors include Carol Kennedy-Armbruster and Jeanne Johnston, Department of Kinesiology.


Contact: Amanda Daugherty
Indiana University

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