BMC Public Health: Review of 2015

BMC Public Health published a vast array of exciting research in 2015, with highly accessed articles covering a range of widely discussed topics. Here, we present an overview of some of the journal’s most frequently read articles of the year.

Is an insecure job better for health than having no job at all? A systematic review of studies investigating the health-related risks of both job insecurity and unemployment.

The link between unemployment and the development of poor health has been the subject of numerous studies. However, there is also stacking evidence to suggest that not all paid employment types are beneficial to our health. In this systematic review by Tae Jun Kim and Olaf von dem Knesebeck, the health related risks of job insecurity were investigated in comparison to those associated with unemployment. The findings demonstrate that job insecurity and unemployment have equally significant effects on mental health. However, job insecurity was more strongly associated with the development of adverse physical health symptoms whereas unemployment showed stronger associations with worse overall health and mortality. The results of this systematic review clearly indicate that future health policies should adopt a dual focus on the health risks posed by unemployment and the need to reduce the risk of job insecurity in the employed population.


Associations between e-cigarette access and smoking and drinking behaviours in teenagers.

e-cigarrette (Ecig Click, Flickr)
Image courtesy of (Ecig Click, Flickr)

A combination of substantial increases in the advertisement of e-cigarettes as healthier alternatives to conventional tobacco products and easy access to them on the market has led to increased concern regarding the use of these products by teenagers. To gain perspective on the extent of the problem, Karen Hughes and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional survey of 14 to 17 year olds in the North West of England. The aim of the study was to determine the association between e-cigarette access and other parameters including demographics, typical smoking behaviors, alcohol usage and methods of accessing both cigarettes and alcohol. Strikingly, 1 in 5 participants confirmed they had accessed e-cigarettes and 16% of these individuals had not previously tried conventional cigarettes. An independent correlation was found between e-cigarette usage and male gender, having parents or guardians that smoke and alcohol use. In conclusion, the findings of this study indicate that children primarily view e-cigarette usage as a recreational activity rather than as a method for cessation of conventional smoking. Therefore, there is an urgent need for the implementation of health policies that control the promotion and sale of e-cigarettes to minors.

In a related blog, Dr Wilson M. Compton of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse, tells us more about the risks e-cigarettes pose to the next generation.


Parental smoking and child poverty in the UK: an analysis of national survey data.

Between 2011 and 2012, it was estimated that approximately 17% of children residing in the UK were living in relative poverty. Children living in relative poverty are known to be at increased risk of poor diet, absence from school, depression and development of other serious potentially long-term health conditions. Therefore, the identification of avoidable factors that contribute to childhood poverty is important to the development of future policies aimed at understanding and reducing its prevalence. Charmaine Belvin and colleagues conducted a study using national survey data to estimate the extent parental smoking, which places an additional burden upon household budgets, exacerbates the development of childhood poverty in the UK. The results of the study indicate that as many as 50%, or 1.1 million, of the children living in poverty in 2012 resided with a least one cigarette-smoking parent. Furthermore, the authors estimated that if expenditures on tobacco were subtracted from overall household income, approximately 432,000 additional children would have been classified as living in poverty at this time.

Co-author Tessa Langley discusses this important research here and emphasizes that if the government prioritizes providing accessible individual-level smoking cessation support it could have a major effect on child poverty.


Comparison of tobacco and alcohol use in films produced in Europe, Latin America and the United States.

Alcohol (Paul Joseph, Flickr)Films are a worldwide source of recreational entertainment and many studies have indicated their potential as powerful promoters of particular products and types of behavior. Furthermore, studies conducted within Europe and the United States have demonstrated that depiction of smoking and alcohol usage in films promotes adoption of these behaviors in adolescents. Research by Inti Barrientos-Gutierrez and colleagues aimed to compare the presence and amount of alcohol or tobacco use in films produced in Europe, Latin America and the United States. The findings demonstrate that films produced in the US were less likely to contain any tobacco use both overall and in films rated suitable for adolescent viewing. In contrast, the overall prevalence of films containing alcohol use was higher than that for tobacco and depiction in US films was similar to that in films produced in the other countries that were investigated. In conclusion, this study indicates that inhibitory tobacco product placement policies in the US have been somewhat successful at influencing the content of films produced in this region. Further studies are required to investigate the effects of alcohol and tobacco depiction in films on adolescents. This could lead to the successful development and implementation of policies designed to reduce the exposure of adolescents to these detrimental behaviors.

The public health charity Action on Smoking and Health explains more on smoking imagery in films in this related blog where Amanda Sandford explains how reducing smoking imagery in social media, music videos and computer games poses a particular challenge and may only be resolved through changes in attitudes towards smoking.


Variation in the effects of family background and birth region on adult obesity: results of a prospective cohort study of a Great Depression-era American cohort.

Several studies have demonstrated the importance of childhood conditions in the development of early and middle adulthood obesity. However, the effects of regional variations in conditions experienced during early life as opposed to characteristics of a specific individual or their family remain underexplored. In an attempt to bridge this gap in knowledge, Hui Zeng and Dmitry Tumin conducted a prospective study on a Great Depression-era American cohort. The authors determined that birth region and educational status influenced the adulthood obesity risk in women but not men. The study indicates that development of polices aimed at increasing education and controlling for risk factors associated with specific regions rather than individuals may result in significant improvements to women’s long-term health. In contrast, adult health behaviors may have more influence on the development of male adulthood obesity than early-life conditions.

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