Health Briefs

Health Briefs

Health & Fitness

November 30, 2003

Music can strike up a better attitude

All types of music may improve moods.

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University asked 47 students, slightly more than half of them music majors, to keep diaries of their listening habits for two weeks, including how they felt before and after listening to music.

If the students were already in a positive frame of mind, music increased those emotions, the study found. If they were feeling pessimistic or angry, the negative mood decreased.

Rock and heavy metal were the most commonly listened to kinds of music. The study was published in a recent issue of Psychology and Education.

Firm mattress is found harder on back

People with back pain have long been told to invest in a firm mattress -- the more solid, the better. Now it turns out that a firm mattress may not be the best choice.

In one of the first studies to put mattress firmness to the test, scientists from the Kovacs Foundation, a nonprofit Spanish research institution, swapped out the beds of 84 men and 229 women with chronic low back pain. They randomly replaced the beds with either a firm spring mattress or a medium-firm spring mattress.

Before and after the experiment, participants were asked to rate the severity of their back pain while lying in bed and when arising, as well as how disabling their back pain was.

After three months, those who slept on medium-firm mattresses reported less back pain during the daytime, while lying in bed and when getting up in the morning than those who slept on firm mattresses. Those with medium-firm mattresses also took fewer painkillers, according to results published recently in the British medical journal, The Lancet.

Pains cut down on productivity

Headaches, backaches and arthritis pain may not keep people home in bed, but they seem to affect how much gets done on the job.

A survey of nearly 29,000 working Americans found that about 13 percent had fewer productive hours in a two-week period because of four common types of pain. Overall, more than half of the surveyed workers reported a headache, backache, arthritis or other musculoskeletal pain in the previous two weeks. On average, pain cost workers 4.6 hours of productive time each week.

Lead researcher Walter F. Stewart, director of the Center for Health Research & Rural Advocacy for Geisinger Health Systems in Danville, Pa., said workers in pain might have trouble concentrating, work more slowly than usual or even put their heads down for a spell.

The study, which was reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, put the price of the lost hours at $61.2 billion.

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