Author Archives: Christopher Joseph Kiefer

Indicators of Depression

Mental health conditions affect more people than you would think. One of the biggest issues with diagnosing these conditions is that many people who have them do not want others to know about the condition. Penn State’s campus wide Mental Health Awareness Week is a great reminder that everyone could use some support every once in a while. A study done by Ann Margriet Pot and other professionals from various institutions in the Netherlands set out to determine the biggest indicators of depression in Nursing homes located in the northwest portion of the country.


333 nursing home patients from 14 different homes in the Netherlands were examined. Patients who were under 55 years of age and those who were only admitted for short stays of less than 6 months were excluded. The team used the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) to determine the levels of depression in patients. Any score higher than 10 determined sub-clinical depression, however this level of depression did not meet national standards for diagnosable depression. The GDS is a 30 question survey that takes many different variables into effect. These variables include age, gender, partner status, widowhood, education, length of stay, and various physical impairments.


Patients who showed signs of depression were classified into one of three groups: sub-clinical depression, minor depression and major depression. Most of the patients fell into one of these three groups, with sub-clinical depression being the most common. Results showed that women were more likely to have major depression than men. However, there was a larger sample size of women (women accounted for nearly 70% of patients surveyed). According to the results, patients with visual impairments were most likely to be depressed with 27.8% having major depression and nearly 100% having some sort of depression. Following visual impairment were loneliness with 22.5% being majorly depressed and functional limitations with 20.9%.


While we cannot control physical impairments like blindness or functional limitations, we can make a difference in a person’s loneliness. If a friend or anyone else starts to become distant or it seems like they may be lonely, make sure that they know you are there to support them. Do not overlook the goals of Penn State’s Mental Health Awareness Week. We can make a difference!


Works Cited:

Jongenelis, K., A.m. Pot, A.m.h. Eisses, A.t.f. Beekman, H. Kluiter, and M.w. Ribbe. “Prevalence and Risk Indicators of Depression in Elderly Nursing Home Patients: The AGED Study.” Journal of Affective Disorders 83.2-3 (2004): 135-42. Web. 31 Nov. 2016.

Connection Between BMI and Intelligence

BMI or Body Mass Index has become an extremely popular tool in recent years for determining health and health risk for all people but specifically children. I remember being screened once every year in middle school and high school to determine if I was underweight, overweight, or just right. This was one of the biggest days of the year, partially because we missed class for it, but that is neither here nor there. BMI is an important statistic because of its health implications, but what other implications could it have? Could someone’s BMI predict their Intelligence Quotient (IQ)? A A Tabriz and a team of scientists from The University of North Carolina, John’s Hopkins University, and The Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences in Tehran, Iran wanted to find out.


The team, led by Tabriz, selected students from 74 different schools in 13 different provinces of Iran. They chose a diverse population to account for social and economic differences in different regions of the country. All together 1,151 preschool children were selected. Each child had to be accompanied by a parent and both child and parent were surveyed for data. Each pair was given a questionnaire that included questions about age, gender, history of education, location of home, age and education of parent, type of child birth, type of infant feeding and household income.  After the questionnaire was completed, students had their height and weight measured. Height was measured to the nearest tenth of a centimeter and weight was measured to the nearest tenth of a kilogram. With these measurements, the team was able to calculate each child’s BMI. Next, the team used the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, 4th Edition to evaluate the intelligence of the children. Children were classified based on results. A score of over 130 as classified as very superior, between 120-129 was superior, 110-119 was normal brilliant, 90-109 was normal, 80-89 was normal awkward, 70-79 was borderline and below 70 was classified as mental retardation.


Tabriz and his team found a strong association between intelligence score and income, location of home, delivery type, type of infant feeding and parent’s education. Children that were delivered by caesarean section, children that were breast fed and those who lived in metropolitan areas were found to have higher scores. The only findings in regards to BMI were that students with abnormal BMI (either over or underweight) were more likely to have lower intelligence scores. However, there were too many other variables that had strong associations to say if BMI is a strong indicator.



Tabriz A., Sohrabi M., Parsay S., Abadi A., Kiapour N., Aliyari M., Ahmadi F., Roodaki A. Relation of intelligence quotient and body mass index in preschool children: A community-based cross-sectional study. Nutr. Diabetes. 2015;5:e176. doi: 10.1038/nutd.2015.27. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Cross Ref]

Does TV Affect Your GPA?

Growing up, I was always told not to watch too much TV or not to watch at night. Some friends even had restrictions set by their parents that limited the amount of TV they could watch. As a child, this was not only annoying but also confusing. What harm could Spongebob do? Turns out our parents were right. According to a study by Angela Hershberger, the amount of TV you watch can directly affect your GPA.


Her study observed 50 students at Indiana University at South Bend. All of the students were a part of an entry level psychology class at IUSB. Angela used a survey to gather her data. The survey included questions about demographics, how frequently the subject watched TV, what shows they watched, what shows they watched regularly and their GPA. Students were asked to describe their habits and GPA in both High School and College. Angela’s goal was to find if there was any correlation between watching TV and academic performance.


After analyzing the data, there were some mixed results. There was fairly significant evidence that the number of hours spent watching TV in high school affected high school GPA, but no evidence that TV had any impact on college grades. It was determined that for every additional hour per week spent watching TV in high school subsequently lead to a .03 drop in GPA.


I am not surprised to see the numbers regarding high school students. However, this is a small sample size and it is only one study. Also, having students recall how often they watched TV in the past could result in inaccurate numbers.  I would need to see a larger study in order to make any changes in my lifestyle, but I do think it is fair to say that time spent in the library is more productive than time spent staring at a screen.


Works Cited:

Hershberger, Angela. The “Evils” of Television: The Amount of Television Viewing and School Performance Levels. Dr. Carolyn Schult, 2002. Web. 31 Nov. 2016. <>.

Association Between Jogging and Mortality

Physical activity has always been a huge component of living a healthy lifestyle. Walking, jogging, and running are some of the most popular methods of achieving this healthy lifestyle that we all seek, but how much does it actually help? How much do you need to run to make a difference? Is there such thing as too much fitness walking? A team of researchers in Denmark set out to find the answers to these questions.


Peter Schnohr, MD, DMSc from Frederiksberg Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark led a study to determine the effects of jogging on mortality. The study observed 5,048 citizens of Copenhagen; 1,098 were considered healthy joggers and 3,950 were considered healthy non-joggers. Surveys were administered between 2001 and 2003. The surveys considered quantity, frequency and perceived pace of jogging. Based on the results, participants were placed into 1 of 4 groups: sedentary, light activity 2-4 hrs/wk, light activity 4+ hrs/wk or vigorous activity 2-4 hrs/wk, and vigorous activity 4+ hrs/wk.


Participants were followed up with in 2013 or at their time of death. To keep track of deaths, the team used each participants personal ID number and checked it against the Danish Central Person Register. After analyzing the data, it was determined that those who jogged less than once per week and those who jogged 2-3 times per week had the lowest Hazard risk (HR) with 0.29 and 0.32 ratings respectively. Participants who jogged over 3 times per week showed no increased or decreased HR in comparison to those who were considered sedentary. It was also found that slower paces, moderate and slow, were associated with lower HR (0.38 and 0.51).


Based on these results, in order to improve your chances of living longer, one does not have to do much. Getting outside and walking or jogging at a moderate pace once per week can make a difference, so get out and exercise!




Schnohr P, O’Keefe JH, Marott JL, Lange P, Jensen GB. Dose of Jogging and Long-Term Mortality: The Copenhagen City Heart Study. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2015;65(5):411-419. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2014.11.023.

Association Between Coffee and Mortality

I never drank coffee growing up. My dad only drank his coffee black and the taste was far too bitter for me. That was, of course, until I arrived at Penn State. After my first long night in the library, coffee became a necessity. As I write this post, there is a cup of coffee on my desk. I would be willing to bet that most college students drink at least a little bit of coffee. According to researchers from the Neurology departments at the University of Columbia and the University of Miami (FL), there is some good news for coffee drinkers. The research team, led by Hannah Gardener of the University of Miami, found that drinking coffee had an inverse relationship with mortality.


The study was conducted using a population found in Northern Manhattan. In order to be eligible to participate, a person must have been at least 40 years old, with no history of stroke, cancer, or myocardial infarction. The final population came to a total of 2461 participants. These participants were given a questionnaire to gauge the amount of coffee (decaf and normal) and tea they consumed.  Coffee drinkers were placed into different groups based on their consumption (less than 1 cup/mo, 1/mo-4/wk, 5-7/wk, 2-3/d, and more than 4 cups/day). Tea drinkers were similarly grouped (less than 1 cup/mo, 1/mo-4/wk, 5-7/wk, and more than 2 cups/day).


After grouping all of the participants, the researchers observed their mortality rates over the next 11 years (2001-2012). Over this period of time, 863 of the 2461 had died. After analyzing the results, the team found that for every extra cup of coffee consumed per week, there was a 7% reduction in rate of mortality.  Furthermore, for people who consumed over 4 cups per day, every additional cup accounted for a 9% reduction in mortality rate.


Because this is only one study, I wouldn’t suggest going out and chugging coffee all day to live longer, but these results certainly will not deter me from drinking an extra cup here and there.



Gardener H, Rundek T, Wright CB, Elkind MS, Sacco RL. Coffee and tea consumption are inversely associated with mortality in a multiethnic urban population. J Nutr 2013;143:1299–308. [PMC free article][PubMed]

Golf and Mortality

Golf is a very popular sport with millions of players across the globe. I recently picked up the game and while my performance is less than exemplary, I still have a great time playing and I hope to continue to play throughout my future. This sport is especially popular with retired adults as it is not terribly hard on your body. Recent research from Sweden suggests that it may be worth while to start playing if you have not already.

Bahman Farahmand from The Institute of Environmental Medicine in Stockholm, Sweden and four others set out to find a link between golf and mortality rates in his home country. Their study compared the Swedish Golf Federations membership registry with the National Mortality Registry. The study was carried out starting in January of 2006 and finishing in April of 2007. At the beginning of their research, there were 300,818 registered golfers in Sweden. All Swedish citizens have a 10-digit ID number that is used un all national registries, making it easy to compare the two lists. While looking at the 300,000+ golfers, the researchers noted things such as age, sex, membership dates, and golf handicap. After the 15-month test period was over, the team recorded 1,234 deaths among Swedish golfers. The team would then measure these results against the national mortality rate to determine the SMR (Standardized Mortality Ratio).

After breaking up the golfers into groups based on age, sex, and handicap, 100% of the groups were found with 95% confidence to have a SMR below 1.00, meaning they are less likely to die at any given time than the general population of Sweden. Furthermore, golfers with the lowest handicap (a measure of golf score) had the lowest SMR, meaning that the better or more frequent golfers had a lower mortality rate.

Even though this was only one study, it included over 300,000 subjects, making it more reliable. As I previously stated, I just started playing golf. If this study is accurate, then there is even more reason to keep playing!



Works Cited

Farahmand, B., Broman, G., De Faire, U., Vågerö, D. and Ahlbom, A. (2009), Golf: a game of life and death – reduced mortality in Swedish golf players. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 19: 419–424. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0838.2008.00814.x

Core Strength and Athleticism

I’ve been an athlete for almost my entire life. From youth soccer in kindergarten to club lacrosse at Penn State, sports have been ingrained in my life for a long time. Training has always been important to performance in games, whether it has been practicing on a field or spending time in the weight room. One constant throughout nearly my entire athletic career has been core workouts. It’s been beaten into my head that core strength is key to performance, but is it really that important?

Researchers from the University of Kentucky wanted to find out. The team was made up of 4 students and Professor Terry Malone from the Division of Physical Therapy. They designed a correlational study to determine how much core strength impacted athletic performance. 35 student athletes from Asbury College volunteered to participate in the study.  The athletes came from a wide variety of teams including basketball, soccer, tennis, volleyball, and swimming. These athletes were asked to complete 5 different tests: Leg lowering (core stability test), vertical jump, medicine ball throw, 40-yard dash, and the T-test, an agility test similar to the shuttle run.

The first test, leg lowering, was performed by having the athlete lay on their back on a table. The athlete then had a stabilizer bladder inflated with 40 pounds of pressure placed under their lower back and were instructed to adjust their pelvic region into the posterior tilt position. From there, the athlete’s legs were raised to a 90° angle. They were then instructed to lower their legs slowly until they could no longer stay in the posterior tilt position. The angle at which they were unable to keep the position was recorded. Athletes with more stable cores were able to reach lower leg angles.  After the stability test was administered, the remainder of the tests were carried out.

Malone and his team of students determined that core strength and stability only had a significant correlation with the medicine ball throw (p=.023). All the other correlations were statistically insignificant.

It can generally be agreed on that attributes of speed (40-dash), agility (T-test), and power (vertical jump) are good indicators of athletic ability. The team from The University of Kentucky was unable to find a connection between any of these tests and core stability. While there may not be significant evidence that core strength has a large impact on performance, an athletes core is still an important part of the body to focus on, so it would be unwise to stop training in that area.



Works Cited

Sharrock, Chris et al. “A PILOT STUDY OF CORE STABILITY AND ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE: IS THERE A RELATIONSHIP?” International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy 6.2 (2011): 63–74. Print.

College can be hectic. There is so much to do and so little time. After accounting for classes, homework, studying there isn’t much free time left in the day. Throw in spending time with friends, sports teams, and clubs and there is even less time to rest.  I often find myself in the library late at night studying for an exam or writing a paper. It might be important to cut down time in the library and get to bed earlier. How much does quantity and quality of sleep impact GPA?  A survey was conducted on students at the University of Minnesota to determine just that.

The study was conducted by Megan Lowry, Kayla Dean, and Keith Manders from the Department of Psychology at the University of Minnesota.  The survey consisted of 19 questions, most of which came from the Groninger Sleep Quality Questionnaire.  Other questions focused on how many nights per week they got less than 5 hours of sleep, how many hours of sleep they got per night, and how many times they had stayed up all night studying.  A total of 103 students were surveyed in 3 different classes. Of those 103, 50 were male and 53 were female. In addition to questions about sleep quality and quantity, students were also asked to report their GPA.

The study found no relationship between either number of “all-nighters” or Groninger score and GPA.  However, they did find that average hours of sleep per night had a significant impact on grade point average.

It is easy to rationalize spending endless hours in the library based solely on amount of material covered, but it may be smarter to put down the books and get to sleep. I am definitely going to think about this the next time I find myself awake at 3:00 a.m. studying.



Works Cited

Lowry, Megan, Kayla Dean, and Keith Manders. “The Link Between Sleep Quantity and Academic Performance for the College Student.” The University of Minnesota Undergraduate Journal of Psychology (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.

Nicotine and Alcohol Co-Use


How many of your friends smoke cigarettes or use tobacco products on a regular basis? How many of your friends smoke at parties or consider themselves only a social smoker? I would be willing to bet that the latter is more common. I know that on more than one occasion in the past I have woken up and regretted the cigarette that I bummed from someone at the Gaff the night before, but why is social smoking so common?

According to this study published in The Official Journal of the International Society for Neurochemistry, booze and tobacco go together like peanut butter and jelly. The study was conducted by Rishi Sharma and his team of colleagues at The University of Missouri. Rishi states that based on recent research, nicotine effects the brain through the basal forebrain. In an article about this study, written by Dana Dovey on, it notes that the basal forebrain controls things such as attentiveness and reflexes. Could the stimulant attributes of nicotine effect the depressant properties of alcohol?

The team from the University of Missouri tested this question by experimenting on 20 male adult rats. Each rat had two electrodes implanted to record data while they slept. The electrodes measured three levels of sleep: wakeful, NREM, and REM. These 20 rats were divided into four groups of five rats each.  The first group of rats, the control group, was administered small doses of artificial cerebrospinal fluid and water. The next group was given nicotine and water. One group was given artificial cerebrospinal fluid and diluted ethanol (35% alcohol). The final group was given both nicotine and alcohol.

Rishi and his team found that the rats that received alcohol fell asleep faster and spent more time in REM sleep than those in the control group. Rats that were given both alcohol and nicotine stayed awake longer than the rats given only alcohol, but still fell asleep faster than the control group.

So why do people smoke when they drink? Maybe their bodies are telling them that they need a pick me up. According Sharma, tobacco enhances the effects of alcohol, making it more enjoyable for the drinker. This combination of deterring sleep while enhancing the experience could explain co-use. No mechanism has been identified yet.  Regardless, both alcohol and nicotine are very dangerous drugs that account for many deaths every year.  One beer or cigarette will not kill you, but it is important to avoid abuse of these chemicals





Works Cited

Dovey, Dana. “Cigarettes And Alcohol: Science Finally Figures Out Why We …” Medical Daily. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.


Sharma, R., Lodhi, S., Sahota, P. and Thakkar, M. M. (2015), Nicotine administration in the wake-promoting basal forebrain attenuates sleep-promoting effects of alcohol. J. Neurochem., 135: 323–331. doi:10.1111/jnc.13219


Curls for Higher Test Scores?

We all know what it’s like being a college student. We are all putting effort forth, some more than others, to obtain good grades and eventually graduate. The stress to get good grades can sometimes be overwhelming. I know that all my friends and I have spent long hours in the library before exams. That seems pretty consistent across campus. Sometimes I find it hard to fit other things into my schedule around exams and spend all my available time studying. You may think this is the best strategy to succeed, but, according to a study performed at The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign by Alexander N. Slade and Susan M. Klies, how you spend your time outside of the library has an effect on your grades as well.

The study observed 408 first-year University of Illinois Medical School students, across four classes, beginning in 2006. The purpose of the study was to determine if regular use of campus recreation facilities had any effect on exam performance.  The study observed both the use of recreation facilities, determined by swipes of each student’s ID card at the facilities, and exam scores throughout the students first year on campus. Recreation facility use was only measured during the 21-day period leading up to each exam.

Students who attended a recreation facility daily or close to daily performed significantly higher than those who did not and averagedcr-graph-1 a whopping 8.3% higher on exams. Nearly 50% of the students observed did not attend a campus recreation facility at all during the 21-day period. While this skews the data, it can still be seen that the students participating in regular active recreation are consistently scoring above average.  Slade and Klies also determined that for each additional day that a student used a recreation facility on campus, they scored .18% higher.

While .18% may seem like a minute difference, it is still a difference.  Throughout your high school and college careers, how many times have you missed a grade by one percentage point or less? When you take the 21-day period leading up to an exam into account, an increase of 1% translates to less than two additional days in the gym per week. That is not a huge commitment.

As Penn State students, we have access to some of the largest and nicest recreation facilities in the country. Take advantage of them! Who knows, maybe a trip to the gym to blow off some steam could save your grade.




Works Cited

Slade, Alexander N., and Susan M. Kies. “The Relationship between Academic Performance and Recreation Use among First-Year Medical Students.” Medical Education Online 20 (2015): 10.3402/meo.v20.25105. PMC. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.