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J Epidemiol Community Health. 2007 October; 61(10): 841.
PMCID: PMC2652981

IN THIS ISSUE

Monitoring Editor: Carlos Alvarez‐Dardet and John R Ashton, Joint Editors

HOW WE LIVE NOW: THE CHALLENGE OF YOUTH CULTURE AND LIVING IN THE MODERN WORLD

In this issue, we touch in various ways on the condition of children and young people and how contemporary culture affects their public health.

In a lead editorial, a group from the WHO European Centre for Environment and Health make a call to arms to prevent the leading cause of death in young people: road traffic injuries. These account for 1.2 million deaths annually worldwide and 127 000 in the European region, with a particular impact on under 25 year olds. For every death 20 people are hospitalised and 70 require outpatient treatment. Yet injury prevention is barely on the radar of Departments of Health. The WHO Group draws further attention to the wider impact of traffic on health through traffic‐related air pollution and obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and, in the future, through gas emissions and the contribution to global warming.

See page 842

There is something wrong about how we have shaped modern environmental conditions for the next generation; the moral panic over environmental safety pushes young people away from an active engagement with their environment through traditional play activities, towards sedentary lifestyles and more dysfunctional interactions with chemicals and self‐medication of various sorts (see this month's Gallery).

See page 877

Perhaps one of the most significant phenomena affecting young people in the post‐Second World War period has been the rise of youth culture, with its intimate connection to popular music. Rock and pop stars are frequently characterised as indulging in high‐risk behaviours, with high profile deaths among such musicians creating an impression of premature mortality. However, quantitative studies have been lacking until now. This month, Bellis and the group from Liverpool John Moores University's Centre for Public Health begin to correct that gap in a novel study that compares the survival rate of 1064 famous popular musicians from their point of fame with matched populations in North America and Europe (JRA must declare an interest as one of the authors). Hard evidence is provided for the first time: from 3–25 years' post‐fame, both North American and European pop stars experience significantly higher mortality than matched populations (with worse effects in North America than Europe). This is not only an occupational health issue for the music industry, but has significant implications for youth public health—these role models set the tone for juvenile lifestyles. The globalisation of these lifestyles is rapidly underway, and yet we are so close to this—as with the toll of injuries from road traffic—that we seem to fail to prioritise it as a health issue. The fish are the last ones to see the water.1

See page 896

Probably the Old Testament had something to say on these matters: Huisman has discovered that Karasek's job stress model (a combination of high demand and low control at work will lead to psychological stress and ill health) can account for King Saul's fate. Put in a double bind in the war against the Philistines, Saul needed to wait for the arrival of the religious leader Samuel to make a decision about how to proceed, but needed to do something anyway. He acted outside his social and religiously permitted limits, was punished severely and had a depressive breakdown.

See page 882

Other main offerings this month are:

  • in Public Health Past and Present, Anderson documents how community pharmacy has been reinventing itself as part of public health in Great Britain;
  • De Maio explores alternatives to the Gini coefficient for operationalising income inequality;
  • Riva and colleagues from Montreal, Canada, explore the issues involved for the next generation of research into small area effects on health;
  • Egan and a Medical Research Council group from Glasgow have set about developing an evidence base for the impact of privatising public utilities on health;
  • Wainwright et al find that individual differences in a Sense of Coherence (SOC) are associated with healthy lifestyle choices independent of social class and education;
  • Zambon et al from Veneto, Italy, evaluate the effect of demerit point systems on seat belt use and health outcomes, and conclude that they are beneficial.

See pages 844, 849, 853, 862, 871, 877

Research findings include:

  • greater availability of physical activity resources nearby appears to differentially benefit women living in lower socioeconomic status neighbours;
  • although taller stature, indicating favourable childhood conditions, is associated with a decreased risk of depression, this benefit is eliminated by financial disadvantage at older ages;
  • adolescent binge drinking is a risk behaviour associated with significant later adversity and social exclusion;
  • widespread human rights violations in conflict zones in eastern Burma are associated with significantly increased morbidity and mortality;
  • sick leave may provide an important risk marker for identifying groups at high risk of a disability pension, especially for psychiatric diagnoses.

See pages 882, 891, 902, 908, 915

And finally, from Tokyo, a short version of the Sense of Coherence scale for use in population surveys.

See page 921

References

1. Lowell L, Ashton J R. A fish is the last one to see the water. J Epidemiol Community Health 2007. 61498

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