Joel D. Howell is a Professor at the University of Michigan in the departments of Internal Medicine (Medical School), Health Management and Policy (School of Public Health), and History (College of Literature, Science, and the Arts), as well as the Victor C. Vaughan Professor of the History of Medicine. He received his M.D. at the University of Chicago, and stayed at that institution for his internship and residency in internal medicine. At the University of Pennsylvania, he was a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar, and received his Ph.D. in the History and Sociology of Science.
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Funded by Health and Human Services, Department of-National Institutes of Health
Funding Years: 2013 - 2015.
With the aging of society and restructuring of families, it is increasingly important to understand how individuals become disabled. New disability is associated with increased mortality, substantial increases in medical costs (often borne by public payers), and a heavy burden on families and caregivers. While the disablement process?as theorized by Verburgge & Jette and their successors?has traditionally been seen as chronic and gradual, there is increasing recognition that acute events play a critical role in disability. Medical illnesses are not the only potentially disabling events. NIA & NINR recently posted PA-11-265, calling for ?Social and Behavioral Research on the Elderly in Disasters? in recognition that natural disasters are common, but we know little about their impact on health and disability. The National Research Council?s Committee on Population published a report in 2009 documenting not only our ignorance in this area, but, importantly, the potential value of studying disasters to understand fundamental processes in disability and health.
Our long-term research agenda is (a) to test the hypothesis that natural disasters cause enduring morbidity for survivors that is not fully addressed by existing health and welfare programs, and (b) to discover remediable mechanisms that generate that enduring morbidity. Here we propose a nationwide test of the association of living in a disaster area with individuals? long-term disability and health care use. To perform this test, we will combine the unique longitudinal resources of over 16,000 respondents in the linked Health and Retirement Study (HRS) / Medicare files with a newly constructed mapping of all FEMA disaster declarations between 1998 and 2012. We will address key gaps in the existing literature of detailed single-disaster studies with a generalizable perspective across time and space via these Specific Aims:
AIM 1: Quantify the association between the extent of a disaster ? measured as the repair cost to public infrastructure and increases in level of disability among survivors. We will follow respondents for an average of 5 years after the disaster. AIM 2: Quantify the association between the extent of a disaster and increases in the likelihood of hospitalization among survivors. AIM 3: Test the hypothesis that increases in level of disability and likelihood of hospitalization after disasters are worse for those living in counties with higher levels of poverty.
This proposal is specifically responsive to PA-11-265. This proposal is innovative because long-term effects of disasters, particularly for vulnerable older Americans, have been systematically neglected in previous research. It is significant because it will address the public health consequences of a relatively common but understudied exposure. Further, a key contribution of this R21 will be to evaluate the feasibility of the National Research Council conjecture that natural disasters can be studied as exogenous shocks to the environment, and that we can thereby test and elaborate usually endogenous mechanisms in the development of disability.
PI(s): Theodore Iwashyna
Co-I(s): Kenneth Langa, Yun Li, Anne Sales
I serve as Professor of Family Medicine, Director of Japanese Family Health Program, and Co-Director of the Michigan Mixed Methods Research and Scholarship Program at the University of Michigan. In addition to being a family/general doctor fluent in Japanese, I have long been interested in the influence of culture on medical decision making and ethics, and have conducted numerous health research projects, and published numerous papers in English and Japanese.
A longer life may result from the amount of social support present in your life, but is the longevity due to giving or receiving that support?
Imagine that in your busy schedule each week, you typically at least have Wednesday and Saturday nights free as time to spend however you want. Recently, however, one of your close friends had her car break down and now she is wondering whether you would be willing to drive her to and from a yoga class on Wednesday nights for the next three weeks while the car is in the shop. She told you that the class is only about a 15 minute drive each way. She said that you shouldn't feel pressured, and she just thought she'd ask if you had the time to help her out.
- Yes, I'd take the time to help her out.
- No, I'd keep my Wednesday nights free.
Giving vs. receiving: effects on mortality
A research team of investigators at the U of M Institute for Social Research teamed up with CBDSM investigator, Dylan Smith, to conduct a study investigating whether giving or receiving help affects longevity. The researchers noted that receiving social support is likely to be correlated with other aspects of close relationships, including the extent to which individuals give to one another. Based on this, they hypothesized that some of the benefits of social contact, sometimes attributed to receiving support from others, may instead be due to the act of giving support to others.
Using a sample of 423 married couples from the Detroit area, the investigators conducted face-to-face interviews over an 11-month period. The interviews assessed the amount of instrumental support respondents had given to and received from neighbors, friends, and relatives, as well as the amount of emotional support they had given to and received from their spouse. Instrumental support included things like helping with transportation, errands, and child care, whereas emotional support involved having open discussions with a spouse and feeling emotionally supported. Mortality was monitored over a 5-year period by checking daily obituaries and monthly death record tapes provided by the State of Michigan. To control for the possibility that any beneficial effects of giving support are due to a type of mental or physical robustness that underlies both giving and mortality risk, the investigators also measured a variety of demographic, health, and individual difference variables, including social contact and dependence on the spouse.
The investigators found that those who reported giving support to others had a reduced risk of mortality. This was true for both instrumental supoprt given to neighbors, friends, and relatives, and for emotional support given to a spouse. They also found that the relationship between receiving social support and mortality depended on other factors. Specifically, receiving emotional support appeared to reduce the risk of mortality when dependence on spouse, but not giving emotional support, was controlled. Receiving instrumental support from others actually increased the risk of mortality when giving support, but not dependence on spouse, was controlled.
What can we make of these findings?
It appears from these results that the benefits of social contact are mostly associated with giving rather than receiving. Measures that assess receiving alone may be imprecise, producing different results as a function of dependence and giving support.
Given the correlational nature of this study, it is not possible to determine conclusively that giving support accounts for the social benefit traditionally associated with receiving support. Nevertheless, the results of the present study should be considered a strong argument for the inclusion of measures of giving support in future studies of social support, and perhaps more importantly, researchers should be cautious of assuming that the benefits of social contact reside in receiving support.
It's true that when helping others out, you might have to give up some of your own time, but based on the above findings, it looks like in the long run you may end up ultimately gaining more time.
Read the article:
Providing social support may be more beneficial than receiving it: results from a prospective study of mortality.
Brown S, Nesse RM, Vinokur AD, Smith DM. Psychological Science 2003;14:320-327.
Michael Volk was an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the University of Michigan. His clinical practice focuses on the care of patients with liver disease, including those undergoing liver transplantation and those with hepatocellular carcinoma. His research interests focus on the ethics of resource allocation, patient and physician decision making, and chronic disease management. In particular, he has conducted a series of studies designed to improve the way decisions are made about using high risk liver transplant organs.