By Steve Pointing 30/05/2016 1


A few quirky social studies have appeared in the science literature, reporting data that the authors variously claim links increased cancer deaths to economic downturn, identifies a ‘value’ for corporate misconduct, and shows that the effort you put in to a relationship depends on how your partner stacks up against the competition!

Is there a link between economic downturn and a rise in cancer?

New research published in the leading medical journal The Lancet this week describes how over a quarter of a million cancer deaths were correlated with economic downturn in developed economies after the 2008 financial collapse. The study by a team from Harvard School of Public Health studied over 2 billion people in 70 OECD countries.

They concluded those without a universal healthcare provision such as the USA, Russia and several central and eastern European countries displayed a high correlation between economic downturn and certain treatable cancers, notably breast, prostate and colorectal cancer in both genders. These increases were mitigated by countries with universal health coverage such as New Zealand, but it is still sobering to think that in any so-called ‘developed’ nation economic success is linked so strongly to population mortality.

Does corporate misconduct actually lead to more productive workers?

Society conditions us to view ‘deviant’ behaviour in the workplace as unacceptable, whether it be stealing from the office biscuit fund or squirrelling away millions in corporate fraud. It was therefore quite surprising to read that new evidence from a study by scientists at Johns Hopkins University shows how this sort of deviant behaviour may in some cases lead to better corporate outcomes.  A study followed 200 test subjects and assessed their response to simulated deviant behaviour at work.

A strong response emerged where non-deviant workers put increased effort into their work and this led to overall increases in organisational productivity. Good news for bosses, but only partly – because the phenomenon was seen for staff who identified themselves strongly with the corporate identity of their employer, but it had no effect on slackers! The effect also depended in part upon the scale of wrongdoing, with the authors identifying that ‘moderate deviancy’ elicited the greatest response as the ‘good’ workers saw their increased efforts as a way to compensate for the naughtiness and enhance organisational reputation.

A happy romance depends on how cute your partners rivals are!

University of Texas study showed how satisfaction with your relationship and the energy you devote to keeping a partner depends on how your partner compares with other potential mates! Scientists quizzed over 250 men and women who were in long term relationships, and asked them to score the opposite sex against 27 traits related to their potential ideal partner, as well as their level of satisfaction in their relationship. The results showed satisfaction was not correlated with perception of an ideal partner, but rather to how much others in the dating pool matched that ideal – in other words how your partner compared to other potential partners out there.

Those with partners more desirable than them were more satisfied regardless of whether their partner matched their ideal, but those more desirable were only satisfied if their partner was more desirable than the competition! In biological terms this is understandable because mate selection is arguably the key activity related to ‘fitness’ of your family gene pool.

For more on these stories and other slightly quirky science news, listen to my Dear Science radio show and podcast on 95 bFM radio every Wednesday. I am back on the show this week after a break due to a family illness, and huge thanks to the awesome Shaun Hendy and Allan Blackman for standing in during my absence – you rock!


One Response to “A link between the economy, cancer and corporate deviancy?”

  • “a quarter of a million cancer deaths were correlated with economic downturn in developed economies after the 2008 ”

    I hope the authors can tell the difference between correlation and causation.

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