The Hidden Financial Incentives Behind Your Shorter Hospital Stay

Changing economic incentives — which are not always evident in individual cases — have also played a role in how long patients tend to stay. Recent changes to how hospitals are paid appear to be affecting which patients are admitted and how frequently they are readmitted.

What is clear is that hospital stays used to be a lot longer.

Austin Frakt, New York Times, January 4, 2016

A Kasich Surge? Even a Suspect Poll Can Help This Time of Year

I can’t say whether Mr. Kasich has really surged in New Hampshire; it is always better to look at all the evidence, and there just aren’t many recent polls in New Hampshire.

For good measure, the poll is not a reputable one. The American Research Group has an unusually lengthy record of high-profile misfires, including for almost all of the 2008 Democratic primaries and in the 2012 general election.

Nate Cohn, New York Times, January 20, 2016

How Emotional Responses To Terrorism Shape Attitudes Toward Policies

Probability in Psychology, Politics –

Scientists have been studying reactions to terrorist events, and how those reactions shape public policy. They found emotional response to terror attacks is often out of proportion to actual risk.
So the point of Lerner’s research is actually that our emotional responses to these events is often out of proportion to the actual risk. In other research that she’s conducted, Lerner and others also find, in general, women are more likely to respond to these events with fear and men are more likely to respond with anger. Now, on the plus side, anger reduces your sense of risk, so compared to the fearful people, angry people are less likely to think that they themselves will become victims. But anger produces its own set of biases. Lerner and others find that by lowering our sense of risk, anger simplifies our thinking and increases our willingness to take risks. It increases our willingness to act aggressively.

Shankar Vedantam, NPR, December 22, 2015 

No, You Do Not Have to Drink 8 Glasses of Water a Day

Probability in Health –

If there is one health myth that will not die, it is this: You should drink eight glasses of water a day.

It’s just not true. There is no science behind it.

Many people believe that the source of this myth was a 1945 Food and Nutrition Board recommendation that said people need about 2.5 liters of water a day. But they ignored the sentence that followed closely behind. It read, “Most of this quantity is contained in prepared foods.”

Aaron E. Carroll, New York Times, August 24, 2015

The Typical American Lives Only 18 Miles From Mom

Probability in Relationships –

Yet that picture masks a key fact about the geography of family in the United States: The typical adult lives only 18 miles from his or her mother, according to an Upshot analysis of data from a comprehensive survey of older Americans. Over the last few decades, Americans have become less mobile, and most adults – especially those with less education or lower incomes — do not venture far from their hometowns.

The data reveal a country of close-knit families, with members of multiple generations leaning on one another for financial and practical support. The trend will continue, social scientists say, as baby boomers need more care in old age, and the growing number of two-income families seek help with child care.

QUOCTRUNG BUI and CLAIRE CAIN MILLER, New York Times, Dec. 23, 2015

Americans are drinking themselves to death at record rates

Probability in Health –

Alcohol is killing Americans at a rate not seen in at least 35 years, according to new federal data. Last year, more than 30,700 Americans died from alcohol-induced causes, including alcohol poisoning and cirrhosis, which is primarily caused by alcohol use.

In 2014, there were 9.6 deaths from these alcohol-induced causes per 100,000 people, an increase of 37 percent since 2002.

Christopher Ingraham, Washington Post, December 22, 2015

Why you should always buy the men’s version of almost anything

Probability in Economics –

The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs compared nearly 800 products with female and male versions — meaning they were practically identical except for the gender-specific packaging — and uncovered a persistent surcharge for one of the sexes. Controlling for quality, items marketed to girls and women cost an average 7 percent more than similar products aimed at boys and men.

Danielle Paquette, Washington Post, December 22, 2015