Research Roundup for June 2019

The latest research from SFU’s academics

Photo: Courtesy SFU News

By: Paul Choptuik, Coordinating News Editor

Socioeconomic status correlated to heart attack and stroke risk

Research published in The Lancet has found a link between education level and cardiovascular disease and stroke risk.

Professor Scott Lear, a member of SFU’s Faculty of Health Sciences and the Pfizer/Heart & Stroke Foundation Chair in Cardiovascular Prevention Research, was one of over 40 authors of the findings.

The study, conducted in 20 countries, used education level and a household wealth index based on assets and “housing characteristics” to determine socioeconomic status.

The study had over 150,000 participants, from five low-income, 11 middle-income, and four high-income countries. Over 10,000 participants were located in Canada.

The study found that education, not wealth, was the socioeconomic factor that was linked most closely to cardiovascular disease, especially in low and middle-income countries.

With education being such a strong indicator or determinant of health, education is actually what we consider a modifiable factor, whereas wealth is not as modifiable,” Lear told SFU News.

“If we give people money they don’t suddenly become healthy, but if we strive to better educate our population, that will result in improved health because there is a more direct link between education and health outcomes.”

The research is part of the Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiological (PURE) Study, which currently has 225,000 participants in 25 countries.

Potential smartphone solutions for women’s reproductive health in rural areas

Zhendong Cao, SFU graduate and research assistant in the school of engineering, has developed a method to use smartphone cameras that in the future may help with diagnostic testing.

Taking a smartphone that has software modified to analyze the coloured pixels and UV light in a photo and coupling it with a container that Cao has also created to block out light and interference, the device hopes to carry out testing similar to that of a microplate reader, which is both heavy and costly.

This could be used to see how much estrogen is in a sample, as this hormone leaves a “signature” based on color absorbance, which in turn could help determine reproductive health.

According to SFU News, “if commercialized, health-care workers could see the results provided by the smartphone testing kit to inform female patients about their daily reproductive status in real time so they can make decisions about family planning and overall reproductive health.”

In the long term, the technology could possibly be used for cancer detection, food safety, or livestock health, according to Dr. Ash Parameswaran, Cao’s thesis supervisor.  

Happiness in giving found in ex-offenders

Research published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology has demonstrated that ex-offenders who spent a small amount of money on others felt more happy than their counterparts who spent it on themselves. 

The research was led by Katherine Hanniball, a clinical psychology PhD student in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Hanniball recently won a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship for $150,000 to support her studies.

Participants were split into two groups. One group spent money on themselves and the other group gave to charity. 

According to SFU Communications, previous research has found links between generosity and happiness in other groups, but this study is the first to do so with ex-offenders. 

With files from SFU News.