When cash is your enemy

Researchers have known for years that parting from cash can be a psychologically painful experience for many people — much more so than spending money with a credit or debit card. The emotional discomfort is significant enough to motivate people to spend less if they start making purchases in cash.

While cash can be a positive influence when it comes to decreasing debt and impulsive spending, could this pain associated with parting from money have a negative impact in a different scenario — specifically in investment situations? To answer this question, Rod Duclos, a marketing researcher at Western University in Canada, and Mansur Khamitov, an assistant professor at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, conducted a series of experiments that compared decisions people made when they had cash versus dematerialized money, such as credit cards.

In the first experiment, one group of participants was offered $5 in cash after completing a word puzzle task and the second group was offered $5 on their university debit cards after completing the task. While processing the payment, the researchers offered participants a deal: They could either walk away with their $5 immediately or walk away with nothing and return in a week to collect $7. The responses showed that 78 percent of the participants who received the money on their debit cards opted to come back a week later to collect the $7, but only 49 percent of those in the cash group chose to come back later for more money.

“Cash makes consumers more impatient,” says Duclos, who works in the Ivey Business School at Western University. “Most people would rather take a smaller amount of cash immediately than wait to receive more cash later.”

The researchers were eager to investigate whether they could influence participants who were receiving cash to be more patient and come back a week later for more money. To activate a mindset focused on security and longer-term goals, the researchers asked one group of participants in the cash condition to write about a product that helped them prevent undesirable outcomes, like a bike helmet that protects the brain in an accident. The results showed that after this protective mindset had been activated, the cash and university card groups were nearly equally willing to return a week later for $7 rather than walking away with $5.

“By activating a mindset that is more focused on being prudent and less impulsive, we can increase the tolerance of pain from parting with cash,” says Duclos.

Although many people conduct financial transactions electronically, 10 to 20 percent of workers in the United States collect part or all of their wages in cash, according to the paper. This includes cooks, waiters, cleaners and babysitters. The percentage is even higher in countries like India, where more than 90 percent of workers receive wages in cash.

“These people are at a chronic disadvantage when it comes saving more money for the future,” Duclos says. This is because cash-paying jobs tend to be more physically demanding and require earlier retirement, the wages are lower, and it is harder to part with cash to invest in the future.

“It’s important to educate people about the subconscious tendency to cling to cash,” Duclos says. “My hope is that people will be motivated to change their behavior if we remind them that a small investment now can create a large bonus later.”

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Materials provided by Society for Consumer Psychology. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Just an hour of weekly walking staves off disability

Just one hour a week of brisk walking — as if you are late to an appointment or trying to make a train — staves off disability in older adults with arthritis pain, or aching or stiffness in a knee, hip, ankle or foot, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study.

“This is less than 10 minutes a day for people to maintain their independence. It’s very doable,” said lead author Dorothy Dunlop, professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “This minimum threshold may motivate inactive older adults to begin their path toward a physically active lifestyle with the wide range of health benefits promoted by physical activity.”

The study will be published April 1 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

An estimated 14 million older adults in the U.S. have symptomatic knee osteoarthritis, which is the most common form of osteoarthritis. Approximately two in five people with osteoarthritis — most of whom have it in their lower joints — develop disability limitations.

The study found an hour of weekly moderate-to-vigorous physical activity allowed older adults to maintain their ability to perform daily tasks like getting dressed or cross a street before a traffic light walk signal changed.

The weekly hour of exercise reduced their risk of mobility disability (walking too slowly to safely cross a street or less than one meter per second) by 85 percent and their risk of activities of daily living disability (difficulty performing morning routine tasks such as walking across a room, bathing and dressing) by almost 45 percent.

Four years after the start of the study, 24 percent of adults who did not get the weekly hour of brisk physical activity were walking too slowly to safely cross the street, and 23 percent reported problems performing their morning routine.

Study investigators analyzed four years of data from more than 1,500 adults in the national Osteoarthritis Initiative from Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Columbus and Pawtucket, Rhode Island. The adults all had pain, aching or stiffness in lower extremity joints from osteoarthritis but were free of disability when they began the study. Their physical activity was monitored using accelerometers.

“Our goal was to see what kind of activity would help people remain free of disability,” Dunlop said.

Federal guidelines recommend older adults with arthritis should participate in low-impact activity. For substantial health benefits including reducing the risk for heart disease and many other chronic diseases, these guidelines recommend older adults participate in at least 2.5 hours a week of moderate-intensity activity.

But that level of activity can be daunting for inactive older adults with lower extremity pain, Dunlop said.

“We hope this new public health finding will motivate an intermediate physical activity goal,” Dunlop said. “One hour a week is a stepping stone for people who are currently inactive. People can start to work toward that.”

Other Northwestern authors include Rowland Chang, Jing Song, Jungwha Lee, Pamela Semanik and Leena Sharma.

The research was supported in part by National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants R01-AR054155, P30-AR072579 and P60-AR48098, and the Falk Medical Trust. The Osteoarthritis Initiative data were funded through a public-private partnership comprising five contracts (N01-AR-2-2258, N01-AR-2-2259, N01-AR-2-2260, N01-AR-2-2261, N01-AR-2-2262) awarded by NIH.

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Materials provided by Northwestern University. Original written by Marla Paul. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

‘Smart’ pajamas could monitor and help improve sleep

If you’ve ever dreamed about getting a good night’s sleep, your answer may someday lie in data generated by your sleepwear. Researchers have developed pajamas embedded with self-powered sensors that provide unobtrusive and continuous monitoring of heartbeat, breathing and sleep posture — all factors that play a role in how well a person slumbers. The “smart” garments could give ordinary people, as well as clinicians, useful information to help improve sleep patterns.

The researchers will present their results today at the American Chemical Society (ACS) Spring 2019 National Meeting & Exposition.

“Our smart pajamas overcame numerous technical challenges,” says Trisha L. Andrew, Ph.D., who led the team. “We had to inconspicuously integrate sensing elements and portable power sources into everyday garments, while maintaining the weight, feel, comfort, function and ruggedness of familiar clothes and fabrics. We also worked with computer scientists and electrical engineers to process the myriad signals coming from the sensors so that we had clear and easy-to-understand information.”

Getting enough quality sleep can help protect people against stress, infections and multiple diseases, such as heart and kidney disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, according to the National Institutes of Health. Studies have found that quality sleep also increases mental acuity and sharpens decision-making skills. Yet most people do not get enough sleep — or the right kind.

The National Sleep Foundation estimates that the sleep industry is booming, taking in nearly $29 billion in 2017. Although some manufacturers of smart mattresses claim the products can sense movement and infer sleep posture, they do not provide detailed information to the sleeper and are not portable for travel. Commercially available electronic bands worn on the wrist give information about heart rate and monitor how much total sleep the wearer gets. But until now, there has not been anything that a typical consumer could use to monitor posture and respiratory and cardiac signals when slumbering.

The key to the smart pajamas is a process called reactive vapor deposition. “This method allows us to synthesize a polymer and simultaneously deposit it directly on the fabric in the vapor phase to form various electronic components and, ultimately, integrated sensors,” Andrew says. “Unlike most electronic wearables, the vapor-deposited electronic polymer films are wash-and-wear stable, and they withstand mechanically demanding textile manufacturing routines.”

The “Phyjama,” as the University of Massachusetts, Amherst team calls it, has five discrete textile patches with sensors in them. The patches are interconnected using silver-plated nylon threads shielded in cotton. The wires from each patch end up at a button-sized printed circuit board placed at the same location as a pajama button. Data are wirelessly sent to a receiver using a small Bluetooth transmitter that is part of the circuitry in the button.

The garment includes two types of self-powered sensors that detect “ballistic movements,” or pressure changes. Four of the patches are piezoelectric. They detect constant pressures, such as that of a bed against a person’s body. These first-of-their-kind patches are used in different parts of the Phyjama so that the researchers can determine sleeping posture. However, this type of sensor cannot pick up the faint pressure from a beating heart. The triboelectric patch detects quick changes in pressure, such as the physical pumping of the heart, which provides information on heart rate. This is the first time such a sensor has been shown to detect tiny ballistic signals from the heart.

Andrew’s team has tested the garment on volunteers and validated the readings from the sensors independently. They also have applied for patents on the Phyjama. After Andrew partners with a manufacturer, she estimates the product could be on the market within two years for $100-$200.

Currently, the team is working on extending the technology to wearable electronic sensors that detect gait and send feedback to a monitor to help prevent falls. This application could find use in settings such as nursing homes and retirement centers, Andrews says.

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Materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.