Most academics are aware that their career choice might not be very good for them - late nights, smoking, takeaway food and the occasional (okay, regular) few pints after seminars all contribute to a less than healthy lifestyle. However, recent research has revealed that your academic work might be making you unhealthy in new and interesting ways.
Researchers in Mexico have recently identified academic stress as being a risk factor for dental caries (cavities) in students. The incidence of caries was shown to significantly increase in those students exhibiting moderate or high levels of stress. The reason for this appears to be associated with a change in the normal production of saliva.
Certain hormones produced in stressful circumstances can inhibit saliva production, and it is this decrease in saliva flow that 'reduces the protective function afforded by saliva and, in consequence, increases the risk for dental decay...' (Majia-Rubalcava et al 2012: 1). This research is the first to correlate levels of academic stress with dental health in a statistically significant way and may be eventually useful in managing and minimising the mental and physical problems caused by stress.
I'm not sure how this research might help us practically though, stress is a bit hard to avoid with teaching commitments or a thesis to write - but perhaps it's something to keep in mind the next time we're tempted to pull an all nighter, eating nothing but chocolate bars and cappuccinos to keep us going?
Cynthia Mejía-Rubalcava, Jorge Alanís-Tavira, Liliana Argueta-Figueroa and Alejandra Legorreta-Reyna. 2012. Academic stress as a risk factor for dental caries. In the International Dental Journal DOI: 10.1111/j.1875-595X.2011.00103.x