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Can work cause health problems?

Image showing stressed worker
More Or Less
Monday, 5 May, 2008
BBC Radio 4, 1630 BST

It has become the orthodoxy that stress at work can cause heart attacks.

The famous Whitehall II study into the working patterns and lifestyles of civil servants found that those who felt they were not in control at work had more health problems. But is this really true?

On the programme this week, Tim Harford discusses the issue with Professor Sir Michael Marmot, the director of the Whitehall II study, and John MacLeod, a GP and an epidemiological researcher at Bristol University, who believes that material deprivation is the key.

We also hear from occupational health physiotherapist, Merran Barber and trainer Joan Keevill who run stress management workshops.

Simpsons' theory

One of the great joys of The Simpsons is that there are jokes for everyone: slapstick for kids and adult humour for the parents.

But have you ever noticed the maths gags? Many Simpsons writers studied mathematics at university and take delight in sneaking maths jokes into the programme.

Jeff Westbrook, a Simpsons writer with a PHD from Princetown, tells us why maths jokes in the Simpsons always add up. And Sarah J. Greenwald of Appalachian State University explains how she uses The Simpsons to teach maths to her more mathphobic students.

Housing gloom?

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) recently calculated the mood of house surveyors. It said that 78.5% more surveyors reported a fall than a rise in house prices in March. The number was widely reported, but how many of us really understood what it meant?

For Sale signs
Many lenders are expecting house prices to fall in 2008

Tim asks its chief economist, Simon Rubinsohn, how they arrived at their headline-grabbing figure and tries to suggest a few alternative ways of presenting the information.

In these uncertain economic times, sentiment surveys, like the RICS housing survey, are snatched upon by the media.

But can you really accurately measure mood? More or Less reporter Ruth Alexander speaks to a man who has been investigating this - Dr James Mitchell from the National Institute for Economic and Social Research. She also hears the confessions of a sentiment survey insider - economist Ruth Lea.

Pub challenge

The More or Less pub challenge continues with more listeners suggesting towns with the most pubs per person. Shardlow, Norwich, Coupar Angus, Whitchurch and Oswestry are all lining up to challenge the title-holder Manningtree in Essex. We count the pubs and check whether they are really towns.

BBC Radio 4's More or Less was broadcast on Monday, 5 May, 2008 at 1630 BST.

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