We Need to Improve Indoor Air Quality: Here's How and Why

We spend 90 percent of our lives indoors, yet most of us seldom spare a thought for the quality of the air we breathe there. More than a century ago, pioneering nurse and statistician Florence Nightingale proclaimed the importance of open air and bedroom ventilation for tuberculosis patients. Today in Nordic countries, it is common practice to let babies nap outside, sometimes in freezing temperatures. But even though humans have long attributed health benefits to fresh outdoor air, it is a les

People, Not Science, Decide When a Pandemic Is Over

All pandemics end eventually. But how, exactly, will we know when the COVID-19 pandemic is really “over”? It turns out the answer to that question may lie more in sociology than epidemiology. As the world passes the second anniversary of the World Health Organization’s declaration of the COVID pandemic, things seem to be at a turning point. COVID cases and deaths are seeing sustained declines in much of the world, and a large percentage of people are estimated to have some immunity to SARS-CoV-

How Immunocompromised People without Strong Vaccine Protection Are Coping with COVID

George Franklin III is one of the longest-surviving kidney transplant recipients in the U.S. Now 67, he received his lifesaving surgery 46 years ago, which has enabled him to lead a healthy and active life—swimming, bowling, visiting friends and even competing in a sporting tournament known as the International Transplant Games. But since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, he hasn’t been able to do any of these things. Like most transplant recipients, Franklin, who lives in western Maryland, h

The U.S. Just Lost 26 Years' Worth of Progress on Life Expectancy

With a few notable exceptions—such as during the 1918 influenza pandemic, World War II and the HIV crisis—life expectancy in the U.S. has had gradual upward trajectory over the past century. But that progress has steeply reversed in the past two years as COVID and other tragedies have cut millions of lives short. U.S. life expectancy fell by a total of 2.7 years between 2019 and 2021 to 76.1 years—the lowest it has been since 1996, according to provisional data recently released by the Centers

The Biggest Health and Biology Breakthroughs of 2022

It’s been a rough year, especially on the health beat. The COVID pandemic continued to bulldoze its way through the population, causing surges in cases and related deaths. Somewhat forgotten viruses such as mpox, flu and RSV reared their head unexpectedly. And the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a nearly 50-year-old right to reproductive freedom established by Roe v. Wade. But it wasn’t all bad news in 2022. In fact, biology and medicine saw exciting advances across fields as diverse as epidemiol

People in Rural Areas Die at Higher Rates Than Those in Urban Areas

There’s a common perception that cities are dangerous places to live, plagued by crime and disease—and that small towns and the countryside are generally safer and healthier. But data tell a different story. According to a 2021 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report on mortality data from 1999 to 2019, people living in rural areas die at higher rates than those living in urban areas—and the gap has been widening. Rates for the top 10 causes of death in 2019 (including heart dise

How Vaccines Saved Money and Lives and China's Zero-COVID Protests: COVID, Quickly Podcast, Episode 44

Tanya Lewis: Hi, and welcome to COVID, Quickly, a Scientific American podcast series! Josh Fischman: This is your fast-track update on the COVID pandemic. We bring you up to speed on the science behind the most urgent questions about the virus and the disease. We demystify the research, and help you understand what it really means. Lewis: And we’re Scientific American’s senior health editors. Today, we’re going to explain how vaccines helped the economy: we saved 10 dollars for every 1 dollar

Antivirals Could Reduce Long COVID Risk and How Well the New Boosters Work: COVID, Quickly Podcast, Episode 43

Tanya Lewis: Hi, and welcome to COVID Quickly, a Scientific American podcast series! This is your fast-track update on the COVID pandemic. We bring you up to speed on the science behind the most urgent questions about the virus and the disease. We demystify the research, and help you understand what it really means. I’m Tanya Lewis, one of Scientific American’s senior health editors. Josh is taking the week off. Today, I’m going to talk about how the antiviral Paxlovid may protect against long

Why Life Expectancy Keeps Dropping in the U.S. as Other Countries Bounce Back

Life expectancy in most countries took a hit during the COVID pandemic. But the U.S. has seen a sharper drop-off than most European countries and Chile—and it still hasn’t recovered. Worldwide life expectancy was dramatically extended during the past century by decades of progress in medical science and public policy, such as advances in cancer screening and treatment, better prevention and treatment for heart disease, tobacco regulation and safety improvements in the automobile industry. Yet e

Sexist Science in Soccer Harms Women in an Epic Own Goal

As soccer fans around the world celebrate the “beautiful game” at this year’s men's World Cup in Qatar, one big part of the sport is being conspicuously overlooked: female players. It’s no secret that women’s soccer has not received anywhere near the level of attention or funding the men’s game has. Female professional players are paid far less than male ones—a discrepancy the U.S. women’s team hoped to help remedy when it reached an equal pay settlement with the U.S. Soccer Federation earlier