Feeling under the weather? The belief that a cold, rainy day has an influence on our well-being is something we have held for hundreds of years. In the UK employee absence adds to the significant cost for the majority of businesses. In addition to the direct costs of employee absence (paying sick pay and paying someone else to perform the absent employee’s work), high levels of absence can demotivate those employees who have to take on the absent employee’s work, cause all-round disruption to productivity and adversely affect an employer’s continuity of service to its clients. Now scientists at the University of Manchester are on the verge of finding out if the weather really does have a profound effect on pain in people with arthritis and other conditions, all this, thanks to the British public and their smartphones!
Cloudy with a Chance of Pain, was launched on January 20, 2016, and is the world’s first smartphone-based study into the association between pain and the weather. The study will be carried out during 2016 using a smartphone app which people will use to record how they are feeling, whilst local weather data is automatically collected using the phone’s GPS. The idea is the creation of Dr Will Dixon, Director of The University of Manchester’s Arthritis Research UK Centre for Epidemiology and Honorary Consultant Rheumatologist at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust. Who said: “This question has been around for more than 2,000 years, but it’s only now with widespread modern technology that we have the ability to answer it. And we’re not just inviting people to submit data – we want their ideas about the association between weather and pain too. We will be running a big citizen science experiment where anyone can explore the data and try and spot patterns and relationships in the data. We’ll gather ideas and theories from everyone to come up the best possible conclusion.”
The University of Manchester research is being carried out in association with the University’s Health e-Research Centre and supported by Arthritis Research UK, uMotif in London, and the Office for Creative Research in New York. Once you start using the app it will record your symptoms each day, this will be tied into local weather information which is automatically collected at the same time. Even people who don’t have pain will be able to participate by browsing through the data and submitting their own ideas.
When the project ends in January 2017, the research team will carry out a formal analysis of the data and hope to use the information for generating pain forecasts, which will help people to plan their weekly activities. Stephen Simpson, Director of Research & Programmes at Arthritis Research UK said: “Many people with arthritis believe that changes in the weather affect the level of pain they experience, however, there is currently no scientific evidence to support this relationship. This exciting study will for the first time enable us to investigate the link between pain and the weather. We’re delighted to support this project and we hope that the use of a digital smartphone app will help encourage a wide group of participants to take part, both in terms of submitting their data but also examining the results themselves to help our scientists reach a conclusion.”
Dr Dixon added: “People taking part in this study will be helping to answer a question that even the father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, couldn’t resolve, and which hasn’t been resolved since. That’s what epidemiology is all about – drawing patterns and inspiration from large groups of people to provide insights which we couldn’t otherwise achieve –this time with the help of their smartphones.”
Anyone in the UK with arthritis or chronic pain and aged over 17 can take part. All participants need is a smartphone. To find out more visit www.cloudywithachanceofpain.com
2016 heralded a new chapter when I was introduced to the inspirational father and son team at Malik House. Nasser and Sheraz Malik are constantly coming up with new ideas and it’s been an amazing eight weeks so far! The possibilities at Yorkshire Enterprise Network are limitless and I’m thrilled to be able to put my knowledge and experience to good use in furthering the aspirations of Malik House.