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Media Contacts

Robert Billingham
Applied Health Science

Dong-Chul Seo
Applied Health Science

Marilyn Irwin
Indiana Institute on Disability and Community

Tracy James
IU Media Relations

Living Well

Health and wellness tips from Indiana University

EDITORS: This monthly tip sheet is based on Indiana University faculty research, teaching and service. "Living Well Through Healthy Lifestyles" is the guiding philosophy of IU Bloomington's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. In keeping with that philosophy, this tip sheet offers information related to both physical and mental well-being. Faculty in other IU schools and departments also contribute their expertise in this area.

February's tips discuss romance, cell phone use while driving, and the Web site accessibility failings of top liberal arts colleges.

Photo by: IU Pubs

Fanning (or rekindling) the flame. Finding time for romance is crucial to a marriage or committed relationship, but it shouldn't be limited to Valentine's Day. Couples need to celebrate their relationship, showing children, family and friends that their relationship as a couple is the most important one in their life. "The mistake most couples or one person makes is they're so much in love with their partner that they assume the relationship will last forever," said Robert Billingham, an associate professor in Indiana University Bloomington's Department of Applied Health Science. "They don't think it is something they have to work on." Human beings are not built from a biological standpoint for long-term romance, said Billingham, whose research interests include interpersonal relationships, parent/child interactions and the long-term effect of divorce on children. Biologically, the body chemistry that makes our hearts flutter is replaced after several years with body chemistry geared more toward attachment, he said. Couples, therefore, need to work at keeping the romance alive. Billingham said research indicates people who divorce experience poorer health and a diminished quality of life, so longevity can be worth the effort -- with the right partner. Billingham offers the following tips:

  • Date, find ways to spend time together to enjoy each other. "Individuals change. The relationship changes," Billingham said. "This core behavior (regular dating, emphasizing the relationship) says, 'No matter what happens, we find time for ourselves, find time to celebrate the relationship."
  • Make sure your children see the love. Parents spend 18 to 20 years preparing children to leave home. Parenting requires sacrifices to properly care for children, Billingham said. But investments in the relationship as a couple can benefit parents and kids alike, and make the "empty nest" seem not quite so empty. "If the kids don't see an emphasis on the relationship, what we model is that the marriage isn't as important as work, sports or other activities. When they do see the emphasis, what we're modeling is that the marriage, the committed relationship is important. That's crucial because we need to teach our children that our relationships are more important than things like work, movies and sports," Billingham said. "We do a very poor job of this in our society."
  • It's never too late to rekindle love and romance in a stale relationship, Billingham said, but it becomes much more difficult if one of the partners has fallen in love with someone else and is experiencing a new round of attraction "hormones." If both people in the couple say, "I want to get this back on track," there's hope.
  • Sex can make life and the relationship more pleasant. Couples who are healthy and who can sustain an active sex life tend to live longer and be happier, Billingham said.

The Department of Applied Health Science is in IUB's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. Billingham can be reached at 812-855-5208 and

Talking on cell phones while driving is risky business. An Indiana University researcher is adding to the small but growing body of research indicating that the mental distraction experienced when talking on cell phones while driving (TWD) causes more problems than any physical distraction involved. The use of a hands-free cell phone, in fact, was involved in more accidents (14 percent) than handheld cell phones (4 percent), according to the study, published recently in the Journal of American College Health. Dong-Chul Seo, a lecturer in IU Bloomington's Department of Applied Health Science, studied the effect of TWD among young drivers, who because of their age alone, represent a disproportionate number of drivers involved in fatal crashes. He analyzed questionnaire responses from 1,291 college students in four states. The use of cell phones by young drivers, he found, substantially increased the risk of accidents. Twenty-one percent of accidents or near-accidents reported by the students occurred when at least one of the drivers used a cell phone. "Other age groups might be more cautious and more aware of the dangers of talking while driving, compared to younger drivers who really want to talk to their friends or seek emotional support," Seo said. He cautioned against a false belief that hands-free models increase safety over handheld models. "The study findings indicate that reduced physical distraction does not necessarily enhance driving safety. What matters is to minimize cognitively distractive barriers to safe driving," Seo said. In 1990, only around 5 million people used cell phones, he said, compared to around 174 million people today. Research into the safety of cell phone use is in the early stages, he said. Seo thinks TWD should be banned, regardless of whether the cell phones are hands-free or not. Several countries, such as Singapore and Japan, have done so while a larger number of countries have banned the use of handheld cell phones while driving. In the United States, the use of handheld cell phones while driving is banned in New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. Seo said more than 30 other states are considering similar legislation. In his study, 74 percent of the students responded that TWD increased the risk of accidents, yet only 6 percent advocated banning the practice. Seo's department is in IUB's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. Seo can be reached at 812-855-9379 and

Where's the info? Potential college students who have disabilities might be out of luck if they try to learn more about prospective colleges using the Internet. A recent Indiana University study found that only three of the top 50 liberal arts colleges in the country had home pages that were accessible for people with disabilities. At 10 of these colleges, no information about disability services could be found, with only half of the colleges listing contact people for information about disability services. "It's an awareness issue more than an evil intent issue," said Marilyn Irwin, Director of the Center for Disability Information and Referral at the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community at IU Bloomington. "People with disabilities should try to identify the webmaster and let them know they can't access their page. Changes will be made only when the webmasters are aware that people are out there who can't access their page." Irwin's study, which was published recently in EDUCAUSE Quarterly, cited reports of both the increasing enrollment rates of students with disabilities and the growing reliance by potential college students on Web-based information as they choose colleges. Irwin, an associate professor in the School of Library and Information Science, said she chose to evaluate Web pages at liberal arts colleges because she thought smaller institutions would be more attuned to the needs of students with disabilities and would take their needs into consideration in their Web site designs. "It was pretty disheartening to get the results that we did," she said. Disabilities can include visual impairments, mobility impairments that can affect the use of a computer mouse, color blindness, learning disabilities, and temporary disabilities such as a broken arm. Adaptive equipment, such as software that reads text on a computer screen, can help students access information. Web sites, however, need to be designed so the adaptive equipment will work. A common failing, Irwin said, was the lack of text to describe the many graphics on Web sites. Voice output software cannot read graphics. Irwin said university Web access is important for two reasons: more students with disabilities are attempting to attend colleges and universities; and alumni and university faculty, including emeritus faculty, are getting older. Age-related disabilities could impact potential donations and fund-raising efforts if these constituents are not able to access Web-based information. Federal law requires Web pages of federal agencies to be accessible to people with disabilities. Indiana adopted the same standards several years ago for state and local government agencies. Irwin's study found either a lack of knowledge of accessibility standards or a concern that a redesign would be too difficult, costly and time-consuming. Yet universities open themselves to possible litigation by remaining inaccessible. Irwin can be reached at 812-855-6508 and