A Healthy Dose of Science: Stories from our health journals

May 8th, 2023

Reading a science story a day will keep the doctor away!
A male doctor, wearing a stethoscope and a white coat, holds a mobile phone.

Our journals have published research into the mental health of GPs, mobile phone use, and some fascinating medical uses of yeast. Photo: National Cancer Institute, Unsplash.


We publish 26 scientific journals across a variety of subject areas, including health. Here are six research articles published in the last year that we hope will get your synapses firing.


More than three-quarters of all registered health practitioners are women

A female dentist doing a mouth examination.

There was a significant increase in the numbers of women in dentistry in 2021. Photo: Hush Naidoo Jade, Unsplash

In 2021 women accounted for 76.3 per cent of health practitioners in Australia, according to an Open Access study published in Australian Health Review by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).

Researchers used registration data to conduct an analysis of 15 health professions, including dental and medical radiation practitioners, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island health practitioners, chiropractors, optometrists, and psychologists.

“Women predominantly work in professions traditionally viewed as feminine, such as nursing and midwifery, while men are overrepresented in professions such as medicine and dentistry,” write the authors of the study.

“This study demonstrated significantly increased feminisation in the chiropractic, dentistry and medicine professions between 2016 and 2021. Further, the (unpublished) student register suggests that just over half of all dentistry students are women, which is expected to contribute to the continued feminisation of the dental workforce.”


Focus on prevention needed to reduce waiting lists

Across the ditch, waiting times for osteoarthritis care are on the mind of the Otago University researchers who authored an Open Access editorial in Journal of Primary Health Care.

“Hospital waiting lists have been a perpetual problem, but the ‘extra’ money thrown at it intermittently has barely kept pace with population growth,” write the authors. “Now we have another waiting list crunch, exacerbated by the COVID pandemic.”

A large proportion of surgical waiting lists for elective procedures are musculoskeletal related problems, and osteoarthritis is a significant part of this. However, most people waiting for osteoarthritis care never get it.

The researchers suggest Aotearoa New Zealand needs a system-wide approach that focuses on prevention and providing equitable planned care, early.

“This would reduce hospital waiting lists and also improve the lives of many other New Zealanders with osteoarthritis who never get the opportunity to wait for hospital care.”


GPs reported burnout during the COVID-19 pandemic

A nationwide online survey of self-identified frontline healthcare workers, conducted in mid-2020, found that significantly more General Practitioners (GPs) reported having burnout symptoms and experienced moderate-to-severe emotional exhaustion than other frontline healthcare workers.

The findings, published Open Access in Australian Journal of Primary Health, showed that despite this, fewer than 25 percent of GPs experiencing these symptoms sought professional mental health care.

The authors of the study note that “GPs are vital in our healthcare systems, yet face unique workplace challenges and mental health stressors during the pandemic. Targeted workplace and psychological support is essential to protect wellbeing among the primary care workforce.”


Dating in the time COVID-19

Using the results of an online survey repeated throughout 2020, University of Melbourne researchers found that self-reported sexual activity fluctuated as restrictions were implemented and eased.

“Lockdowns were associated with more frequent physically distanced activities (e.g. virtual dates),” wrote the researchers, who published their findings Open Access in Sexual Health.

“While overall dating app use remained constant between surveys, the way that respondents interacted with dating apps varied over time. During lockdowns, dating apps were more likely to be used for physically distanced activities such as virtual dates.

“However, when restrictions were eased, use of dating apps to support face-to-face activities such as organising dates or hook-ups was more common.”

The researchers noted that while dating apps can provide a mechanism for virtual connections, this may only be temporary until physical connections are possible.

A smart phone displays three emojis: a kissing-winking face flanked by two red hearts.

Dating apps helped facilitate virtual connection during restrictions brought on by the pandemic. Photo: Markus Winkler, Unsplash


Mobile phone use and male fertility

Mobile phones are an ever-present part of daily life, but could the radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation they produce impact male fertility?

Researchers conducted a study to investigate this effect in on over 1,600 men who underwent semen examination at the Department of Reproductive Endocrinology, Zhejiang University in China.

Their results, published Open Access in Reproduction, Fertility and Development, showed significant associations between daily phone use time and decreased sperm motility, which is the ability for sperm to move through the female reproductive tract to reach the egg.

The authors suggest that while further studies are needed to clarify these effects, the findings indicate that daily mobile phone use could impair male fertility.


A microscope image of yeast, which looks like blue circular shapes on a black background.

Yeast was used to develop a rapid screening process for identifying compounds which inhibit Alzheimer’s disease. Photo: CSIRO Science Image

The awesome power of yeast

Yeast is one of the most useful microorganisms in society. But move over, beer and bread making! Researchers are developing incredible ways to use yeast to improve our health.

An Open Access article published in Microbiology Australia describes the awesome power of yeast that is available today.

Some of the applications examined include yeast as a host for vaccines, a tool for disease modelling and as a platform for screening drugs against human diseases.

Yeast can also help us study the expression of aging-related genes, which could help with the development of compounds with the potential to treat and prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

A toast to yeast!


Enjoyed these science stories? Visit our website to discover more brilliant research published in our journals, and sign up for our email alerts to stay up-to-date with the latest research.

All the research articles in this blog were published Open Access, and we support a number of different Open Access options for our authors, including Green and Gold, Society-sponsored and through Read and Publish Agreements with institutions. Discover our Open Access options on our website.