There are only so many times you can find all the hidden objects on that Highlights Kids magazine page.
It seems like a grand medical conspiracy to bore us — in every doctor’s waiting room you’ve ever been in there are magazines to pass the time but they are all months old. There are two possible explanations: Either doctor’s offices don’t care enough to stock current magazines or all the new magazines conveniently and consistently disappear. A new study found the latter.
According to another tongue-in-cheek study from the BMJ‘s Christmas edition, magazines are always old in doctor’s offices because people are always taking the new ones with them, at a rate of 1.32 magazines per day.
“Gossipy” magazines don’t last very long.
To find out where all the new magazines are going, the team of researchers stocked the waiting room of a general practice in Auckland, New Zealand with 87 magazines ranging from “gossipy” (five or more pictures of celebrities on the cover) to “non-gossipy” (e.g., Economist and Time magazines). Then twice a week over 31 days an investigator would come in early to record the number of magazines in the waiting room. The graph above illustrates their findings.
First, the study confirmed that new magazines really do disappear. Out of the 47 magazines that were aged less than two moths, 60 percent of them had vanished by the end of the study. Only 29 percent of the older magazines had been taken over the same time period. In total, nearly half of the 87 magazines were taken over the 31 days — an average of 1.32 per day.
And the magazines that may seem more timely — the “gossipy” magazines — were taken much more often. Of the 27 magazines that had five or more celebrity photos on the cover, only one was left at the end of the study. Of the 19 “non-gossipy” magazines (four Time magazines and 15 of the Economist), none were taken.
Though the study only considered one clinic in New Zealand, the authors (again, jokingly) suggest that these groundbreaking findings could save medical institutions millions. Extrapolating the magazine loss rate they found to all UK clinics and using an average magazine value, they estimate that almost 13 million Euros-worth of product are vanishing from general practices in the UK each month. They conclude, “Practices should consider using old copies of the Economist and Time magazine as a first step towards saving costs.”
I guess the only people we can blame for old magazines in waiting rooms is ourselves. But do you really want the magazines that have been fingered through by dozens of patients for yourself? That would require another groundbreaking study, as the researchers allude to: “This study heralds a new specialty of scientific endeavour: waiting room science.”
Check out another silly study from the BMJ Christmas edition: Men are more likely to win a Darwin Award.