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The survival time of chocolates on hospital wards

On a lighter note, and just in time for the holidays, a unique study has been identified which sheds light on the survival of chocolates on hospital wards within the UK. It has been well established that, particularly around the holiday season, chocolate consumption proliferates, as gifts and end-of-year treats become more prevalent. Many questions regarding chocolate consumption in the hospital setting have been postulated, and this study attempts to systematically address some of these questions regarding consumption of chocolates in a hospital ward environment.

Authors were interested in the length of time chocolates survived once opened, whether this was dependent on type of chocolate, and what type of hospital personnel were most likely responsible for chocolates being eaten. This exploratory study assessed 350 g boxes of two different types of commonly available chocolates: Quality Street (Nestlé, Switzerland) or Roses (Cadbury, UK). Boxes were placed side by side in the area where chocolates were normally placed (usually main nursing or reception areas). Observers recorded times boxes were opened, when chocolate was consumed and by whom (by category only). The primary outcome was median survival time of an individual chocolate, and the main secondary endpoint was mean time for a box to be opened. A total of 8 boxes, totalling around 240 chocolates were used in this analysis.

In this study, the median survival time for a chocolate was 51 minutes (95% CI, 179–329) with the mean time taken for a box of chocolates to be opened after being placed on the ward as 12 minutes (95% CI 0–24). The time to opening of Quality Street and Roses boxes did not differ significantly (19 vs. 5 minutes, p=0.35), although Quality Street chocolates survived longer than Roses chocolates (p=0.014). Healthcare assistants and nurses accounted for 28% of chocolates consumed (54 of 191 for each group), with doctors accounting for 15% of chocolates consumed (29 of 191). Interestingly, the timing of chocolate consumption followed an exponential decay process, with initial consumption occurring at a rapid phase, with the rate decreasing over time. The authors recommended further studies which could explore additional confounding factors including types of chocolate flavours. It would be of further interest for additional studies that assessed chocolate consumption rates in a primary care setting, or perhaps within editorial offices. Furthermore, it would be of interest to determine whether time of year plays a role, with increased consumption occurring during festive Christmas periods compared with the start of the new year. One wonders if there is an inverse correlation between amount of available sweets and survival time of individual chocolates.

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