d84e85d8254bcc00ec057dfd4f764a9b.jpeg

Popular social media sites ‘harm young people’s mental health’

Poll of 14- to 24-year-olds shows Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter increased feelings of inadequacy and anxiety

Four of the five most popular forms of social media harm young peoples mental health, with Instagram the most damaging, according to research by two health organisations.

Instagram has the most negative impact on young peoples mental wellbeing, a survey of almost 1,500 14- to 24-year-olds found, and the health groups accused it of deepening young peoples feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.

The survey, published on Friday, concluded that Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter are also harmful. Among the five only YouTube was judged to have a positive impact.

The four platforms have a negative effect because they can exacerbate childrens and young peoples body image worries, and worsen bullying, sleep problems and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness, the participants said.

The findings follow growing concern among politicians, health bodies, doctors, charities and parents about young people suffering harm as a result of sexting, cyberbullying and social media reinforcing feelings of self-loathing and even the risk of them committing suicide.

Its interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and wellbeing. Both platforms are very image-focused and it appears that they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people, said Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, which undertook the survey with the Young Health Movement.

She demanded tough measures to make social media less of a wild west when it comes to young peoples mental health and wellbeing. Social media firms should bring in a pop-up image to warn young people that they have been using it a lot, while Instagram and similar platforms should alert users when photographs of people have been digitally manipulated, Cramer said.

The 1,479 young people surveyed were asked to rate the impact of the five forms of social media on 14 different criteria of health and wellbeing, including their effect on sleep, anxiety, depression, loneliness, self-identity, bullying, body image and the fear of missing out.

Instagram emerged with the most negative score. It rated badly for seven of the 14 measures, particularly its impact on sleep, body image and fear of missing out and also for bullying and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness. However, young people cited its upsides too, including self-expression, self-identity and emotional support.

YouTube scored very badly for its impact on sleep but positively in nine of the 14 categories, notably awareness and understanding of other peoples health experience, self-expression, loneliness, depression and emotional support.

However, the leader of the UKs psychiatrists said the findings were too simplistic and unfairly blamed social media for the complex reasons why the mental health of so many young people is suffering.

Prof Sir Simon Wessely, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: I am sure that social media plays a role in unhappiness, but it has as many benefits as it does negatives.. We need to teach children how to cope with all aspects of social media good and bad to prepare them for an increasingly digitised world. There is real danger in blaming the medium for the message.

Young Minds, the charity which Theresa May visited last week on a campaign stop, backed the call for Instagram and other platforms to take further steps to protect young users.

Tom Madders, its director of campaigns and communications, said: Prompting young people about heavy usage and signposting to support they may need, on a platform that they identify with, could help many young people.

However, he also urged caution in how content accessed by young people on social media is perceived. Its also important to recognise that simply protecting young people from particular content types can never be the whole solution. We need to support young people so they understand the risks of how they behave online, and are empowered to make sense of and know how to respond to harmful content that slips through filters.

Parents and mental health experts fear that platforms such as Instagram can make young users feel worried and inadequate by facilitating hostile comments about their appearance or reminding them that they have not been invited to, for example, a party many of their peers are attending.

May, who has made childrens mental health one of her priorities, highlighted social medias damaging effects in her shared society speech in January, saying: We know that the use of social media brings additional concerns and challenges. In 2014, just over one in 10 young people said that they had experienced cyberbullying by phone or over the internet.

In February, Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, warned social media and technology firms that they could face sanctions, including through legislation, unless they did more to tackle sexting, cyberbullying and the trolling of young users.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/may/19/popular-social-media-sites-harm-young-peoples-mental-health

d0200477f42577e37cef91d0571fd96c.jpeg

Gluten-free diet carries increased obesity risk, warn experts

Food adapted for those with coeliac disease often has more fat and less protein, and no benefits to non-sufferers, finds research

Substituting everyday staples with gluten-free foods could increase the risk of obesity, experts have warned, after finding that such products often contain higher levels of fats than the food they aim to replace.

A gluten-free diet is essential to those with coeliac disease an auto-immune condition that is thought to affect 1% of Europeans while the regime is also proving increasingly popular among those without the disease. But while a host of gluten-free products are on the market, researchers have said they have a very different nutritional make-up to conventional staples.

There is very little [consumers] can do about it, said Joaquim Calvo Lerma of the Instituto de Investigacin Sanitaria La Fe in Spain and co-author of the research. Unfortunately consumers can [only] eat what is available on the market.

Calvo Lermas warning comes after he and his and colleagues compared 655 conventional food products to 654 gluten-free alternatives across 14 food groups including breads, pasta, breakfast cereals, biscuits and even ready meals, covering a range of brands.

The results presented at the annual meeting of the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition reveal that, overall, gluten-free products were more energy-dense than their conventional counterparts.

The team found that, on average, gluten-free bread loaves had more than twice the fat of conventional loaves, while gluten-free breads in general had two to three times less protein than conventional products. Gluten-free biscuits were also found to be lower in protein but higher in fat, while gluten-free pasta had lower levels of sugar and just half of the protein of standard pasta.

Calvo Lerma warned that gluten-free foods could be contributing to an increased risk of obesity, particularly among children who are more likely to eat products like biscuits and breakfast cereals. He urged consumers to compare gluten-free products across brands to find those with the lowest fat content.

Calvo Lerma also called on manufacturers to innovate. It is the responsibility of the food industry to produce these type of gluten-free products from other materials that are much healthier or have a [more] enhanced nutritional profile than the current raw materials being used, like cornflour or potato starch, he said, pointing out that healthier products could be made, for example, using grains such as buckwheat or amaranth.

He added that manufacturers should also add more complete and clearer labels to products to highlight their nutritional content, including levels of vitamins and minerals.

Benjamin Lebwohl, from the coeliac disease centre at Columbia University, who was not involved in the research, said that the study backs up previous evidence that gluten-free foods are nutritionally suboptimal. But while a gluten-free diet is essential for coeliacs, it is not intrinsically healthy or unhealthy, he added. It depends on the choices you make as part of the gluten-free diet, he said.

Sarah Sleet, chief executive of Coeliac UK, said the latest findings tie in with the charitys own research, adding that further development of lower-fat, gluten-free products would be welcomed.

David Sanders, professor of gastroenterology at the University of Sheffield, noted that other studies have found gluten-free and conventional foods to have similar nutritional value. The jury is out, he said.

But Sanders cautioned that there is no evidence a gluten-free diet has benefits for those without gluten sensitivity or coeliac disease. Once you go into the territory of dietary restrictions without medical symptoms then you are running the gauntlet of missing out on various vitamins or minerals without realising it, he said.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/may/11/gluten-free-diet-carries-increased-obesity-risk-warn-experts

881ca0f10c6ae794ebf42fde24ae8c9d.jpeg

Plain cigarette packaging could drive 300,000 Britons to quit smoking

Review by research organisation Cochrane suggests impact of UKs ban on branded packs could echo results seen in Australia

Plain cigarette cartons featuring large, graphic health warnings could persuade 300,000 people in the UK to quit smoking if the measure has the effect it had in Australia, scientists say.

Standardised cigarette packaging will be compulsory in the UK from 20 May. A new review from the independent health research organisation Cochrane on the impact of plain packaging around the world has found that it does affect the behaviour of smokers.

In the UK, the tobacco industry has become increasingly innovative in the design of cigarette packets as other controls on sales and advertising have taken hold, according to Ann McNeill, professor of tobacco addiction at Kings College London. The tobacco industry has been focusing its efforts on the tobacco packs, she said.

Among those that will be banned are vibrant pink packets, targeted at young women, and gimmicky cartons that slide rather than flip open. The rules that come into force next month require all packs to look alike, with graphic health warnings across 65% of their surface.

The Cochrane reviewers found 51 studies that looked at standardised packaging and its impact on smokers, but only one country had implemented the rule fully at the time. Australia brought in plain packs in 2012.

Analysing the evidence from Australia, the team found a reduction in smoking of 0.5% up to one year after the policy was introduced. According to the Australian government, that translates to 100,000 people no longer smoking. The decline was attributable specifically to plain packaging, after taking into account the continuing drop in the numbers of smokers caused by other tobacco control measures.

Dr Jamie Hartmann-Boyce of the Cochrane tobacco addiction group at Oxford Universitys Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences said: We are not able to say for sure what the impact would be in the UK, but if the same magnitude of decrease was seen in the UK as was observed in Australia, this would translate to roughly 300,000 fewer smokers following the implementation of standardised packaging.

The review found signs that more people were trying to quit smoking as a result of plain cartons, rising from 20.2% before to 26.6% after introduction. There was also evidence that standardised packs were less attractive to those who did not smoke, making it less likely that they would start.

However, the researchers say variations in the way countries are introducing standardised packs may affect the outcomes. Some allow different colours, slightly different carton shapes and the use of descriptive words such as gold or smooth.

Cancer Research UK backs plain packaging. Smoking kills 100,000 people in the UK every year, so we support any effective measure which can help reduce this devastating impact. The evidence shows that standardised packaging works and helps to reduce smoking rates, said George Butterworth, the charitys tobacco policy manager.

Its too soon to see the impact in the UK, as the new legislation will only be fully implemented in May, but we hope to see similar positive results as the UK strives towards a day when no child smokes tobacco. Cancer Research UK is continuing to evaluate the impact of standardised packaging in the UK and will share the lessons with other countries who are considering introducing them.

Simon Clark, director of the smokers group Forest, said the idea that plain packaging would have an impact on the number of smokers in the UK was based on hope and anecdotal evidence.

Since plain packaging was introduced in Australia, smoking rates have fallen, but only in line with historical trends, he said. Its grasping at straws to credit plain packaging with the continued reduction in smoking rates, because the most significant anti-smoking measure in recent years in Australia has been a massive increase in tobacco taxation. Like graphic health warnings, the novelty of plain packaging quickly wears off.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/apr/27/plain-cigarette-packaging-could-drive-300000-britons-to-quit-smoking

c89dbcdfb18137039d240e4291553bb3.jpeg

Man, 95, who bludgeoned wife in ‘mercy killing’ bid gets suspended sentence

Judge tells Denver Beddows he will not be jailed so as not to prolong his agony after acceding to wifes requests to take her life

A great-grandfather who attempted to murder his wife in an act of mercy after she repeatedly begged him to end her life has been spared jail.

Denver Charles Beddows, 95, attempted to kill his wife of 65 years, who he described as the most beautiful woman in the world, with a lump hammer and ceramic pan.

Beddows, who ran a car body repair businesses for 40 years, carried out the act at the couples home in Warrington after his 88-year-old wife, Olive, pleaded with him to end her life so that she would not die in a care home.

Liverpool crown court heard that the fiercely independent couple had a perfect and happy marriage but both their physical and mental health suffered after Olive Beddows was involved in a car accident around nine months before the attack.

In the weeks preceding the incident the couples family said she had become increasingly anxious and had to be prescribed medication after her mental health was described as fragile.

Anya Horwood, prosecuting, said: She became increasingly apprehensive and claimed they are coming to get me. It would appear that the additional care required for Mrs Beddows was placing an additional strain on the defendant who resolutely refused the assistance of social services.

On the evening of 3 February the couples son and daughter-in-law went to the Beddows home to help them prepare for bed and found the couple in a confused state.

At 10.15 the next morning Beddows rang his son sounding distressed, and said: Ive tried to kill your mother. Beddows told him he had hit her with a hammer.

Their son, also named Denver, and his wife rushed to the house and found blood in the hallway and broken crockery.

The couple were sitting together on the bathroom floor with Beddows holding his wifes head on a pillow and mumbling in distress.

Olive Beddows was taken to hospital with multiple open skull fractures and injuries to her head and face.

Beddows was confused and shaking, telling police officers: My wife was going mad. I tried to kill her why didnt she die? I went to get the hammer from the garage. I couldnt stab her.

I wanted her to die and I havent managed to and now I have just increased her suffering.

Beddows, who was also taken to hospital, told staff his wife had begged him to kill her because she did not want to go to a hospital.

The pensioner who joined the RAF at 19, has had depression since 1962 and is now suffering from a form of post-traumatic amnesia said he had been working himself up to the attack for days but did not want to kill his wife in her sleep.

He told officers: Then I got to this morning and it was now or never. But I messed it up and she isnt dead. Shes the most beautiful woman in the world and Ive made it worse. I would happily be a murderer please tell me I killed her.

The judge was urged to suspend the inevitable prison sentence describing it as an act of mercy.

Philip Tully, defending, said Olive Beddows had repeatedly asked her husband to end her life, which he had refused to act upon until that day when he was in state of exhaustion and despair in relation to her health and well being.

Judge Clement Goldstone, QC, told Beddows who had been in custody since the incident that he would not be going to jail so as not to prolong your agony.

He said: Although this was a terrible crime the blame which attaches to you for what you did is far outweighed by the tragedy of the situation and the circumstances in which you found yourself.

You hit her out of bed with a pan and then subjected her to a repeated attack with a hammer in a determined effort to end her life for one reason and one reason alone she did not wish to end her days in a home or hospital where she believed that her deteriorating mental health was leading her.

You were under immense pressure in the days leading up to your attempt to kill her and your acts were acts of last resort because you failed to persuade her that she was going nowhere.

He said that he took into account that despite the severity of her injuries Olive Beddows was making a significant recovery, had forgiven her husband and wished to be reunited with him.

That is indeed true love no doubt earned by you over 65 years of devoted and loyal married life described by you as perfect and happy, the judge added.

Beddows, who was wearing a body warmer over his jumper, became visibly emotional during the proceedings, before saying: Thank you sir as he was led from the dock. He had pleaded guilty to attempting to murder his wife at their home in Warrington. He had been in custody since his arrest, having declined to apply for bail. He was given a two-year sentence suspended for two years.

The couples family said in a statement: As a family we are trying to come to terms with the tragic events that took place on 4 February. The last 12 months have been particularly difficult, as we all attempted to cope with mums mental illness, which is still yet to be diagnosed.

At present we are supporting both mum and dad.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/apr/25/denver-beddows-95-mercy-killing

107c672ae4dddb4b6b9b373654a44330.jpeg

People whose ‘brain age’ is older than their real age more likely to die early

Scientists at Imperial College London used MRI scans and algorithms to produce computer-generated brain age and spot risk of dying young

Doctors may be able to warn patients if they are at risk of early death by analysing their brains, British scientists have discovered.

Those whose brains appeared older than their true age were more likely to die early and to be in worse physical and mental health, a study by Imperial College London found.

The research found a way of predicting someones brain age that could help to spot those at risk of dying young.

The study, piloted in Scotland, suggests using MRI scans to estimate a persons brain age compared with their real age could also help to spot who might be at increased risk of poor health as they grow older.

By combining MRI scans with machine learning algorithms, a team of neuroscientists trained computers to predict the age of a persons brain based on their volume of brain tissue.

When the technique was tested on a group of older adults in Scotland, they found that the greater the difference between the computer-generated brain age and the persons actual age, the higher their risk of poor mental and physical health and the more likely they were to die before they turned 80.

Those with a brain age older than their real age also had weaker grip, lower lung capacity and slower walking speed.

Researchers say that if the initial findings could be applied to a screening programme, the technique could be used to inform doctors, showing whether or not a patient had a healthy brain age or was above or below the line, similar to how body mass index (BMI) is used. They could then advise patients to change their lifestyle or start a course of treatment.

James Cole, a research associate who led the study, said: People use the age of an organ all the time to talk about health. Smokers are said to have lungs that are 20 years older than they should be, you can even answer online questionnaires about exercise and diet and get a heart age. This technique could eventually be like that.

However, it would need more fine-tuning for accuracy before it could be used in this way, Cole said. At present it has a margin of error of about five years. MRI scans are also currently too expensive to be used as a widespread screening tool but researchers hope that costs will come down in the future.

In the long run it would be great if we could do this accurately enough so that we could do it at an individual level, he said. However, at the moment, its not sufficiently accurate to be used at that sort of individual level.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/apr/26/people-whose-brain-age-is-older-than-their-real-age-more-likely-to-die-early