Category Archives: Human behavior

Map of the day: European views of Muslims

From Europeans Fear Wave of Refugees Will Mean More Terrorism, Fewer Jobs, a new report from the Pew Research Center:

BLOG Euormuslims

Today’s young adults plagued by greater anxiety

More and more, American college students wish they could retreat to childhood’s less anxious times, though whether it’s due simply the fear of crushing student loan debt or existential threats such as climate change, global economic uncertainty, and the pressures of outsourced labor remain open questions.

From the British Psychology Society:

In Western democracies, young adults are living with their parents for longer, spending more time in education and delaying having children  So much so that some commentators have suggested that we need a new term, such as “emerging adulthood”, to describe the phase of life between late adolescence and true adulthood. Adding to this picture, a new cross-generational study [$36 to read] in International Journal of Behavioural Development of hundreds of undergrads at two US universities finds that students today are more anxious about growing up and maturing than students from previous generations.

April Smith and her colleagues took advantage of data collected from male and female students at a northeastern private university in 1982, 1992, 2002 and 2012 when they were aged around 20, that included their answers to four statements about “fears of maturity”. Specifically, the students rated their agreement with items like “I wish that I could return to the security of childhood” and disagreement with items like “I feel happy that I am not a child anymore” (the questions were part of a larger investigation into eating disorders). The researchers also had access to similar data from female students at a large public university in southeastern USA collected in 2001, 2003, 2009 and 2012.

The results from both universities revealed a clear trend – students today have more fears about maturing than students of the same age in previous generations. The researchers said this was a worrying result because fear of maturity is associated with negative outcomes including poorer psychological wellbeing.

Quite why today’s students have an increased reluctance to leave their childhoods behind remains open to speculation because as the researchers put it: “empirical studies on adolescents’ and young adults’ fears related to the natural ageing process are almost entirely absent from the literature.” Smith and her team suggest that these fears might in some ways be a realistic response to changing circumstances, including the recent global economic recession. Also contemporary students’ reluctance to grow up might be related to changes to parenting styles – for instance, research from the UK shows that parents today are less willing to take risks, as revealed by the drastic reduction in the number of children permitted to walk to school on their own.

It’s not clear how far we can generalise these results beyond US undergrads to non-students or young adults in other cultures. It’s also worth noting that it’s possible that all age groups today (not just young adults) are more anxious about ageing than were people of a similar age in previous eras. Still, as Smith and her colleagues put it, the new findings certainly suggest that “today’s emerging adults seem reluctant to take on life’s next chapter” and that we perhaps need to do more to remind them that “maturity’s wisdom, knowledge and experience are precious, hard-won and nothing to fear.”

Headline of the day: He seems fairly unbalanced

From the Guardian:

Six women accuse Roger Ailes, raising speculation of ouster at Fox News

The Fox News executive has been accused of sustained and brutal sexual harassment – but in the past, he has not been one to bow to external pressure

UPDATE: A screencap of the London Daily Mail homepage teaser for this story:

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Headline of the day II: Crimes of our own greed

From Agence France Presse:

Bornean orangutan, whale shark sliding towards extinction: conservationists

The Bornean orangutan is on the verge of extinction, a top conservationist body said Friday, also warning that the world’s biggest fish, the whale shark, and a hammerhead shark species were endangered

Chart of the day: Print news is for geezers

And we should know, since we are one.

From The Modern News Consumer, a new analysis from the Pew Research Center:


Pharma profits from medicalizing marital malaise

Psychiatrists, like other medical professionals, are the objects of relentless seduction by Big Pharma, and with out privatized health care system, traditional and expensive forms of extensive talk therapy have been replaced by the prescription pad.

The end result is that real world existential problems having no medical basis are reduced to questions of chemistry.

And so it is that problems faced by couples in a world where wages have stagnated and working hours have grown longer are treated as pharmacological issues, even when there’s no basis for medicalized their situational woes.

And it should come as no surprised that women may bear the brunt of the relentless search for profits.

From Vanderbilt University:

Psychiatrists nearly always responded with prescriptions for antidepressants when clients complained of bad marriages, according to a new study spanning 20 years at a Midwestern medical center.

The assumption that people struggling with their marriages or other domestic issues are suffering from depression is not supported by the way depression is defined medically, said Jonathan M. Metzl, Frederick B. Rentschler II Professor of Sociology and Medicine, Health and Society at Vanderbilt and the study’s lead author. The study, conducted using a Midwestern medical center’s records from 1980 to 2000, appears in the current issue of the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine

Notably, Metzl said, the time period of analysis followed a 1974 decision that removed the term “homosexuality” from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the standard reference book of psychiatric illnesses.

“As it became less acceptable to overtly diagnose homosexuality, it became increasingly acceptable to diagnose threats to female-male relationships as conditions that required psychiatric intervention,” Metzl said. “Doctors increasingly responded by prescribing antidepressants when patients came to the office describing problems with heterosexual love and its discontents.”

The researchers argue that this pattern became particularly prominent after the advent of Prozac and other SSRI antidepressants and widespread pharmaceutical advertising in the 1980s and 1990s.

20 years of records

In their review of archived psychiatrist-dictated patient charts from the expansive hospital system, the researchers discovered a pattern.

“In the charts we analyzed, the pressures of attaining or maintaining heterosexual relationships functioned as common modes for describing depressive symptoms,” Metzl said.

But women and men with marriage woes “have little connection to the current DSM criteria for depression and much more to do with ways that society thinks that men and women should behave,” Metzl said. “And yet these cultural pressures seemed to go a long way in determining whether psychiatrists diagnosed depression or prescribed antidepressants.”

“In many ways, the 1974 decision was a major step forward,” Metzl said. “But as we show, implicit gender still functioned in the exam room, and our analysis suggests that psychiatry still has work to do in that regard.”

Metzl conducted the study with Sara McClelland, assistant professor of women’s studies and psychology at the University of Michigan, and Erin Bergner, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at Vanderbilt.

The paper, “Conflations of Marital Status and Sanity: Implicit Heterosexist Bias in Psychiatric Diagnosis in Physician-Dictated Charts at a Midwestern Medical Center,” was published June 27 in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine.

Corporate child abuse: Ads make children fat

We begin with two maps from the World Obesity Federation:

Obesity prevalence worldwide - Boys

Obesity prevalence worldwide – Girls

Obesity prevalence worldwide - Boys

Obesity prevalence worldwide – Boys

Note the extreme prevalence of obesity in the Americas and the English-speaking world, where commercial media predominate.

Might there be a connection?

Come on, you always knew it.

All those junk food ads on television and in other media consumed by kids, seductive hustles aimed at children to peddle food and candy you know has little or no nutritional value, had to play some role in the rising tide of obesity engulfing the children of the industrial world.

After all, corporations would spend billions if the ads didn’t boost their sales

From McMaster University:

Ads for unhealthy foods and beverages high in sugar or salt have an immediate and significant impact on children and lead to harmful diets, according to research from McMaster University.

The study, published today in the scientific journal Obesity Reviews, examined 29 trials assessing the effects of unhealthy food and beverage marketing and analyzing caloric intake and dietary preference among more than 6,000 children. Researchers found that the marketing increased dietary intake and influenced dietary preference in children during or shortly after exposure to advertisements.

Lead author of the study, Behnam Sadeghirad, says that these findings demonstrate the influence that these advertisements, a growing epidemic, have on children’s food choices.

“The rates of overweight and obesity among children are rising worldwide,” said Sadeghirad, a PhD student in clinical epidemiology and biostatistics at McMaster. “This is the first systematic review evidence based on 29 randomized trials and it shows that the extensive exposure kids have to marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages via product packaging (superheroes, logos), TV and the internet increases their short-term caloric intake and preference for junk food.”

There’s more. . . Continue reading