Stephen Rodrick writing for Rolling Stone:
The Centers for Disease Control recorded 47,173 suicides in 2017, and there were an estimated 1.4 million total attempts. Many of society’s plagues strike heavier at women and minorities, but suicide in America is dominated by white men, who account for 70 percent of all cases. Middle-aged men walk the point. Men in the United States average 22 suicides per 100,000 people, with those ages 45 to 64 representing the fastest-growing group, up from 20.8 per 100,000 in 1999 to 30.1 in 2017. The states with the highest rates are Montana, with 28.9 per 100,000 people; Alaska, at 27 per 100,000; and Wyoming, at 26.9 per 100,000 — all roughly double the national rate. New Mexico, Idaho and Utah round out the top six states. All but Alaska fall in the Mountain time zone.
Last summer, I began a 2,000-mile drive through the American West, a place of endless mythology and one unalterable fact: The region has become a self-immolation center for middle-aged American men. The image of the Western man and his bootstraps ethos is still there, but the cliché has a dark turn — when they can no longer help themselves, they end themselves. I found men who sought help and were placed on a 72-hour hold in a hospital ward, and say they were sent home at the end of their stay without any help, collapsing back into the fetal position — the only thing accomplished was everyone in the small town now knew they were ill. I found men on both sides of the Trump divide: One whose anger toward his abusive parents was exacerbated by hours in his basement watching Fox News and Trump while drinking vodka; the other was a Buddhist mortician whose cries for help were met by scorn in a cowboy county that went 70 percent for Trump.
You already know you should eat fruits and vegetables for the nutrients they provide the body. But a new British study has again shown that the health benefits of produce don’t end there. Researchers at the University of Leeds have shown that eating fruits and vegetables can also improve your mood and mental well-being.
Researchers found that people whose diets included more fruits and vegetables reported being happier. Those who ate even just one extra portion of produce a day reported better life satisfaction than those who ate less. Researchers estimated that the extra portion could have the same effect on your mood as walking an additional 10 continuous minutes or more eight days a month.
Previous research conducted in Australia and New Zealand, and published in the British Journal of Health Psychology, showed a diet rich in fruits and vegetables makes people feel happier.
The latest study, entitled Lettuce Be Happy was published in Social Science and Medicine. It is based on a larger group of people who were followed for a longer period of time.
Ephrat Livni writing for Quartz:
Researchers from the University of Michigan School of Public Health analyzed data from nearly 7,000 individuals over 50 years old and concluded that “stronger purpose in life was associated with decreased mortality.” They believe that “purposeful living may have health benefits.”
The new research relied on data from individuals who enrolled in the American Health and Retirement Study (HRS)—longterm research that looks at a cross-section of subjects over time. The original research measured participants’ psychological well-being in 2006, their physical health and, subsequently, causes of death by 2010. The new analysis found that those whose psychological questionnaires reflected a lack of purpose were more likely to die than those who had “a self-organizing life aim that stimulates goals.”
In fact, people without a purpose were more than twice as likely to die than those with an aim and goals. Purpose proved to be more indicative of longevity than gender, race, or education levels, and more important for decreasing risk of death than drinking, smoking, or exercising regularly.
The disease of loneliness is spreading. And it’s getting worse as we get more attached to technologies that isolate us from others, and away from ‘the real world.’
But the Danish have come up with a simple and elegant way to cope with loneliness. The program is call Ventilen, or “friend to one” in Danish.
First some background from Jenny Anderson’s piece in Quartz :
A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study showed that 22% of Americans, 23% of Brits and 9% of Japanese adults said they felt lonely all the time. When the BBC asked 55,000 people about their experiences with loneliness,33% of respondents said they were “often” or “very often” lonely. Among those aged 16-24, the figure was a shocking 40%.
Vivek Murthy, the former US surgeon general, has declared loneliness an “epidemic,” noting that it was dangerous both in its own right and because of its links to deep societal problems such as addiction and violence: “It’s prevalent, it’s common, and the studies Julianne [Holt-Lunstad] and others have done have shown a robust association with illnesses that we actually care about, including heart disease, dementia, depression and anxiety, and very importantly, longevity.”
Indeed, Holt-Lunstad’s research shows that being disconnected poses comparable danger to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and is more predictive of early death than the effects of air pollution or physical inactivity.
Craig Timberg and Rachel Siegel writing in the Washington Post:
The World Health Organization issued strict new guidelines Wednesday on one of the most anxiety-producing issues of 21st Century family life: How much should parents resort to videos and online games to entertain, educate or simply distract their young children?
The answer, according to WHO, is never for children in their first year of life and rarely in their second. Those aged 2 to 4, the international health agency said, should spend no more than an hour a day in front of a screen.
The WHO drew on emerging — but as yet unsettled — science about the risks screens pose to the development of young minds at a time when surveys show children are spending increasing amounts of time watching smartphones and other mobile devices. Ninety-five percent of families with children under the age of 8 have smartphones, according to the nonprofit Common Sense Media, and 42 percent of children under 8 have access to their own tablet device.
It’s important to recognize that balance and self-care are important. There’s nothing fancy about minimizing the effects of stress: daily physical activity, rest and sleep, real social connection with people you care about all go a long way to living a healthy life.
Jenny Rough, Washington Post writes:
Burnout is caused by chronic stress, not stressors, the Nagoskis say in their book. It’s important to differentiate the two. Stressors are external: to-do lists, financial problems or anxiety about the future. Stress, on the other hand, “is the neurological and physiological shift that happens in your body when you encounter [stressors],” the Nagoskis write.
To fix burnout, people need to address the stress itself. They must allow their body to complete its stress response cycle. Instead, people tend to focus on stressors. “They assume their stress will go away if they’re on top of things, if they’re accomplishing things and constantly checking things off their to-do list,” Emily Nagoski says.
Ferris Jabr, The New Yorker:
When we go for a walk, the heart pumps faster, circulating more blood and oxygen not just to the muscles but to all the organs—including the brain. Many experiments have shown that after or during exercise, even very mild exertion, people perform better on tests of memory and attention. Walking on a regular basis also promotes new connections between brain cells, staves off the usual withering of brain tissue that comes with age, increases the volume of the hippocampus (a brain region crucial for memory), and elevates levels of molecules that both stimulate the growth of new neurons and transmit messages between them.
There is no magic shield against Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Supplements don’t work. Yet there is evidence that some strategies may help.
Paula Span at the New York Times writes:
- Increased physical activity;
- Blood pressure management for people with hypertension, particularly in midlife;
- And cognitive training.
That last recommendation doesn’t necessarily refer to commercial online brain games, said Dr. Kristine Yaffe, a neuropsychiatrist and epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, who served on the panel.
“It’s really the concept of being mentally active,” she said. “Find something you enjoy where you’re learning something new, challenging and stimulating your brain.”
Though the evidence to date doesn’t establish which mental workouts have the greatest impact or how often people should engage in them, “they’re not expensive and they don’t cause side effects,” Dr. Yaffe pointed out.
The blood pressure recommendation got a boost in January with the latest findings from the Sprint trial, a multisite study stopped early in 2015 when intensive treatment of hypertension (a systolic blood pressure goal of less than 120, compared to the standard 140) was shown to reduce cardiovascular events and deaths.