Attending church is the key to good mental health among older Europeans – study finds

church-service

A press release from the LSE reports new research showing that attending church is the key to good mental health among older Europeans

A study of depression among older Europeans has found that joining a religious organisation is more beneficial than charity work, sport or education in improving their mental health.

The surprising findings from a study by the Erasmus MC and the London School of Economics and Political Science also reveal that political and community organisations actually have a detrimental impact on the mental health of older Europeans on a long term basis.

In a study of 9000 Europeans aged 50+ over a four-year period, researchers at Erasmus MC and LSE looked at different levels of social activity and how they influenced people’s moods.

LSE epidemiologist Dr Mauricio Avendano said the only activity associated with sustained happiness was attending a church, synagogue or mosque.

“The church appears to play a very important social role in keeping depression at bay and also as a coping mechanism during periods of illness in later life. It is not clear to us how much this is about religion per se, or whether it may be about the sense of belonging and not being socially isolated,” he said.

The study showed that joining political and community organisations only provides short-term benefits in terms of mental health and seems, in fact, to lead to an increase in depressive symptoms longer term.

“Participants receive a higher sense of reward when they first join an organisation but if it involves a lot of effort and they don’t get much in return, the benefits may wear off after some time,” he said.

Similarly, the study did not find any short-term benefits from sports and participation in other social activities.

According to the recent Global Burden of Disease study, the incidence of depression among older Europeans ranges from 18 per cent in Denmark to 37 per cent in Spain.

While the sample sizes were small, the study by Dr Simone Croezen from Erasmus MC, Dr Avendano and colleagues also threw up some unusual findings:

  • Southern Europeans (Italy and Spain) have higher rates of depression than older people who live in the Scandinavian countries (Sweden and Denmark) or western Europe (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands);
  • Depression may have less to do with the weather and more with other determinants, such as economic wellbeing or social relationships;
  • Northern Europeans are more likely to play sport than their southern counterparts;
  • Southern Europeans do not tend to socialise beyond their family networks and less than 10 per cent take part in either voluntary work or educational/training courses.

Previous studies have found that people who are involved in the church, clubs, sport, political groups and voluntary activities enjoy better mental health than the rest of the population. However, little research has been done on whether any of these activities in themselves actually cause happiness or whether people who are happy to begin with are more likely to engage in these activities.

“Our findings suggest that different types of social activities have an impact on mental health among older people, but the strength and direction of this effect varies according to the activity,” Dr Avendano said.

“One of the most puzzling findings is that although healthier people are more likely to volunteer, we found no evidence that volunteering actually leads to better mental health. It may be that any benefits are outweighed by other negative impacts of volunteering, such as stress.”

Social participation and depression in old age is published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. It is authored by Dr Simone Croezen (University Medical Centre Rotterdam), Dr Mauricio Avendano (LSE Health and Social Care), and Dr Alex Burdorf and Dr Frank van Lenthe (Erasmus MC).

The paper will be available here.

Getting stuck between social care and CAMHS

young_person

The UK has a world-class public sector, education is good, and the NHS is outstanding. But one area that consistently seems to let young people down is those who get stuck in-between social care and Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).

 

In our austerity climate there have been cuts to both children’s social and the CAMHS service. In addition both services are locally using more agency staff to cover the current gaps they have within their teams. This certainly provides a lack of consistency for young people and their families, but I believe that the problem is not solved by more money, and capacity staffing. Simply pouring additional resource into a dysfunctional system would not automatically produce the best results for our vulnerable children and young people. Instead it is time to consider a radical overhaul of how, when and by whom child protection and statutory mental health services are provided.

 

Too often when a child is suspected of having mental health concerns such as depression, suicide, ADHD, on the ASD spectrum then social care, often believe it is the responsibility of CAMHS to take the lead with the family. Yet CAMHS, often rightly, will point out that whilst the mental health concerns has a significant impact there are other major factors at play in the life of the young person. Instead of two agencies working together to support a young person and their family they spend their time blaming cuts on the lack of staff and resources and spend meetings with other professionals passing the buck as to why they can not help the young person.

 

All this does is lead to a situation where a young person who is on the border of a Tier 2 to 3 threshold is propelled to the top end of Tier 3 if not into Tier 4 as no agency takes responsibility to support and invest in the young person and their family.

 

I can think of several families that I’ve worked with for whom this tension between social care and CAMHS has actually worsened the situation, and certainly not helped the young person.

 

I sit in meetings where I want to stop and shout: “Enough is enough!” Surely we can find a way to do something between us to support this young person and their family.

 

As is often the case though in a large organisation the staff at the meetings don’t have the power to be able to change the situation – what we need is county managers and health commissioners working together for the benefit of young people and their families and enabling their staff to do the same.

Survey of England’s children

Children's World Report

Children’s Worlds survey has been conducting research across the world understanding children in a range of countries.  The latest survey for England has recently been published, based on research from late 2013 and early 2014.

There’s a huge wealth of statistics in the 38 page report which is worth digging into.  Here’s how the research sample was taken:

The England sample was designed to achieve a nationally representative sample of children aged 8 to 9 years old, aged 10 to 11 years old and aged 12 to 13 years old with at least 1,000 children in each group. The primary sampling unit was schools. Separate samples were drawn for Years 4 and 6 (primary school education) and Year 8 (secondary school education). Both samples followed the same methodology. First, a complete list of schools in England was stratified into five groups by the proportion of children receiving free school meals (a very rough indicator of economic prosperity). These groups were approximate quintiles (based on numbers of pupils in each stratum). The approximation was because of a lack of precision in the data available on free school meal entitlement. Within each stratum schools were selected randomly with probabilities proportional to size (number of pupils), with the aim of achieving a target of at least eight schools per stratum. Within each selected school, one class group (not grouped on pupil ability) was randomly selected.

Single men account for 75% of homelessness in the UK

Watching How to get a Council House on Channel 4 is tough.  When you hear statistics such as: “Single men account for 75% of homelessness in the UK and on average rough sleepers don’t survive above the age of 47” it breaks your heart.

More than three times as many homeless young people a year are estimated to be relying on charities and councils for a roof over their heads across the UK than officially recorded by the government, according to new research by the University of Cambridge, commissioned by the youth homelessness charity Centrepoint.

CentrePoint homeless stats

An estimated that 83,000 homeless 16-24 year-olds relied on the support of councils and charities in the UK in 2013-14, the last complete year of available data, compared to just 26,852 recorded by statutory homelessness figures compiled by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and authorities in the devolved nations.

Benefits Street programme sequel to be filmed in Southampton

Benefits_Street

Makers of the controversial Benefits Street documentary are planning a sequel in Southampton.  Love Productions has approached residents in Derby Road, St Mary’s, for the new show that will be called Immigration Street and will focus on the area’s diverse communities.

Harjap Singh, chairman of Sikh Council Hampshire and Southampton Gurdwara Council, said the organisations have raised concerns over the programme.  He said:

“We are against it because it would be pretty bad for community relations.  The Vaisakhi celebrations looks to bring communities together but it seems the programme makers could put certain sections of the community against each other.  A few people I have spoken to have raised concerns and have asked to make sure this doesn’t happen.”

David Bane, secretary of the Southampton Council of Faiths, said the organisation was “cautious”:

“The council of faiths had a meeting last Tuesday and there’s mixed feeling about it.  We don’t have control over what the programme comes out like.  The Southampton Council of Faiths is nearly 19 years old and we have worked very hard to link communities and keep the trust and peace.  Southampton has a history of immigration. We have had people come to this city for years and I think in a way majority of people see it as a real added value to the community – we have around 47 languages spoken here.  We need to be careful.”

However Khalid Farooq, of the Derby Road-based Pakistan Welfare Association said it was an opportunity to show how multi-cultural Derby Road is.  He said:

“I think it’s good. It shows the multi-cultural environment of people living in Derby Road.  They should show a positive aspect of the community.  I think there needs to be more support and show how hard working people are here.”

Cllr Stephen Barnes-Andrew, deputy leader of Southampton City Council and cabinet member for resources, represents the Bevois ward.  He said:

“It is difficult because your whole experience of the programme is sensationalised from James Turner Street in Birmingham and it turned out the whole programme was stage managed.  They have had meetings with council officers on one occasion and said they will try to do a balanced programme.  My view is that on balance looking at previous production it will not be in the interests of people in Southampton as I fear they will be turning to portray a certain angle on the downside of immigration.”

Southampton Test MP Alan Whitehead, who represents the area, has spoken of his concern.  He said he was worried that the programme would follow a script rather than tell the truth and reflect the community accurately.  He said:

“Some programmes can be a tremendous fillip and bonus in getting across to the public what the real issues are. I don’t think the company in this instance has a track record to do that.”

Supermarket bans sweets at the checkout

supermarket sweets

The Guardian has reported that Lidl has banned sweets and chocolate bars from the checkout at all 600 of its UK stores after surveying parents about the “pester power” of their children:

The discount supermarket said racks of sweets had been replaced with dried and fresh fruit, oatcakes and juices, following a trial of these healthier options at checkouts last year.

Lidl customer research showed that seven out of 10 customers would choose a sweet-free checkout over the traditional one laden with chocolate bars. In a survey for the supermarket, 68% of parents said they were pestered by their children for chocolate at the checkout, and 66% gave in some or all of the time.

One in six parents told the supermarket they spend £20-40 a month on supermarket snacks, while a similar number said they had used the offer of a “treat” as a reward for good behaviour during the shopping trip.

The supermarket claims it is the first UK supermarket to have removed sweets from all its checkouts. Although Tesco and Sainsbury’s have removed sweets from counters at their larger outlets, they continue to be sold at the checkouts in convenience stores.

Ronny Gottschlich, managing director, Lidl UK, said: “We know how difficult it can be to say no to pester power, so by removing sweets and chocolates from our tills we can make it easier for parents to reward children in healthier ways.”

The ban comes after a National Obesity Forum report showed that previous estimates that half the UK population will be obese by 2050 had understated the problem.

Katharine Jenner at Action on Sugar said campaigners were pleased with Lidl’s decision. “It is an acknowledgement from the retailers that these products are not healthy,” she said, but added: “It is one thing to put people off buying, it is another to make products healthier.”

Shop uses mannequins modelled on the bodies of disabled people

Shop uses mannequins modelled on the bodies of disabled people

A fashion mannequin has an implicit message: this form is beautiful.  If your own body doesn’t look like that form—not even remotely—then you may not feel that way about yourself.

The Swiss charity Pro Infirmis helps people with disabilities. To remind them that they are beautiful, too, they commissioned mannequins modelled on the bodies of four people with disabilities. The video below shows the process. Craftsmen measured the bodies of the models, then reshaped mannequins to fit those specifications.

After finishing construction, Pro Infirmis placed those mannequins, now dressed in fashionable clothing, in a storefront in Zurich. Watch the responses of the models and passersby.

 

What does Joey Essex teach us about Christmas

National Television Awards - Red Carpet Arrivals

Heat Magazine: Will you put a nativity scene under the tree?
Joey Essex: What does that mean?
Heat: You know what a nativity scene is, surely…
Joey: An activity screen? Is it a box you put presents in
Heat: You know, when Jesus was born…
Joey: Oh! The hay round the bottom of the Christmas tree!
Heat: His mum and dad, Mary and Joseph…
Joey: They put him in a cot?
Heat: A crib…
Joey: Like a house? What was that song they used to sing? :Bursts into song “Baby Jesus! Bethlehem! And he used to sit in a little barn?” That was a sick song. I really want to start going to church.
Heat: And the three wise men brought him gold, frankincense and myrh…
Joey: [incredulous] How do you know all of this…

Krish has more on how modern society understands (if at all) what Christmas is about. Here’s the original interview.

UK Teens ‘Tempted’ By Glamorous Cigarette Packaging

Silk Cut

Cancer Research UK study reveals for the first time that glitzy and glamorous cigarette packaging makes children susceptible to smoking — tempting them in to a habit that kills. The research is published in the journal BMJ Open.

The results are further proof that the UK government’s decision not to protect children from the tobacco industry’s marketing practices risks harming the UK’s public health legacy. The government claims it wishes to wait and see the impact of similar moves in Australia – where the weight of evidence led to the introduction of standardized packaging last year.

During this delay the tobacco industry is reaping the benefits of slickly designed packs that help to recruit new smokers. Nearly 570 children under-16 start smoking in the UK every day.

In the new study, researchers at the University of Stirling examined the reactions of 1,025 UK children aged 11-16 who had never tried smoking. They were given three different types of cigarette packs: regular, novelty and standardized packs. Novelty packs were those with an unusual shape, color or system of opening, and included a slim “perfume” type pack and a pack in the shape of a giant lighter. Standardized packs were brown packs of a uniform shape with all branding removed apart from a brand name.

Children preferred the colorful and novelty packs – such as Silk Cut Superslim’s elegant and feminine slim pack shape, Marlborough Bright Leaf’s Zippo style flip-top opening and Pall Mall’s bright pink pack.

Alarmingly children who liked these packs were the same children who said they were more tempted to smoke – for example those receptive to the Silk Cut pack were over four times more likely to be susceptible to smoking than those who were not receptive to this pack.

In contrast plain, standardized packaging reduced the appeal of smoking to the children.

Miley Cyrus hits back at Sinead O’Connor

Yesterday I wrote about how Sinead O’Connor had written an open letter to Miley Cyrus.  Miley Cyrus fired back at “Nothing Compares 2U” singer Sinéad O’Connor on Twitter after O’Connor penned a lengthy and motherly open letter to the provocative 20-year-old.

In the letter, O’Connor claimed that Cyrus is being “prostituted” by the music industry and predicted the former Hannah Montana star would eventually land in rehab.  Sadly Cyrus didn’t take kindly to the advice. She responded with a tweet that poked fun at O’Connor’s 2011 brush with mental health issues. The tweet says, “Before Amanda Bynes…. There was….” and links to O’Connor’s old tweets.

Miley Cyrus tweets

Cyrus followed up that tweet with a photo of O’Connor’s memorable moment in which she tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II:

Sinead O'Connor Pope

Not one to back down, O’Connor responded to Cyrus’ tweets in a Facebook post (sadly again full of strong language):

Miley… Really? Who the fuck is advising you? Because taking me on is even more fuckin’ stupid than behaving like a prostitute and calling it feminism. You have posted today tweets of mine which are two years old, which were posted by me when I was unwell and seeking help so as to make them look like they are recent. In doing so you mock myself and Amanda Bynes for having suffered with mental health issues and for having sought help. I mean really really… who advises you? have you any idea how stupid and dangerous it is to mock people for suffering illness? You will yourself one day suffer such illness, that is without doubt. The course you have set yourself upon can only end in that, trust me. I am staggered that any 20 yr old woman of the 21st century could behave in such a dangerous and irresponsible manner as to not only send the signal to young women that its ok to act like prostitutes but also to the signal that those who have suffered or do suffer mental health problems are to be mocked and have their opinions invalidated. Have you no sense of danger at all? or responsibility? Remove your tweets immediately or you will hear from my lawyers. I am certain you will be hearing from all manner of mental health advocacy groups also. It is not acceptable to mock any person for having suffered. It is most unbecoming of you to respond in such a fashion to someone who expressed care for you. And worse that you are such an anti-female tool of the anti-female music industry. I hope that you will apologise to Amanda Bynes and to any person who has been wounded by your mockery of those who have suffered. And I hope that you will wake up and understand that you in fact are a danger to women. Furthermore you posted a photo of me tearing the pope’s photo .. as if to imply insanity.. by doing so all you have achieved is to expose your staggering ignorance. I suggest you read The Philadelphia Report, The Boston Report, all the reports which will illuminate for you why that action of mine remains sane and valid. By mocking it you mock every child who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of priests and had it covered by the Vatican. You could really do with educating yourself, that is if you’re not too busy getting your tits out to read.

O’Connor continued the conversation in another Facebook post, mentioning legal action:

Ms Cyrus has today posted tweets of mine which are two years old and which were sent when I was ill and seeking medical help. She has done this in an attempt to deliberately cause me harm and hurt. I wish to confirm that I am quite well and kindly request people cease e mailing me in the mistaken belief these are recent tweets. Ms Cyrus’ lawyers will be contacted by mine regarding this matter. I confirm also that I do not at all support or condone the abuse or mockery of those who have been brave enough to openly discuss mental health issues. Mockery causes deaths. Period. It is an unacceptable form of bullying, no matter who it is doing the bullying.

Sinéad O’Connor’s open letter to Miley Cyrus

Sinead O'Connor

After the 20-year-old claimed that Wrecking Ball’s controversial video was inspired by Nothing Compares 2 U, the Irish singer was compelled to warn Cyrus that she is being ‘pimped’ by the pop industry. This is the full text of O’Connor’s blogpost, (some of the language is colourful to say the least):

Dear Miley,

I wasn’t going to write this letter, but today i’ve been dodging phone calls from various newspapers who wished me to remark upon your having said in Rolling Stone your Wrecking Ball video was designed to be similar to the one for Nothing Compares … So this is what I need to say … And it is said in the spirit of motherliness and with love.

I am extremely concerned for you that those around you have led you to believe, or encouraged you in your own belief, that it is in any way ‘cool’ to be naked and licking sledgehammers in your videos. It is in fact the case that you will obscure your talent by allowing yourself to be pimped, whether its the music business or yourself doing the pimping.

Nothing but harm will come in the long run, from allowing yourself to be exploited, and it is absolutely NOT in ANY way an empowerment of yourself or any other young women, for you to send across the message that you are to be valued (even by you) more for your sexual appeal than your obvious talent.
I am happy to hear I am somewhat of a role model for you and I hope that because of that you will pay close attention to what I am telling you.

The music business doesn’t give a shit about you, or any of us. They will prostitute you for all you are worth, and cleverly make you think its what YOU wanted … and when you end up in rehab as a result of being prostituted, ‘they’ will be sunning themselves on their yachts in Antigua, which they bought by selling your body and you will find yourself very alone.

None of the men ogling you give a shit about you either, do not be fooled. Many’s the woman mistook lust for love. If they want you sexually that doesn’t mean they give a fuck about you. All the more true when you unwittingly give the impression you don’t give much of a fuck about yourself. And when you employ people who give the impression they don’t give much of a fuck about you either. No one who cares about you could support your being pimped … and that includes you yourself.

Yes, I’m suggesting you don’t care for yourself. That has to change. You ought be protected as a precious young lady by anyone in your employ and anyone around you, including you. This is a dangerous world. We don’t encourage our daughters to walk around naked in it because it makes them prey for animals and less than animals, a distressing majority of whom work in the music industry and it’s associated media.

You are worth more than your body or your sexual appeal. The world of showbiz doesn’t see things that way, they like things to be seen the other way, whether they are magazines who want you on their cover, or whatever … Don’t be under any illusions … ALL of them want you because they’re making money off your youth and your beauty … which they could not do except for the fact your youth makes you blind to the evils of show business. If you have an innocent heart you can’t recognise those who do not.

I repeat, you have enough talent that you don’t need to let the music business make a prostitute of you. You shouldn’t let them make a fool of you either. Don’t think for a moment that any of them give a flying fuck about you. They’re there for the money… we’re there for the music. It has always been that way and it will always be that way. The sooner a young lady gets to know that, the sooner she can be REALLY in control.

You also said in Rolling Stone that your look is based on mine. The look I chose, I chose on purpose at a time when my record company were encouraging me to do what you have done. I felt I would rather be judged on my talent and not my looks. I am happy that I made that choice, not least because I do not find myself on the proverbial rag heap now that I am almost 47 yrs of age … which unfortunately many female artists who have based their image around their sexuality, end up on when they reach middle age.

Real empowerment of yourself as a woman would be to in future refuse to exploit your body or your sexuality in order for men to make money from you. I needn’t even ask the question … I’ve been in the business long enough to know that men are making more money than you are from you getting naked. Its really not at all cool. And its sending dangerous signals to other young women. Please in future say no when you are asked to prostitute yourself. Your body is for you and your boyfriend. It isn’t for every spunk-spewing dirtbag on the net, or every greedy record company executive to buy his mistresses diamonds with.

As for the shedding of the Hannah Montana image … whoever is telling you getting naked is the way to do that does absolutely NOT respect your talent, or you as a young lady. Your records are good enough for you not to need any shedding of Hannah Montana. She’s waaaaaaay gone by now … Not because you got naked but because you make great records.

Whether we like it or not, us females in the industry are role models and as such we have to be extremely careful what messages we send to other women. The message you keep sending is that its somehow cool to be prostituted … its so not cool Miley … its dangerous. Women are to be valued for so much more than their sexuality. We aren’t merely objects of desire. I would be encouraging you to send healthier messages to your peers … that they and you are worth more than what is currently going on in your career. Kindly fire any motherfucker who hasn’t expressed alarm, because they don’t care about you.

As posted on www.sineadoconnor.com

Of course from a Christian perspective it doesn’t go far enough, we would want to say something of the reality of who we are, but culturally this letter is huge in challenging the music industry and society in their “treatment” of young women.  It’s tragic but Sinéad is exactly right.  The music industry is laughing all the way to the bank.