Smile and live longer

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Can pessimists learn to be optimists? If so, they could lengthen their lives, an American study shows. Research on nearly 100,000 women found that pessimists on the whole had higher blood pressure and cholesterol; but even with those risks, optimists fared better than their cynical sisters.

Optimistic women had a 9 per cent lower risk of developing heart disease and a 14 per cent lower risk of dying from any cause after more than eight years of follow-up. In comparison, pessimistic women who harboured hostile thoughts about others or were generally mistrusting of others were 16 per cent more likely to die over the same time scale.

Why? Optimists may be better at coping with adversity; they might take better care of themselves when ill. Those in study exercised more and were leaner. Hostile emotions release certain chemicals in the body which may increase the risk of heart disease, and they may go hand in hand… click here to read whole article and make comments



British tax and benefit system favours single parents

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Does the British government actually not want some people to marry? It rather looks like it, judging by the financial penalty many couples face as a result of the tax they pay and the benefits they do not receive. In fact, it looks as though the government wants those who are married to split up.

An analysis of 98 couples with different earnings and numbers of children carried out by the charity Care showed that 76 of the couples would be better off if they split up and claimed welfare benefits that average £8007. Increasingly it is middle-income families where both parents work that suffer this “couple penalty”.

Here’s something that might not have occurred to you:

The benefit bias against couples has usually been thought to act to persuade people on the lowest incomes to stay single.

Many do stay single --… click here to read whole article and make comments



Hollywood history so much more memorable than the facts

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Was Mozart a childish and vulgar young man who mocked royalty? Was Marie Antoinette able to quell the revolutionary mob at Versailles just by appearing on the balcony? Did the exploits of the American navy lead to the cracking of the German Enigma code? Well, no, probably not, and no.

But if the movies that propagate such myths are shown in the classroom to history students, there is a good chance the false information will stick. A study from psychologists at Washington University in St. Louis shows that students will remember the movie version of the French Revolution or U-boat 571 rather than the factual textbook version as much as 50 per cent of the time. However:

"We found that when information in the film was consistent with information in the text, watching the film clips increased correct recall by about 50 percent relative to reading the text… click here to read whole article and make comments



Families gather around TV to do their own thing

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Electronic media, once a force for togetherness as whole families gathered around the radio or television, are now pulling families apart, according to a report from the UK’s communication’s regulator, Ofcom.

James Thickett, Ofcom’s director of market research, said: “What we find is that there has been a trend for people to converge on the living room, to watch the 37in high-definition television, but when they get there they start to do something else like surf the internet as well.”

It seems that TV viewing figures are holding up at 3 hours 45 minutes a day only because people are surfing the net at the same time. Radio listening has dipped below three hours a day.

It is a phenomenon that has been described by the music channel MTV as “connected cocooning” — where teenagers and young people in particular spend large amounts of… click here to read whole article and make comments



Lead us not into temptation…

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In a refreshing change from research that looks for excuses for everyday vices in people’s genes or family background, a study from the Kellogg School of Management looks at things like temptation, willpower and humility (yes, really) in impulsive and addictive behaviour.

Previous research has shown that people in a “cold state” (not experiencing hunger, anger, sexual arousal and so on) tend to underestimate how a “hot”, impulsive state will influence their behaviour. The new study led by Loran Nordgren confirmed that, and also found that those who are most confident about their self-control are the most likely to give into temptation.

“People are not good at anticipating the power of their urges, and those who are the most confident about their self-control are the most likely to give into temptation,” said Nordgren. “The key is simply to avoid any situations where vices and other weaknesses thrive… click here to read whole article and make comments



Grand expectations

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In vitro fertilisation clinics should be doing a freeze during the recession, but in Britain their income is going up and up. Research conducted for a women’s magazine indicates that £2.9 billion will be spent on fertility treatments this year compared with £1.8 billion in 2007. Government funded IVF is in short supply, so where is the private money coming from?

Would-be grandparents, that’s where. The study commissioned by Red magazine found that a quarter of women over the age of 40 and 17 per cent of all couples having fertility treatments are having them paid for by their own parents. At an average spend of £6638 per couple that’s a significant investment by the older generation in relieving the distress of their adult children and satisfying their own desires for grandchildren to brighten up their lives.

It is also something of a gamble since less than… click here to read whole article and make comments


FRIDAY, 31 JULY 2009

China’s abortion surge blamed on young, single women

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Govt poster extolling late marriage and one child.

A report in the official Chinese newspaper China Daily reveals some shocking figures on abortion in that country: 13 million surgical abortions a year performed in hospitals, 10 million abortion pills sold every year, and unknown number of abortions done in unregistered rural hospitals. “Family planning” statistics are usually considered state secrets, so why this sudden revelation?

Apparently, nobody knows, but the original report -- picked up by media around the world -- highlighted the information that nearly two thirds of the hospital abortions were done on single women aged between 20 and 29. A government official quoted in the report said nearly half of those having abortions reported using no contraception when they conceived. A sex therapist blamed it all on a lack of sex education (and doesn’t that sound familiar?).

Is this an attempt to distract the rest of the world… click here to read whole article and make comments



Does Hogwarts have a drinking problem?

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A good question, asked by New York Times Well blogger Tara Parker-Pope. In scene after scene of the movie Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, she says, “the young wizards and their adult professors are seen sipping, gulping and pouring various forms of alcohol to calm their nerves, fortify their courage or comfort their sorrows.” Parents may be surprised -- and not very happy about this message.

Unchaperoned trips to the local pub by Harry and his pals are in the book, but recreated on the big screen, says Parker-Pope, “the images of teenage drinking are jarring. Previous Harry Potter movies have shown drinking, but this one takes it to a new level.”

In one scene, Harry, Ron and Hermione order butterbeers at the pub, and Hermione ends up with a frothy mustache. While it’s never been entirely clear whether butterbeer is alcoholic, it seems to have an effect on… click here to read whole article and make comments



Divorce has lasting effects on health

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More evidence has come to light of the damage divorce does to family members. A study of 8652 people aged 51 to 61 shows that those who have been divorced, as well as those widowed, have worse health than those who have been continuously married or who have never married. Their health improves somewhat with remarriage but still suffers long term effects.

The research, by University of Chicago Sociologist Linda Waite and Johns Hopkins public health professor Mary Elizabeth Hughes, is the first to examine both marital transitions and marital status on a wide range of health dimensions, including chronic disease (heart, diabetes, cancer), depression and mobility.

Based on genetics and other factors, people enter adulthood with a particular “stock” of health, other research has shown. “Each person’s experience of marital gain and loss affect this stock of health,” Waite said. “For example, the transition to marriage tends to bring an immediate health benefit, in that it improves… click here to read whole article and make comments


MONDAY, 27 JULY 2009

New Zealand parents reject smacking ban

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The Great Smacking Debate is in full flight in New Zealand where a law change two years ago specifically banned the use of “force” for the purpose of correcting children. Opponents of the new law collected enough signatures to secure a referendum on the smacking issue, which takes place next month. A New Zealand Herald poll last week shows that 85 per cent of parents of young children plan to vote No on the question: “Should a smack as part of good parental be a criminal offence in New Zealand?”

The Weekend Herald-DigiPoll survey put questions by phone to 100 mothers and 100 fathers of 4-year-olds identified through a national database. Two-thirds of the parents were aged 30 to 39 and 51 per cent had degrees or diplomas -- so they cannot be dismissed as young and ignorant. Four out of five said they would vote in the postal referendum,… click here to read whole article and make comments


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Family Edge looks at news and trends affecting the family in the light of human dignity. Our focus is the inspiring, creative, humorous, annoying, ridiculous, and dangerous ideas in the evening news. Send tips and brainwaves to the editor, Tamara Rajakariar, at tamara.rajakariar@

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