Wednesday 9 August 2023

NO EVIDENCE that using Facebook is bad for mental health - new study!

A lot of experts have consistently said over a long time that Facebook is addictive and bad for mental health especially for today's youngsters who can spend hours on the site daily. Now The Times reports that:

There is no evidence that the global adoption of Facebook is linked to psychological harm, a study has suggested.

So, you can go back on Facebook (FB) if you ever left it and check out some more funny cat pics or cat rescues! Seriously though I have to doubt this research. Oxford University said that Facebook users may even benefit from the social media site. 

No evidence that using Facebook is bad for mental health - new study!
Is this harmful or beneficial? Image in public domain.

The checked-out data from a million people in 72 countries. Facebook's owner, Meta allowed access to user data. But it took 3 years to get the information and write it up!

The researchers said that Meta did not fund the research. This information is intended to tell us that the report is not a Meta PR exercise. But is it?! It might be. Meta wants more research on the wellbeing of users. This study is certainly a boost to Meta's public profile.

Some earlier research found that FB is liked to increased incidences of mental health problems. The new research has been challenged by some campaigners.

The new study said that "evidence for harm is on balance more speculative than conclusive."

The lead author of the new study, Professor Andrew Przybylski, said that earlier studies have been proven to be inaccurate because they focused on the UK and USA over a short timeframe and relied on surveys from people about their social media use.

The professor added that "The best global data does not support the idea that the expansion of social media has a negative global association with wellbeing across nations and different demographics."

The study looked at 2 age brackets: 13-34 and 35-plus for the years 2008-2019.

There was a "small but significant" indication that FB users' wellbeing improved.

A critic, Fances Haugen said that "the study isn't well designed to assess the actual impact of Facebook". She said that people should be cautious about the finding that using FB is beneficial.

Another critic, the Molly Rose Foundation said that "the coroner at Molly's inquest...concluded that the torrent of harmful content that she was algorithmically fed contributed to her death". And "that Meta's own research has long found that Instagram [also owned by FB] has adverse impacts on the health and wellbeing of young people."

What do you think?

2 more ways to be a better cat caregiver by being healthier

2 more ways for a cat owner to feel better and be healthier to be a better caregiver
Image in public domain,

Here are some more ways to be a better cat caregiver by being healthier. It is very difficult to be a good cat caregiver if you are unhealthy and feeling ill. And it's also difficult to be a good cat caregiver if you feel depressed. Depression is on the increase in the US and in the UK.

Previously, a separate report released in May from Gallup found a similar national prevalence of depression in the United States, also finding that about 18% of adults say they are depressed or receiving treatment for depression, a jump of more than 7 percentage points since 2015. - CNN report 15th June 2023.

I have recently written about some ways to improve one's health both in the interests of the caregiver and of the cat:

  1. Infographic on 8 habits that could add 24 years to your life (and improve cat caregiving)
  2. Be a better cat caregiver by being healthier in consuming olive oil and going vegetarian for 6 months.
Today I would like to address a couple more methods to improve one's health and welfare.

Handful of nuts linked to lower risk of depression

Eating a handful of nuts every day is linked to a 17% lower risk of depression according to scientists. Nuts contain nutrients that could help mental health. Data was gathered from the UK Biobank. This is an online database of medical and lifestyle records concerning half a million Britons. 

The analysis suggested that middle-aged and older adults who ate a daily 30 g serving of nuts including pistachios, hazelnuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, almonds and walnuts were less likely to report to their GP that they were depressed and are less likely to be taking antidepressants.

The study has been published in the journal Clinical Nutrition. This is an observational study which means they saw this link but they don't explain why the link exists. But they speculate that the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of nuts may act as antidepressant nutrients.

The scientists explained that nuts contain bioactive substances such as phenols or phytosterols. They also contain micronutrients, fibre, high quality protein, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids together with vitamins all of which could play a role in improving mental health.

The lead author, Bruno Bizzozero-Peroni, a researcher at the Health and Social Research Centre at the University of Castilla-La Mancha, in Spain said: "Our findings highlight yet another benefit of consuming nuts."

The researchers looked at data from more than 13,000 people aged between 27-73 over the years 2007 to 2020. They did not report having depression at the start of the study. The researchers asked participants to complete questionnaires to assess nut consumption and they compared this to doctors' diagnoses of depression or antidepressant use which was recorded.

More than 1100 cases of depression were recorded representing 8.3% of the participants after a follow-up of more than five years. And they discovered, as mentioned, that those who ate 30 g of nuts a day had a 17% lower risk of depression compared to those who did not eat nuts.

Just 2337 steps a day can cut risk of disease

This is about something a lot of people know quite a lot about namely walking and measuring how many steps you take when you go for a daily walk. I'm told by The Times that in the lead up to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, marketing executives started a campaign to promote a new pedometer and suggested that people should walk 10,000 steps a day. It has, since then, been touted as a good target to stay fit and healthy.

It is quite a high target. You have to go for about a 50 minute to 1 hour walk or more to reach that figure but a new study shows that if you walk the equivalent of 2,337 steps daily it's enough to reduce the risk of dying but the more you walk the more the benefit.

The scientists analysed information from 226,889 people involved in previous studies in many countries including Norway, Australia, America and Britain.

The daily average step count was recorded and compared to their likelihood of dying during a follow-up period averaging seven years. The study has been published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology. It confirmed what I have stated. The 2,337 steps a day has been identified as the minimum at which one can see a significant reduction in the risk of dying from heart disease or stroke.

The lead author, Prof Maciej Banach from the Medical University of Lodz in Poland Said: "Our study confirms that the more you walk, the better. We found that this applies to both men and women, irrespective of age and irrespective of [where you live]. In addition, our analysis indicates that as little as 4,000 steps a day are needed to significantly reduce deaths from any cause, and even fewer to reduce deaths from cardiovascular disease.

The NHS recommends that people should do at least 150 minutes of moderately intense activity such as walking every week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity over the same period.

Be a better cat caregiver by being healthier in mind, body and spirit.

Tuesday 8 August 2023

Woman who suffered a stroke rejected an NHS trans woman nurse who came to wash her

NEWS AND COMMENT-UK: On the radio this morning, there was an interesting story which I would like to report on this website. It is not about cats but I'm allowed to talk about something else when the cat news dries up!

In this story, Nick Ferrari on LBC was discussing the NHS and transgender people. A woman suffered a stroke and she was being cared for at her home. Nurses were coming around to wash her.

On one occasion a transgender woman (trans woman) turned up to wash her. A trans woman is a woman who was assigned male at birth and self-identifies as a woman and lives the life of a woman.

I mean no disrespect at all to the nurse by the way. I am totally open and supportive of transgender people. And I'm also very supportive of the way people self-identify with a wide spectrum of genders. This I think is totally normal but it is taking a while for the mainstream conservative population to accept it.

The woman who had suffered a stroke rejected the trans woman nurse. That's because she wanted a biological female as she saw it (assigned female at birth) to wash her because it's a very private procedure. And clearly, this woman who was in her 40s had difficulties in accepting the fact that a transgender female nurse who was originally a man was suited to the job.

She must have felt that the person was still a man and therefore she didn't want to expose her private parts to them.

The sting in the tale is this: the NHS thereafter barred her from treatment at home. Can you imagine that? The administrators at the NHS simply stopped providing a service to her because she exercised her right, it seems to me, to reject the nurse.

It seems to me also that the administrators appear to have decided that the woman is transphobic, meaning that she is intolerant of transgender people.

However, we don't know that. If they thought that they'd made a presumption which may well have been incorrect. In any case, is not a good enough reason to stop providing a service to the woman who has a right under British law as I understand it to receive NHS services.

It wouldn't surprise me if she had paid national insurance stamps when she was working. In short, she probably has paid for NHS services when she was working in paying national insurance as a tax. If that is the case then this is a breach of contract as well as I see it.

Toxic debate

It is a story which sheds light on this toxic debate about transphobia and about transgender people. It's a toxic debate about people who are described as "gender-critical". As I understand it, these are people who question whether there are more than two sexes i.e. male and female. Gender-critical people believe that there are just two sexes: male and female and if a person is transgender and transfers their gender from say male to female as this nurse did, they are still males.

This woman who suffered a stroke is probably a gender-critical person. People have a right to be gender-critical in a society where freedom of speech is protected under the British, unwritten constitution.

People on the opposite side of the fence describe these people as transphobic. They hate them. And they will often do whatever they can to upset them. This is been seen with JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series. She's been described by campaigners for transgender people as being transphobic when, to be honest, I don't think that she is. 

But if you stick your head above the parapet and say something which is a little bit dodgy in this debate you can be branded as trans-phobic and it can quite severely affect your life if you are a high-profile person because you can be heavily criticised on social media which can undermine your work.

Another similar case

I have just discovered that this is not an isolated incident because the news media online today tell me that another woman, Teresa Steel, developed an abscess after delays to an operation following a request for only biological women to provide her with intimate care. Her surgery had been cancelled because she had demanded same-sex care she claimed.

Definition of 'gender-critical': critical of or opposed to the belief that gender identity is more important or significant than biological sex (typically used in contexts relating to the rights of transgender people).

Monday 7 August 2023

Does Jake the Crow believe he is a rabbit because he is living with them?

Jake and his rabbit buddies
Jake and his rabbit buddies. Screenshot.

The news media say that Jake the Crow believes that he is a rabbit because when rescued with a broken leg on a road he was placed with rabbits in a rabbit hutch and he gradually got used to them and now spends all his time with his rabbit friends. The people who rescued him say that he thinks he's a rabbit because he hops around them and does things with the rabbits.

But a quick bit of research tells me that this is unlikely to be true. Yes, he likes to live with the rabbits because he has learnt to trust and accept them and vice versa. That's a great thing and it is a good example of an interspecies relationship

However, it's a known fact apparently that crows are self-aware which means that they can recognise themselves in a mirror. They know what they look like. They understand what and who they are. 

And knowing what they are i.e. a crow, when they look at a rabbit, they must understand that they are not the same creature. They must understand that they are looking at an animal that is different to them. Therefore, they can't think that they are rabbit.

A minor philosophical point I guess but I believe one that is worth making. His rescuer said that:

"The rabbits have accepted Jake as one of their own. It's so funny, he hops around them and Jake has taken on the characteristics of the rabbits, and we know when he wants feeding because she lets out a big squawk, which is also why we call him Jake the Really Loud Crow."

Yep, he has copied some rabbit characteristics but he still knows that he is living with a different animal.

"Curiosity killed the cat" is an adage which was "Care killed the cat" meaning anxiety

We all know the old saying "Curiosity killed the cat". It's a saying which fits cat behaviour. Domestic cats are, indeed, very curious. It gets him into trouble sometimes which is why they can be harmed because of their curiosity and even, rarely, killed. Therefore, the adage has some veracity.

Domestic cats' lack of understanding of activities and objects in the human world makes them nervous
Domestic cats' lack of understanding of activities and objects in the human world makes them nervous. Photo: Pixabay.

But the original version of this proverb, from its first appearance in the 16th century until the end of the 19th century was, "Care killed the cat".

Care meaning anxious

In this saying, the word "care" means to worry about or to be anxious about something or other. It points to the possibility that cats could become so anxious and worried about something that it could even kill them. And this, apparently, used to be a belief by many people back in the day when the saying was first created.

And interestingly, this concept of worry killing cats is being revisited by veterinarians. Perhaps it's being revisited in terms of the fact that anxiety in domestic cats can harm their health which can lead to on occasions a serious health problems and even death.

But apparently, about 25% of cat owners surveyed in a 2008 study believed that their cat was incapable of feeling anxiety or sadness. Times have changed thanks to the internet I would say which has educated many cat owners. It is believed now that cats can at least experience the basic emotions that humans experience which includes anxiety or sadness.

And if asked today, scientists would agree that the old version of the proverb is to a certain extent true. Anxiety does present as a serious and real affliction for many domestic cats.

Anxiety is defined as a fear of something that is not currently happening. And you will find that there are, today, some anti-anxiety drugs which have been developed for humans which can be used on cats off-licence. Although, we are still unsure as to whether domestic cat feels the same kind of anxiety that humans feel but we are sure that feline anxiety is similar to human anxiety.

Elavil for anxious cats sometimes. Last resort.
Elavil for anxious cats sometimes. Last resort. Image: MikeB

Interestingly, in the study I mention, more than 60% of cat owners thought that domestic cats can be jealous. Almost 20% of the participants thought that cats can feel the emotion of embarrassment and more than 20% believed that cats can feel shame. Around 35% believed that cats can feel guilt and 40% were sure that cats experienced grief. About 60% thought that domestic cats experienced empathy.

Home range issues

The most common cause of anxiety in cats is to worry that their home range i.e. their territory is about to be invaded by other cats in the neighbourhood. This might apply to full-time indoor cats when looking out the window into the back yard.

Or they might feel this anxiety when living in a multi-cat home and where their territory is very compressed. Under these circumstances home ranges overlap a lot and there is a greater possibility for cats to develop anxiety because of intrusions into their home range.

When Dr. Jon Bradshaw conducted a survey of 90 cat owners in suburban Hampshire and rural Devon in 2000, the participants reported that almost 50% of their cats regularly fought with other cats. They confirmed that 40% of the cats were fearful of cats in general.

He states that he has a colleague, a veterinary surgeon, Rachel Casey, specialising in cat behavioural disorders who regularly diagnoses anxiety and fear. She believes that these emotions are main factors driving cats to urinate and defecate indoors outside of the litter box.

Forced to live with cat they don't trust and owner absence

As about half of domestic cats on that survey suffer from anxiety the old adage that I mention above carries some truth. And this leads to inappropriate defecation and urination inside the home. When cats defecate on bedsheets which by the way happened to my ex-wife's cat after my divorce, the cat is desperately trying to mingle their own smells with their owner's smells to establish ownership. 

It can be reassuring for a cat to do this. In my ex-wife's case I don't think this was about ownership of space but more about anxiety about her absence. Although she had introduced a new cat to the home which would have probably compounded the matter.

The stress of being forced to live with a cat or cat that they don't trust can affect a cat's health. The classic illness caused by stress is cystitis which veterinarians call idiopathic cystitis because there is no apparent cause of it.

66% urination problems

Dr. Jon Bradshaw tells me in his book Cat Sense that "As many as two thirds of cats taking to vets for urination problems-blood in the urine, difficult or painful urination, urinating in inappropriate places-have no obvious medical problems, other than inflammation of the bladder and intermittent blockage of the urethra by mucus thereby displaced from the bladder wall. The factors triggering such episodes of cystitis are therefore psychological."

Lack of understanding

When you think about it, there are a lot of things about the human world that domestic cats are going to struggle to understand because they are human. They can become acclimatised to them but constantly fail to understand them.

Certainly, new events and activities can make them anxious because of this failure to understand.

It's a reminder that we are different species and that our relationship as is an interspecies relationship and therefore quite special.

There are numerous activities which occur throughout the day and throughout the year which can cause anxiety and which are exclusively human in nature such as fireworks, delivery vans outside, the doorbell going off, the hoover being used and so on and so forth.

Owners aware

I think based upon this article that many cat owners should really be switched onto the possibility that their cat companion is going to stressed at some stage of their lives and they should look to the causes, the most common of which, as mentioned, is another cat or cats.

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