gmusic@nurturingnatures.co.uk

This blog is to critically introduce, and contextualise, new research findings from developmental research, neuroscience, attachment theory  and other areas of psychology that are topical or are likely to whet the appetite of  anyone interested. The aim is to discuss research which will feel relevant and which might even, if lucky, make a...

This blog is to critically introduce, and contextualise, new research findings from developmental research, neuroscience, attachment theory  and other areas of psychology that are topical or are likely to whet the appetite of  anyone interested. The aim is to discuss research which will feel relevant and which might even, if lucky, make a difference to how we approach our work or other areas of our lives.

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Suicides and the recession

This week we learnt that the suicide rate in the U.K. has dramatically increased. It is of course male suicides that remain far higher  (18.2 per 100,000 compared to  5.6 per 100,000) and male suicides are at their highest level for 10 years.  Those most at risk are men in their 30’s and 40’s.

Of course, while this is a mental health issue, it is very linked to the serious downturn in the economy. International studies have shown that rates of suicide are, for example, very linked to unemployment rates eg http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00127-010-0275-2?LI=true.

One study of rates in 35 countries found, for example that males were particularly vulnerable to fluctuations in the labour market, but that suicide rates also decreased in countries where there was higher per capita health spending http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00127-010-0316-x?LI=true.

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Poverty, speeding up the life course and mental and physical health problems

This week we learnt that even the government has admitted that the new squeeze on benefits is likely to push another 200,000 children into poverty  (http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/jan/17/benefits-squeeze-200000-children-poverty).

Almost every week studies come out showing the impact of poverty and economic stress and hardship on psychological health.  One very interesting study which is about to be published [1] has shown very clearly that children born onto worse economic circumstances are likely to have a different psychological makeup through their lifespans. This research is based on Life History Theory, propounded by many evolutionary psychologists and researchers such as Jay Belsky. The science seems to be showing that if we are born into an environment where stress, anxiety, fear or trauma are likely, then we live a ‘faster life course’, and for example, breed earlier, take more risks and also die younger and have worse health.

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narcissism and superficality

Interesting but worrying new research has just been published by Jean Twenge who has been researching about the changes in the American character for several decades now. The trends that are being seen are an increase in narcissistic attitudes up 30% it seems in those few decades. At the same time more ‘prosocial’ (rather than antisocial) traits, like cooperativeness and understanding other people,  seem to be on the decrease  [1], [2].

In addition we are seeing a much bigger sense of entitlement, more overconfidence and belief in people’s own abilities, what popular psychology describes as self-esteem. While low self-esteem is obviously a problem, what in fact we are seeing is huge levels of over-confidence and a decrease in old fashioned values such as humility and modesty. Interestingly this increase in self-belief does not correlate with actual better performances, so it is delusional in some ways. Better performance in fact correlates with traits like being able to defer gratification and regulate ones emotions, as do all manner of things like holding down a good job or being in a relationship that lasts [3].

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New year, holidays and spreading loneliness or happiness

This blog arises as I, like many in my business, am all too aware of the fact that while the lucky ones in our society are and have been basking in the holiday closeness that Christmas and new Year brings, for all too many the experience can be one of loneliness and devastation. The children I work with who all are, or have been, in the care system, often find this time of the year the hardest of all as they are starkly in touch with what they do not have that others seem to.. While the data does not necessarily back up the belief that there is an increase in suicides at this time of the year, it is certainly a time when many feel the stark contrast between their lives and the happy relationships and families that the media constantly portray.

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Just Giving for Christmas

In our increasingly high octane and money/market oriented world it is sometimes hard to really believe in old fashioned human values such as altruism. Christmas of course challenges that. There is such a gluttonous consume and spend fest, and such a lot of anxiety about getting enough, buying the right thing, and a lot of confusion between what we really want to do as opposed to what we feel we have to do, and motives can get horribly jumbled.

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Guest — Asha Phillips
As usual Graham you are fascinating and bring research to life in easy to grasp and relevant form. Thank you
Tuesday, 25 December 2012 12:52
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Longevity, Olympians, high status and inequality

There were 2 articles in the BMJ this week about longevity and Olympic athletes. One of them  [1] found that those who won medals lived several years longer than those in the general population and longer than other athletes.  One assumption was that this is linked to fitness, but that is probably unlikely. Another study also published in the BMJ this very week found that high intensity exercise does not give a survival advantage [2]. I suspect that in fact the increased longevity comes from feeling better about themselves, which will do all kind of positive things for our immune system and overall health.

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Guest — Liz Anderson
This research raises yet more issues for those of us working therapeutically. If we accept that many of those who seek therapy fee... Read More
Sunday, 16 December 2012 09:51
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