Is Homophobia a Religious or a Psychological Issue?

“My faith won’t allow me to ACCEPT what took place over the weekend! Sorry, NOT sorry! #AdamAndEve #NotAdamAndAdam.” -Maurice Price

Maurice Price was not the only pro football player to express an anti-gay attitude following the drafting of Michael Sam, the first openly gay person to be drafted into the NFL.

Price defended his comments by referencing his religious beliefs. He is a Christian and since Christianity considers homosexuality to be a sin, then condemning homosexuality is fair. He is not alone in this regard as a common defense of homophobia is that it has more to do with defending one’s religious values than attacking a minority group.

Historically, prejudice of any kind could be freely expressed with few repercussions (emotional, legal, or otherwise) so long as there was a reasonable justification. Religion has often served as the justification, and has therefore facilitated an array of prejudice, from racism to sexism to homophobia.

Over time, the use of religious beliefs to justify prejudice has tended to decline, but still persists — especially when it comes to homosexuality.

Whether one can defend homophobia on religious grounds is a topic unto itself. But let’s imagine for the sake of argument that one could defend a prejudiced opinion on the basis of religion. Were such a position defensible, it would be necessary to ensure that the homophobia was motivated solely by religious values, as opposed to psychological factors.

The difficulty facing those who wish to defend their sexual prejudice is that psychological research has shown that homophobia tends to be much more complicated than the picture painted by Maurice Price and others who argue they are simply expressing their religious values.

Why So Mad?….

Before even discussing the psychological research, we can draw inferences about a person’s psychology based solely on their emotional responses to homosexuality. We can fairly assume that non-religious factors are motivating prejudice when there is a stark discrepancy between someone’s moral outrage and the relative seriousness of the sin.

There are hundreds of laws and principles discussed in the bible and they are not all equal. We know that some are more important because of clear demarcations (ex: The Ten Commandments) or because some rules receive more attention than others.

For example, eating shellfish is less serious a sin than adultery given that the latter appears as one of the 10 commandments and receives attention throughout the bible via important figures. Conversely, despite being forbidden in the Old Testament, shellfish are not discussed in the ten commandments, and rarely does one read of Jesus discussing their place in the moral landscape.

We would expect people’s psychological reactions to moral violations to be commensurate with the seriousness of the violation itself.

For example, if someone is more offended by someone eating shellfish than adultery, it tells us more about the person (ex: perhaps they’re vegan!) because this type of reaction is not consistent with the underlying values of the religion.

Indeed, such a reaction implies something specific about the psychology of that individual.

So, when a person expresses disgust and outrage toward a homosexual and only a mild rebuke of an adulterer, it tells us that something else is likely driving their reaction. Homosexuality is not one of the 10 commandments, does not receive much attention throughout the bible, and Jesus never addresses the issue.

A Psychological Profile of Homophobia

First, as with other forms of prejudice, those who hold anti-gay beliefs are more likely to be older, less educated, live in a rural area, and to have less contact with homosexuals. If religious values were the sole determinant of homophobia, then we would expect all religious individuals to hold the same view, regardless of these factors.

Second, those who hold authoritarian beliefs are also more likely to be homophobic. People who are highly authoritarian hold a strict belief in the need for social order and conformity to rules. They also tend to be especially intolerant of people who violate their concept of social order, and having this personality trait — which is related to, but distinct from religiosity — increases the likelihood of sexual prejudice.

Third, there is an interesting gender difference when it comes to homophobia. Heterosexual men are much more hostile and prejudiced toward gay and bisexual men than are women.

There is good reason to believe that this bias occurs because heterosexual men are often highly motivated to protect their masculine identity. In fact, experimental studies have shown that when you intentionally threaten men’s sense of their own masculinity it causes them to act aggressively toward gay men.

This psychological tendency may help explain the homophobic reactions of men who play football. The very idea that a gay man could out-play and even out-hit you must be very threatening for men who idealize masculinity.

Given that homophobic men tend to overcompensate in response to masculinity threats, I leave it to the reader to supply their own analysis of what motivates Vladamir Putin’s predilection for shirtless photos.

Homophobia may also serve useful psychological functions as well. For example, when someone’s self-esteem or identity is fragile, then attacking someone else could help to repair the damage by making oneself feel superior.

As you can see, homophobia and its expression can be complicated, and often involves more than just a simple one-to-one expression of religious conviction.

Expressing Values

It is important to point out that not all religious believers exhibit sexual prejudice. I have met many people with strong religious convictions who fully support gay rights. They consider such belief in equality to be an expression of their religious beliefs, as there are certainly biblical passages that refer to loving one’s neighbour.

Which raises a key question — why is it more important to defend a law dealing with sexual orientation than it is to defend laws of love and nonjudgment toward others?

The answer to such a question is likely to say more about one’s psychological profile than their religious affiliation.

Is pedophila a sexual orientation?

Let’s not get this twisted here, there are those people, with little intelligence who think ALL gays are pedophiles. Before you come to that idiotic misconception educate yourself, and get out of your fuckin home and learn about the world around you. I’m gay and I have zero interest in children sexually, it’s sick. It only brings outrage when I hear any type of abuse to children. But I am not here to justify gays.

There is no cure to pedophilia, courts can send these offenders to get help to suppress their feelings and not act out it requires intense therapy and in Canada the courts send these offenders for a couple of years, the USA sends them to jail for life. It’s a sick world and if you’re a parent it’s your duty to protect your children and trust no one. Victims create victims, it’s a cycle that keeps repeating itself.

Pedophilia has been widely viewed as a psychological disorder triggered by early childhood trauma.

Now, many experts see it as a biologically rooted condition that does not change — like a sexual orientation — thanks largely to a decade of research by Dr. James Cantor at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

Cantor’s team has found that pedophiles share a number of physical characteristics, including differences in brain wiring. It’s now thought that about 1 to 5 per cent of men are pedophiles, meaning they are primarily attracted to children.

These findings have been widely accepted among scientists, but have had little impact on social attitudes or law. However, we are left with the alarming question: if some men are born pedophiles, what should society do with them?

Bolstered by this research, pedophiles who have never molested children are seeking social acceptance.

‘We can resist’

Ethan Edwards has always loved little girls.

For years, he told himself his feelings were protective and loving, nothing more. But when he hit 50, he found he couldn’t stifle his desires any longer.

“I realized that young girls certainly took my breath away, more than grown-ups are usually charmed by kids,” he says.

Edwards, using a pseudonym, wrote about this realization on Virtuous Pedophiles, a website he co-founded for pedophiles who have never molested children. The group says their attraction is one they were born with and cannot change, but can control.

Edwards says the goal of Virtuous Pedophiles is to prevent child abuse, by reducing the stigma against non-offender pedophiles.

“We do not choose to be attracted to children, and we cannot make that attraction go away,” reads the website, which has about 200 members.

“But we can resist the temptation to abuse children sexually, and many of us present no danger to children whatsoever. Yet we are despised for having a sexual attraction that we did not choose, cannot change, and successfully resist.”

The biology of pedophiles

Sitting inside his office at the College St. research hospital, Cantor is surrounded by books on sexology and eccentric decor — a framed sign that reads “Data Is My Porn,” a throw pillow that spells “penis” in Braille.

Down the hall at the Kurt Freund Phallometric Lab, Cantor’s research team conducts experiments on convicted sex offenders. The men view nude images of children and adults of both sexes, while a device measures blood flow to their penises.

The method, called phallometry and invented by Freund in the 1950s, accurately measures sexual interests in 90 per cent of men, Cantor says.

“It’s the most obvious test in the world,” he says. “The procedure gives us a relative measure of how he reacts to the adult categories versus the child categories.”

His team has found that pedophiles share many physical characteristics. They are shorter, on average, than other men. They are three times more likely to be left-handed or ambidextrous. Their IQs are about 10 to 15 points lower. Finally, they are more prone to childhood head injuries — which Cantor chalks up to a natural clumsiness.

These physical characteristics are determined before birth, so the explanation for pedophilia must be in part prenatal, Cantor says.

“It’s become harder and harder to explain pedophilia on just (early childhood events). It’s either purely biological or a mix of biological and experiential. But pure experience can’t explain these data.”

Cantor, an internationally respected clinical psychologist, has also conducted studies with sex offenders using MRIs. He has found they have less white matter — the connective tissue that carries messages to other parts of the brain — than other types of criminal offenders.

The evidence suggests pedophilia results from atypical wiring in the brain. Cantor calls it “cross-wiring”: the stimuli that usually evoke nurturing and protective reactions in adults is instead evoking sexual reactions in pedophiles.

Similar experiments are being conducted across the globe, most notably at Berlin’s Institute of Sexology and Sexual Medicine, but Cantor’s research has greatly influenced the view among researchers that pedophilia has a biological basis.

Pedophiles are thought to be overwhelmingly men. About a third of those men prefer boys, about a third prefer girls, and a third will be attracted to both.

Although female sex offenders exist, they are rare and it is more difficult to test their desires. Queen’s University sexologist Dr. Meredith Chiversconducted a similar genital-based test on women, but found, curiously, that females respond to everything — including images of bonobos copulating. (One theory is that during evolution, women developed this response as an automatic defence mechanism for rape.)

Some researchers disagree on whether the brain differences in pedophiles occurred before birth or in early development. Regardless, many are coming around to the view that pedophiles cannot be “cured” — but some can be stopped from molesting children.

Preventing child abuse

“Not all sex offenders who target children are pedophiles, and not all pedophiles are sex offenders,” says Dr. Michael Seto, a pedophilia expert and forensic researcher with the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group.

Seto, a former colleague of Cantor’s at CAMH, has found that only 50 to 60 per cent of convicted sex offenders are pedophiles. The rest have sexually abused children for reasons beyond attraction — personality disorders, chaotic households or violent impulses.

His research has focused on psychological traits shared by sex offenders, potentially providing insight into why some pedophiles molest children, while other “virtuous” pedophiles like Edwards are apparently able to control their urges.

Seto has found that sex offenders are much more likely to have a sexual abuse history than other types of criminal offenders. Certain traits, including impulsiveness, risk-taking behaviour, sexual preoccupation and lack of empathy, are also shared by sex offenders.

He has argued forcefully for pedophilia to be thought of as a sexual orientation — an idea he acknowledges is controversial, but hopes will actually help prevent child abuse.

“Right now, it’s really slanted so that the treatment services are for people who have gotten into trouble,” he says. “Obviously, we need that, but I think where there is a big gap is in terms of prevention. How do we reach people who are sexually attracted to children and are aware of it?”

One of the concerns with labelling pedophilia a sexual orientation is the potential for parallels to be drawn with homosexuality. Seto is quick to point out the difference between orientation based on age, and orientation based on gender.

However, if pedophilia was widely viewed as a sexual orientation, effective treatment could focus on self-regulation skills — avoiding acting on one’s urges — rather than trying in vain to change sexual preferences, he wrote in a research paper last year.

“Pedophiles will remain hidden if they continue to be hated and feared, which would impede efforts to better understand this sexual orientation and thereby prevent child sexual exploitation,” he wrote.

Mandatory reporting laws make it incredibly risky for pedophiles to tell therapists about their desires. In Canada, one is only required to report to the police if a specific child is at risk, but the laws can be misunderstood by mental health professionals, says Seto.

The Harper government recently announced tougher measures against child predators, including a public sex offender registry. Seto says this is misguided, given that the recidivism rate for convicted sex offenders is actually quite low, at about 10 to 15 per cent.

“One of the worries would be that would further drive individuals underground,” he says. “It could also lead to problems that decrease the likelihood they can successfully be integrated.”

Ironically, Cantor says the idea that pedophiles are born, not made, can be used to support opposing political views — some will say “lock ’em up and throw away the key,” while others will call for sympathy and therapy.

Cantor often receives emails from distraught men seeking guidance on controlling their desires. The side effect of strict mandatory reporting laws is that people don’t come in for help, he says.

Pedophiles among us

To the unassuming onlooker, Ethan Edwards leads an ordinary life in Pennsylvania. He is in his mid-50s and works as a software developer. He was married for more than a decade and raised three daughters. He is well-respected in his community.

But Edwards harbours a secret that, if exposed, threatens his entire livelihood and reputation. He is attracted to girls as young as 4 — and although he says he has never molested a child, his desire is enough to make him a monster in most people’s eyes.

“For me, the biggest problem with this is the isolation,” he says in an interview over Google Chat. “Everyone else thinks I’m sick and dangerous. Well, not everyone, but most of society.”

Edwards is actually a rarity among pedophiles, in that he managed to suppress his desires until he was middle-aged. Most pedophiles become aware of their urges at puberty or by the time they are young adults; many will describe their desires as romantic, not just sexual.

He is also able to maintain relationships with adult women — he says he was attracted to his wife while they were married. Perhaps surprisingly to some, he says he was never attracted to his daughters, citing an innate repulsion to incest.

Even now that he has accepted he is attracted to children, he swears that he will never act on his urges.

“I think it’s because my protective instinct towards children is so strong,” he says.

Edwards says he has never seen any child pornography. Instead he looks at seemingly innocuous photos of children — almost always wearing clothes, at least bathing suits. Cantor calls it “victimless,” although some might dispute that.

He launched his website with Nick Devin, also a middle-aged professional using a pseudonym, after meeting him on another support group, b4uact.org. Both felt sex with children was inherently wrong, and they wanted to create a website for other pedophiles with that view.

On Virtuous Pedophiles’s “First Words” page, pedophiles — many of them teenagers or young adults — describe their relief at finding the group.

“I am in my late 20s and have been dealing with unwanted attraction to young boys since I was a teenager,” writes one member. “Though I have never acted on these attractions with anyone, this is my primary sexual attraction, and it bothers me greatly. I have considered suicide many times.”

Many pedophiles online do not share the viewpoint of Edwards and Devin.

On some sites, anonymous writers advocate for lowering the age of consent.

“It should be clear to anyone with any grey matter that pedophilia is just another oppressed sexual orientation or interest, and age doesn’t somehow magically make consensual sex between two people into something evil,” writes one user.

Another writes: “Nobody will ever quite understand the pain that we feel . . . seeing and longing for something we love but cannot have . . . and if we reach for it . . . we are accused of being sadistic monsters who only want to hurt kids. It will not last forever. Things will change.”

Edwards says he is disturbed by the activists that are “pro-contact” and hopes that young, struggling pedophiles find his group first.

IQ ‘a myth,’ study says

The idea that intelligence can be measured by a single number — your IQ — is wrong, according to a recent study led by researchers at the University of Western Ontario.

The study, published in the journal Neuron on Wednesday, involved 100,000 participants around the world taking 12 cognitive tests, with a smaller sample of the group undergoing simultaneous brain-scan testing.

“When we looked at the data, the bottom line is the whole concept of IQ — or of you having a higher IQ than me — is a myth,” said Dr. Adrian Owen, the study’s senior investigator and the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging at the university’s Brain and Mind Institute. “There is no such thing as a single measure of IQ or a measure of general intelligence.”

Rather, the study determined three factors — reasoning, short-term memory and verbal ability — that combined to create human intelligence or “cognitive profile.”

IQ testing is used by many educators to measure intelligence, including in public schools in Ontario.

The researchers advertised their tests through New Scientist magazine and on discovery.com. Word quickly spread around the world, far surpassing the expectations of researchers, who expected only a few thousand participants. It became the largest online study on intelligence, allowing them to gather data across demographic, age and gender lines.

The scientists also used brain-scanning (fMRIs) on some of the subjects. “If there is something in the brain that is IQ, we should be able to find it by scanning. But it turns out there is no one area in the brain that accounts for people’s so-called IQ. In fact, there are three completely different networks that respond — verbal abilities, reasoning abilities and short-term memory abilities — that are in quite different parts of the brain,” Owen said.

Among the study’s other findings:

• While aging has a detrimental effect on reasoning and short-term memory, it leaves verbal abilities “completely unimpaired.”

• Smoking has a negative impact on verbal abilities and short-term memory but does not affect reasoning skills.

• People who play video games performed “significantly better” in terms of both reasoning and short-term memory.

• Products that are advertised to improve brain function aren’t effective. “People who ‘brain-train’ are no better at any of these three aspects of intelligence than people who don’t,” Owen said.

People can still take the tests at cambridgebrainsciences.com/theIQchallenge. Owen said he hopes that 1 million people across the globe will eventually participate.

Eating more of this will help you lose weight..

Looking for a more effective way to drop pounds? Swap out carbs for protein. People who follow high-protein diets may have more success losing weight than those who eat less protein and more carbohydrates, says research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

We’d prefer a juicy steak instead.

Researchers pooled results from 24 past trials that put subjects on reduced-calorie, low-fat diets. Half of the subjects were assigned to a high-protein diet (on average, about 120 grams of protein per day), while the other half consumed a standard-protein diet (on average, about 67 grams per day).

Both diets had an average energy intake, for males and females, of 1,550 calories per day, says study author Thomas Wycherley, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow from the University of South Australia in Adelaide. But over an average of 12 weeks, people who followed the high-protein diet lost 1.7 pounds more than those in the standard-protein group.

You may lose more weight on a high-protein diet because your body spends more energy processing dietary protein than it does carbohydrates, Wycherley says.

Think of it this way: If you eat 100 calories of protein, your body will burn about 20 to 30 of those calories while processing the protein, says Wycherley. Compare that to 100 calories of carbs, and your body only burns about 5 to 10 calories.

Another reason for the weight loss may be because protein helps preserve muscle mass. And since muscle mass burns more calories than other types of mass, the additional calorie burn could result in a decrease in weight. (Looking for the best sources of protein for men? Try these 5 Protein-Packed Gym Snacks.)

So how much protein does the average guy need?

Men between the ages of 19 and 70 should shoot for 56 grams per day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet most adults would benefit from eating more than the recommended daily intake, says Donald Layman, Ph.D., a professor emeritus of nutrition at the University of Illinois.

Here’s how to put it into perspective: Highly trained athletes thrive on 0.77 grams of daily protein per pound of body weight. That’s 139 grams for a 180-pound man, says Mark Tarnopolsky, M.D., Ph.D., who studies exercise and nutrition at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

Want to make it work for you? Step on a scale, be honest with yourself about your workout regimen, and check out the following chart.

And if you only hit the gym twice a week for around 30 minutes, you’re in the clear. According to Dr. Tarnopolsky, there’s no need to go beyond the recommended daily amount if you’re not highly active.

Deadliest disases linked to excess body weight

What do heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, stroke and cancer have in common? Scientists have linked each of these to a condition known as chronic inflammation, and they are studying how high-fat foods and excess body weight may increase the risk for fatal disorders.

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury and outside irritants. But when the irritants don’t let up, because of a diet of high-fat foods, too much body fat and smoking, for example, the immune system can spiral out of control and increase the risk for disease. Experts say when inflammation becomes chronic it can damage heart valves and brain cells, trigger strokes, and promote resistance to insulin, which leads to diabetes. It also is associated with the development of cancer.

Much of the research on chronic inflammation has focused on fighting it with drugs, such as cholesterol-lowering statins for heart disease. A growing body of research is revealing how abdominal fat and an unhealthy diet can lead to inflammation. Some scientists are investigating how certain components in foods might help. Dietary fiber from whole grains, for instance, may play a protective role against inflammation, a recent study found. And dairy foods may help ease inflammation in patients with a combination of risk factors.

The Wall Street Journal

Chronic inflammation is perhaps best understood in its relation to cardiovascular disease. The immune system’s white blood cells rush to the arteries when the blood vessels are besieged by low density lipoprotein, or LDL—the “bad” cholesterol. The cells embed themselves in the artery wall and gobble up the invading cholesterol, causing damage to the arteries that can lead to heart attack or stroke.

[Related: 24 Superfruits You Need Now]

“You need to have inflammation when you have a wound and the immune system goes in to heal it. Yet we don’t want too much inflammation in our system causing damage to our arteries” and other harm, says Wendy Weber, a program director at the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health.

One significant discovery concerns obesity and the ways it promotes inflammation. Fat cells, particularly those in the visceral fat that settles in the belly and around organs, were long thought merely to store excess weight. Instead, fat cells act like small factories to churn out molecules known as cytokines, which set inflammation in motion, says Peter Libby, chief of the division of cardiovascular medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and a professor at Harvard Medical School.

“We’ve learned that abdominal fat tissue is a hotbed of inflammation that pours out all kinds of inflammatory molecules,” Dr. Libby says. The most important step patients can take is to lose excess weight, which can reduce inflammation in a matter of weeks or months, he says.

A substance known as C-reactive protein, measured with a simple blood test, is an indicator of inflammation in the body. A report published in Archives of Internal Medicine in 2007, which analyzed results of 33 separate studies, found that losing weight can lower C-reactive protein levels. For each one kilogram, or 2.2 pounds, of weight loss, whether by dieting, exercise or surgery, the mean reduction in C-reactive protein among participants was 0.13 milligram per liter.

According to the American Heart Association, a C-reactive protein level of less than 1 mg/L indicates a low risk of cardiovascular disease, 1 to 3 mg/L indicates moderate risk, and greater than 3 mg/L equals high risk. Doctors increasingly are ordering the test for patients at moderate risk for heart disease.

[Related: Avoid Getting Ripped Off at the Doctor’s Office]

At a meeting in Quebec City last week on abdominal obesity and its health risks, experts in cardiology, endocrinology, nutrition and related specialties presented a wide range of new research linking obesity to inflammation-related diseases.

A number of nutritionists and physicians have developed anti-inflammatory diets. Christopher Cannon, a Harvard professor of medicine, co-wrote “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Anti-Inflammation Diet.” Dr. Cannon says his recommended diet is based on both the Mediterranean diet and a Healthy Eating Pyramid developed at Harvard University. This encourages consuming whole-grain foods, unsaturated fats such as plant oils, fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, poultry, eggs and moderate amounts of dairy foods. It also suggests avoiding as much as possible red meat, butter, sweets and white foods such as rice, potatoes and pasta.

Still, there is little evidence to support any specific diet to protect against inflammation, says Dr. Cannon. “If you weigh 300 pounds and eat healthy, the weight will still counter any beneficial foods you are eating,” Dr. Cannon says.

The American Heart Association recommends consuming both omega-3 fatty acids, found in cold-water fish like salmon and canola oil, and omega-6 fatty acids, found in nuts, seeds and vegetable oils such as corn oil. But investigators are still studying the roles each may play in promoting or controlling inflammation.

In one study, researchers at Vanderbilt University are focusing on whether omega-3 fatty acids reduce the risk of colorectal cancers and diminish the production of inflammatory molecules. Principal investigator Harvey Murff says many Americans consume far more omega-6 fatty acids, and one aim is to determine a healthy balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Greater dietary fiber consumption was associated with lower levels of C-reactive protein and other markers in the blood that signal inflammation, according to a new study involving nearly 600 adolescents published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. Norman Pollock, a researcher at Georgia Health Sciences University and a co-author of the study, says one explanation may be that fiber is associated with higher levels of a protein hormone that improves insulin sensitivity, which in turn lowers levels of inflammation.

A combination of nutrients found in dairy food may also help ease inflammation in patients at risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes. In a 40-patient study published last year in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, patients who were given 3½ servings of dairy daily over 12 weeks showed reductions in several markers of inflammation compared with a group given just half a serving of dairy per day. The first group also showed reduced blood pressure. Michael Zemel, a co-author of the study and professor emeritus at the University of Tennessee’s Department of Nutrition, says three daily servings of dairy containing whey and its nutrients could help guard against inflammation. He recommends low-fat milk or yogurt.

New research funded by the National Institutes of Health is looking at the relationship of diet, inflammation and cancer.

“Cancer is caused by many different processes and inflammation is one of them, and if you could inhibit that process it would be tremendously helpful,” says Young S. Kim, program director in the Nutritional Science Research Group at the National Cancer Institute.

Loneliness linked to premature death

I’ve always lived alone, well, not always, in my 20’s I’ve had a roommate here and there but that won’t happen again, unless I am good friends with someone or in a relationship otherwise I can’t live with people I don’t know. I am one of those who needs my space, I don’t need constant company and I am not afraid to being alone whereas a lot of people cannot and always need someone around them. But at times living alone does get lonely, I admit, if you’ve got a good social network it won’t as lonely.

People with atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, and who live alone may be at higher risk of dying than those living with others, an international study finds.

Heart attack risk may be associated with how connected people are with others.Heart attack risk may be associated with how connected people are with others. (Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters)Learning more about how living alone affects health is important, considering that about one in seven American adults live alone. People in both developed and developing countries increasingly live apart from friends and family and communicate and work remotely.

In Monday’s online issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, Dr. Jacob Udell of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston and his co-authors said living alone was associated with four-year mortality (14.1 per cent vs. 11.1 per cent) and cardiovascular death (8.6 per cent vs. 6.8 per cent) compared with those not living alone.

Living alone was riskier among those aged 45 to 65, but not those 66 or older, the researchers found.

“Living alone may be a marker of a stressful situation, such as social isolation due to work or personal reasons, which can influence biological effects on the cardiovascular system,” Udell said.

“Also, patients who live alone may delay seeking medical attention for concerning symptoms, which can increase their risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke,” he added in a release.

The study looked at 44,573 people in North America, Europe, Japan, Middle East, Latin America and Asia. Of these, 19 per cent were living alone.

Participants either had atherothrombosis such as heart disease, angina and stroke, or had at least three risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Social factors can undermine health

The researchers said the findings should encourage doctors to ask patients with cardiovascular disease if they live alone.

In a second study appearing in the same issue, Dr. Carla Perissinotto, of the University of California, San Francisco, found that loneliness was associated with an increased risk of death during the study’s six-year followup period.

Older people who said they felt lonely tended to have more difficulty taking care of themselves, which could increase the risk of dying from any cause, after considering depression.

“Loneliness is a negative feeling that would be worth addressing even if the condition had no health implications,” Emily Bucholz of Yale University in New Haven, Conn., concluded in a journal commentary accompanying the research papers.

“Nevertheless, with regard to health implications, scientists examining social support should build on studies such as those published in this issue and be challenged to investigate mechanisms as well as practical interventions that can be used to address the social factors that undermine health.”

Udell’s research was supported by Sanofi Aventis, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Waksman Foundation in Tokyo, Canadian Institutes for Health Research and the Canadian Foundation for Women’s Health. Perissinotto’s study was funded by the U.S. National Institute on Aging.

10 keys for Happier Living

10 Keys to Happier Living

–by ActionforHappiness.org, Original Story, Apr 14, 2012

Action for Happiness has developed the 10 Keys to Happier Living based on a review of the latest scientific research relating to happiness.

Everyone’s path to happiness is different, but the research suggests these Ten Keys consistently tend to have a positive impact on people’s overall happiness and well-being. The first five (GREAT) relate to how we interact with the outside world in our daily activities*. The second five (DREAM) come more from inside us and depend on our attitude to life.

1. GIVING: Do things for others
Caring about others is fundamental to our happiness. Helping other people is not only good for them and a great thing to do, it also makes us happier and healthier too. Giving also creates stronger connections between people and helps to build a happier society for everyone. And it’s not all about money – we can also give our time, ideas and energy. So if you want to feel good, do good!
Q: What do you do to help others? 
2. RELATING: Connect with people
Relationships are the most important overall contributor to happiness. People with strong and broad social relationships are happier, healthier and live longer. Close relationships with family and friends provide love, meaning, support and increase our feelings of self worth. Broader networks bring a sense of belonging. So taking action to strengthen our relationships and create new connections is essential for happiness.
Q: Who matters most to you?
3. EXERCISING: Take care of your body
Our body and our mind are connected. Being active makes us happier as well as being good for our physical health. It instantly improves our mood and can even lift us out of a depression. We don’t all need to run marathons – there are simple things we can all do to be more active each day. We can also boost our well-being by unplugging from technology, getting outside and making sure we get enough sleep!
Q: How do you stay active and healthy?
4. APPRECIATING: Notice the world around
Ever felt there must be more to life? Well good news, there is! And it’s right here in front of us. We just need to stop and take notice. Learning to be more mindful and aware can do wonders for our well-being in all areas of life – like our walk to work, the way we eat or our relationships. It helps us get in tune with our feelings and stops us dwelling on the past or worrying about the future – so we get more out of the day-to-day.
Q: When do you stop and take notice? 
5. TRYING OUT: Keep learning new things
Learning affects our well-being in lots of positive ways. It exposes us to new ideas and helps us stay curious and engaged. It also gives us a sense of accomplishment and helps boost our self-confidence and resilience. There are many ways to learn new things – not just through formal qualifications. We can share a skill with friends, join a club, learn to sing, play a new sport and so much more.
Q: What new things have you tried recently?
6. DIRECTION: Have goals to look forward to
Feeling good about the future is important for our happiness. We all need goals to motivate us and these need to be challenging enough to excite us, but also achievable. If we try to attempt the impossible this brings unnecessary stress. Choosing ambitious but realistic goals gives our lives direction and brings a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when we achieve them.
Q: What are your most important goals? 
7. RESILIENCE: Find ways to bounce back
All of us have times of stress, loss, failure or trauma in our lives. But how we respond to these has a big impact on our well-being. We often cannot choose what happens to us, but we can choose our own attitude to what happens. In practice it’s not always easy, but one of the most exciting findings from recent research is that resilience, like many other life skills, can be learned.
Q: How do you bounce back in tough times?
8. EMOTION: Take a positive approach
Positive emotions – like joy, gratitude, contentment, inspiration, and pride – are not just great at the time. Recent research shows that regularly experiencing them creates an ‘upward spiral’, helping to build our resources. So although we need to be realistic about life’s ups and downs, it helps to focus on the good aspects of any situation – the glass half full rather than the glass half empty.
Q: What are you feeling good about? 
9. ACCEPTANCE: Be comfortable with who you are
No-one’s perfect. But so often we compare our insides to other people’s outsides. Dwelling on our flaws – what we’re not rather than what we’ve got – makes it much harder to be happy. Learning to accept ourselves, warts and all, and being kinder to ourselves when things go wrong, increases our enjoyment of life, our resilience and our well-being. It also helps us accept others as they are.
Q: What is the real you like?
10. MEANING: Be part of something bigger
People who have meaning and purpose in their lives are happier, feel more in control and get more out of what they do. They also experience less stress, anxiety and depression. But where do we find ‘meaning and purpose’? It might be our religious faith, being a parent or doing a job that makes a difference. The answers vary for each of us but they all involve being connected to something bigger than ourselves.
Q: What gives your life meaning?
* The first five keys are based on the Five Ways to Wellbeing developed by nef as part of the UK Government’s Foresight Project on Mental Capital.

Low IQ & Conservative Beliefs Linked to Prejudice

  There’s no gentle way to put it: People who give in to racism and prejudice may simply be dumb, according to a new study that is bound to stir public controversy.

The research finds that children with low intelligence are more likely to hold prejudiced attitudes as adults. These findings point to a vicious cycle, according to lead researcher Gordon Hodson, a psychologist at Brock University in Ontario. Low-intelligence adults tend to gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies, the study found. Those ideologies, in turn, stress hierarchy and resistance to change, attitudes that can contribute to prejudice, Hodson wrote in an email to LiveScience.

“Prejudice is extremely complex and multifaceted, making it critical that any factors contributing to bias are uncovered and understood,” he said.

Controversy ahead

The findings combine three hot-button topics.

“They’ve pulled off the trifecta of controversial topics,” said Brian Nosek, a social and cognitive psychologist at the University of Virginia who was not involved in the study. “When one selects intelligence, political ideology and racism and looks at any of the relationships between those three variables, it’s bound to upset somebody.”

Polling data and social and political science research do show that prejudice is more common in those who hold right-wing ideals that those of other political persuasions, Nosek told LiveScience. [7 Thoughts That Are Bad For You]

“The unique contribution here is trying to make some progress on the most challenging aspect of this,” Nosek said, referring to the new study. “It’s not that a relationship like that exists, but why it exists.”

Brains and bias

Earlier studies have found links between low levels of education and higher levels of prejudice, Hodson said, so studying intelligence seemed a logical next step. The researchers turned to two studies of citizens in the United Kingdom, one that has followed babies since their births in March 1958, and another that did the same for babies born in April 1970. The children in the studies had their intelligence assessed at age 10 or 11; as adults ages 30 or 33, their levels of social conservatism and racism were measured. [Life’s Extremes: Democrat vs. Republican]

In the first study, verbal and nonverbal intelligence was measured using tests that asked people to find similarities and differences between words, shapes and symbols. The second study measured cognitive abilities in four ways, including number recall, shape-drawing tasks, defining words and identifying patterns and similarities among words. Average IQ is set at 100.

Social conservatives were defined as people who agreed with a laundry list of statements such as “Family life suffers if mum is working full-time,” and “Schools should teach children to obey authority.” Attitudes toward other races were captured by measuring agreement with statements such as “I wouldn’t mind working with people from other races.” (These questions measured overt prejudiced attitudes, but most people, no matter how egalitarian, do hold unconscious racial biases; Hodson’s work can’t speak to this “underground” racism.)

As suspected, low intelligence in childhood corresponded with racism in adulthood. But the factor that explained the relationship between these two variables was political: When researchers included social conservatism in the analysis, those ideologies accounted for much of the link between brains and bias.

People with lower cognitive abilities also had less contact with people of other races.

“This finding is consistent with recent research demonstrating that intergroup contact is mentally challenging and cognitively draining, and consistent with findings that contact reduces prejudice,” said Hodson, who along with his colleagues published these results online Jan. 5 in the journal Psychological Science.

A study of averages

Hodson was quick to note that the despite the link found between low intelligence and social conservatism, the researchers aren’t implying that all liberals are brilliant and all conservatives stupid. The research is a study of averages over large groups, he said.

“There are multiple examples of very bright conservatives and not-so-bright liberals, and many examples of very principled conservatives and very intolerant liberals,” Hodson said.

Nosek gave another example to illustrate the dangers of taking the findings too literally.

“We can say definitively men are taller than women on average,” he said. “But you can’t say if you take a random man and you take a random woman that the man is going to be taller. There’s plenty of overlap.”

Nonetheless, there is reason to believe that strict right-wing ideology might appeal to those who have trouble grasping the complexity of the world.

“Socially conservative ideologies tend to offer structure and order,” Hodson said, explaining why these beliefs might draw those with low intelligence. “Unfortunately, many of these features can also contribute to prejudice.”

In another study, this one in the United States, Hodson and Busseri compared 254 people with the same amount of education but different levels of ability in abstract reasoning. They found that what applies to racism may also apply to homophobia. People who were poorer at abstract reasoning were more likely to exhibit prejudice against gays. As in the U.K. citizens, a lack of contact with gays and more acceptance of right-wing authoritarianism explained the link. [5 Myths About Gay People Debunked]

Simple viewpoints

Hodson and Busseri’s explanation of their findings is reasonable, Nosek said, but it is correlational. That means the researchers didn’t conclusively prove that the low intelligence caused the later prejudice. To do that, you’d have to somehow randomly assign otherwise identical people to be smart or dumb, liberal or conservative. Those sorts of studies obviously aren’t possible.

The researchers controlled for factors such as education and socioeconomic status, making their case stronger, Nosek said. But there are other possible explanations that fit the data. For example, Nosek said, a study of left-wing liberals with stereotypically naïve views like “every kid is a genius in his or her own way,” might find that people who hold these attitudes are also less bright. In other words, it might not be a particular ideology that is linked to stupidity, but extremist views in general.

“My speculation is that it’s not as simple as their model presents it,” Nosek said. “I think that lower cognitive capacity can lead to multiple simple ways to represent the world, and one of those can be embodied in a right-wing ideology where ‘People I don’t know are threats’ and ‘The world is a dangerous place‘. … Another simple way would be to just assume everybody is wonderful.”

Prejudice is of particular interest because understanding the roots of racism and bias could help eliminate them, Hodson said. For example, he said, many anti-prejudice programs encourage participants to see things from another group’s point of view. That mental exercise may be too taxing for people of low IQ.

“There may be cognitive limits in the ability to take the perspective of others, particularly foreigners,” Hodson said. “Much of the present research literature suggests that our prejudices are primarily emotional in origin rather than cognitive. These two pieces of information suggest that it might be particularly fruitful for researchers to consider strategies to change feelings toward outgroups,” rather than thoughts.

HIV vaccine developed in Canada approved for human studies

How are they going to test this on humans? Give them the vaccine then expose them to the virus?

 

A Canadian-developed vaccine to prevent HIV has been given the green light for testing in human clinical trials.

The vaccine, developed by researchers at the University of Western Ontario, has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to start being tested in humans in January.

It is the first preventive HIV vaccine approved for clinical trials to use a whole HIV-1 virus, which has been both killed and genetically engineered, to activate immunity. In this way, the new vaccine is much like the killed whole virus vaccines that are successful against polio, rabies and influenza.

Other HIV vaccines currently in clinical human trials have largely focused on one specific component of HIV to trigger an immune response. Right now, there is no effective HIV vaccine.

“FDA approval for human clinical trials is an extremely significant milestone for our vaccine, which has the potential to save the lives of millions of people around the world by preventing HIV infection,” said Dr. Chil-Yong Kang, professor of virology at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Western Ontario, in a release.

The announcement was made Tuesday morning in London.

The vaccine, the only HIV vaccine being developed in Canada, received funding from Sumagen Canada, a company created in 2008 to support the development of the vaccine.

Previous studies have shown the vaccine triggers a strong immune response and has yet to show any adverse effects or safety risks.