Category Archives: health

Social media might not be as harmful to wellbeing as originally thought, study suggests

Ever since social media was introduced with the likes of Facebook, Myspace and MSN Messenger, there have been concerns about what it could be doing to our mental health.

Studies have been conducted for years focusing on the effects different platforms have on people’s wellbeing, with most concluding it can be harmful, especially among teenagers.

But a new study conducted by the University of Oxford finds this to be false, concluding that the impact social media has on wellbeing is “trivial”.

The study asked 12,000 10-15 year olds how long they spent on social media a day, and how satisfied they were in different parts of their life. Professor Andrew Przybylski explained to BBC News that “99.75% of a person’s life satisfaction has nothing to do with their use of social media”.

So why do so many believe it does?

 

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The study investigated teenagers social media habits between 2009 and 2017: image courtesy of Unsplash

WNOL spoke to people about social media to find out if the study’s findings are reflected by the general public.

“It can be really addictive,” says one woman, who uses most platforms on a daily basis.

Another woman believes it can have an impact wellbeing, especially if someone already has an insecurity. “I think it can either bring on mental health issues, or it can escalate them and heighten them. I think any little comment can start something quite serious.”

This coincides with the study, which argued that other investigations into social media haven’t considered teenagers who might use social media more often because they already have mental health problems.

Tobias Dienlin, a media psychologist at the University of Hohenheim who was part of the research team on the study, says he predicted the results.

“If you asked me before the study I would have said, I don’t think we’ll have strong effects, it’s very unlikely. But I can understand people who are reading the news would be surprised.”

WHAT DID THE STUDY FIND_

When asked if social media could be used to improve mental health, one man WNOL spoke to believed the damage had already been done. “I feel like the negative effects are more apparent than the force that’s trying to overcome that,” he explains.

“Everyone should reflect on their social media usage,” Tobias says in response to many people still believing social media harms their wellbeing, but tries to reassure users that they shouldn’t be as concerned as they are.

“We shouldn’t ring the alarm when there’s not really an alarm to be rung”.

He believes that more research needs to be conducted on the same scale as the Oxford study. “The research we are currently doing is still in its infancy, there’s still so many things we can improve”.

Featured image courtesy of Unsplash

Veganism ‘trend’ is helping the environment

The BBC recently revealed that over 1 million animal species are in danger. The UK became the first country to declare climate change as a national emergency. We are being told we have only 11 years to change our ways.

Within the article, the BBC also mentions how many will have to think about eating more fruit and veg and less meat. 

According to ourworldindata.com, livestock takes up around 80% of global agricultural land, and as humans, we consume around 300 million tonnes of meat a year. Unsurprisingly, this is causing a lot of strain on the environment.

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Livestock produce 18% of greenhouse gasses, which is more than all emissions from ships, planes, trucks and other transport put together. Farming animals are also a cause of deforestation and degeneration. 

Lifestyles like Veganism have taken off in the past 10 years, with it being held as the biggest trend in 2018. Many praise the lifestyle for its health benefits and its impact on the earth. BBC Good Food says that if everyone in the world went vegan, the worlds food-related emissions would drop by 70%. 

Vegan lifestyles boast to help you lose excess weight, lower blood sugar, improve the functioning of the body and even protect you against cancer. 

It was also revealed within the article that in order to save the planet, people may have to begin consuming less meat and leading a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. It was revealed by fact.org that 2-3% of the UK is vegetarian, and meat consumption has actually fallen in recent years. 

Many are jumping on the bandwagons of ‘no meat Monday’ and ‘veganuary’ to push themselves to try the lifestyle. 

Studies show that most vegans are aged 16-24, with now half a million vegans on the streets of the UK. No longer is it dedicated to the hippies; even bodybuilders are getting in on it, supplying evidence to the myth that they need animal protein to gain muscle. 

Food, in general, is responsible for over one-quarter of all greenhouse gasses, with dairy and meat being the biggest culprits for the carbon footprint. 

Of course, older generations are not as forthcoming with their diets, with many luxuriating in their now rationales world. but more and more people are choosing the no-meat life, which is another thing that can be done to help the environment thrive. 

Study finds students are advocating for and practising lower alcohol consumption

Freshers week: a fortnight popularly known for heavy drinking, partying, and ”getting blackout drunk, making friends, and not getting judged for it.”

The drinking culture associated with university provides a wide range of wine filled occasions worthy of head splintering hangovers.

Nevertheless, according to the National Union of Students, the demand for alcohol-free university events and residential halls is on the rise, with almost a quarter of students actively advocating for the cause.

A Brief History of Sports

A survey completed by 2,215 undergraduate university students explored student’s behaviour, attitudes, and perceptions towards alcohol use.

This survey found that one in five students don’t drink alcohol at all and recognized a shift in drinking habits amongst students and the perceptions of alcohol in relation to their peers and selves.

Two-thirds of students strongly believe that excessive alcohol consumption is widely accepted because it is the “easiest way to fit in.” “I think it can be super toxic and foster casual alcoholism without anyone even realizing,” says one student. 

While plenty of students are still regularly going out and dropping money on tequila shots, the typically regarded stereotype of students spending the majority of their time getting wasted is getting further and further from reality.

NUS claims that the financial pressures of students are leading to a shift in students’ drinking habits.

Nevertheless, universities are stating that a wide range of factors are leading the students decreased drinking indulgence. An increased awareness of health, wider diversity of faiths, and the rise of alternative sources of entertainment should be taken into account when looking into the drinking habits of students.

Despite this research, 79 percent of students still believe that getting drunk is a “right of passage” and a massive part of university culture. A mere one in ten university students are aware of responsible drinking activities and campaigns on their campus.

The NUS vice president of welfare, Eva Crossan states, “it is clear that students’ drinking habits have changed with a comparative section of the student population not drinking at all. While many students are making active decisions about their drinking, it is concerning that university life is still strongly associated with excessive alcohol consumption.”


Featured Image VIA https://pxhere.com/en/photo/1562761

Soundcloud Image taken by Jillian Keith

Vaccines: should they be compulsory?

When you are a baby, you are given 4 injections to kickstart your immunity against the big bad world. At one year old, you are given more. When you go away to anywhere tropical, you get more shots. 

Vaccines are one of the many things that can divide a community. With the anti-vaxxers and the pro-vaccine groups at each other’s throats, it seems like neither will find common ground. When my sister nearly died from a bad reaction to her baby vaccines, my mother and I found that no-mans land between the two groups. 

We knew the benefits of vaccines, but a close brush with death had made us ask whether they were truly necessary. My youngest sister doesn’t have any of her top-up vaccines and other than a bit of asthma, she’s incredibly healthy. 

I myself don’t have my human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which is now issued to teenage girls to battle cervical cancer. It was a personal choice that I was harassed for in my teenage years. “You’re gonna get cancer,” they’d yell at me and the only other girl who didn’t get it, a Jehovahs Witness, who also didn’t believe in deodorant. 

When I arrived at university, vaccines were brought up once more. Meningitis was looming within student halls and wiping out unsuspecting sleepers. A quick Google search will show the case of Lauren Sandell who unfortunately died from the virus in 2016. 

Many are now calling for students to have all their shots before beginning their studies. Instead of going to the doctor before a trip to China, you’ll be rolling up for your injections before you head to university. So unbelievable it sounds fake. 

When asked, most students are in favour of the idea, but many are also very liberal. and opinionated. We could end up in a dystopian world where there are two schools separating the two groups. 

Rather than enforcing that all students should have updated vaccines before uni, we should be teaching students to be clean, eat healthily and look after their bodies. This will easily decline the health issues surrounding students. Vaccines should definitely be offered and made available, but making them compulsory will only cause a harder divide. 

So for now, instead of rushing to the doctors when you get a little unwell, build up your immune system by going outside. 

What is Meningitis and why is it dangerous?

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Sources NHS ONLINE, OXFORD VACCINE GROUP ONLINE, MENINGITIS NOW ONLINE

After a peak of 2295 cases of meningitis in 1999 in UK the meningitis type C cases dropped of the 90% in the vaccinated groups, and consequently of the 66% in the non vaccinated ones, thanks to the introduction of the MenC vaccine.

But recently, due to a decrease in the vaccination coverage, the cases of meningitis in UK are rising again with two cofirmed cases of meningitis B at University of Bristol, the past November. Because of this (and in the light of the recent measles epidemic in universities) the debate shifted recently in questioning if non- vaccinated students should be allowed in universities.

So what is meningitis? Why is it sparking a debate?

Meningitis is an illness, and it defines the inflammation of the membranes that surround and protect our brain and our spinal cord (called Meninges). It’s usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection, and it’s very quick in its development – capable to kill a patient in a span from less than 2 to more than 20 hours.

Generally, it first manifests “slyly” like a bad temperature, with symptoms such as severe fever, headaches, and diarrhoea; maintaining an apparently “stable” condition in the victim.

Symptoms change with the development of the illness, including symptoms such as difficulty in staying awake, irritability, dislike of bright lights, stiff neck, pale/blotchy skin, vomit, severe muscular pain, convulsions and, the most significant, severe fever with cold feet and hands.

Normally, not all symptoms necessarily manifest, or manifest in a specific order; and they tend to escalate in a terrifyingly rapid time. For this reason, many patients die of meningitis worldwide. Diagnosis of this disease is sometimes too late because it’s difficult distinguishing meningitis from a severe flu.

What usually kills a patient affected by meningitis it’s septicaemia, which is the poisoning of blood induced by an infection. It usually leads to organ failures, severe nerve and brain permanent damage.

Meningitis is usually caused by a virus or a bacteria, and there are different types of meningitis, with different symptoms depending on its causes. Viral meningitis is considered less dangerous than bacterial, even though more common. But bacterial meningitis is most commonly caused by the bacterias Meningococcal, Pneumococcal, TB, Group B Streptococcal and Escherichia Coli. Bacterial meningitis is a rarer condition but much more dangerous if not treated.

What sparked the debate about vaccines in universities, is the virality of meningitis, and its most common target age. There is a current debate about whether universities should make vaccines compulsory, and many people disagree with the concept.

The misleading idea that meningitis is an illness which only infects and kills infants or very young children, is a common misconception held by many people today.

Meningitis, in fact, can also occur in adults with immunodeficiency but manifests in young adults between 15 and 23 years old with similar ease to children cases.

It spreads through cough, sneezes, kisses, or through sharing utensils, cutlery or toothbrushes; and more commonly spread by healthy carriers.

Although there are many different, effective vaccines and remedies available to treat meningitis; it is also true that these remedies offer some defences against certain kind of meningitis, but not all the different causes of meningitis.

Nottingham students weigh in on mumps outbreak

In March, news of a mumps outbreak in two Nottingham universities broke. Public Health England confirmed 40 cases of mumps, along with over 220 suspected cases in the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University.

What is mumps? 

Mumps is a contagious viral infection that can cause swelling of the parotid glands in the face and under the ears. The infection used to be common in children before the introduction of the MMR vaccine and is spread in the same way as colds and flu – through infected drops of saliva which can be inhaled or picked up from surfaces and transferred into the mouth or nose.

What are the symptoms?

Aside from swelling, symptoms of mumps also include headaches, joint pain, high temperature, feeling sick, loss of appetite and tiredness.

According to the NHS, a person is most contagious a few days before the symptoms develop, and for a few days after.

How did the universities handle the situation?

It’s understood that students received emails from their respective university detailing the situation and offering advice if they suspected they were experiencing any symptoms of the infection.

WNOL has seen a copy of the email received by students at Nottingham Trent University. The email provides information on mumps, the symptoms, how it spreads, when to see a GP and how the infection is diagnosed. Students were also urged to ensure that they were vaccinated against the infection, with the MMR jab. There is a current debate about whether universities should make vaccinations compulsory, however, some disagree with the idea. 

What do students now think about the situation?

One Nottingham Trent University student said ‘Basically there was a rumour about it at first and then people started not coming to [netball] training sessions because they were ill. Then a girl had a mask over her face and she told us she had mumps and it was super contagious and then, the following day, we had an email from uni telling us it was going around and symptoms and to wash our hands but they didn’t tell us that it was a new strain of it that the vaccine didn’t stop so basically everyone was at risk and it was quite serious. Everyone took it as a joke really but loads of people I knew got it’.

Another student said ‘I remember receiving a letter about mumps being spotted and reminding students to be up to date with vaccinations when I was living in student accommodation in third year. This time I heard about it through word of mouth. I don’t think the uni handled it very well – I know mumps can cause a lot more trouble to adults compared to children, kind of like chicken pox so I feel as though there should be more raising awareness campaigns for further learning grounds especially since it’s a gathering of adults’.

How is mental health handled in Universities?

Between 2007 and 2015 the number of student suicides in the UK increased by 79 per cent, and its with this data that questions about the mental health support available in universities increases.

Today universities offer different support systems when it comes to mental health, with various way to access it. It’s possible to seek support in various ways on campus, and often from different platforms online too. Also, in some universities, a “mental health day” occurs once a year, and they provide a constant on-campus counsellor.

But the problem with some of these services is the fact that they are efficient as long as they aren’t in use.

One of the problems with the help offered right now by some universities is that real help is not well organised, but its advertised as so; to a point in which it seems that some universities are doing their best to only provide enough support to not to end up in legal troubles. With all the energy invested in such support tools, it’s ridiculous the way it fails facing real dangerous situations.

The majority of the support offered by universities, comes from the antiquated medical ideology. This includes the belief that people living certain deep life experiences are going to seek help automatically themselves when at their lowest moment. But this is not the case, and the majority of times, this creates misconceptions.

People facing certain life crisis are willing to get help, but more likely can’t find a reason or the strength to seek it. It takes an enormous amount of strength for certain people to finally seek help, but it can be in vain easily, especially when the quality of the help is mediocre or coming from the wrong conceptions.

Seeking help in the university environment should be facilitated, but often leads to confusing online pages, making this crucial procedure really frustrating and further from the help needed.

But there is no number of emails, of webpages and or 15-minutes-tutorials that can actually have an incisive effect in every situation, which is why I think blaming universities entirely is not the answer, and why I think this current helping system is not working.

The first step towards a better mental health support in universities should be in a utopic, but concrete and constant sensitising of students and staff on the topic mental health, not with a badly advertised “Mental Health Day”.

The amount of help universities can provide is of course limited in both amount and efficacy, no matter how organised. Especially in extreme cases, the help provided by universities is never gonna be the final answer, and we shouldn’t expect it.

The goal shouldn’t be to save someone, but rather to guarantee the right supportive environment to then try to effectively help. The environment sourrounding a student often tends to marginalise certain attitudes or to generally misunderstand them, aggravating a situation that is unstable itself.

A more vigil and less naive attitude in the entirety of the university environment needs to form, due to these incidents of mental illness progressing.

It’s not the final help that truly counts, but rather the support to finally seek help, and its that we should improve.

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