Drug use, religion explain ‘reverse gender gap’ on marijuana

Women tend to be more conservative than men on political questions related to marijuana. A recent study finds that this gender gap appears to be driven by religion and the fact that men are more likely to have used marijuana.

“This subject got our attention because it is the rare political issue where women are more conservative than men,” says Steven Greene, co-lead author of a paper on the study and professor of political science at North Carolina State University. “We wanted to better understand what was behind that ‘reverse gender gap.'”

To explore the subject, Greene and co-lead author Laurel Elder — a professor at Hartwick College — evaluated a 2013 political survey by the Pew Research Center. The nationally representative survey had about 1,500 participants, evenly split between men and women. The survey also asked a range of questions about marijuana policy, as well as marijuana use.

The researchers evaluated responses to six survey questions about marijuana, such as “Should marijuana be legal?” and “Is marijuana a gateway drug?” They compiled these responses to create a “support for marijuana” scale, running from zero to 100. Men scored a 67 on the scale, while women scored a 61.

The researchers then delved into the survey data to identify what contributed to the gender gap.

“One hypothesis we saw in popular media was that women are less supportive of marijuana due to their role as mothers — but the data didn’t bear that out at all,” Greene says. “In fact, mothers were no different from women without children in terms of either their support for marijuana policy or their reported use of marijuana.”

Instead, Elder and Greene identified two other factors that accounted for the distinction: marijuana use and religiosity. Religiosity is measured by accounting for how often survey respondents said they attended church and whether they identified as born-again Christians.

“When we ran a statistical analysis that accounted for religiosity, the gender gap shrank, so it appears to play a role in attitudes toward marijuana,” Greene says.

“But when we ran an analysis accounting for marijuana use, the gap disappeared altogether — so that clearly plays a major role.”

In the Pew survey, 57 percent of men reported having used marijuana, compared to 45 percent of women.

“One takeaway message from this work is that, as marijuana legalization and use become normalized, rather than being viewed as immoral or dangerous, the existing gender gap should shrink,” Greene says.

The paper, “Gender and the Politics of Marijuana,” is published in Social Science Quarterly.

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8 Lip Powders That Will Replace Your Go-To Lipstick

Lip powders are likely the most recent beauty product to make you go “Huh?” Why would you want to powder your lips, right? But lip powders are not that confusing—they are simply a powdery lip product that provide a more matte, blurred finish than traditional lipsticks do. This K-beauty trend has been trickling into the U.S. over the past several years, and now several brands here make them.

Melanie Huscroft, co-founder and chief visionary officer for Younique, notes that older formulas for lip powders felt very dry on the lips and didn’t offer much variety in terms of finishes. “Matte was really the only option to women and they felt heavy and chalky,” she says. The new batch of formulas are weightless, multi-dimensional, and creamy, and now come in both matte and shimmer finishes, she adds.

These products are a lot less messy than they might sound, especially with the more creamy formulations. Lip powders can come with a wand applicator or a brush, and even in a bullet, like a traditional lipstick. Of course, it’s also acceptable to use your own fingertips to apply the product. “I actually recommend using your finger or a sponge to apply lip powders,” says Westman Atelier founder Gucci Westman. “Lip powders can be used to add volume to the lip and the key is to build the product by dabbing or blotting with your fingertip to get a more diffused, natural look.”

Feeling inspired? Here are some lip powders to try.

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Family matters for future wealth

Australians pride themselves on having a classless society, where wealth is determined not by how rich your parents are but by your own efforts. However new research, for the first time using actual income numbers from two generations of Australians, paints a less egalitarian picture.

The Paper, Direct Measures of Intergenerational Income Mobility for Australia, published in the journal Economic Record, used data from the Household Income and Labour dynamics Australia (HILDA) survey, which has followed a sample of Australian households for 18 years.

The researchers, from the University of Wollongong, Australian National University (ANU) and the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), found that people born into low-income families in “the land of the fair go” don’t actually move easily into higher-income bands later in life.

Their analysis also suggests that family structure — who you’re married to, when you have children and how many you have — matters when it comes to what’s known as income mobility.

“Australia has greater mobility than US citizens, but less than in Scandinavian countries,” says UTS economist and study co-author Associate Professor Peter Siminski.

The researchers were able to put a number on this using a scale of zero to one, where 0 means people’s incomes have no relationship to those of their parents and 1 means advantage or disadvantage is completely transferred.

The result was not as close to the zero end of the scale as some people might expect, with the researchers estimating the intergenerational “elasticity” of income in Australia at 0.4.

“Income mobility matters because it is one of the best measures we have of equality of opportunity,” says co-author Associate Professor Robert Clark from ANU.

Some argue that if there is a high level of inequality in society — a big gap between rich and poor — this is simply a reflection of effort, that those with high incomes have worked harder or are more productive.

However, intergenerational income mobility — not just the gap between rich and poor in one generation — is important to consider because it is more closely related to equality of opportunity, says co-author Dr Silvia Mendolia from the University of Wollongong.

“There is a much stronger consensus that people’s outcomes shouldn’t be due to factors outside their control — such as their family wealth,” she says.

The research also found that family makeup plays a role in income mobility. When researchers measured household income, not just individual income, they found greater persistence of income advantage or disadvantage between generations.

“Household income depends not only on your own income but also whether you have a partner, your partner’s earning capacity, how young you are when you have children, and how many children you have,” says lead-author Chelsea Murray.

While an individual born into a low-income family may later experience income mobility, this could be ameliorated by the fact they then marry someone in a low-income band or compounded by marrying someone in a higher-income band.

“Studies that seek to measure the transmission of economic wellbeing may need to consider broader measures of income that account for differences in family structure,” Murray says.

Aside from being central to the concept of fairness, there are strong economic reasons for equality of opportunity being a desirable social outcome.

“Society is better off if someone who has the potential to achieve great things is able to develop their skills and talents and fulfil that potential, thereby contributing to the economy. It is also better for social cohesion,” says Dr Siminski.

Educational policies are the clearest and most obvious policy lever that governments have to improve income mobility, he says.

“It’s important for governments to tackle disadvantage at an early stage, in schools, and to facilitate broad access to higher education, so income advantage isn’t entrenched,” Dr Siminski says.

“There tends to be greater persistence of advantage across generations in countries where having a university degree provides a big boost to lifetime income.

“I think the most obvious thing to do is to focus on access to higher education, to facilitate that pathway from high school through to university.

“It is also important to channel the greatest amount of money into schools that have the greatest level of disadvantage,” he says.

Parents learn, babies talk: How coaching moms and dads improves infants’ language skills

When it comes to helping infants learn to talk, it’s not just how much parents say, but how they say it.

Speaking directly to the baby with a style of speech known as “parentese” — talking slowly and clearly, often with exaggerated vowels and intonation — appears to improve infant language development. A new study from the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS) shows that parents who learn how and why to speak parentese can have a direct impact on their children’s vocabulary.

“We know from over 30 years of research in the lab that infants prefer parentese over standard speech, and that infants who are exposed to more parentese at home have larger vocabularies as toddlers,” said Patricia Kuhl, professor of speech and hearing sciences and co-director of I-LABS. “We wanted to explore whether parents benefit from “coaching” by adapting their own speaking style and whether this would affect their child’s language outcomes.”

In the new study, published online in Developmental Science, researchers used audio recordings of participating families’ typical weekends. Parents were randomly assigned to the “coaching” or “control” groups: Those in the control group were recorded, while those in the coaching group not only were recorded, but also participated in individual parent coaching sessions during which they received language-interaction tips in the form of cards with “brain building” tips from Vroom, and discussed their recordings with the coach. Babies whose parents received coaching during the study were significantly more verbal by 14 months of age.

Parentese is not what many people think of as “baby talk.” The latter is typically a mash-up of nonsense words and silly sounds (think: “cutesie-wootsie”), whereas parentese is fully grammatical speech that involves real words, elongated vowels and exaggerated tones of voice — it sounds happy and conveys total engagement with the child. Spoken directly to the child — and used across many languages — parentese resonates with infants, researchers say, and helps babies tune in socially to their parents, and motivates them to talk back, even if that just means babbling.

“Most parents know that the amount of language their child hears is important. What we shared with them through coaching is that how they talk to their baby may matter even more,” said Naja Ferjan Ramírez, a research scientist at I-LABS and lead author of the study. “We explained to them the research behind parentese, and made sure they were aware of the connection between their language input, and their speaking style in particular, and their baby’s language outcomes.”

The research team decided to examine the role of coaching, Ferjan Ramírez said, because parents vary widely in their understanding of how babies learn to talk, and of their own role in language development. So the study pool deliberately included people of different socioeconomic backgrounds.

The study involved 77 parents and their infants, who were 6 months old at the beginning of the project. All families were given a lightweight recorder, to be worn by the baby in a specially designed vest, and asked to record the entirety of two weekend days when babies were 6, 10 and 14 months old. The device can record everything the baby hears and says, so it allowed researchers to track both parent and infant speech. Individual coaching sessions occurred at six and 10 months. Researchers evaluated the recordings of families in both groups.

The coaching sessions for parents in the intervention group provided lessons and feedback on specific communication strategies: parentese, speaking directly to their child, and incorporating language in one-on-one interactions. During the sessions, the coach played recordings of specific speech styles and compared the parents’ own recordings to research-based targets for child language development. Parents then were provided tips on how to use these communication strategies through daily routines, such as mealtime or bath time.

According to the study, between six and 14 months, parents in the coached group increased the amount of speech directed to their child and increased parentese by 15 percent. Parents in the control group showed less growth in their use of both strategies, averaging about 7 percent.

To measure child language skills, the team classified infant recordings as “babbling” — use of vowels, consonant-vowel syllables and strings of word-like sounds — or as words if they were clearly recognizable English words. For the purposes of this study, all participating parents spoke English as their primary language.

The researchers found that babies of coached families babbled, on average, in 43 percent of the analyzed recordings, while control babies babbled in 30 percent of the recordings. In addition, at 14 months, intervention babies produced significantly more words than control babies, as measured by the recordings as well as parent reports.

A key takeaway is that any parent can incorporate these communication strategies — using parentese, interacting with the child — in their usual activities.

“Language learning can be ignited during daily routines, such as diaper changes, grocery shopping or sharing a meal,” Ferjan Ramírez said. “Everyday moments and daily interactions really matter, and parents can create more such moments and be more intentional about them.” The study showed that parent speech is malleable, across a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds, she added.

“Parents are a child’s first and most important teachers, and we are happy to show they can have an immediate positive effect on the growth of their child’s language. Early language skills are important predictors of a child’s learning to read and of their success in school, and parents can directly affect their child’s outcomes in this way.”

The study was funded by the Overdeck Family Foundation and the I-LABS Ready Mind Project. Other authors of the study were Sarah Lytle, outreach and education director at I-LABS, and graduate student Melanie Fish.

Childhood physical inactivity reaches crisis levels around the globe

Children around the world are not moving enough to maintain healthy growth and development, according to a global report released today.

The report by the Active Healthy Kids Global Alliance (AHKGA) compared 49 countries from six continents to assess global trends in childhood physical activity in developed and developing nations, resulting in the “Global Matrix 3.0” comparison of grades.

The report revealed that modern lifestyles — increases in screen time, the growing urbanization of communities and the rise in automation of previously manual tasks — are contributing to a pervasive public health problem that must be recognized as a global priority.

“Global trends, including excessive screen time, are contributing to a generation of inactive children and putting them on a dangerous path,” said Professor Mark Tremblay, President of the AHKGA, Senior Scientist at the CHEO Research Institute in Canada and Professor at the University of Ottawa. “We have a collective responsibility to change this because inactive children are at risk for adverse physical, mental, social and cognitive health problems. This generation will face a range of challenges, including the impacts of climate change, increasing globalization, and the consequences of rapid technological change. They will need to become habitually physically active in order to grow into healthy, resilient adults who can survive and thrive in a changing world.”

The AHKGA international comparison involved 517 experts who produced 49 country report cards, grading 10 common indicators related to the physical activity of children and youth. The resulting report examines global patterns, and highlights how our changing world is affecting children’s physical activity levels. Increases in screen time and a growing reliance on technology are taking up crucial time that could be better spent engaged in a wide range of physical activities; and an increased use of motorized transport is changing physical activity levels globally.

“Pushing back against these lifestyle shifts requires social engineering, not just built engineering, and the challenges vary depending on each country’s stage of development,” said Dr. Tremblay. “It will take many facets of society working together to shift behaviours to preserve and promote our children’s right to play and be active. We hope this report will be a call to action for societies around the world.”

Learning from each other

Countries with the most active children and youth overall, including Slovenia, Zimbabwe and Japan, each rely on very different approaches to get kids moving but what is consistent among all of them is that physical activity is driven by pervasive cultural norms. Being active is not just a choice, but a way of life.

  • Slovenia obtained the best grades for Overall Physical Activity (A?), Family and Peers (B+), and Government (A), and received an overall average grade of B. A notable feature in Slovenia is the importance of sport for the culture of this almost 30-year old country as “Slovenes tend to view sports as an effective tool in fostering national identity among citizens and making successful global identity claims.”
  • Zimbabwe reports above-average grades in Overall Physical Activity (C+) and Sedentary Behaviours (B). Overall physical activity is mostly affected by active transportation which, for the majority of the children in Zimbabwe, is a necessity in everyday life.
  • Japan had the best grades for Active Transportation (A?) and Physical Fitness (A), and had no grades lower than C?. Japan has a highly established “walking to school practice” that has been implemented since the School Education Act enforcement order, enacted in 1953. It states that public elementary schools should be located within no more than 4 km, and for public junior high schools no more than 6 km from the student’s home.

“There much we can learn from each other to improve the grades around the world,” said Professor Peter Katzmarzyk, AHKGA Vice-President and Associate Executive Director for Population and Public Health Sciences at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “Physical inactivity is a global concern and can no longer be ignored. For the good of our children’s health and futures, we need to build physical activity into all societies, and change social norms to get kids moving.”

Intermittent fasting: No advantage over conventional weight loss diets

Intermittent fasting helps lose weight and promotes health. However, it is not superior to conventional calorie restriction diets, scientists from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and Heidelberg University Hospital have found out in a study called HELENA — the largest investigation on intermittent fasting to date.The scientists conclude that there are many paths leading to a healthier weight. Everybody must find a diet plan that fits them best and then just do it!

Feasting eight hours and then fasting the following 16 hours? Or is it even better to fast two whole days a week and then enjoy eating without regrets for the rest of the week? Intermittent fasting, also known as 16:8 diet or 5:2 diet, is trendy. Numerous popular self-help books on this topic promise weight loss without yo-yo effect as well as sustained changes in metabolism and resulting health benefits. The German Nutrition Society (DGE), on the other hand, warns that intermittent fasting is not suitable for long-term weight regulation. In addition, according to DGE, there is not enough scientific evidence on the long-term effects of this dieting method.

“There are in fact only a few smaller studies on intermittent fasting so far, but they have come up with strikingly positive effects for metabolic health,” says DKFZ’s Ruth Schübel. “This made us curious and we intended to find out whether these effects can also be proven in a larger patient group and over a prolonged period.”

In collaboration with a team of DKFZ researchers and scientists from Heidelberg University Hospital, Schübel examined 150 overweight and obese study participants over one year as part of the HELENA study. At the start of the study, they were randomly classified in three groups: One third followed a conventional calorie restriction diet that reduced daily calorie intake by 20 percent. The second group kept to a 5:2 dietary plan that also saved 20 percent of calorie intake over the whole week. The control group followed no specific diet plan but was advised, like all other participants, to eat a well-balanced diet as recommended by DGE. Following the actual dieting phase, the investigators documented the participants’ weight and health status for another 38 weeks.

The result may be as surprising as it is sobering for all followers of intermittent fasting. The HELENA researchers found that improvements in health status were the same with both dietary methods. “In participants of both group, body weight and, along with it, visceral fat, or unhealthy belly fat, were lost and extra fat in the liver reduced,” Schübel reported.

The changes in body weight distribution in the study participants were exactly determined using special MRT imaging executed by Johanna Nattenmüller at Heidelberg University Hospital. The good news is: a small dieting success is already a big gain for health. Those who reduce their body weight by only five percent, lose about 20 percent of dangerous visceral fat and more than a third of fat in the liver — no matter which dietary method they have used.

The investigators also did not find any difference between the two dieting methods in any other metabolic values that were analyzed or biomarkers and gene activities under investigation.

Although the HELENA study does not confirm the euphoric expectations placed in intermittent fasting, it also shows that this method is not less beneficial than conventional weight loss diets. “In addition, for some people it seems to be easier to be very disciplined on two days instead of counting calories and limiting food every day,” explained Tilman Kühn, leading scientist of the trial. “But in order to keep the new body weight, people must also permanently switch to a balanced diet following DGE recommendations,” he added.

According to Kühn, the study results show that it is not primarily the dietary method that matters but that it is more important to decide on a method and then follow through with it. “The same evidence is also suggested in a current study comparing low-carb and low-fat diets, that is, reducing carbohydrates versus reducing fat intake while otherwise having a balanced diet,” said Kühn. In this study, participants also achieved comparable results with both methods.

The scientists’ credo is therefore: “Just do it!” Body and health will benefit from weight loss in any case, as long as it is achieved by a reliable dieting method and on the basis of a well-balanced diet.

Blood pressure: Early treatment advised by US guidelines has no survival benefits

When is high blood pressure dangerous? Medical associations offer widely differing answers. In the USA, for example, patients are seen as hypertensive much sooner than in Germany. A team working with Prof. Karl-Heinz Ladwig of the Technical University of Munich and the Helmholtz Zentrum München has concluded that treating patients sooner does not reduce the risk of deadly heart disease. It could even negatively affect their mental health.

In 2017 the American College of Cardiology added a new category to its guidelines for high blood pressure: “Stage 1 Hypertension.” Under the new standards, doctors are advised to place patients in this category (130-139 mmHg / 80-89 mmHg) on treatment. For the European Society of Cardiology, that range is defined as “high normal” blood pressure, with no specific action recommended.

“The idea behind the US guidelines is to lower blood pressure as early as possible and, by presenting patients with a diagnosis, to encourage them to adopt a healthier lifestyle,” explains Prof. Karl-Heinz Ladwig, a researcher at the Clinic for Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy at the TUM University Clinic rechts der Isar at the Helmholtz Zentrum München.

Motivation factor questionable

Using data from approximately 12,000 patients, Ladwig and his team assessed the situation in Germany. “We studied the 10-year risk of mortality from cardio-vascular disease (CVD) among people in the various hypertension categories in the context of the other risk factors affecting them,” says Seryan Atasoy, the first author of the study, who is working as an epidemiologist at Helmholtz Zentrum München and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.

In the newly created category “Stage 1 Hypertension,” the CVD mortality risk was not significantly higher than among patients with normal blood pressure. “The motivation effect is questionable, too,” says Karl-Heinz Ladwig. Patients in the high-risk category “Stage 2 Hypertension,” where medication is recommended under both the US and the European guidelines, have a much greater risk of dying of heart disease, he explains. “At the same time, risk factors such as smoking and a lack of exercise are far more frequent in that group. That shows that many people do not change their lifestyles despite the diagnosis.”

Dangerous depression

Although the incidence of depression is generally lower among people with dangerously high blood pressure than in the general population, depression was significantly more common in one subset of that group: those taking medication to treat their serious hypertension. Here, depressive moods were reported by around half of all patients, as opposed to just one-third of those not receiving treatment.

“We believe that this should be seen as a labeling effect,” says Ladwig. “When people are officially labeled as ‘sick’, that has an impact on their mental health.” A previous study by Ladwig and his team showed that, in terms of mortality risk from cardio-vascular disease, depression is comparable to high cholesterol levels or obesity.

New guidelines mean more sick people

“The American College of Cardiology itself has calculated that the proportion of adults diagnosed with high blood pressure will increase from 32 to 46 percent,” says Karl-Heinz Ladwig. “That means 14 percent more who have to deal with the additional mental stress — although their risk of developing a potentially deadly cardio-vascular condition is not significantly higher, and despite no real expectation of extra motivation through the diagnosis.” For those reasons, Ladwig believes that it would be a serious mistake to adopt the US guidelines in Europe.

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Materials provided by Technical University of Munich (TUM). Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

USAGov’s Back to School Guide for Teachers and Parents

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  • Woman walking with shopping bags on shopping mall background, Brought to you by USAGov.

    The holiday shopping season is one of the busiest times of the year, with many opportunities to buy gifts for family and friends, and chances to donate to charitable causes.

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    On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered a speech during a ceremony to dedicate a cemetery to Union soldiers killed at the Battle of Gettysburg.

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    This Election Day, millions of Americans will visit a polling location to exercise their constitutional right to vote.


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Playing youth football could affect brain development

Young football players may experience a disruption in brain development after a single season of the sport, according to a new study presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

“This research demonstrates that playing a season of contact sports may affect normal gray matter pruning in high school and youth football players,” said Gowtham Krishnan Murugesan, M.S., research assistant in the Department of Radiology at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas.

The brain is highly complex with an abundance of neural connections. New connections are formed, and unused connections fall away in a process called pruning. Much like cutting back dead or unnecessary branches keeps a tree healthy and helps it grow, brain pruning is necessary to healthy brain development.

“Pruning is an essential part of brain development,” Murugesan said. “By getting rid of the synapses that are no longer used, the brain becomes more efficient with aging.”

The researchers set out to determine whether exposure to repetitive head impacts affects normal pruning of the brain in young football players.

For the study, 60 youth and high school football players without history of developmental, neurological or psychiatric abnormalities and no history of concussion prior to or during the season were outfitted with the Head Impact Telemetry System (HITS). HITS helmets are lined with accelerometers or sensors that measure the magnitude, location and direction of impacts to the head. Impact data from the helmets were used to calculate a risk of concussion exposure for each player.

Players were then split into two groups: high-impact players (24) and low-impact players (36), based on each player’s risk of cumulative head impact exposure as determined by HITS.

Pre- and post-season resting state functional (fMRI) scans were performed on all players, and changes in power within five components the default mode network (DMN) were analyzed.

The DMN is a network of regions deep in the gray matter areas of the brain. It includes structures that activate when a person is awake and engaging in introspection or processing emotions, which are activities that are important for brain health.

The post-season results showed significant increases in power and gray matter volume in the frontal DMN in the high-impact group.

“Disruption in normal pruning has been shown to be related to weaker connections between different parts of the brain,” Murugesan said. “Our study has found a significant decrease in gray matter pruning in the frontal default mode network, which is involved in higher cognitive functions, such as the planning and controlling of social behaviors.”

Studies of biomechanical data from this same group of participants were conducted at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C. Their findings showed that most head impacts occurred during practice.

“By replacing high-impact practice drills with low- or no-impact drills, the overall head-impact exposure for players can be reduced,” Murugesan said.

The researchers also suggested that minor modifications to the game could also be implemented to reduce full-speed contact.

“The new National Football League kickoff rule eliminating the running start is an example,” Murugesan said.

The researchers hope to conduct further study to fully understand the long-term changes in resting state brain networks and their association with neuropsychological task performance.

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