Lifestyle

A good hair day: New York City enforces right of blacks to style tresses ‘naturally’

February 20, 2019

In the 1960s and 1970s, many black men and women stopped straightening their hair and adopted the “Afro” look—which today we refer to as what it is: “natural hair.”

But up until this week, no municipality in the nation has enforced the right of people of color to enjoy their own hair texture and natural beauty.

Now all that has changed. In February, the Big Apple became the first city in the nation to “protect the rights of  New Yorkers [under the New York City Human Rights Law] to maintain natural hair or hairstyles that are closely associated with their racial, ethnic, or cultural identities”

Specifically, the New York City Commission of Human Rights said this month, “For black people, this includes the right to maintain natural hair, treated or untreated hairstyles such as locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, fades, Afros, and/or the right to keep hair in an uncut or untrimmed state.”

And that includes on the job, in competitive sports, and in “public places like libraries, gyms, schools, and nightclubs”—where, the Commission rules, “Black people [cannot be forced] to change their natural hair as a requirement to be admitted in or retain affiliation with those settings.”

“Policies that limit the ability to wear natural hair or hairstyles associated with black people aren’t about ‘neatness’ or ‘professionalism;’ they are about limiting the way black people move through workplaces, public spaces, and other settings,” New York City Human Rights Commissioner and Chair Carmelyn P. Malalis said in a statement.

New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray also spoke out about the guidance, saying in a statement, “Bias against the curly textured hair of people of African descent is as old as this country and a form of race-based discrimination.”

I a report about the human rights guidance, Good Morning America/ABC News noted that it comes “just two months after controversy erupted when a New Jersey high school wrestler was told to cut his dreadlocks or forfeit his match. The student’s attorney asked the state’s Division of Civil Rights (DCR) last month to further investigate the “unrelenting fixation on the hair of a 16-year-old young man.”

According to the network news report, New York’s Commission on Human Rights said it is currently investigating seven natural hairstyle discrimination cases that include black people being forced to wear their braided hair up or being fired for wearing their natural hair down.

The commission will be the city agency responsible for enforcing the new legal guidance. Employers found in violation of the guidelines can be fined up to $250,000 and be forced by the commission to make policy changes and rehiresaccording to The New York Times, which reported the guidance before its public release.

Cheers of applause for the new protections for natural hair circulated on social media with the hashtags #freethehair and #YourHairYourRightNYC.

Research contact: @GMA

Both diet soda and sweetened fruit juice may increase stroke risk

February 19, 2019

Scientists are warning us that things don’t really go better with Diet Coke—or with your morning orange juice, for that matter.

New research finds that consuming diet sodas and artificially sweetened fruit juices may increase your risk for strokeespecially if you are a mature woman, CBS News reported on February 17.

In a study that tracked nearly 82,000 postmenopausal women, those who drank two or more diet drinks per day saw their overall stroke risk rise by 23%, compared with those who consumed diet drinks less than once a week.

Blocked arteries are often the main culprit, the network news outlet notes, with heavy diet drink consumption linked to a 31% greater risk for an ischemic stroke, which is triggered by a clot, the study findings showed.

Study author Yasmin Mossavar-Rahmani—a nutrition scientist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City—acknowledged in an interview with CBS News that an “association does not imply causation.” But she stressed that the findings held up even after taking into account the nutritional value of each participant’s overall diet.

So, “we can’t assume these diet drinks are harmless, particularly when consumed at high levels,” Mossavar-Rahmani said.

“The take-home message is that these findings give us pause,” she added. “We need to do more research on why we are seeing these associations. What are the scientific mechanisms? Is there something about the artificial sweeteners, for example, that affects the bacteria in the gut and lead to health issues?”

Indeed, the American Heart Association (AHA) recently underscored the lack of sufficient research into the cardiovascular impact of diet sodas, CBS News points out. Until more work is done, the AHA says the jury remains out on whether artificially sweetened beverages do or do not hasten heart disease.

Women in the latest study were between 50 and 79 when they first enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative trial between 1993 and 1998.

Investigators tracked the general health of all the participants for an average of nearly 12 years. During that time—at the three-year mark—all the women were asked to indicate how frequently they consumed diet sodas and diet fruit drinks over a three-month period.

The researchers did not take note of which brands of artificially sweetened drinks the women drank, and so did not know which artificial sweeteners were being consumed, CBS News reports.

That said, nearly two-thirds of the women consumed diet sodas or drinks very infrequently, meaning less than once a week or never. Only about 5% were found to be “heavy” consumers of artificially sweetened drinks.

After taking into consideration a variety of stroke risk factors — including blood pressure status, smoking history and age — the study team concluded that heavy consumption of diet drinks did appear to be tied to cardiovascular risks in a number of ways.

For example, those women who drank two or more diet beverages a day saw their overall risk for developing heart disease increase by 29%. They also were 16% more likely to die prematurely from any cause.

Certain groups fared even worse: Among obese women and black women with no history of heart disease or diabetes, a diet drink habit pushed clot-driven stroke risk up by roughly twofold and fourfold, respectively, the researchers reported.

Whether or not the findings would apply to either men or younger women remains unclear, the study authors noted.

The findings were published online February 14 in the journal, Stroke.

A group representing the artificial sweetener industry offered the following response, CBS News noted:  “The contribution of reverse causality, meaning that individuals already at a greater risk of stroke and cardiovascular events chose low-calorie sweetened beverages, is very likely the cause of the associations presented by these researchers.”

Research contact: @CBSNews

You can go home again—but maybe you shouldn’t

February 18, 2019

Both my husband and I grew up in the same suburb of New York City and went to college in Boston—but we didn’t find that out (or even meet) until we had moved back to Manhattan for our first jobs. Following marriage and the birth of our first child, we moved again—this time, about 45 minutes north of New York City and about an hour’s drive from our original hometown.

We never lost touch with many of the people with whom we grew up and have been back to the old neighborhood. What surprises us is the large number of people our age who have lived in, or very near to, their childhood homes for their entire lives.

We have wondered: Are they more content? More complacent? Or perhaps more financially stable? Now, a study covered by the website CivicScience has answered some of those questions.

The study asked about 1,200 U.S. adults to indicate which statement (below) applied to them:

  • I always have lived within ten miles of where I grew up (23%) percent of respondents indicated that this was true);
  • I always have lived within 60 miles of where I grew up (22%);
  • I moved more than 60 miles away, but have since returned to where I grew up (21%); or
  • I moved more than 60 miles away from where I grew up and never returned (34%).

The largest percentage of respondents (34%) now live more than 60 miles away from where they grew up—but this group represents only slightly more than one-third of respondents overall, Civic Science reports.

Through another lens, a clear majority of Americans live within 60 miles of their childhood home—whether they’ve stayed there all along, or moved away and returned. Over one-fifth of U.S. adults (23%) have never lived more than 10 miles from where they grew up.

The demographic differences were fairly predictable. Younger people (particularly, 18- to 24 year-olds) are more likely to live within 10 miles of their childhood homes—perhaps because they simply haven’t moved away from mom and dad yet. Older respondents (55+) are more likely to have moved 60 miles away, for good—perhaps to retire in warmer weather. Parents over-indexed as living within 60 miles of home, perhaps because they wanted to live close to their grandchildren—but not too close.

People in rural, suburban, and urban areas were evenly divided, CivicScience notes. But people from the U.S. Northeast— especially New York and Pennsylvania—were the most likely to live within ten miles of where they grew up; people in the U.S. West were the least likely to be 10-milers.

People in the U.S. Midwest are the most likely to live within 60 miles of home. People in the U.S. South were the most likely to move 60 miles from home and never return.

What’s more, respondents who went away to college or grad school were more likely to migrate farther from home.

No group was noticeably more tech-savvy or social media-savvy than the others. Any assumption that a person who moved away from their hometown is more worldly or sophisticated than their anchored counterparts is false.

But here’s the million-dollar question: Who’s happier? CivicScience has tracked the overall happiness of Americans on a daily basis since 2011. When the site crossed its happiness question with its ‘where-do-you-live question,’ the researchers found that , of all the groups, those who have never moved more than 60 miles from home are the happiest, by a few percentage points. The people who have never moved more than ten miles from where they grew up are the least likely to be unhappy.

Interestingly enough, respondents who had moved 60 miles from home, only to return, are 23 percentage points less likely to be happy and twice as likely to be unhappy than the next closest group. The numbers don’t lie.

But why is this group so much less happy? CivicScience cannot say for sure. Maybe it’s because they returned home under some kind of duress – this ‘boomerang’ group was 20% more likely than average to be divorced and 20% more likely to live alone. They’re the most likely of all the groups to carry significant debt, particularly student loans and credit cards. Maybe they had to return home to care for a sick parent. Or maybe they chased a dream they couldn’t fulfill. It’s hard to tell without a doubt.

Research contact: jd@civicscience.com

Addicted to being busy?

February 15, 2019

Is your plate too full? Are you slammed or swamped? Or is your work ethic in overdrive?

We live in an era where flaunting our hectic schedules is considered cool and multitasking is productive. But for some of us, there is another dynamic at work: We are just addicted to being busy, according to a recent report by DNA.

Seema Hingorrany, a clinical psychologist and trauma therapist whose practice is in Mumbai comes across such people all the time, she says.

“People use the ‘I’m so busy’ phrase … to seek approval, …[to] appear busier than they actually are,” Hingorrany told the India-based news outlet. “Most people are lacking awareness or mindfulness. They are on hyper mode, on autopilot …. Most [finally are driven to] seek help when they take on too much stress and go into depression, or start having anxiety.

Bhakti Thakkar Bauva, a consultant clinical psychologist at Fortis Hiranandani Hospital in Vashi, sees a lot of people with this go-go psychology between the ages of 25 and 45, she told DNA. “They are mostly professionals who are entrepreneurs with their own business—or sometimes working in a multinational corporation in leadership roles. I, personally, have seen almost equal number of males and females, who use busyness as a coping mechanism,” she says. They are aware that they are busy all the time, but feel that there is no other way, and theirs is the best approach.

Indeed, “…the word, busy, has become synonymous with being successful. If you are a ‘busy’ person you are automatically important and sought-after, “ Mansi Hasan, a clinical psychologist who practices in Mumbai tells DNA.

She adds that FOMO (fear of missing out), high drive, and our environment are “hugely responsible”  for this addiction, as they are constantly putting pressure on us to compete in a world that is rapidly evolving around us.

People who are prone to exhibit the addiction have Type A personalities, she says, and typically exhibit behaviors such as aggression,competitiveness, impatience, and a desire for control.

Hingorrany sees clients suffering from severe burnout, chronic fatigue syndrome and major depressive episodes. They also suffer from anxiety symptoms. People also complain about anger, pain disorders and other physiological issues.

Most experts believe that the addiction starts as a coping strategy. Bauva gives examples like, “I am finding it difficult to sleep at night, so let me work so much that I pass out due to exhaustion …. It means that the individual has an imbalanced, stressful life, where the problems are not resolved and are getting piled up.

“As the concerns are not going anywhere, they will only magnify with time,”she warns.

If you recognize yourself in this story, Mansi Hasan says the the following tips might help:

  • Spend at least 30 minutes daily with yourself doing nothing.
  • Restrict your screen time.
  • Slow down, don’t attempt to be superhuman.
  • Initiate boredom.
  • Sleep and eat well.
  • Spend time with nature. Use your five senses to rejuvenate yourself.
  • Connect to your inner self.
  • Don’t be task-oriented, be life-oriented.
  • Seek happiness, but not in the form of materialistic success.

Research contact: @dna

Hopes are (1,050 feet) high for weddings at top of Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2019

Two couples—Fabiana Faria and Helena Barquet of New York City; and Nachiket Patel and Chitra Pathak, originally from Mumbai—celebrated their weddings on February 14 at the Empire State Building’s outdoor 86th floor Observatory, high above Manhattan, after being selected as winners of the skyscraper’s 25th Annual Valentine’s Day Wedding Contest.

While the feelings were warm, the temperature was only in the 30s during the early morning ceremonies, with a 20-mile-per-hour wind chill factor, following a snow and sleet storm that covered the city.

The two couples continued a tradition celebrated by hundreds of couples over the past quarter-century. The 15-minute ceremonies were celebrated as follows:

  • 7 a.m. – Fabiana Faria and Helena Barquet: Fabiana and Helena—co-owners of the home design store Coming Soon on the Lower East Side of Manhattan—exemplify a true New York City love story. Fabiana proposed to Helena at the Plaza Hotel after falling in love almost seven years ago. With a shared fascination in the Empire State Building and the meanings behind its nightly tower lights, Fabiana and Helena were excited to celebrate their wedding in such a fabled setting.
  • 7:30 a.m. – Chitra Pathak and Nachiket Patel: Originally from India, Nachiket and Chitra met ten years ago after an introduction was made through Chitra’s brother. Following a five-year relationship, which included almost two years of long-distance dating, they are now happily living in Jersey City, New Jersey. The Empire State Building is Nachiket’s favorite building; and, while the couple still plans to host a big traditional wedding in India, he submitted his entry to the contest in the hopes of surprising Chitra with a wedding in their adopted home.

To celebrate this significant milestone event, and for the first time, this year’s Valentine’s Day Wedding Contest was open to the building’s international fan base via https://esbvalentinesday.com/.

“With over 1,000 entries from both near and far, it’s evident that the storied history and romance surrounding the Empire State Building continue to touch lives around the globe,” said Jean-Yves Ghazi, Senior Vice President of the Observatory. “I’m excited to officiate at the weddings for Helena and Fabiana, as well as Chitra and Nachiket, and continue this tradition for its 25th year.”

Each bride was gifted a dress of her choice from Kleinfeld Bridal’s famous flagship location in New York City. Additionally, a winning couple may receive prize packages from Grand Hyatt New York, State Grill and Bar, Turkish Airlines; and Boca Raton Resort & Club, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, courtesy of Discover The Palm Beaches.

Research contact: @TheEmpireState

He loves me, he loves me not: Why on-off relationships might be toxic

February 13, 2019

It’s an innocent children’s game that serves as a precursor to the pleasure-pain cycle of some adult relationships. Picking the petals off a daisy, a little girl chants, “He loves me; he loves me not, ”until the final petal falls to the ground and the answer is clear.

On-off relationships create drama. A couple breaks up with grief and anger; and then reattaches with renewed sexual magnetism, feelings of love, and happiness. We’ve seen the process on small- screen sitcoms: Sam and Diane on “Cheers.” Ross and Rachel on “Friends.” Carrie and Mr. Big on “Sex and the City.”

While their relationship storylines kept viewers enthralled, Kale Monk, assistant professor of Human Development and Family Science,at the University of Missouri says that a persistent pattern of breaking up and getting back together can impact an individual’s mental health—and not for the better. He suggests people in these kinds of relationships should make informed decisions about stabilizing or safely terminating their relationships.

Prior research has estimated that more than 60% of adults have been involved in on-off relationships, and more than 33% of cohabitating couples reported breaking up and later reconciling at some point. Compared to relationships without this pattern, on-off relationships are associated with higher rates of abuse, poorer communication and lower levels of commitment.

“Breaking up and getting back together is not always a bad omen for a couple,” says Monk. “In fact, for some couples, breaking up can help partners realize the importance of their relationship, contributing to a healthier, more committed unions. On the other hand, partners who are routinely breaking up and getting back together could be negatively impacted by the pattern.”

Monk and co-authors Brian Ogolsky and Ramona Oswald from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, examined data from more than 500 individuals who said they were currently in relationships. They found that an increase in breaking up and reuniting was associated with more psychological distress symptoms such as depression and anxiety. They did not find meaningful differences between same-sex and heterosexual relationships in this pattern.

Partners break up and reunite for a number of reasons, including necessity or practicality. For example, a person might stay in a relationship for financial reasons or partners might stay together because they feel they have invested too much time into the relationship to leave. However, Monk advises that former partners should get back together based on dedication, not obligation.

“The findings suggest that people who find themselves regularly breaking up and getting back together with their partners need to ‘look under the hood’ of their relationships to determine what’s going on,” Monk said. “If partners are honest about the pattern, they can take the necessary steps to maintain their relationships or safely end them. This is vital for preserving their well-being.”

Monk offers the following tips for couples who might want to evaluate their relationships:

  • When considering rekindling a relationship that ended or avoiding future breakups, partners should think about the reasons they broke up to determine if there are consistent or persistent issues impacting the relationship.
  • Having explicit conversations about issues that have led to break ups can be helpful, especially if the issues will likely reoccur. If there was ever violence in the relationship, however, or if having a conversation about relationship issues can lead to safety concerns, consider seeking support-services when it is safe to do so.
  • Similar to thinking about the reasons the relationship ended, spend time thinking about the reasons why reconciliation might be an option. Is the reason rooted in commitment and positive feelings, or more about obligations and convenience? The latter reasons are more likely to lead down a path of continual distress.
  • Remember that it is okay to end a toxic relationship. For example, if your relationship is beyond repair, do not feel guilty leaving for your mental or physical well-being.
  • Couples therapy or relationship counseling is not just for partners on the brink of divorce. Even happy dating and married couples can benefit from ‘relationship check-ups’ in order to strengthen the connection between partners and have additional support in approaching relationship transitions.

“Coming out and getting back in: relationship cycling and distress in same-and-different-sex relationships,” recently was published in Family Relations, the interdisciplinary journal of applied family science.

Research contact: monkj@missouri.edu

Knowing just one gay person shifts attitudes

February 12, 2019

It’s not what you know, but who you know that gets you in the door, or that moves a social effort forward. Most of us are familiar with this “old saw”—and now,  Daniel DellaPosta of Penn State University has proven it true again.

DellaPosta—an assistant professor of Sociology at Penn and an affiliate of the university’s Institute for CyberScience—has found that people who meet and become acquainted with at least one gay person are more likely to later change their minds about same-sex marriage; and become more accepting of gay and lesbian people in general,

 Indeed, friendship bonds that may seem superficial at first glance could be just deep enough to produce attitude changes that help spark social transformations.

According to DellaPosta, sociologists have long proposed that when people establish certain relationships, they may change their attitudes about issues, often referred to as the contact effect. However, prior to this study, the theory had yet to be rigorously tested.

“What I thought we needed in this area was a test of the contact hypothesis that was conservative — perhaps overly conservative—using the most stringent test we could possibly devise,” said DellaPosta.

DellaPosta examined data from the 2006, 2008, and 2010 editions of General Social Survey (GSS), a sociological survey of opinions that Americans hold on a range of issues.

In 2006, about 45% of the people who had a gay or lesbian acquaintance expressed support for same-sex marriage. By 2010, that figure had increased to 61%. In 2006, only 22% of people who did not have a gay or lesbian acquaintance said they approved of same-sex marriage. That number fell to 18% in 2010.

DellaPosta said that the survey data does not reveal exactly when these relationships were established, which makes the test more rigorous.

“By taking people in that 2006 baseline who were acquainted with gay and lesbian people and comparing them with other people who were similar in all visible regards, including their measured attitude toward same-sex marriage and gay and lesbian people at that 2006 baseline, who were not acquainted with gay and lesbian people, you can get a really conservative test of the contact hypothesis,” said DellaPosta, who reported his findings in a recent issue of the journal Socius.

The findings could shed light on how “coming out” among gay and lesbian people impacts the general acceptance of gay and lesbian people. In the 1973 GSS, just 11% of Americans believed that “homosexuality is not wrong at all.” By 2016, that number had grown to 52%.

DellaPosta suggests that coming out may facilitate more contact with gay and lesbian people, which then accelerates an attitude change about issues that affect the gay community.

Further, DellaPosta suggested that the contact with a gay person does not even need to be especially deep for the contact effect to appear.

“If you have very superficial contact, like just seeing someone from an out group in the grocery store or on the subway, you may focus more on selective behaviors that reinforce your prejudices—like someone dressing, talking or acting in a way that reinforces some negative stereotype of that group,” said DellaPosta.

“But, if you take the next level to mere acquaintanceship—someone whose name you know, someone who, if you saw them on the street, you might stop and chat with them for a moment—the contact effect sets in because when you suddenly have to interact with someone from an out group as an individual, it forces you to reconsider your biases.”

According to DellaPosta, having a closer, deeper bond with a gay or lesbian acquaintance did not result in an even larger shift of attitude toward same-sex marriage. He added that the contact effect actually is larger for people who have a low probability of having a gay or lesbian acquaintance.

Research contact: djd78@psu.edu

One big happy family? Dads are more gratified than moms

February 11, 2019

In mom-and-pop households, a recent study conducted by the University of California-Riverside has found, fathers experience more well-being from parenthood than mothers.

Past studies have considered whether people with children have greater well-being than people without children. They do. But few have considered the relative happiness of fathers and mothers.

UCR psychologists and their colleagues analyzed three separate studies comprising more than 18,000 people to determine whether fathers or mothers experience greater happiness from their parenting roles.

Across the three studies, researchers looked at measures of well-being that included happiness, well-being, depressive symptoms, psychological satisfaction, and stress.

The first two studies compared well-being of parents with that of people who don’t have children. Across all outcomes measured in the first studies, fatherhood was more frequently linked with well-being than motherhood. Relative to peers without children, fathers reported greater satisfaction with their lives and feelings of connectedness to others, and they reported greater positive emotions and fewer daily hassles than mothers. They also reported fewer depressive symptoms than men without children; whereas mothers reported more depressive symptoms than women who don’t have children.

The third study considered parenthood and well-being while engaged in childcare or interacting with children, compared to other daily activities. In that cohort, researchers found, gender significantly impacted the association between childcare and happiness. Men were happier while caring for their children, while women were less happy.

In terms of daily interactions generally, both men and women were happier interacting with their children relative to other daily interactions. But men reported greater happiness from the interactions than women. One possible explanation for this finding is that, relative to mothers, fathers were more likely to indicate that they were playing with their children while they were caring for them or interacting with them.

“Fathers may fare better than mothers in part due to how they spend their time with their children,” said study author Katherine Nelson-Coffey, who worked in UCR psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky’s lab as a graduate student and is now an assistant professor of psychology at Sewanee: The University of the South.

Lyubomirsky said the study carries a suggestion: Perhaps all parents will benefit from finding more opportunity for play with their children.

The research paper, “Parenthood is Associated with Greater Well-Being for Fathers than Mothers,” was recently published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

 In addition to Lyubomirsky and Nelson-Coffey, authors include Kristin Layous, a former UCR graduate student and currently an assistant professor of psychology at California State University; Matthew Killingsworth, a senior fellow with Wharton People Analytics; and Steve Cole, a professor of medicine and psychiatry at UCLA.

Research contact: sonja.lyubomirsky@ucr.edu

The tweets of Canadians and Americans reflect national stereotypes

February 8, 2019

@JustinTrudeau’s tweets are more friendly and courteous than those posted regularly by @realDonaldTrump—and it turns out that both men mirror the personalities and communication styles of their constituents, based on findings of a study conducted.recently by McMaster University in Ontario.

The study, which examined differences in the language used in nearly 40 million tweets suggests that the national stereotypes about the population of each nation—for example, that Canadians tend to be polite and nice, while Americans are negative and assertive—are reflected on Twitter, even if those widely held (but fixed and oversimplified) beliefs aren’t completely accurate.

Linguistic experts from the school used Twitter in an attempt to better understand national identity on a mass scale and where stereotypes might originate. They isolated  the words, emoticons, and emojis used disproportionately on Twitter by individuals from each country.

The findings, published online last November in the journal PLOS ONE, suggest that national stereotypes are grounded –at least partially—in the words we choose. The work builds on earlier research from 2016 when the same team analyzed 3 million tweets.

“The most distinctive word choices of Americans and Canadians on Twitter paint a very accurate and familiar picture of the stereotypes we associate with people from these nations,” says Daniel Schmidtke, co-author of the study and a post-doctoral researcher at McMaster.

Canadians were far more positive on Twitter, using words such as: great, thanks, good, amazing, and happy For example, on February 5, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted, “We’re working hard to build infrastructure across the country to make life better for Canadians. Our investments are #BuildingCanada-and creating good, middle class jobs along the way.”

Americans tended to use more negative words like: hate, miss, mad, feel, swear, tired. For example, on February 5, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted, “With Caravans marching through Mexico and toward our Country, Republicans must be prepared to do whatever is necessary for STRONG Border Security. Dems do nothing. If there is no Wall, there no Security. Human Trafficking, Drugs and Criminals of all dimensions – KEEP OUT!”

Americans preferred emojis, whereas Canadians preferred emoticons. Americans also used more netspeak like ‘lol’, ‘idk’, and ‘af’.

“It’s tempting to think that Canadians tweet more nicely than Americans because they really are more nice than Americans,” says Bryor Snefjella, the lead author of the study and a graduate student in the Reading Lab in McMaster’s Department of Linguistics and Languages, who was supervised by another co-author of the study, Associate Professor Victor Kuperman.

“But when we put all the data together, it suggests that something more complicated is happening,” he says.

The wrinkle is that other studies which have surveyed large numbers of Canadians and Americans have consistently shown that such national stereotypes are not accurate. There isn’t any hard evidence to support that an average American’s and average Canadian’s personality traits are different.

“The Twitter behavior we observe doesn’t actually reflect the real underlying personality profile of an average American or Canadian,” says Schmidtke.

To explore further, they exposed study participants to the most typical words and emojis from each nation. The participants were not told anything about how the words were chosen. They were then asked what the personality traits were of someone who often uses the most American and most Canadian words and emojis.

The results? Someone who uses very Canadian words has a personality matching the stereotype of a Canadian, and someone who uses very American words has a personality matching the stereotype of an American.

The research team argues that their results show an identity construction strategy in action: Canadians and Americans may create their national character stereotype through their language use.

In future, researchers hope to compare other stereotypes between people in different sets of countries.

Research contact: vickup@mcmaster.ca

Fat shaming hits the pet set

February 7, 2019

When a dog or cat gains weight, it’s easy for a pet parent to assume that there is simply more of him (or her) to love. In fact, only 17% of owners acknowledge that their pet is obese, according to findings of a recent study by Nationwide, the country’s largest provider of pet health insurance.

“Others know their pet is overweight but don’t think it’s a problem,” said Deborah Linder, who heads the Tufts Obesity Clinic for Animals Clinical Nutrition Service. “Wrong!”

However, just as 70% of adult Americans (age 20+) are classified as overweight by the National Center for Health Statistics, so, too, are their pets.

Veterinarians report that nearly 50% of the dogs they see are overweight or obese, a February 4 report by Jane Brody of The New York Times reveals.

And the average weight of pets has risen over the past decade, Nationwide notes. In 2017, obesity-related insurance claims for veterinary expenses exceeded $69 million, a 24% increase over the last eight years,  the insurer reported in January. With only 2% of pets covered by insurance, the costs to owners of overweight pets is likely to be in the billions.

Indeed, obesity in pets has been associated with diabetes, pancreatitis, hyperlipidemia (high fat levels in the blood), joint disease, skin disease, and even a shorter lifespan, the Tufts Obesity Clinic says. A study of Labrador retrievers, a breed especially prone to becoming overweight, revealed that excess weight can take nearly two years off a pet’s life.

So for our pets, as well as ourselves, it’s best to adopt the concept that “less is more.”

study of 50 obese dogs enrolled in a weight-loss program conducted by the University of Liverpool in England during 2011 demonstrated the value of losing excess body fat, The New York Times reports. The 30 animals in the study that reached their target weight had greater vitality, less pain and fewer emotional issues than the animals that remained too fat.

But as with people, prevention is the better route—and, Linder emphasized during an interview with Brody, treats should make up no more than 10% of a dog’s daily calories.

“We love our pets and want to give them treats, but we often don’t think about treats from a caloric standpoint,” said John P. Loftus, an assistant professor, Section of Small Animal Medicine, at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. “It adds up over time. Better to show our love in ways other than food.”

Everything counts as a treat, including marrow bones and rawhide,” Dr. Linder told Brody, as well as scraps of human food offered by owners or scarfed off their plates. Treats used for training or retrieval should contain only a few calories each, like Fruitables Skinny Minis or Zuke’s Mini Naturals.

Rather than overdoing treats, give your dog love and attention by playing ball, fetch or tug-of-war, which provides some exercise that burns calories. Cats, too, love to play with things they can wrestle with, like a toy mouse on a string or a ball of yarn. For pets that are too old or unwilling to play, you can show your love calorie-free with a caress, a belly rub, or a scratch behind the ears.

Equally important is to learn to resist pets that beg for more food than they need. Linder advises, “If you’re already meeting your pets’ nutritional needs, they’re not hungry. What they’re really asking for is your attention. Better to distract them with an activity.”

Cats can be even more challenging than dogs. They tend to graze, prompting owners to leave food out for them all the time. This becomes a problem for overweight cats. Dr.

Linder says, “I’ve never met an animal that could free-feed and still lose weight.” For cats that come begging for food at 4:30 a.m., she suggests using an automatic timed feeder. Cats quickly learn when the food will drop down and will wait at the feeder instead of nudging their owners, she said.

Of course, regular physical activity —15 to 30 minutes day—is important for a dog’s overall well-being, but it’s rarely enough to help an overweight dog lose weight “unless they’re running a 5K every day,” Linder noted. “They’re not going to burn off the calories in a marrow bone with a walk around the block.”

Research contact: @tuftsvet