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The unique travel hack that is guaranteed to help beat jet lag

<p dir="ltr">Experts have revealed how to beat jet lag on your next overseas holiday, and it all comes down to your modes of transport. </p> <p dir="ltr">Sleep researchers said it's good news for cruise lovers, as exposure to sea air and bright natural light improves sleep to cure the annoying condition quickly.</p> <p dir="ltr">Some experts say to avoid travelling by plane all together, and always opt for cruising holidays instead. </p> <p dir="ltr">However, if you have to travel to your cruise by plane, being on board is a great way to tackle the dreadful feeling, compared with holidaying on land, Panache Cruises said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Dr Lindsay Browning, expert at Trouble Sleeping said exposing yourself to bright lights at the right time after a long-haul flight is one of the most powerful things we can do to boost and help shift circadian rhythm, and being on a ship is the perfect place for that.</p> <p dir="ltr">"As a general rule, you want to get lots of bright light exposure during the daytime and avoid light at night," Browning said.</p> <p dir="ltr">"When travelling on a cruise ship, you will naturally get a lot of bright light exposure during the day, helping your circadian rhythm.”</p> <p dir="ltr">"Further, when travelling by ship you will have a cabin with a proper bed and curtain, enabling you to sleep at night when you want to."</p> <p dir="ltr">The company claimed research showed how prolonged exposure to sea air can improve blood oxygen levels, boost vitamin D, and improve breathing leading to higher-quality sleep, helping to rid travellers of pesky jet lag so they can enjoy their holidays. </p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

Travel Tips

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Flight attendant reveals how to score a free upgrade

<p dir="ltr">A flight attendant has shared her number one trick for securing an upgrade on your next plane journey. </p> <p dir="ltr">American flight attendant Cierra Mistt revealed the one question you should ask at check-in to score an upgrade to first class, with the hack working almost every time.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mistt started her now-viral video by saying her hack to get a free upgrade was top secret. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Let’s look at the big picture. Everyone is flying right now, and no one is more excited about that than commercial airlines,” she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The majority of airlines are overbooking every single flight they have.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“It comes from the last month of me trying to get home and not even being able to get on standby because every single flight has been oversold,” she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I am not talking about one or two seats. I am talking about 10-30 seats that have been oversold.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Mistt said this overselling of flights presents an opportunity to travellers.</p> <p dir="ltr">“If everyone does show up, including the extra passengers that were oversold their tickets, the airlines have no choice but to financially compensate,” she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">The flight attendant shared that airlines “normally start off with vouchers for $500 or something”.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Normally they say a voucher but you can ask for it in cash,” she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Depending on the flight and how desperate they are, they will go up to, like three, four, five thousand dollars.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“This is where the free upgrades come in.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Mistt said not only could you ask for a free upgrade in such circumstances, but you could “also ask for other incentives”.</p> <p dir="ltr">“For example, drinks, dinners, breakfast, even a hotel if you have to stay overnight until the next flight,” she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“And, yes, you can also ask to be upgraded to first class.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Her video received more than a million views, with people praising the hack and sharing how it has worked for them. </p> <p dir="ltr">“I got upgraded to first class by doing this,” said one person. </p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: TikTok / Getty Images</em></p>

Travel Tips

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Property tycoon sentenced to death over $27 billion fraud

<p>A Vietnamese billionaire was sentenced to death on Thursday in one of the biggest corruption cases in history, an estimated $27 billion in damages - a figure equivalent to six percent of the country’s 2023 GDP. </p> <p>Truong My Lan, chair of major developer Van Thinh Phat, was found guilty of embezzlement, after looting from one of the country's biggest banks, Saigon Commercial Bank (SCB) for over a decade. </p> <p>“The defendant’s actions... eroded people’s trust in the leadership of the (Communist) Party and state,” the verdict read at the trial in Ho Chi Minh City. </p> <p>After a five-week trial, 85 others were also charged for their involvement in the fraud, with charges ranging from from bribery and abuse of power to appropriation and violations of banking law. </p> <p>Four were given life imprisonment, while others received jail terms ranging between 20 years and three years suspended. Lan's husband was Hong Kong billionaire Eric Chu Nap Kee, was sentenced to nine years in prison.</p> <p>Lan and the others were arrested as part of a national corruption crackdown.</p> <p>Lan was initially believed to have embezzled $12.5 billion, but on Thursday prosecutors have said that the total damages caused by the fraud now amounted to $27 billion. </p> <p>The property tycoon was convicted of taking out $44bn in loans from the bank, according to the <em>BBC</em>, with prosecutors saying that $27 billion of this may never be recovered. </p> <p>The court ordered Lan to to pay almost the entire damages sum in compensation. </p> <p>It is also <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-68778636" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reported</a> that she is one of very few women in Vietnam to be sentenced to death for a white collar crime. </p> <p>“In my desperation, I thought of death,” Lan said in her final remarks to the court, according to state media. </p> <p>“I am so angry that I was stupid enough to get involved in this very fierce business environment -- the banking sector -- which I have little knowledge of.”</p> <p>Police have identified around 42,000 victims of the scam, and many of them were unhappy with the verdict. </p> <p>One 67-year-old Hanoi resident told the AFP that she had hoped Lan would receive a life sentence so she could fully witness the devastating impact of her actions. </p> <p>“Many people worked hard to deposit money into the bank, but now she’s received the death sentence and that’s it for her,” they said. </p> <p>“She can’t see the suffering of the people.”</p> <p>The resident has so far been unable to retrieve the $120,000 she invested with SCB. </p> <p>Police have said that many of the victims are SCB bondholders, who cannot withdraw their money and have not received interest or principal payments since Lan’s arrest. </p> <p>Authorities have also reportedly seized over 1000 properties belonging to Lan. </p> <p><em>Image: Twitter</em></p> <p> </p>

Legal

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Surgery won’t fix my chronic back pain, so what will?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/christine-lin-346821">Christine Lin</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/christopher-maher-826241">Christopher Maher</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/fiona-blyth-448021">Fiona Blyth</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/james-mcauley-1526139">James Mcauley</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mark-hancock-1463059">Mark Hancock</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/macquarie-university-1174">Macquarie University</a></em></p> <p>This week’s ABC Four Corners episode <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2024-04-08/pain-factory/103683180">Pain Factory</a> highlighted that our health system is failing Australians with chronic pain. Patients are receiving costly, ineffective and risky care instead of effective, low-risk treatments for chronic pain.</p> <p>The challenge is considering how we might reimagine health-care delivery so the effective and safe treatments for chronic pain are available to millions of Australians who suffer from chronic pain.</p> <p><a href="https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/10434b6f-2147-46ab-b654-a90f05592d35/aihw-phe-267.pdf.aspx">One in five</a> Australians aged 45 and over have chronic pain (pain lasting three or more months). This costs an estimated <a href="https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/10434b6f-2147-46ab-b654-a90f05592d35/aihw-phe-267.pdf.aspx">A$139 billion a year</a>, including $12 billion in direct health-care costs.</p> <p>The most common complaint among people with chronic pain is low back pain. So what treatments do – and don’t – work?</p> <h2>Opioids and invasive procedures</h2> <p>Treatments offered to people with chronic pain include strong pain medicines such as <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30561481/">opioids</a> and invasive procedures such as <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36878313/">spinal cord stimulators</a> or <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/imj.14120">spinal fusion surgery</a>. Unfortunately, these treatments have little if any benefit and are associated with a risk of significant harm.</p> <p><a href="https://bmchealthservres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12913-021-06900-8">Spinal fusion surgery</a> and <a href="https://privatehealthcareaustralia.org.au/consumers-urged-to-be-cautious-about-spinal-cord-stimulators-for-pain/#:%7E:text=Australian%20health%20insurance%20data%20shows,of%20the%20procedure%20is%20%2458%2C377.">spinal cord stimulators</a> are also extremely costly procedures, costing tens of thousands of dollars each to the health system as well as incurring costs to the individual.</p> <h2>Addressing the contributors to pain</h2> <p>Recommendations from the latest <a href="https://www.safetyandquality.gov.au/standards/clinical-care-standards/low-back-pain-clinical-care-standard">Australian</a> and <a href="https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240081789">World Health Organization</a> clinical guidelines for low back pain focus on alternatives to drug and surgical treatments such as:</p> <ul> <li>education</li> <li>advice</li> <li>structured exercise programs</li> <li>physical, psychological or multidisciplinary interventions that address the physical or psychological contributors to ongoing pain.</li> </ul> <p>Two recent Australian trials support these recommendations and have found that interventions that address each person’s physical and psychological contributors to pain produce large and sustained improvements in pain and function in people with chronic low back pain.</p> <p>The interventions have minimal side effects and are cost-effective.</p> <p>In the <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2794765">RESOLVE</a> trial, the intervention consists of pain education and graded sensory and movement “retraining” aimed to help people understand that it’s safe to move.</p> <p>In the <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37146623/">RESTORE</a> trial, the intervention (cognitive functional therapy) involves assisting the person to understand the range of physical and psychological contributing factors related to their condition. It guides patients to relearn how to move and to build confidence in their back, without over-protecting it.</p> <h2>Why isn’t everyone with chronic pain getting this care?</h2> <p>While these trials provide new hope for people with chronic low back pain, and effective alternatives to spinal surgery and opioids, a barrier for implementation is the out-of-pocket costs. The interventions take up to 12 sessions, lasting up to 26 weeks. One physiotherapy session <a href="https://www.sira.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/1122674/Physiotherapy-chiropractic-and-osteopathy-fees-practice-requirements-effective-1-February-2023.pdf">can cost</a> $90–$150.</p> <p>In contrast, <a href="https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/chronic-disease-individual-allied-health-services-medicare-items">Medicare</a> provides rebates for just five allied health visits (such as physiotherapists or exercise physiologists) for eligible patients per year, to be used for all chronic conditions.</p> <p>Private health insurers also limit access to reimbursement for these services by typically only covering a proportion of the cost and providing a cap on annual benefits. So even those with private health insurance would usually have substantial out-of-pocket costs.</p> <p>Access to trained clinicians is another barrier. This problem is particularly evident in <a href="https://www.ruralhealth.org.au/15nrhc/sites/default/files/B2-1_Bennett.pdf">regional and rural Australia</a>, where access to allied health services, pain specialists and multidisciplinary pain clinics is limited.</p> <p>Higher costs and lack of access are associated with the increased use of available and subsidised treatments, such as pain medicines, even if they are ineffective and harmful. The <a href="https://www.safetyandquality.gov.au/publications-and-resources/resource-library/data-file-57-opioid-medicines-dispensing-2016-17-third-atlas-healthcare-variation-2018">rate of opioid use</a>, for example, is higher in regional Australia and in areas of socioeconomic disadvantage than metropolitan centres and affluent areas.</p> <h2>So what can we do about it?</h2> <p>We need to reform Australia’s health system, private and <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2020/12/taskforce-final-report-pain-management-mbs-items-final-report-on-the-review-of-pain-management-mbs-items.docx">public</a>, to improve access to effective treatments for chronic pain, while removing access to ineffective, costly and high-risk treatments.</p> <p>Better training of the clinical workforce, and using technology such as telehealth and artificial intelligence to train clinicians or deliver treatment may also improve access to effective treatments. A recent Australian <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/38461844/">trial</a>, for example, found telehealth delivered via video conferencing was as effective as in-person physiotherapy consultations for improving pain and function in people with chronic knee pain.</p> <p>Advocacy and <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37918470/">improving the public’s understanding</a> of effective treatments for chronic pain may also be helpful. Our hope is that coordinated efforts will promote the uptake of effective treatments and improve the care of patients with chronic pain.<img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/227450/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/christine-lin-346821"><em>Christine Lin</em></a><em>, Professor, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/christopher-maher-826241">Christopher Maher</a>, Professor, Sydney School of Public Health, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/fiona-blyth-448021">Fiona Blyth</a>, Professor, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/james-mcauley-1526139">James Mcauley</a>, Professor of Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mark-hancock-1463059">Mark Hancock</a>, Professor of Physiotherapy, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/macquarie-university-1174">Macquarie University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/surgery-wont-fix-my-chronic-back-pain-so-what-will-227450">original article</a>.</em></p>

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The world reacts to OJ Simpson's death

<p>The news of OJ Simpson's passing at the age of 76 brings a mixture of emotions for those who remember the electrifying running back, the celebrated athlete, and the central figure in one of the most infamous trials of the 20th century.</p> <p>Simpson, who passed away in Las Vegas, had been battling prostate cancer. His family announced the news <span style="font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Ubuntu, Cantarell, 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif;">in a statement on Twitter (X)</span><span style="font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Ubuntu, Cantarell, 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif;">: “On April 10th, our father, Orenthal James Simpson, succumbed to his battle with cancer. </span>He was surrounded by his children and grandchildren. During this time of transition, his family asks that you please respect their wishes for privacy and grace. – The Simpson Family.”</p> <p>In 2023 Simpson said on X that he had been diagnosed with a type of cancer and in February he said he was undergoing chemotherapy for prostate cancer.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">On April 10th, our father, Orenthal James Simpson, succumbed to his battle with cancer.</p> <p>He was surrounded by his children and grandchildren.</p> <p>During this time of transition, his family asks that you please respect their wishes for privacy and grace.</p> <p>-The Simpson Family</p> <p>— O.J. Simpson (@TheRealOJ32) <a href="https://twitter.com/TheRealOJ32/status/1778430029350707380?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 11, 2024</a></p></blockquote> <p>Simpson's life was a narrative of triumph and tragedy, marked by soaring highs on the football field and plummeting lows in the court of public opinion.</p> <p>Born in 1947, Simpson overcame early health struggles to become a football sensation at the University of Southern California, where he captured the prestigious Heisman Trophy as college football's top player. His prowess on the gridiron led to a record-setting career in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills and the San Francisco 49ers, cementing his status as one of the era's most beloved and iconic athletes.</p> <p>Off the field, Simpson's charm and charisma propelled him into the realms of sportscasting, advertising, and Hollywood, where he starred in films like the <em>Naked Gun</em> series. His magnetic personality endeared him to fans and advertisers alike, making him a household name beyond the realm of sports.</p> <p>However, Simpson's life took a dark turn on June 12, 1994, when the bodies of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, were discovered in a brutal scene outside Brown's Los Angeles home. What followed was a media frenzy and one of the most sensational trials in American history.</p> <p>In a trial that captivated the nation, Simpson stood accused of the double murder, a crime that shook the foundations of celebrity culture and racial dynamics in America. The prosecution painted a picture of a jealous ex-husband driven to violence, while the defence argued that Simpson was framed by a corrupt and racist police force.</p> <p>The trial's climax came with the now-iconic moment when Simpson struggled to put on a pair of blood-stained gloves found at the crime scene, leading defence attorney Johnnie Cochran to famously declare, "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit."</p> <p>Despite overwhelming evidence presented by the prosecution, Simpson was acquitted by a predominantly black jury, sparking debates about race, justice and the power of celebrity.</p> <p>While Simpson walked free from the criminal trial, he faced a different fate in civil court. The families of Brown and Goldman pursued a wrongful death lawsuit against him, resulting in a verdict that found Simpson liable for the deaths and ordered him to pay millions in damages. The civil trial, with its lower burden of proof, delivered a measure of closure to the victims' families but left a stain on Simpson's legacy that would endure.</p> <p>Simpson's legal troubles didn't end there. In 2008, he was convicted of armed robbery and kidnapping in a separate incident in Las Vegas, stemming from an attempt to reclaim sports memorabilia he believed was rightfully his. The irony of a man once celebrated for his athletic prowess now facing the consequences of his actions was not lost on the public.</p> <p>Despite his legal battles and personal demons, Simpson remained a polarising figure until the end. His life story was revisited in documentaries and TV dramas, serving as a cautionary tale of fame, wealth and the consequences of one's choices.</p> <p>Reactions to Simpson's passing have been varied. Fred Goldman, the father of Ronald Goldman, who was murdered alongside Nicole Brown Simpson in 1994, expressed his sentiments succinctly, stating, "It’s no great loss to the world. It’s a further reminder of Ron’s being gone.<span style="font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Ubuntu, Cantarell, 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif;">" </span></p> <p>Similarly, Caitlyn Jenner, with personal ties to the case through her ex-wife Kris Jenner's previous marriage to Robert Kardashian, offered a terse "Good riddance" on Twitter, highlighting the deep-seated emotions surrounding Simpson's life and deeds.</p> <p>Gloria Allred, who represented Nicole Brown Simpson's family during the infamous trial, took a broader perspective, pointing out that Simpson's death serves as a reminder of the failures of the justice system, particularly in cases involving gender violence. “Simpson’s death reminds us that the legal system even 30 years later is still failing battered women," she said to TMZ, "and that the power of celebrity men to avoid true justice for the harm that they inflict on their wives or significant others is still a major obstacle to the right of women to be free of the gender violence to which they are still subjected."</p> <p>Legendary basketballer Magic Johnson took a different approach, extending his prayers to Simpson's surviving children and grandchildren: "Cookie and I are praying for O.J. Simpson’s children Arnelle, Aaren, Justin, Jason, and Sydney and his grandchildren following his passing. I know this is a difficult time🙏🏾".</p> <p><em>Images: Getty</em></p>

Caring

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How music is changing the way dementia patients think

<p dir="ltr">New research has proven that music truly is the universal language, with experts discovering how the power of music is helping those suffering with dementia. </p> <p dir="ltr">Music therapists have shown that music brings dementia patients back to the present, with some even finding their voice thanks to the nostalgic memories of the past. </p> <p dir="ltr">According to Registered Music Therapist and Managing Director of music therapy company Music Beat, Dr Vicky Abad, the power of music is not to be overlooked when it comes to degenerative diseases.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Music is a window into people’s pasts,” she said. “It builds on strengths and abilities against a disease that can strip a person of their dignity, abilities and quality of life.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The team at <a href="https://www.tricare.com.au/">TriCare Aged Care and Retirement</a>, who see the devastating impact of dementia each and every day,  also experience first-hand the impact music has on residents, with many noticing “unrecognisable” changes in personality when a nostalgic tune is played.</p> <p dir="ltr">Louis Rose, an 80-year-old dementia patient and TriCare resident, was diagnosed with dementia six years ago, and requires assistance with many aspects of day to day life. </p> <p dir="ltr">However, listening to music is one thing he can enjoy on his own.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I grew up in Mauritius and while we didn’t have a lot, we certainly had music. Listening to music has always been an escape for me and a way to relax,” Mr Rose said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“When your brain starts to slow down and you find yourself forgetting things, it can be quite frustrating and confusing. Listening to music has been a way to distract myself from what’s going on in my head, it has helped me so much.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Tamsin Sutherland is a regular live music performer at TriCare facilities across Queensland, and has been able to witness incredible moments with the residents as they come alive as soon as she starts to play. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Watching residents who are often non-verbal sing along to the words is incredible,” she said “It really is like they are coming back to life and reconnecting with who they once were. To be part of that is quite emotional for me.”</p> <p dir="ltr">According to Dr Abad, music can help prevent the restless behaviour that often leads to pacing and wandering, especially in the evenings, which are often difficult times for those battling the disease. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Sundowning usually occurs in the late afternoon as dusk approaches, a time that is also associated with what used to be a busy time period in people’s lives,” she noted. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Personalised music is a simple and effective tool to help residents feel validated in their emotions during this time and provides them an opportunity to experience a calmer state of mind”.</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p>

Mind

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Do optimists really live longer? Here’s what the research says

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/fuschia-sirois-331254">Fuschia Sirois</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/durham-university-867">Durham University</a></em></p> <p>Do you tend to see the glass as half full, rather than half empty? Are you always looking on the bright side of life? If so, you may be surprised to learn that this tendency could actually be good for your health.</p> <p>A <a href="https://content.apa.org/record/2020-71981-001">number of studies</a> have shown that optimists enjoy higher levels of wellbeing, better sleep, lower stress and even better cardiovascular health and immune function. And now, <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35674052/">a recent study</a> has shown that being an optimist is linked to longer life.</p> <p>To conduct their study, researchers tracked the lifespan of nearly 160,000 women aged between 50 to 79 for a period of 26 years. At the beginning of the study, the women completed a <a href="https://local.psy.miami.edu/people/faculty/ccarver/availbale-self-report-instruments/lot-r/">self-report measure of optimism</a>. Women with the highest scores on the measure were categorised as optimists. Those with the lowest scores were considered pessimists.</p> <p>Then, in 2019, the researchers followed up with the participants who were still living. They also looked at the lifespan of participants who had died. What they found was that those who had the highest levels of optimism were more likely to live longer. More importantly, the optimists were also more likely than those who were pessimists to live into their nineties. Researchers refer to this as “exceptional longevity”, considering the average lifespan for women is about 83 years in developed countries.</p> <p>What makes these findings especially impressive is that the results remained even after accounting for other factors known to predict a long life – including education level and economic status, ethnicity, and whether a person suffered from depression or other chronic health conditions.</p> <p>But given this study only looked at women, it’s uncertain whether the same would be true for men. However, <a href="https://www.pnas.org/doi/abs/10.1073/pnas.1900712116">another study</a> which looked at both men and women also found that people with the highest levels of optimism enjoyed a lifespan that was between 11% and 15% longer than those who were the least optimistic.</p> <h2>The fountain of youth?</h2> <p>So why is it that optimists live longer? At first glance it would seem that it may have to do with their healthier lifestyle.</p> <p>For example, <a href="https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.117.310828">research from several studies</a> has found that optimism is linked to eating a healthy diet, staying physically active, and being less likely to smoke cigarettes. These healthy behaviours are well known to improve heart health and <a href="https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/noncommunicable-diseases">reduce the risk</a> for cardiovascular disease, which is a <a href="https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/cardiovascular-diseases-(cvds)">leading cause of death</a> globally. Adopting a healthy lifestyle is also <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3857242/">important for reducing the risk</a> of other potentially deadly diseases, such as diabetes and cancer.</p> <p>But having a healthy lifestyle may only be part of the reason optimists live a longer than average life. This latest study found that lifestyle only accounted for 24% of the link between optimism and longevity. This suggests a number of other factors affect longevity for optimists.</p> <p>Another possible reason could be due to the way optimists manage stress. When faced with a stressful situation, optimists tend to deal with it head-on. They <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16859439/">use adaptive coping strategies</a> that help them resolve the source of the stress, or view the situation in a less stressful way. For example, optimists will problem-solve and plan ways to deal with the stressor, call on others for support, or try to find a “silver lining” in the stressful situation.</p> <p>All of these approaches are well-known to reduce feelings of stress, as well as the biological reactions that occur when we feel stressed. It’s these <a href="https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/body">biological reactions to stress</a> –- such as elevated cortisol (sometimes called the “stress hormone”), increased heart rate and blood pressure, and impaired immune system functioning –- that can take a toll on health over time and increase the risk for developing <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159115004316?via%3Dihub">life-threatening diseases</a>, such as cardiovascular disease. In short, the way optimists cope with stress may help protect them somewhat against its harmful effects.</p> <h2>Looking on the bright side</h2> <p>Optimism is typically viewed by researchers as a relatively stable personality trait that is determined by both <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/twin-research-and-human-genetics/article/sex-differences-in-the-genetic-architecture-of-optimism-and-health-and-their-interrelation-a-study-of-australian-and-swedish-twins/58F21AA11943D44B4BA4C63A966E6AC7">genetic</a> and early childhood influences (such as having a <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6541423/">secure and warm relationship</a> with your parents or caregivers). But if you’re not naturally prone to seeing the glass as half full, there are some ways you can increase your <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17439760.2016.1221122?journalCode=rpos20">capacity to be optimistic</a>.</p> <p>Research shows optimism can change over time, and can be cultivated by engaging in simple exercises. For example, visualising and then writing about your “<a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-matters-most/201303/what-is-your-best-possible-self">best possible self</a>” (a future version of yourself who has accomplished your goals) is a technique that studies have found can <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17439760.2016.1221122">significantly increase optimism</a>, at least temporarily. But for best results, the goals need to be both positive and reasonable, rather than just wishful thinking. Similarly, simply <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3200/SOCP.149.3.349-364">thinking about positive future events</a> can also be effective for boosting optimism.</p> <p>It’s also crucial to temper any expectations for success with an accurate view of what you can and can’t control. Optimism is reinforced when we experience the positive outcomes that we expect, and <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1970-20680-001">can decrease</a> when these outcomes aren’t as we want them to be. Although more research is needed, it’s possible that regularly envisioning yourself as having the best possible outcomes, and taking realistic steps towards achieving them, can help develop an optimistic mindset.</p> <p>Of course, this might be easier said than done for some. If you’re someone who isn’t naturally optimistic, the best chances to improve your longevity is by <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1003332">living a healthy lifestyle</a> by staying physically active, eating a healthy diet, managing stress, and getting a good night’s sleep. Add to this cultivating a more optimistic mindset and you might further increase your chances for a long life.<img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/184785/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/fuschia-sirois-331254">Fuschia Sirois</a>, Professor in Social &amp; Health Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/durham-university-867">Durham University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/do-optimists-really-live-longer-heres-what-the-research-says-184785">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Centenarian blood tests give hints of the secrets to longevity

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/karin-modig-1473484">Karin Modig</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/karolinska-institutet-1250">Karolinska Institutet</a></em></p> <p>Centenarians, once considered rare, have become commonplace. Indeed, they are the <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/02/living-to-one-hundred-life-expectancy/">fastest-growing demographic group</a> of the world’s population, with numbers roughly doubling every ten years since the 1970s.</p> <p>How long humans can live, and what determines a long and healthy life, have been of interest for as long as we know. Plato and Aristotle discussed and <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12092789/">wrote about the ageing process</a> over 2,300 years ago.</p> <p>The pursuit of understanding the secrets behind exceptional longevity isn’t easy, however. It involves <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7105197/">unravelling the complex interplay</a> of genetic predisposition and lifestyle factors and how they interact throughout a person’s life. Now our recent study, <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11357-023-00936-w">published in GeroScience</a>, has unveiled some common biomarkers, including levels of cholesterol and glucose, in people who live past 90.</p> <p>Nonagenarians and centenarians have long been of intense interest to scientists as they may help us understand how to live longer, and perhaps also how to age in better health. So far, studies of centenarians have often been small scale and focused on a selected group, for example, excluding centenarians who live in care homes.</p> <h2>Huge dataset</h2> <p>Ours is the largest study comparing biomarker profiles measured throughout life among exceptionally long-lived people and their shorter-lived peers to date.</p> <p>We compared the biomarker profiles of people who went on to live past the age of 100, and their shorter-lived peers, and investigated the link between the profiles and the chance of becoming a centenarian.</p> <p>Our research included data from 44,000 Swedes who underwent health assessments at ages 64-99 - they were a sample of <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28158674/">the so-called Amoris cohort</a>. These participants were then followed through Swedish register data for up to 35 years. Of these people, 1,224, or 2.7%, lived to be 100 years old. The vast majority (85%) of the centenarians were female.</p> <p>Twelve blood-based biomarkers related to inflammation, metabolism, liver and kidney function, as well as potential malnutrition and anaemia, were included. All of these <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-019-0719-5">have been associated</a> with ageing or mortality in previous studies.</p> <p>The biomarker related to inflammation was uric acid – a waste product in the body caused by the digestion of certain foods. We also looked at markers linked to metabolic status and function including total cholesterol and glucose, and ones related to liver function, such as alanine aminotransferase (Alat), aspartate aminotransferase (Asat), albumin, gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT), alkaline phosphatase (Alp) and lactate dehydrogenase (LD).</p> <p>We also looked at creatinine, which is linked to kidney function, and iron and total iron-binding capacity (TIBC), which is linked to anaemia. Finally, we also investigated albumin, a biomarker associated with nutrition.</p> <h2>Findings</h2> <p>We found that, on the whole, those who made it to their hundredth birthday tended to have lower levels of glucose, creatinine and uric acid from their sixties onwards. Although the median values didn’t differ significantly between centenarians and non-centenarians for most biomarkers, centenarians seldom displayed extremely high or low values.</p> <p>For example, very few of the centenarians had a glucose level above 6.5 earlier in life, or a creatinine level above 125.</p> <p>For many of the biomarkers, both centenarians and non-centenarians had values outside of the range considered normal in clinical guidelines. This is probably because these guidelines are set based on a younger and healthier population.</p> <p>When exploring which biomarkers were linked to the likelihood of reaching 100, we found that all but two (alat and albumin) of the 12 biomarkers showed a connection to the likelihood of turning 100. This was even after accounting for age, sex and disease burden.</p> <p>The people in the lowest out of five groups for levels of total cholesterol and iron had a lower chance of reaching 100 years as compared to those with higher levels. Meanwhile, people with higher levels of glucose, creatinine, uric acid and markers for liver function also decreased the chance of becoming a centenarian.</p> <p>In absolute terms, the differences were rather small for some of the biomarkers, while for others the differences were somewhat more substantial.</p> <p>For uric acid, for instance, the absolute difference was 2.5 percentage points. This means that people in the group with the lowest uric acid had a 4% chance of turning 100 while in the group with the highest uric acid levels only 1.5% made it to age 100.</p> <p>Even if the differences we discovered were overall rather small, they suggest a potential link between metabolic health, nutrition and exceptional longevity.</p> <p>The study, however, does not allow any conclusions about which lifestyle factors or genes are responsible for the biomarker values. However, it is reasonable to think that factors such as nutrition and alcohol intake play a role. Keeping track of your kidney and liver values, as well as glucose and uric acid as you get older, is probably not a bad idea.</p> <p>That said, chance probably plays a role at some point in reaching an exceptional age. But the fact that differences in biomarkers could be observed a long time before death suggests that genes and lifestyle may also play a role.<img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/215166/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/karin-modig-1473484">Karin Modig</a>, Associate Professor, Epidemiology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/karolinska-institutet-1250">Karolinska Institutet</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/centenarian-blood-tests-give-hints-of-the-secrets-to-longevity-215166">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Iconic Star Trek actor dies suddenly at age 73

<p dir="ltr">Iconic <em>Star Trek: Enterprise</em> actor Gary Graham has passed away suddenly at the age of 73. </p> <p dir="ltr">The actor’s ex-wife Susan Lavelle confirmed the news in an emotional facebook post, sharing their family’s devastation over his death. </p> <p dir="ltr">The family chose not to disclose his cause of death, only writing that his passing was “sudden” and came as a “shock”. </p> <p dir="ltr">“It is with deep profound sadness to say that Gary Graham, my ex-husband, amazing actor and father of our beautiful only child together, Haylee Graham, has passed away today,” Lavelle wrote.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We are completely devastated, especially our daughter Haley. His wife, Becky, was by his side.”</p> <p dir="ltr">She went on to share some of her favourite things about her ex-husband, writing that he was “Funny, sarcastic sense of humour but kind, fought for what he believed in, a devout Christian and was so proud of his daughter, Haylee.”</p> <p><iframe style="border: none; overflow: hidden;" src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fsusanashleylavelle%2Fposts%2Fpfbid0XTf8xMGFeD96Ehnk6a8X7RcKQYDxdHvvm3S82J24FX3eaNwtVo3Uax6H4SvQW3YKl&amp;show_text=true&amp;width=500" width="500" height="777" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> <p dir="ltr">“This was sudden, so please pray for our daughter as she navigates through this thing called grief,” she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Fly high into the heavens Gar!”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Thank you for our journey and thank you for the gifts you left me in acting, my love of horses and most importantly, our daughter.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Gary shot to fame in Hollywood for his role in the ‘80s series <em>Alien Nation</em>.</p> <p dir="ltr">He stayed in the world of sci-fi as he played Vulcan Ambassador Soval on <em>Star Trek: Enterprise</em> between 2001 and 2005.</p> <p dir="ltr">Gary also starred in TV series such as <em>Starsky and Hutch</em> and <em>The Dukes of Hazzard</em>, before acting alongside Tom Cruise in the film <em>All the Right Moves</em>.</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

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UK PM causes outrage over transgender comments

<p dir="ltr">Rishi Sunak has sparked outrage after making very controversial comments about transgender people at his first party conference as leader.</p> <p dir="ltr">The UK Prime Minister, who is campaigning to get people to support his Conservative party ahead of next year’s general election, declared that “we shouldn’t get bullied into believing that people can be any sex they want to be”.</p> <p dir="ltr">At the party’s annual conference, Mr Sunak spoke for more than an hour as he promised that the Tories would break the mould of the last 30 years of government.</p> <p dir="ltr">Despite being in power for 13 years, the Conservative party is on the road to defeat the next election, after increasing dissatisfaction among voters. </p> <p dir="ltr">“We will be bold, we will be radical. We will face resistance and we will meet it,” he told delegates at the conference.</p> <p dir="ltr">Many have seen his comments about transgender people as the most bold and radical parts of his speech.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It shouldn’t be controversial for parents to know what their children are being taught in school about relationships,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Patients should know when hospitals are talking about men or women. We shouldn’t get bullied.”</p> <p dir="ltr">His delegates applauded his controversial statements, to which Sunak continued, “We shouldn’t get bullied into believing that people can be any sex they want to be. They can’t.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“A man is a man and a woman is a woman, that’s just common sense.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Sunak’s comments quickly went viral online, with many people expressing their concern over such a prominent figure making such divisive comments. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Outrageous hate, which is going to encourage bullying and physical attacks by thugs, utterly vile,” transgender British newsreader India Willoughby wrote.</p> <p dir="ltr">“If a single trans person gets attacked or murdered after today then Rishi Sunak should be arrested and charged,” added another.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Never had so many DMs from worried UK trans people and their families,” wrote a third.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The important thing following Rishi Sunak’s hate speech: IT IS NOT LAW. Nothing has changed. Trans are still legally recognised and protected. Yes it’s scary – but they do not have time to change rules/law.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

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World mourns the passing of one of the true greats of cinema

<p>Renowned British-Irish actor, Sir Michael Gambon, celebrated worldwide for his iconic portrayal of Albus Dumbledore in the beloved Harry Potter film series, has passed away at the age of 82.</p> <p>In an official statement relayed by his publicist, it was confirmed that he succumbed to pneumonia, leaving his family and fans heartbroken. The statement issued by his family reads, "We are devastated to announce the loss of Sir Michael Gambon. Beloved husband and father, Michael died peacefully in the hospital with his wife Anne and son Fergus by his side."</p> <p>Michael Gambon's acting journey spanned more than half a century, with one of his most significant milestones being his assumption of the role of Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series, succeeding the late Richard Harris in 2004. In characteristic humility, Gambon downplayed his performance, often remarking that he merely portrayed himself "with a stuck-on beard and a long robe".</p> <p>The Harry Potter franchise expressed its grief, stating, "He brought immeasurable joy to Harry Potter fans from all over the world with his humour, kindness, and grace. We will forever hold his memory in our hearts."</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">We are incredibly saddened to hear of the passing of Sir Michael Gambon. He brought immeasurable joy to Harry Potter fans from all over the world with his humour, kindness and grace. We will forever hold his memory in our hearts. <a href="https://t.co/1CoTF3zeTo">pic.twitter.com/1CoTF3zeTo</a></p> <p>— Harry Potter (@harrypotter) <a href="https://twitter.com/harrypotter/status/1707371391866028071?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 28, 2023</a></p></blockquote> <p>James Phelps, known for his portrayal of Fred Weasley in the series, shared a touching anecdote on Instagram, recounting how Gambon generously helped him rehearse a script during the filming of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince". Phelps hailed Gambon as both a legend on and off the camera, describing him as funny and always willing to share his knowledge.</p> <p>Gambon embarked on his acting career in the early 1960s, initially treading the boards of the stage before transitioning to television and film. His filmography boasted remarkable performances, such as his portrayal of a psychotic mob leader in Peter Greenaway's <em>The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover</em> in 1989 and his portrayal of the elderly King George V in Tom Hooper's <em>The King's Speech</em> in 2010.</p> <p>Despite an early start in engineering apprenticeship, Gambon's passion for acting remained unwavering. He recounted to <em>The Herald</em> newspaper in 2004 that he always knew he would become an actor. His breakthrough came in 1962 when he auditioned for the legendary Laurence Olivier, who subsequently appointed him as one of the founding members of the National Theatre at the Old Vic, alongside emerging talents like Derek Jacobi and Maggie Smith.</p> <p>Gambon's reputation soared on the stage, with his portrayal of Galileo in John Dexter's <em>Life of Galileo</em> in 1980 being a standout moment. In the 1980s, his lead role in the TV series <em>The Singing Detective</em> garnered widespread acclaim, earning him one of his four BAFTA Awards. Additionally, he clinched three Olivier Awards and two Screen Actors Guild Awards for ensemble cast performances in <em>Gosford Park</em> (2001) and <em>The King's Speech</em>.</p> <p>Acknowledged for his contributions to drama, Gambon was honoured as a Commander of the British Empire in 1992 and subsequently knighted in 1998. Despite these prestigious titles, he often displayed a mischievous side, weaving tales such as showing fellow actors a forged signed photograph of Robert De Niro, among other playful antics.</p> <p>In 2015, Gambon retired from the stage due to long-term memory issues, yet he continued to grace the screen with his talent until 2019. In a 2002 interview, he expressed that his work made him feel "the luckiest man in the world".</p> <p><em>Images: Getty / Instagram</em></p>

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Nelson Mandela's granddaughter dies at just 43

<p>Zoleka Mandela, the granddaughter of Nelson Mandela, has died of cancer at the age of 43. She passed away on the evening of Monday, September 25th, surrounded by friends and family.</p> <p>Mandela had been battling cancer for several years. She was first diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32, but went into remission. However, the cancer returned last year and had metastasised to her liver and lungs.</p> <p>Despite her illness, Mandela remained active in her community and continued to advocate for cancer prevention and awareness. She was also a vocal advocate for road safety after her 13-year-old daughter, Zenani, was killed in a car crash in 2010.</p> <p>In an interview with Kaya FM in April, Mandela said: "I'm learning to be okay with my eventuality."</p> <p>“The Nelson Mandela Foundation extends its heartfelt condolences to the Mandela family on the passing of Zoleka Mandela, tragically last night,” the Nelson Mandela Foundation said in a statement. “We mourn the loss of a beloved grandchild of Mum Winnie and Madiba and a friend of the Foundation.”</p> <p>Zoleka's frank disclosures about her illness and her strength in the face of adversity earned her a devoted following on social media.</p> <p>"Utterly tragic loss of a human being in her grandfather's footsteps. A decent, honest human being in a dishonest, hypocritical world," one person on X, formerly Twitter, said.</p> <p>"You were one of the bravest people I know and you inspired many people on your life's journey of hope," another person wrote on Instagram below the Mandela family's announcement.</p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/Cxo-ZxXNgXL/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="14"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"> </div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"> <div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: auto;"> <div style="width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center; margin-bottom: 24px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 224px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 144px;"> </div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/Cxo-ZxXNgXL/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A post shared by Zoleka Zobuhle Mandela (@zolekamandela)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p>Mandela was only 10 years old when her grandfather was released from prison in 1990 after 27 years in detention. She had only ever known him as an incarcerated man, so when he was released she was just excited he was coming home.</p> <p>Mr Mandela died in 2013 at the age of 95.</p> <p>Zoleka Mandela will be remembered as a courageous advocate for cancer prevention and awareness, as well as a loving mother and grandmother. She is survived by her husband, Thierry Murekatete, and their two children.</p> <p><em>Images: Instagram</em></p>

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The world's most promiscuous countries revealed

<p>An analysis of the world's sexual habits has revealed the top 10 most promiscuous countries in the world and Turkey came in first. </p> <p>The average Turk has slept with more than 14 people according to the World Population Review, with Australia coming in a close second with the average Aussie having slept with more than 13 people, according to the <em>New York Post</em>. </p> <p>“The average number of sexual partners can vary significantly from country to country, as cultural norms can have a significant impact on the number of people someone has sex with,” the website declared. </p> <p>Their figures were based on a compilation of “datasets from multiple third party sources.”</p> <p>Turkey's top spot may be surprising to some, with most residents being muslim and the country is widely conceived to have traditional views when it comes sex and relationships. </p> <p>New Zealand came in at third, with a similar number to Australia,  followed by Iceland and South Africa. </p> <p>Countries thought to have more liberal views on sex, such as Brazil and France, were lower down the list, with the average Brazilian sleeping with nine people putting them in 25th place, while France clocked in 29th position. </p> <p>The United States clocked in 13th place, with Americans sleeping with an average of 10.7 people. </p> <p><strong>Here's the Top 10 most promiscuous countries:</strong></p> <p>1. Turkey (14.5 people)</p> <p>2. Australia (13.3)</p> <p>3. New Zealand (13.2)</p> <p>4. Iceland (13.0)</p> <p>5. South Africa (12.5)</p> <p>6. Finland (12.4)</p> <p>7. Norway (12.1)</p> <p>8. Italy (11.8)</p> <p>9. Sweden (11.8)</p> <p>10. Switzerland (11.1)</p> <p><em>Image: Getty</em></p> <p> </p>

International Travel

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Selfies and social media: how tourists indulge their influencer fantasies

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/brendan-canavan-228682">Brendan Canavan</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-nottingham-1192">University of Nottingham</a></em></p> <p>A town in the US state of Vermont <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/news/vermont-town-banning-influencers-tourists-visiting-fall-foliage-rcna117413">closed its roads to tourists</a> in September 2023 after a social media tag sparked a swarm of visitors that overwhelmed the rural destination.</p> <p>Videos on TikTok were seen by thousands and the hashtag #sleepyhollowfarm went viral, prompting a tourist rush to the pretty New England town of Pomfret, where visitors tried to take photos of themselves against the countryside backdrop. The town, famous for its fall foliage, criticised this as problematic and “influencer tourism”, part of <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160738320300426">a travel trend</a> where a social media phenomenon can spark an overwhelming and unexpected rise in visitor numbers.</p> <p><a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0002764292036002005?casa_token=gQo4-8jeYdIAAAAA:Oq3Nf5gTtAFK7N00D1NgPO7_zl9ONlOEnzFZnojX6fX1nKXQWJZ4ERn52MlV3abn4fDN4_C4hJjq">Traditionally</a>, we think of tourists as travelling to gain new experiences. They look at sites, take photographs and collect souvenirs. However, this relationship between the tourist and touring is changing.</p> <p>Driven by <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/how-instagram-changed-the-tourism-industry/a-65348690">24-hour access to social media</a>, some tourists now travel primarily to have an experience that <a href="https://www.americanexpress.com/en-us/travel/discover/get-inspired/Global-Travel-Trends">looks good online</a>. Around 75% of people in a recent American Express survey said they had been inspired to visit somewhere by social media. Some tourists may be prompted to choose a destination by seeing a <a href="https://www.elle.com/culture/travel-food/a27561982/best-instagram-spots/">backdrop that is popular on social media or on television</a>, in order to create a high-status photo.</p> <p>The expansion of social media and ubiquity of smartphone cameras has had a <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/13/13/7312">major impact on tourists’ behaviour</a>. This has also led to what’s been called a <a href="https://www.traveldailynews.com/column/articles/who-are-the-selfie-gaze-tourists/">selfie “tourist gaze”</a>, creating photos where the traveller is at the forefront of images rather than the destination.</p> <p>Indeed, according to my research, increasingly, some tourists go somewhere <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160738320300426">to be spotted</a> – to be observed by others both online and in person at these destinations.</p> <h2>Looking for drama</h2> <p>Studies have highlighted how tourists <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0261517715300388?casa_token=W51WkDKJSK8AAAAA:DG99dEWkyYKWIe6hNcLXR4KRApXV24QksHIzrRNcjVY3FngukDgIv9HLHG4o3NV4rqNJtdet">head for</a> particularly dramatic or luxurious destinations because of their social media links. Dubai, for example, with its bling culture and high-end shopping, has become a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/17/in-this-world-social-media-is-everything-how-dubai-became-the-planets-influencer-capital">playground for influencers</a> looking for a luxury backdrop to add to their celebrity-style image.</p> <p>Some tourists aim to photograph themselves in prestigious locations, rather than taking shots of their <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/13567667221113079?casa_token=xbdUjWECQvMAAAAA:mc4rqleOqgjazW9DAYduW7LaPTu4KEw1DIfbPbWF0vl0efwNPC_GQ0U-HjltguwsIsCoO4ycXgyW7Q">travel surroundings</a>. Others choose to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160738320300426">act like mini-celebrities</a> and perform for the camera, expecting and wanting to be looked at by those they encounter – or even narrating their participation in extreme events.</p> <p>One of these is the <a href="https://www.theadventurists.com/rickshaw-run/">Rickshaw Run</a>, a 2,000km race across India. This adventure tourism event encourages participants to dress up, act eccentrically and get noticed. Driving tuk-tuks around India, from Kerala to Darjeeling, vehicles are personalised with eye-catching designs. Many participants film themselves and <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2p3wd0ii2oQ">upload the results</a> to social media, and the events tend to create a significant following. For instance, this YouTube video series created by Rickshaw Run participants drew 3.6m subscribers:</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/2p3wd0ii2oQ?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe><figcaption><span class="caption">Taking part in the Rickshaw Run.</span></figcaption></figure> <p>However, some of these tourist “performances” can cause controversy. For instance, <a href="https://www.nzherald.co.nz/travel/mexico-tourist-beaten-with-stick-for-climbing-chichen-itza-pyramid/EL5KGLB4CNC5ZONNZCKAMX3LLE/">climbing over</a> fragile archaeological sites in search of social media content might damage them. <a href="https://www.unilad.com/news/russian-tourist-deported-nude-photo-bali-064402-20230330">Posing for laughs</a> in areas considered sacred can offend. The reducing of cultures to <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/selfie-tourists-get-up-easter-islanders-noses-sgfxdtkj7">backdrops for social media content</a> can suggest a lack of interest in or respect for hosts by tourists.</p> <p>My research points to a growth in <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/09669582.2016.1263309">narcissism in society</a>, and connects this with what tourists desire from travel and how they act when travelling. This may be reflected in increased sense of entitlement and exhibitionism by tourists who aim to take photos in more difficult to reach locations or off-limit areas, for instance.</p> <p>Selfie culture arguably promotes <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/09528822.2015.1082339?casa_token=tbsXw1drBAEAAAAA:qfSfJBbHWi3x8MSVeoyHBIceP7W_8C55rVctylf-2zRBzx-aG_EeFwvTmHHsOdjQpMd8LVaUrjSo">self-involvement rather than social responsibility</a>. It is well established that tourists <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/1368350050408668198?casa_token=K4p5aZCN8t4AAAAA:96p7f3qNu2WndpE-C-D0rs5mJaOlnJ5F6P4iXQlWQopseMGWuJ_5TiaFmRggxFsEjrMCoAr14Kn4">can be selfish</a>, putting their own comfort and entertainment ahead of concerns about local issues. This is especially true of the super-rich. Private jet users <a href="https://www.transportenvironment.org/discover/private-jets-can-the-super-rich-supercharge-zero-emission-aviation/">are responsible for</a> half of global aviation emissions.</p> <p>However, the desire to promote the individual and their values could be <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/09669582.2016.1263309">harnessed to promote</a> more sustainable tourism. Those volunteering abroad might be motivated by the image enhancement opportunities of doing good, but they often offer something back to the social and natural environments of <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/09669580903395030?casa_token=NvJorz8d1F4AAAAA:AXXTdW7ePimqFkWNg1W5w8umGCBwXIjus0WICRIoNZH_gsdr1hHomvMAQV21PYA2HkLwBGsO_Qus8g">their host destinations</a> in the process.</p> <p>There are signs that there’s another tourism trend, with travellers looking for deep and meaningful experiences, and ecotourism could help provide those. The act of travelling in a <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09669582.2020.1825458">more environmentally friendly way</a> could also be seen as a way to show off, and still provide selfie material.</p> <p>The environmental pros and cons of tourist self-obsession might be <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/09669582.2016.1263309">debatable</a>. However, self-fixation is arguably not good for tourists themselves. For example, the desire to “perform” on camera could affect people’s mental health, according to one <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/10253866.2018.1467318?casa_token=wI7sETKEKJAAAAAA:ebds6fykbyHAGSXIk9iv6-tyziFSIvganp32S65hiX8KeWlaQDwhPxF_2tWEgkNqssqd-SCE-w_3Eg">study</a>.</p> <p>Research has shown that <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14616688.2012.762691?casa_token=Jb9SzAGXBD0AAAAA:L5Q-HhPs9jWtfm0Zq4nB0uFHrZ3W8N7o1Liq0KAIRqC4ivEhKyEexEZN-ACoz1qzm7CMqD96zXOm">unexpected encounters help tourists to gain self-insight</a>. In addition, getting out of your comfort zone can lead to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2213078020300074?casa_token=MkMbkdyr_cMAAAAA:LLu44kUbbsP5e-iW-kDdI7iSEo3WkLgH5IvKqb2txZA504q74J4OAhTuXIx8m90oDMSvuiq4Mg">rewarding personal growth</a>.</p> <h2>A disconnect between self and place</h2> <p>Taking yet more selfies could cut people off from their surroundings. In doing so, they could be <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S016073831730097X?casa_token=tOaqrhfVQ-wAAAAA:uxb7djQMWjifvjjgPMZzbq2IQqlgoaGHzWoJkkGbQYQqkbZoeuOqLD91zqwBuWs1SfY7dcK4">less present in the travel experience itself</a>. Indeed, the <a href="https://english.elpais.com/usa/2021-10-29/rise-of-selfie-deaths-leads-experts-to-talk-about-a-public-health-problem.html">growing number</a> of <a href="https://edition.cnn.com/2019/11/15/asia/french-man-selfie-death-intl-scli/index.html">selfie-related tourist deaths</a> might attest to a disconnect between self and place. A <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6131996/#:%7E:text=selfie-related%20deaths.-,From%20October%202011%20to%20November%202017%2C%20there%20have%20been%20259,respectively%2C%20in%202016%20and%202017">2018 report</a> estimated 259 deaths to have occurred while taking selfies between 2011-2017.</p> <p>Other research suggests that individuals who are motivated by the desire to present a particular online image may be <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211973620301458?casa_token=-HkTUB7WC7cAAAAA:455BE0L2jP-CL1nD18__Ey3fj5GsLmYfKL_EB_P7IWa7lDddpJYIW3UIo5fUjg68e7Nvm7PUlTA#s0050">more likely to take risks</a> with their travel selfies, with potentially fatal consequences.</p> <p>Tourists have always been somewhat self-obsessed. The 18th-century <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0160738385900027">Grand Tour</a>, a leisurely trip around Europe, allowed the wealthy to <a href="https://www.historyhit.com/what-was-the-grand-tour/">indulge themselves</a> in <a href="https://www.salon.com/2002/05/31/sultry/">ways</a> that might not have been socially acceptable back home. And at the beginning of the 21st century, <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160738301000305?casa_token=C5eb2NJQvGsAAAAA:YrdY-xjJwBrUE9RjwyOJ3kRBS4-o7e5Jni5sluTCuZOrgnCULybO8EgJtQqsuSL7B5nZJwiH3Q#BIB37">academics worried about</a> self-involved backpacker communities in southeast Asia having little interest in mixing with local people.</p> <p>What is different about smartphones and social media is that these allow some tourists to present such self-indulgent, and sometimes insensitive, tourism traits immediately. Wifi and mobile data mean that these tourists can travel with one eye on finding the perfect selfie backdrop – filtering and sharing their travel as it happens, responding to likes and comments.</p> <p>For better or worse, living this influencer fantasy may have become an integral part of tourism for some time.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/214681/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/brendan-canavan-228682"><em>Brendan Canavan</em></a><em>, Senior Lecturer in Marketing, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-nottingham-1192">University of Nottingham</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/selfies-and-social-media-how-tourists-indulge-their-influencer-fantasies-214681">original article</a>.</em></p>

Travel Trouble

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94-year-old grandma takes on huge travel challenge

<p>"Grandma Joy" Ryan was 91 when she first got her passport, and she hasn't stopped travelling since. </p> <p>Now aged 94, she is embarking on a new global challenge with her grandson Brad Ryan, 42, with the intergenerational duo planning to travel to all seven continents in the world together. </p> <p>"I don't have many years left, [so] you hop to it," Grandma Joy told <em>CNN Travel</em>. </p> <p> "If you slow down, you don't get anything done."</p> <p>The pair, who are from the US, have already travelled to three continents, visiting Banff National Park in Canada last year to "represent North America well beyond just our own country", and Africa in 2023, visiting both Amboseli National Park and Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. </p> <p>Their most recent trip was to South America, where they travelled to Ecuador, and spent time in  the Galapagos Islands, as well as Chile. </p> <p>"It was amazing to see those huge tortoises," Grandma Joy recalled. "They could raise their shells up just like a convertible or something."</p> <p>Prior to travelling the world together, the grandma-grandson duo were actually estranged for around a decade due to a family rift that occurred after Ryan's parents divorced. </p> <p>After reconnecting in 2010, Ryan was telling his grandma about his previous hiking adventures on the Appalachian Trail and Mount Kilimanjaro, when he learnt that his grandmother "had never set eyes on a mountain."</p> <p>"That was one of her lifelong regrets," he said. </p> <p>"Her travel had been limited to just a few road trips to Florida with my grandfather when he was alive.</p> <p>"Her view of the world was always what she saw on the Travel Channel or just on the news."</p> <p>That conversation stuck with him and the pair embarked on their first journey together in 2015, when Ryan decided to take a weekend road trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. </p> <p>"At 85, she saw her first mountain, climbed her first mountain and went camping for the first time and fell off the air mattress a couple of times and didn't complain," he said. </p> <p>He added, that having to move more slowly as he was travelling with his grandma, meant that he was able to appreciate everything in a more meaningful way. </p> <p>"I wasn't rushing through the places that I was visiting. I was really taking the time to appreciate smaller details.</p> <p>"The lens through which she is seeing the world is very different to most people my age. She doesn't visit a place thinking, 'Well, I'll be back again,' so there's more presence."</p> <p>They kept the adventure going and decided to travel to the 62 other US National Parks, and while it took them almost eight years with two-month long breaks between each trip, Grandma Joy made history last year. </p> <p>She became the oldest person to visit all 63 National Parks in the US. </p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/CsU_w4-rqyP/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="14"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"> </div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"> <div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: auto;"> <div style="width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center; margin-bottom: 24px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 224px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 144px;"> </div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CsU_w4-rqyP/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A post shared by Grandma Joy’s Road Trip — Brad and Joy Ryan (@grandmajoysroadtrip)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p>"Being an old person sitting on the porch, this makes you feel like, 'Well maybe I did accomplish something.' So I enjoyed every bit of it," she said. </p> <p>Ryan himself is very proud of his grandmother's achievement, and after going viral with their national parks quest in 2023, he said that travelling with her has been a life-changing experience. </p> <p>"She shattered my preconceived notions about what it means to be an older person,"  he said. </p> <p>"Because she wasn't just sitting in the passenger seat looking out the window, although we did that too."</p> <p>He then described how Grandma Joy went ziplining at New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in West Virginia and whitewater rafting at Wrangell St. Elias National Park in Alaska at the age of 91, and how she reminded him of all the possibilities that come with getting older. </p> <p>"I think we all have this sort of innate dread about getting older," he said. </p> <p>"And we think about the limitations instead of the possibilities. She [Grandma Joy] reminds us of the possibilities that still exist."</p> <p>While the pair are currently "still recovering" from their latest trip to South America, they shared their plan to visit Australia later this year, and hope to  "hop over to Asia" after. </p> <p>Once they've ticked off Australia and Asia off their list, they plan to visit Europe and hope to end their trip in Antarctica. </p> <p>"Antarctica is the one that's like the wildcard," Ryan said. "We would love that, but getting there is challenging.</p> <p>"I'd like to end big, and I think Antarctica would be the cherry on top of this adventure."</p> <p>The duo document all their adventures on their Instagram account, <a href="https://www.instagram.com/grandmajoysroadtrip/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">grandmajoysroadtrip</a> and despite people wondering when they would wrap it up, Grandma Joy's "willing spirit" keeps her going. </p> <p>"I just take one step at a time, one day at a time, and thank the Lord every morning for giving me one more day," she said. </p> <p>"I try to be an optimist. The glass is half full, not half empty. And the people that you meet along the way lift your spirits.</p> <p>"You see people in worse shape than you, and I just think 'I've got a lot to be thankful for.'</p> <p>"Not everybody's lucky enough to have a grandson that's willing to drag them around."</p> <p><em>Images: Instagram</em></p> <p> </p>

International Travel

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Everything you need to know before you travel to Vietnam

<p dir="ltr">So you’ve booked your flight to Vietnam to experience the best of south-east Asia. </p> <p dir="ltr">When travelling to Vietnam, and other Asian countries, there are a handful of tips and tricks to be aware of to ensure you have a smooth sailing travel experience. </p> <p dir="ltr">In comparison to travelling around Western countries, exploring Vietnam comes with a unique set of circumstances, and being prepared for every situation will make sure your trip is one to remember. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Cash is king</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">When it comes to planning your trip to Vietnam, other than booking your flights, hotels and travel insurance, one of your first priorities should be getting your hands on cash. </p> <p dir="ltr">The Vietnamese Dong is a unique currency to get used to, given that $5 AUD is equal to approximately $82,000 VND. </p> <p dir="ltr">Most of the restaurants, cafes and tourist attractions you’ll be heading to will only accept cash, so make sure you seek out an ATM (most ATMs will let you translate to English) and always have a decent amount of cash on hand. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Go off the beaten track </strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Vietnam has so much more to offer than the major cities. </p> <p dir="ltr">While Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have a lot of interesting history, tourist attractions and unique cultural experiences, staying in these cities for the entirety of your Vietnam trip is limiting. </p> <p dir="ltr">Make sure you explore coastal towns such as Hoi An, Hue and Phu Quoc, explore the rolling rice fields of Sapa, and don’t forget to book your cruise around the picturesque Ha Long Bay. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Don't be afraid of the food </strong></p> <p dir="ltr">While Vietnamese food is maybe not what you’re used to eating everyday, part of experiencing a different culture is immersing yourself in the food scene. </p> <p dir="ltr">One of the best things you can do when you arrive at your destination is to book a food tour with a local guide (there are many available through TripAdvisor), to take you around and show you a variety of dishes to become accustomed to. </p> <p dir="ltr">Your food tour guide will also help ease your anxiety over ordering food in different places. </p> <p dir="ltr">Another top tip: Restaurants will often be called the name of the dishes they serve. For example, places that sell the delicious Bahn Mi bread rolls will have “Bahn Mi” in their name. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Google Translate is your friend </strong></p> <p dir="ltr">While your hotel staff will often speak good English, other vendors at restaurants or markets may not be as fluent. </p> <p dir="ltr">Downloading the Google Translate app on your phone will allow you to communicate with locals quickly and easily, by typing in what you want to say in English, and letting the app read out the sentence in Vietnamese. </p> <p dir="ltr">Also, the app’s camera feature lets you hover your smartphone camera over something written in Vietnamese, before translating it into English in seconds. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Beware of scams</strong> </p> <p dir="ltr">One of the most common scams in Vietnam is taxi scams. Some people will claim to be a taxi and then jack up the prices once they take you to your destination. </p> <p dir="ltr">To avoid this, only get in registered taxis (that actually look like taxis and not just a random car), and download Grab, which is the Vietnamese version of Uber and is just as easy to use. </p> <p dir="ltr">Another common scam is for market vendors to hike up prices for food and souvenirs, so be ready to barter for a better price. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Make friends with the locals </strong></p> <p dir="ltr">The Vietnamese people are some of the loveliest, kindest and most accommodating in the world. </p> <p dir="ltr">People on the street, hotel staff and restaurant workers are always happy to help you with queries or concerns, so make the most of their local knowledge and don’t be afraid to approach people with a smile. </p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p>

International Travel

Health

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No, taking drugs like Ozempic isn’t ‘cheating’ at weight loss or the ‘easy way out’

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/clare-collins-7316">Clare Collins</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-newcastle-1060">University of Newcastle</a></em></p> <p>Obesity medication that is effective has been a long time coming. Enter semaglutide (sold as Ozempic and Wegovy), which is helping people improve weight-related health, including <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37952131/">lowering the risk</a> of a having a heart attack or stroke, while also silencing “<a href="https://theconversation.com/some-ozempic-users-say-it-silences-food-noise-but-there-are-drug-free-ways-to-stop-thinking-about-food-so-much-208467">food noise</a>”.</p> <p>As demand for semaglutide increases, so are <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/health-and-wellness/in-a-fat-phobic-world-ozempic-is-hardly-the-easy-way-out-20240401-p5fgjd.html">claims</a> that taking it is “cheating” at weight loss or the “easy way out”.</p> <p>We don’t tell people who need statin medication to treat high cholesterol or drugs to manage high blood pressure they’re cheating or taking the easy way out.</p> <p>Nor should we shame people taking semaglutide. It’s a drug used to treat diabetes and obesity which needs to be taken long term and comes with risks and side effects, as well as benefits. When prescribed for obesity, it’s given alongside advice about diet and exercise.</p> <h2>How does it work?</h2> <p>Semaglutide is a <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GLP-1_receptor_agonist">glucagon-like peptide-1</a> receptor agonist (GLP-1RA). This means it makes your body’s own glucagon-like peptide-1 hormone, called <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glucagon-like_peptide-1">GLP-1</a> for short, work better.</p> <p>GLP-1 gets secreted by cells in your gut when it <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/38218319/">detects increased nutrient levels</a> after eating. This stimulates insulin production, which lowers blood sugars.</p> <p>GLP-1 also slows gastric emptying, which makes you feel full, and reduces hunger and feelings of reward after eating.</p> <p><iframe id="tc-infographic-1031" class="tc-infographic" style="border: none;" src="https://cdn.theconversation.com/infographics/1031/c11b606581d4bc58a71f066492d7f740b52c04e1/site/index.html" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p>GLP-1 receptor agonist (GLP-1RA) medications like Ozempic help the body’s own GLP-1 work better by mimicking and extending its action.</p> <p>Some studies have found less GLP-1 gets released after meals in <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/38218319/">adults with obesity or type 2 diabetes mellitus</a> compared to adults with normal glucose tolerance. So having less GLP-1 circulating in your blood means you don’t feel as full after eating and get hungry again sooner compared to people who produce more.</p> <p>GLP-1 has a very short half-life of about <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28443255/">two minutes</a>. So GLP-1RA medications were designed to have a very long half-life of about <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33567185/">seven days</a>. That’s why semaglutide is given as a weekly injection.</p> <h2>What can users expect? What does the research say?</h2> <p>Higher doses of semaglutide are prescribed to treat obesity compared to type 2 diabetes management (up to 2.4mg versus 2.0mg weekly).</p> <p>A large group of <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36691309/">randomised controlled trials</a>, called STEP trials, all tested weekly 2.4mg semaglutide injections versus different interventions or placebo drugs.</p> <p>Trials lasting 1.3–2 years consistently found weekly 2.4 mg semaglutide injections <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36691309/">led to 6–12% greater weight loss</a> compared to placebo or alternative interventions. The average weight change depended on how long medication treatment lasted and length of follow-up.</p> <p>Weight reduction due to semaglutide also leads to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36769420/">reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure</a> of about 4.8 mmHg and 2.5 mmHg respectively, a reduction in <a href="https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/triglycerides">triglyceride levels</a> (a type of blood fat) and <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/38041774/">improved physical function</a>.</p> <p>Another recent trial in adults with pre-existing heart disease and obesity, but without type 2 diabetes, found adults receiving weekly 2.4mg semaglutide injections had a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37952131/">20% lower risk</a> of specific cardiovascular events, including having a non-fatal heart attack, a stroke or dying from cardiovascular disease, after three years follow-up.</p> <h2>Who is eligible for semaglutide?</h2> <p>Australia’s regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), has <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/safety/shortages/information-about-major-medicine-shortages/about-ozempic-semaglutide-shortage-2022-and-2023">approved</a> semaglutide, sold as Ozempic, for treating type 2 diabetes.</p> <p>However, due to shortages, the TGA had advised doctors not to start new Ozempic prescriptions for “off-label use” such as obesity treatment and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme doesn’t currently subsidise off-label use.</p> <p>The TGA has <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/resources/prescription-medicines-registrations/wegovy-novo-nordisk-pharmaceuticals-pty-ltd">approved Wegovy to treat obesity</a> but it’s not currently available in Australia.</p> <p>When it’s available, doctors will be able to prescribe <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36934408/">semaglutide to treat obesity</a> in conjunction with lifestyle interventions (including diet, physical activity and psychological support) in adults with obesity (a BMI of 30 or above) or those with a BMI of 27 or above who also have weight-related medical complications.</p> <h2>What else do you need to do during Ozempic treatment?</h2> <p>Checking details of the <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36691309/">STEP trial intervention components</a>, it’s clear participants invested a lot of time and effort. In addition to taking medication, people had brief lifestyle counselling sessions with dietitians or other health professionals every four weeks as a minimum in most trials.</p> <p>Support sessions were designed to help people stick with consuming 2,000 kilojoules (500 calories) less daily compared to their energy needs, and performing 150 minutes of <a href="https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/tips-for-getting-active">moderate-to-vigorous physical activity</a>, like brisk walking, dancing and gardening each week.</p> <p>STEP trials varied in other components, with follow-up time periods varying from 68 to 104 weeks. The aim of these trials was to show the effect of adding the medication on top of other lifestyle counselling.</p> <p>A <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/38041774/">review of obesity medication trials</a> found people reported they needed less <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28652832/">cognitive behaviour training</a> to help them stick with the reduced energy intake. This is one aspect where drug treatment may make adherence a little easier. Not feeling as hungry and having environmental food cues “switched off” may mean less support is required for goal-setting, self-monitoring food intake and <a href="https://theconversation.com/9-ways-wont-power-is-better-than-willpower-for-resisting-temptation-and-helping-you-eat-better-71267">avoiding things that trigger eating</a>.</p> <h2>But what are the side effects?</h2> <p>Semaglutide’s side-effects <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/38041774/">include</a> nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting, constipation, indigestion and abdominal pain.</p> <p>In one study these <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33567185/">led to</a> discontinuation of medication in 6% of people, but interestingly also in 3% of people taking placebos.</p> <p>More severe side-effects included gallbladder disease, acute pancreatitis, hypoglycaemia, acute kidney disease and injection site reactions.</p> <p>To reduce risk or severity of side-effects, <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36934408/">medication doses are increased very slowly</a> over months. Once the full dose and response are achieved, research indicates you need to take it long term.</p> <p>Given this long-term commitment, and associated <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/topics/private-health-insurance/what-private-health-insurance-covers/out-of-pocket-costs#:%7E:text=An%20out%20of%20pocket%20cost,called%20gap%20or%20patient%20payments">high out-of-pocket cost of medication</a>, when it comes to taking semaglutide to treat obesity, there is no way it can be considered “cheating”.</p> <hr /> <p><em>Read the other articles in The Conversation’s <a href="https://theconversation.com/au/topics/ozempic-series-154673">Ozempic series</a> here.</em><!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/219116/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/clare-collins-7316"><em>Clare Collins</em></a><em>, Laureate Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-newcastle-1060">University of Newcastle</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: </em><em>Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/no-taking-drugs-like-ozempic-isnt-cheating-at-weight-loss-or-the-easy-way-out-219116">original article</a>.</em></p>

Body

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Asking ChatGPT a health-related question? Better keep it simple

<p>It’s tempting to <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/news/chatgpt-and-dr-google/">turn to search engines</a> to seek out health information, but with the rise of large language models, like ChatGPT, people are becoming more and more likely to depend on AI for answers too.</p> <div class="copy"> <p>Concerningly, an Australian study has now found that the more evidence given to <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/technology/chatgpt-an-intimate-companion/">ChatGPT</a> when asked a health-related question, the less reliable it becomes.</p> <p>Large language models (LLM) and artificial intelligence use in health care is still developing, creating a  a critical gap when providing incorrect answers can have serious consequences for people’s health.</p> <p>To address this, scientists from Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, and the University of Queensland (UQ) explored a hypothetical scenario: an average person asking ChatGPT if ‘X’ treatment has a positive effect on condition ‘Y’.</p> <p>They presented ChatGPT with 100 questions sourced from the <a href="https://trec-health-misinfo.github.io/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">TREC Health Misinformation track</a> – ranging from ‘Can zinc help treat the common cold?’ to ‘Will drinking vinegar dissolve a stuck fish bone?’</p> <p>Because queries to search engines are typically shorter, while prompts to a LLM can be far longer, they posed the questions in 2 different formats: the first as a simple question and the second as a question biased with supporting or contrary evidence.</p> <p>By comparing ChatGPT’s response to the known correct response based on existing medical knowledge, they found that ChatGPT was 80% accurate at giving accurate answers in a question-only format. However, when given an evidence-biased prompt, this accuracy reduced to 63%, which was reduced again to 28% when an “unsure” answer was allowed. </p> <p>“We’re not sure why this happens,” says CSIRO Principal Research Scientist and Associate Professor at UQ, Dr Bevan Koopman, who is co-author of the paper.</p> <p>“But given this occurs whether the evidence given is correct or not, perhaps the evidence adds too much noise, thus lowering accuracy.”</p> <p>Study co-author Guido Zuccon, Director of AI for the Queensland Digital Health Centre at UQ says that major search engines are now integrating LLMs and search technologies in a process called Retrieval Augmented Generation.</p> <p>“We demonstrate that the interaction between the LLM and the search component is still poorly understood, resulting in the generation of inaccurate health information,” says Zuccon.</p> <p>Given the widespread popularity of using LLMs online for answers on people’s health, Koopman adds, we need continued research to inform the public about risks and to help them optimise the accuracy of their answers.</p> <p>“While LLMs have the potential to greatly improve the way people access information, we need more research to understand where they are effective and where they are not.”</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <div> <p align="center"> </p> </div> <p><em><img id="cosmos-post-tracker" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=301406&amp;title=Asking+ChatGPT+a+health-related+question%3F+Better+keep+it+simple" width="1" height="1" loading="lazy" aria-label="Syndication Tracker" data-spai-target="src" data-spai-orig="" data-spai-exclude="nocdn" /></em><em><a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/technology/ai/asking-chatgpt-a-health-related-question-better-keep-it-simple/">This article</a> was originally published on <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com">Cosmos Magazine</a> and was written by <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/contributor/imma-perfetto/">Imma Perfetto</a>. </em></div>

Caring

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Drugs like Ozempic won’t ‘cure’ obesity but they might make us more fat-phobic

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/emma-beckett-22673">Emma Beckett</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a></em></p> <p>Many have <a href="https://www.economist.com/leaders/2023/03/02/new-drugs-could-spell-an-end-to-the-worlds-obesity-epidemic">declared</a> drugs like Ozempic could “end obesity” by reducing the appetite and waistlines of millions of people around the world.</p> <p>When we look past the hype, this isn’t just untrue – it can also be harmful. The focus on weight, as opposed to health, is a feature of <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0277539521001217">diet culture</a>. This frames the pursuit of thinness as more important than other aspects of physical and cultural wellbeing.</p> <p>The Ozempic buzz isn’t just rooted in health and medicine but plays into ideas of <a href="https://butterfly.org.au/weight-bias-fatphobia-diet-culture/#:%7E:text=Weight%20bias%2C%20sometimes%20also%20called,or%20being%20around%20fat%20people.">fat stigma and fat phobia</a>. This can perpetuate fears of fatness and fat people, and the behaviours that <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/S12916-018-1116-5">harm people who live in larger bodies</a>.</p> <h2>Not the first ‘miracle’ weight-loss drug</h2> <p>This isn’t the first time we have heard that weight-loss drugs will change the world. Ozempic and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK551568/">its family</a> of GLP-1-mimicking drugs are the <a href="https://theconversation.com/ozempic-is-in-the-spotlight-but-its-just-the-latest-in-a-long-and-strange-history-of-weight-loss-drugs-209324">latest in a long line of weight loss drugs</a>. Each looked promising at the time. But none have lived up to the hype in the long term. Some have even been withdrawn from sale due to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5126837/">severe side effects</a>.</p> <p>Science does improve <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanmic/article/PIIS2666-5247(20)30028-8/fulltext">incrementally</a>, but diet culture also keeps us on a cycle of hope for the next <a href="https://sahrc.org/2022/04/diet-culture-a-brief-history/">miracle cure</a>. So drugs like Ozempic might not deliver the results individuals expect, continuing the cycle of hope and shame.</p> <h2>Ozempic doesn’t work the same for everyone</h2> <p>When we talk about the results of studies using Ozempic, we often <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3719041/">focus on the average</a> (also known as the mean) results or the maximum (or peak) results. So, studies might <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9486455/">show</a> those using the drug lost an average of 10.9% of their body weight, but some lost more than 20% and others less than 5%</p> <p>What we don’t talk about as much is that responses are variable. Some people are “<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2212877820301769">non-responders</a>”. This means not everyone loses as much weight as the average, and some don’t lose weight at all. For some people, the side-effects will outweigh the benefits.</p> <p>When people are on drugs like Ozempic, their blood sugar is better controlled by enhancing the release of insulin and reducing the levels of another hormone called glucagon.</p> <p>But there is greater variability in the amount of <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2212877820301769#bib88">weight lost</a> than the variability in blood sugar control. It isn’t clear why, but is likely due to differences in genetics and lifestyles, and weight being more complex to regulate.</p> <h2>Treatment needs to be ongoing. What will this mean?</h2> <p>When weight-loss drugs do work, they are only effective while they’re being taken. This means that to keep the weight off people need to keep taking them long term. <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9542252/">One study found</a> an average weight loss of more than 17% after a year on Ozempic became an average net weight loss of 5.6% more than two years after stopping treatment.</p> <p>Short-term side effects of drugs like Ozempic include dizziness, nausea, vomiting and other gastrointestinal upsets. But because these are new drugs, we simply don’t have data to tell us if side effects will increase as people take them for longer periods.</p> <p>Nor do we know if <a href="https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/why-weight-loss-drugs-stop-working-how-to-break-past-ozempic-plateau#:%7E:text=A%20lifetime%20commitment%20to%20Ozempic&amp;text=By%20these%20standards%2C%20such%20drugs,long%2Dterm%20risk%20is%20unknown.">effectiveness will be reduced</a> in the long term. This is called <a href="https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/drug-tolerance#:%7E:text=A%20condition%20that%20occurs%20when,or%20different%20medicine%20is%20needed.">drug tolerance</a> and is documented for other long-term treatments such as antidepressants and chemotherapies.</p> <h2>Biology is only part of the story</h2> <p>For some people, using GLP-1-mimicking drugs like Ozempic will be validating and empowering. They will feel like their biology has been “normalised” in the same way that blood pressure or cholesterol medication can return people to the “normal” range of measures.</p> <p>But biologically, obesity <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7202176/#:%7E:text=Obesity%20behaves%20as%20complex%20polygenic,about%2080%25%20(3).">isn’t solely about GLP-1 activity</a> with <a href="https://www.worldobesity.org/what-we-do/our-policy-priorities/the-roots-of-obesity">many other</a> hormones, physical activity, and even our gut microbes involved.</p> <p>Overall, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK278977/">obesity is complex and multifaceted</a>. Obesity isn’t just driven by personal biology and choice; it has social, cultural, political, environmental and economic determinants.</p> <h2>A weight-centred approach misses the rest of the story</h2> <p>The weight-centred approach <a href="https://butterfly.org.au/body-image/health-not-weight/#:%7E:text=Health%20and%20wellbeing%20are%20multi,on%20their%20size%20or%20appearance.">suggests that leading with thinness means health will follow</a>. But changing appetite is only part of the story when it comes to health.</p> <p>Obesity often <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2667368123000335#:%7E:text=Obesity%20related%20malnutrition%20can%20also,%5D%2C%20%5B7%5D%5D.">co-exists with malnutrition</a>. We try to separate the effects in research using statistics, but focusing on the benefits of weight-loss drugs without addressing the underlying malnutrition means we aren’t likely to see the <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/ozempic-diet-exercise-healthy-43eee86c">improved health outcomes in everyone who loses weight</a>.</p> <h2>Obesity isn’t an issue detached from people</h2> <p>Even when it is well-intentioned, the rhetoric around the joy of “ending the obesity epidemic” can <a href="https://theconversation.com/ozempic-the-miracle-drug-and-the-harmful-idea-of-a-future-without-fat-211661">harm people</a>. Obesity doesn’t occur in isolation. It is people who are obese. And the celebration and hype of these weight-loss drugs can reinforce harmful fat stigma.</p> <p>The framing of these drugs as a “cure” exacerbates the binary view of thin versus fat, and healthy versus unhealthy. These are not binary outcomes that are good or bad. Weight and health exist on a spectrum.</p> <p>Ironically, while fat people are told they need to lose weight for their health, they are also <a href="https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/ozempic-shame-why-users-are-embarrassed-to-admit-using-weight-loss-wonder-drug/news-story/ee52a819c69459afe6576d25988f9bd6">shamed for “cheating” or taking shortcuts</a> by using medication.</p> <h2>Drugs are tools, not silver bullets</h2> <p>The creation of these drugs is a start, but they remain expensive, and the hype has been followed by <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/safety/shortages/information-about-major-medicine-shortages/about-ozempic-semaglutide-shortage-2022-and-2023#:%7E:text=Consumer%20Medicine%20Information%20.-,Why%20the%20Ozempic%20shortage%20happened,label%20prescribing%20for%20weight%20loss.">shortages</a>. Ultimately, complex challenges aren’t addressed with simple solutions. This is particularly true when people are involved, and even more so when there isn’t even an agreement on what the challenge is.</p> <p>Many organisations and individuals see obesity is a disease and believe this framing helps people to seek treatment.</p> <p>Others think it’s unnecessary to attach medical labels to body types and <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/geoffreykabat/2013/07/09/why-labeling-obesity-as-a-disease-is-a-big-mistake/?sh=5ca95cc2103b">argue</a> it confuses risk factors (things that are linked to increased risk of illness) with illness itself.</p> <p>Regardless, two things will always remain true. Drugs can only ever be tools, and those tools need to be applied in a context. To use these tools ethically, we need to remain mindful of who this application harms along the way.</p> <hr /> <p><em>Read the other articles in The Conversation’s <a href="https://theconversation.com/au/topics/ozempic-series-154673">Ozempic series</a> here.<img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/219309/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></em></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/emma-beckett-22673">Emma Beckett</a>, Adjunct Senior Lecturer, Nutrition, Dietetics &amp; Food Innovation - School of Health Sciences, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/drugs-like-ozempic-wont-cure-obesity-but-they-might-make-us-more-fat-phobic-219309">original article</a>.</em></p>

Body

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Could my glasses be making my eyesight worse?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/james-armitage-399647">James Armitage</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nick-hockley-1517162">Nick Hockley</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a></em></p> <p>So, you got your eyesight tested and found out you need your first pair of glasses. Or you found out you need a stronger pair than the ones you have. You put them on and everything looks crystal clear. But after a few weeks things look blurrier without them than they did before your eye test. What’s going on?</p> <p>Some people start to wear spectacles for the first time and perceive their vision is “bad” when they take their glasses off. They incorrectly interpret this as the glasses making their vision worse. Fear of this might make them <a href="https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20140513-do-glasses-weaken-your-eyesight#:%7E:text=A%20study%20from,they%20are%20right%3F">less likely to wear their glasses</a>.</p> <p>But what they are noticing is how much better the world appears through the glasses. They become <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/2576117X.2022.2033588">less tolerant</a> of a blurry world when they remove them.</p> <p>Here are some other things you might notice about eyesight and wearing glasses.</p> <h2>Lazy eyes?</h2> <p>Some people sense an increasing reliance on glasses and wonder if their eyes have become “lazy”.</p> <p>Our eyes work in much the same way as an auto-focus camera. A flexible lens inside each eye is controlled by muscles that let us <a href="https://www.aao.org/museum-eye-openers/how-does-eye-focus">focus on objects</a> in the distance (such as a footy scoreboard) by relaxing the muscle to flatten the lens. When the muscle contracts it makes the lens steeper and more powerful to see things that are much closer to us (such as a text message).</p> <p>From the age of about 40, the lens in our eye <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-we-lose-our-hearing-and-vision-as-we-age-67930">progressively hardens</a> and loses its ability to change shape. Gradually, we lose our capacity to focus on near objects. This is called “<a href="https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/presbyopia">presbyopia</a>” and at the moment there are no treatments for this lens hardening.</p> <p>Optometrists correct this with prescription glasses that take the load of your natural lens. The lenses allow you to see those up-close images clearly by providing extra refractive power.</p> <p>Once we are used to seeing clearly, our tolerance for blurry vision will be lower and we will reach for the glasses to see well again.</p> <h2>The wrong glasses?</h2> <p>Wearing old glasses, the wrong prescription (or even someone else’s glasses) won’t allow you to see as well as possible for day-to-day tasks. It could also cause <a href="https://headaches.org/readers-mail-glasses-causing-headache/">eyestrain and headaches</a>.</p> <p>Incorrectly prescribed or dispensed prescription glasses can lead to vision impairment in children <a href="https://iovs.arvojournals.org/article.aspx?articleid=2126392">as their visual system is still in development</a>.</p> <p>But it is more common for kids to develop long-term vision problems as a result of <a href="https://www.cera.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Healthy-Young-Eyes-Guide-ACC.pdf">not wearing glasses when they need them</a>.</p> <p>By the time children are about 10–12 years of age, wearing incorrect spectacles is less likely to cause their eyes to become lazy or damage vision in the long term, but it is likely to result in <a href="https://www.cera.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Healthy-Young-Eyes-Guide-ACC.pdf">blurry or uncomfortable vision</a> during daily wear.</p> <p><a href="https://goodvisionforlife.com.au/">Registered optometrists in Australia</a> are trained to assess refractive error (whether the eye focuses light into the retina) as well as the different aspects of ocular function (including how the eyes work together, change focus, move around to see objects). All of these help us see clearly and comfortably.</p> <h2>What about dirty glasses?</h2> <p>Dirty or scratched glasses can give you the impression your vision is worse than it actually is. Just like a window, the dirtier your glasses are, the more difficult it is to see clearly through them. <a href="https://www.optometry.org.au/wp-content/uploads/GVFL/Brochure_PDFs/Care-for-Glasses-2018-A4-single-page-final.pdf">Cleaning glasses regularly</a> with a microfibre lens cloth will help.</p> <p>While dirty glasses are not commonly associated with eye infections, some research suggests dirty glasses can <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0207238">harbour bacteria</a> with the remote but theoretical <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6628431/#:%7E:text=59%2C60%5D.-,S.,39%2C40%2C41%5D.">potential to cause eye infection</a>.</p> <p>To ensure best possible vision, people who wear prescription glasses every day should clean their lenses at least every morning and twice a day where required. Cleaning frames with alcohol wipes can <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0207238">reduce bacterial contamination by 96%</a> – but care should be taken as alcohol can damage some frames, depending on what they are made of.</p> <h2>When should I get my eyes checked?</h2> <p><a href="https://goodvisionforlife.com.au/faqs/">Regular eye exams</a>, starting just before school age, are important for ocular health. Most prescriptions for corrective glasses <a href="https://www.ahpra.gov.au/documents/default.aspx?record=WD16%2F20156&amp;dbid=AP&amp;chksum=676U2aH1QM4XJ6ICVAVaKg%3D%3D">expire within two years</a> and contact lens prescriptions often expire after a year. So you’ll need an eye check for a new pair every year or so.</p> <p>Kids with ocular conditions such as progressive myopia (short-sightedness), strabismus (poor eye alignment), or amblyopia (reduced vision in one eye) will need checks at least every year, but likely more often. Likewise, people over 65 or who have known eye conditions, such as <a href="https://goodvisionforlife.com.au/vision-problems/glaucoma/">glaucoma</a>, will be recommended more frequent checks.</p> <p>An <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6706420/">online prescription estimator</a> is no substitute for a full eye examination. If you have a valid prescription then you can order glasses online, but you miss out on the ability to check the fit of the frame or to have them adjusted properly. This is particularly important for multifocal lenses where even a millimetre or two of misalignment can cause uncomfortable or blurry vision.</p> <p>Conditions such as <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/diabetes-vision-loss.html#:%7E:text=Diabetic%20retinopathy%20is%20caused%20when,vision%20or%20stopping%20blood%20flow.">diabetes</a> or <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK525980/">high blood pressure</a>, can affect the eyes so regular eye checks can also help flag broader health issues. The vast majority of eye conditions can be treated if caught early, highlighting the importance of regular preventative care.<img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/225169/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/james-armitage-399647">James Armitage</a>, Associate Professor in Vision Science, Optometry Course Director, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nick-hockley-1517162">Nick Hockley</a>, Lecturer in Optometric Clinical Skills, Director Deakin Collaborative Eye Care Clinic, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/could-my-glasses-be-making-my-eyesight-worse-225169">original article</a>.</em></p>

Body

Lifestyle

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People in the world’s ‘blue zones’ live longer – their diet could hold the key to why

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/justin-roberts-1176632">Justin Roberts</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/anglia-ruskin-university-1887">Anglia Ruskin University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/joseph-lillis-1505087">Joseph Lillis</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/anglia-ruskin-university-1887">Anglia Ruskin University</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mark-cortnage-438941">Mark Cortnage</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/anglia-ruskin-university-1887">Anglia Ruskin University</a></em></p> <p>Ageing is an inevitable part of life, which may explain our <a href="https://time.com/4672969/why-do-people-want-to-live-so-long/">strong fascination</a> with the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2726954">quest for longevity</a>. The allure of <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26566891/">eternal youth</a> drives a <a href="https://www.alliedmarketresearch.com/longevity-and-anti-senescence-therapy-market-A14010">multi-billion pound industry</a> ranging from anti-ageing products, supplements and <a href="https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/longevity-diet">diets</a> for those hoping to extend their lifespan.</p> <p>f you look back to the turn of the 20th century, average life expectancy in the UK was around 46 years. Today, it’s closer to <a href="https://population.un.org/wpp/">82 years</a>. We are in fact <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27706136/">living longer than ever before</a>, possibly due to medical advancements and improved <a href="https://www.health.org.uk/publications/reports/mortality-and-life-expectancy-trends-in-the-uk">living and working conditions</a>.</p> <p>But living longer has also come at a price. We’re now seeing higher rates of <a href="https://www.who.int/data/gho/data/themes/mortality-and-global-health-estimates/ghe-leading-causes-of-death">chronic and degenerative diseases</a> – with heart disease consistently topping the list. So while we’re fascinated by what may help us live longer, maybe we should be more interested in being healthier for longer. Improving our “<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4632858/">healthy life expectancy</a>” remains a global challenge.</p> <p>Interestingly, certain locations around the world have been discovered where there are a high proportion of centenarians who display remarkable physical and mental health. The <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15489066/">AKEA study of Sardinia, Italy</a>, as example, identified a “blue zone” (named because it was marked with blue pen), where there was a higher number of locals living in the central-eastern mountainous areas who had reached their 100th birthday compared with the wider Sardinian community.</p> <p>This longevity hotspot has since been expanded, and now includes several other areas around the world which also have greater numbers of longer-living, healthy people. Alongside Sardinia, these blue zones are now <a href="https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/81214929">popularly recognised</a> as: Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Loma Linda, California.</p> <p>Other than their long lifespans, people living in these zones also appear to share certain other commonalities, which centre around being <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3874460">part of a community</a>, having a <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4224996/">life purpose</a>, eating <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33514872/">nutritious, healthy foods</a>, keeping <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41398-021-01735-7">stress levels</a> low and undertaking purposeful daily <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30202288/">exercise or physical tasks</a>.</p> <p>Their longevity could also relate to their <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9010380/">environment</a>, being mostly rural (or less polluted), or because of <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22253498/">specific longevity genes</a>.</p> <p>However, studies indicate genetics may only account for <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8786073">around 20-25% of longevity</a> – meaning a person’s lifespan is a complex interaction between lifestyle and genetic factors, which contribute to a long and healthy life.</p> <h2>Is the secret in our diet?</h2> <p>When it comes to diet, each blue zone has its own approach – so one specific food or nutrient does not explain the remarkable longevity observed. But interestingly, a diet rich in <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3662288">plant foods</a> (such as locally-grown vegetables, fruits and legumes) does appear to be reasonably consistent across these zones.</p> <p>For instance, the Seventh-day Adventists of Loma Linda are <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10641813/">predominately vegetarian</a>. For centenarians in Okinawa, <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20234038/">high intakes of flavonoids</a> (a chemical compound typically found in plants) from purple sweet potatoes, soy and vegetables, have been linked with <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11710359/">better cardiovascular health</a> – including lower cholesterol levels and lower incidences of stroke and heart disease.</p> <p>In Nicoya, consumption of locally produced rice and beans has been associated with <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34444746/">longer telomere length</a>. Telomeres are the structural part at the end of our chromosomes which protect our genetic material. Our telomeres get shorter each time a cell divides – so get progressively shorter as we age.</p> <p>Certain <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21102320/">lifestyle factors</a> (such as smoking and poor diet) can also shorten telomere length. It’s thought that telomere length acts as a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31728493/">biomarker of ageing</a> – so having longer telomeres could, in part, be linked with longevity.</p> <p>But a plant-based diet isn’t the only secret. In Sardinia, for example, meat and fish is consumed in moderation in addition to locally grown vegetables and <a href="https://journalofethnicfoods.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s42779-022-00152-5">traditional foods</a> such as acorn breads, pane carasau (a sourdough flatbread), honey and soft cheeses.</p> <p>Also observed in several blue zone areas is the inclusion of <a href="https://www.jacc.org/doi/10.1016/j.jacc.2021.10.041">olive oil</a>, <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33669360/">wine</a> (in moderation – around 1-2 glasses a day), as well as <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3830687/">tea</a>. All of these contain powerful antioxidants which may help <a href="https://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10049696/">protect our cells</a> from damage <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6273542/">as we age</a>.</p> <p>Perhaps then, it’s a combination of the protective effects of various nutrients in the diets of these centenarians, which explains their exceptional longevity.</p> <p>Another striking observation from these longevity hot spots is that meals are typically <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7232892">freshly prepared at home</a>. Traditional blue zone diets also don’t appear to contain <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6538973/">ultra-processed foods</a>, fast foods or sugary drinks which may <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32330232/">accelerate ageing</a>. So maybe it’s just as important to consider what these longer-living populations are not doing, as much as what they are doing.</p> <p>There also appears to be a pattern of eating until 80% full (in other words partial <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9036399/">caloric reduction</a>. This could be important in also supporting how our cells deal with damage as we age, which could mean a longer life.</p> <p>Many of the factors making up these blue zone diets – primarily plant-based and natural whole foods – are associated with <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35706591/">lower risk of chronic diseases</a> such as <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28728684/">heart disease</a> and <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37589638/">cancer</a>. Not only could such diets contribute to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37836577/">longer, healthier life</a>, but could support a more <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33397404/">diverse gut microbiome</a>, which is also associated with healthy ageing.</p> <p>Perhaps then we can learn something from these remarkable centenarians. While diet is only one part of the bigger picture when it comes to longevity, it’s an area we can do something about. In fact, it might just be at the heart of improving not only the quality of our health, but the quality of how we age.<img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/221463/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/justin-roberts-1176632">Justin Roberts</a>, Professor of Nutritional Physiology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/anglia-ruskin-university-1887">Anglia Ruskin University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/joseph-lillis-1505087">Joseph Lillis</a>, PhD Candidate in Nutritional Physiology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/anglia-ruskin-university-1887">Anglia Ruskin University</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mark-cortnage-438941">Mark Cortnage</a>, Senior Lecturer in Public Health and Nutrition, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/anglia-ruskin-university-1887">Anglia Ruskin University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/people-in-the-worlds-blue-zones-live-longer-their-diet-could-hold-the-key-to-why-221463">original article</a>.</em></p>

Food & Wine

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Give the gift of sustainable luxury this Mother’s Day

<p dir="ltr">With Mother’s Day around the corner, it’s time to celebrate the most important women in our lives with affordable luxury that doesn’t cost the earth. </p> <p dir="ltr">To spoil the mums in your life this year, discover the ideal gift to honour and celebrate your most treasured moments together with L’Occitane’s limited edition Mother’s Day collections. </p> <p dir="ltr">You can feel good about gifting these organic and sustainably sourced products to your loved ones, as L’Occitane have created these little luxuries while  respecting and caring for everything the ground grows for us and beyond. </p> <p dir="ltr">By sourcing fair-trade and organic shea butter from women’s collectives in Burkina Faso and recently in Ghana, L’Occitane are dedicated to helping the local ecosystem and supporting the community. </p> <p dir="ltr">The L’Occitane group celebrates the official B Corp certification, demonstrating that as a business, they’re not just about beauty; they believe in Cultivating Change to create a fairer, more equitable and regenerative planet.</p> <p dir="ltr">This Mother’s Day, L’Occitane has something for everyone, with gift packs available for every budget, ranging from just $34 to the ultimate gift set priced at $280. </p> <p dir="ltr">From hand creams, body lotions and washes, to fragrances and luxury skin care, these limited edition gifting packs have exactly what you need to give the gift of indulgence this Mother’s Day. </p> <p dir="ltr">L’Occitane presents a superb range that embodies the essence of gratitude, showing appreciation through thoughtfully selected gifts that not only pamper, but also reflect a commitment to sustainable practices. </p> <p dir="ltr">It’s more than a gift; it’s a gesture that acknowledges the importance of those who have shaped our lives.</p> <p dir="ltr">L’Occitane’s Mother’s Day collection is available now both <a href="https://au.loccitane.com/mothers-day.html">online</a> and in-store. </p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Supplied / Getty Images</em></p>

Beauty & Style

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"First day of school": Charles Spencer shares unseen snap of Diana

<p>Charles Spencer has shared a previously unseen photo from his school days with his late sister Princess Diana. </p> <p>The sweet photo shows a young Charles and Diana in their school uniforms standing side by side on what was their first day of primary school in 1968.</p> <p>Earl Spencer, 59, captioned the photo, "My first day of school, in September 1968: my father took this photograph of me and my sister, Diana, just before he drove us to Silfield, a really lovely primary school in King's Lynn, Norfolk."</p> <p>"The headmistress was Miss Jean Lowe, a warm and thoughtful lady who loved her boys and girls."</p> <p>"I was there till 1972, when I headed off to the place I call - in my memoir - A Very Private School."</p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/C5TfsiIoQL8/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="14"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"> </div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"> <div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: auto;"> <div style="width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center; margin-bottom: 24px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 224px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 144px;"> </div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/C5TfsiIoQL8/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A post shared by Charles Spencer (@charles.earl.spencer)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p>Three years after the photo was taken, Charles was separated from his sister to attend a boarding school, Maidwell Hall Prep School.</p> <p>Throughout the Spencer children's schooling life, Diana was always "very protective" over her brother and "just wouldn't settle" in class until she knew he was okay. </p> <p>Charles told <a title="HELLO!" href="https://www.hellomagazine.com/royalty/516378/charles-spencer-shares-poignant-childhood-anecdote-princess-diana/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>HELLO</em>!</a> that he and Diana had a unique bond when they were growing up. </p> <p>"My mother [Frances] left home when we were young – I was two or three, and Diana would have been five or six – so we were very much in it together," he said.</p> <p>Diana soon fell into a caretaker role, and would look after her brother after their mother left. </p> <p>"Diana looked after me because she was nearly three years older than me," Charles Spencer said.</p> <p>"She said that the worst part was hearing me cry down the hall because she was terrified of the dark and couldn't come to me."</p> <p><em>Image credits: Instagram </em></p>

Family & Pets

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Hollywood megastar shares hilarious rare family snaps

<p>Hollywood A-lister and eternal beacon of coolness Charlize Theron recently dazzled the world yet again with her latest escapade – a trip to Florida's Walt Disney World Resort with her two adorable kiddos, Jackson and August. </p> <p>At the tender age of 48 (seriously, <em>WHAT </em>is her skincare routine), Theron whisked her offspring away to the land of dreams and mouse-shaped everything. Decked out in her best shades and a smile that could light up a thousand movie screens, Theron shared glimpses of their adventure on social media, much to the delight of fans and paparazzi alike – with the compelling caption: "Spring break mode activated".</p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/C5Bh5wipSX7/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="14"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"> </div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"> <div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: auto;"> <div style="width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center; margin-bottom: 24px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 224px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 144px;"> </div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/C5Bh5wipSX7/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A post shared by Charlize Theron (@charlizeafrica)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p>In a move that surprised precisely no one, the impossibly youthful Theron treated her mini-mes to the quintessential Disney experience, complete with selfies in front of Cinderella's Castle and hair-raising rides that clearly had the kids hollering for mercy. </p> <p>But it wasn't just about thrilling rides and larger-than-life characters. Theron, ever the advocate for love and acceptance, made sure to capture a moment of solidarity with a rainbow mural and the word "love". </p> <p>Now, let's pause for a moment of appreciation for Theron's parenting journey – a story that reads like a Hollywood script in itself. From her own turbulent childhood in South Africa to adopting her two bundles of joy as a single mum, Theron has navigated the highs and lows of parenthood with grace, humour and a healthy dose of badassery.</p> <p>And let's not forget Theron's refreshingly honest take on motherhood and adoption. In a world where celebrity interviews often veer into the realm of carefully curated PR spiel, Theron's candidness is like a breath of fresh air. From her unwavering support for the LGBTQ+ community to her heartfelt reflections on adoption, Theron proves that beneath the glitz and glamour of Tinseltown lies a woman with a heart of gold and a killer sense of humour.</p> <p>So, here's to Charlize Theron – the ultimate cool mum, the queen of the silver screen, and a shining symbol of love and acceptance in a world that could always use a little more magic. </p> <p><em>Images: Instagram</em></p>

Family & Pets

Finance

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Loyalty programs may limit competition, and they could be pushing prices up for everyone

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/alexandru-nichifor-1342216">Alexandru Nichifor</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/scott-duke-kominers-1494057">Scott Duke Kominers</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/harvard-university-1306">Harvard University</a></em></p> <p>Loyalty programs enable firms to offer significantly lower prices to some of their customers. You’d think this would encourage strong competition.</p> <p>But that isn’t always what actually happens. <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4377561">New research</a> shows that paradoxically, by changing the way companies target customers, loyalty programs can sometimes reduce price competition. The research also points to solutions.</p> <h2>A win-win proposition?</h2> <p>Joining a loyalty program is supposed to be a win-win. You – the customer – get to enjoy perks and discounts, while the company gains useful commercial insights and builds brand allegiance.</p> <p>For example, a hotel chain loyalty program might reward travellers for frequent stays, with points redeemable for future bookings, upgrades or other benefits. The hotel chain, in turn, records and analyses how you spend money and encourages you to stay with them again.</p> <p>Such programs are commonplace across many industries – appearing everywhere from travel and accommodation to supermarket or petrol retailing. But they are increasingly coming under scrutiny.</p> <p>In 2019, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) <a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/about-us/publications/customer-loyalty-schemes-final-report">cautioned</a> consumers about the sheer volume of personal data collected when participating in a loyalty program, and what companies can do with it.</p> <p>Hidden costs – such as having to pay a redemption fee on rewards or losing benefits when points expire – are another way these schemes can harm consumers.</p> <p>But a larger question – how loyalty programs impact consumers overall – remains difficult to settle, because their effect on competitiveness is unclear. As the ACCC’s <a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/about-us/publications/customer-loyalty-schemes-final-report">final report</a> notes, on the one hand: "Loyalty schemes can have pro-competitive effects and intensify competition between rivals leading to competing loyalty discounts and lower prices for consumers."</p> <p>But on the other hand: "Loyalty schemes can also reduce the flexibility of consumers’ buying patterns and responsiveness to competing offers, which may reduce competition."</p> <h2>How a two-speed price system can hurt everyone</h2> <p>A new economic theory research <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4377561">working paper</a>, coauthored by one of us (Kominers), suggests that on competitive grounds alone, loyalty programs can sometimes harm <em>all</em> consumers – both ordinary shoppers and the program’s own members.</p> <p>It’s easy to see how the ordinary shopper can be worse off. Since a firm’s loyalty program enables it to offer discounted prices to its members, the firm can raise the base prices it offers to everyone else. Those not participating in the program pay more than they otherwise would have, and the firm can respond by saying “join our program!” instead of having to lower its price.</p> <p>But sometimes, even the program’s own members can end up worse off.</p> <p>When a given customer’s loyalty status is not visible to a firm’s competitors – as is the case in many loyalty programs today – it’s hard for those competitors to identify them and entice them to switch.</p> <p>The main way to compete for those customers becomes to lower the base price for everyone, but this means missing out on the high base margins achieved through the existence of your own loyalty program – remember, having a loyalty program means you can charge non-members more.</p> <p>It’s often more profitable for firms to just maintain high base prices. This, in turn, reduces overall price competition for loyal customers, so firms can raise prices for them, too.</p> <h2>What’s the solution?</h2> <p>Despite these effects on competition, loyalty programs still offer benefits for consumers and an opportunity for brands to form closer relationships with them.</p> <p>So, how do we preserve these benefits while enabling price competition? The research suggests an answer: making a customer’s loyalty status verifiable, transparent and portable across firms. This would make it possible for firms to tailor offers for their competitors’ loyal customers.</p> <p>This is already happening in the market for retail electricity. While there aren’t loyalty programs there per se, a consumer’s energy consumption profile, which could be used by a competitor to calibrate a personalised offer, is known only to their current electricity supplier.</p> <p>To address this, in 2015, the Victorian government launched a <a href="https://compare.energy.vic.gov.au">program</a> encouraging households to compare energy offers. This process involved first revealing a customer’s energy consumption profile to the market, and then asking retailers to compete via personalised offers.</p> <p>By opening information that might have otherwise been hidden to the broader market, this approach enabled firms to compete for each other’s top customers, in a way that could be emulated for loyalty programs.</p> <p>Such systems in the private sector could build upon “<a href="https://thepointsguy.com/guide/airline-status-matches-challenges/">status match</a>” policies at airlines. These allow direct transfer of loyalty status, but currently rely on a lengthy, individual-level verification process.</p> <p>For example, a design paradigm known as “<a href="https://hbr.org/2022/05/what-is-web3">Web3</a>” – where customer transactions and loyalty statuses are recorded on public, shared blockchain ledgers – offers a way to make loyalty transparent across the market.</p> <p>This would enable an enhanced, decentralised version of status match: a firm could use blockchain records to verifiably identify who its competitors’ loyal customers are, and directly incentivise them to switch.</p> <p>Both startups and established firms have experimented with building such systems.</p> <h2>What next?</h2> <p>New academic research helps us model and better understand when loyalty programs could be weakening supply side competition and undermining consumer welfare.</p> <p>A neat universal solution may prove elusive. But targeted government or industry interventions – centred on increasing the transparency of a customer’s loyalty status and letting them move it between firms – could help level the playing field between firms and consumers.<img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/220669/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/alexandru-nichifor-1342216"><em>Alexandru Nichifor</em></a><em>, Associate Professor, Faculty of Business and Economics, University of Melbourne, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/scott-duke-kominers-1494057">Scott Duke Kominers</a>, Sarofim-Rock Professor of Business Administration, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/harvard-university-1306">Harvard University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/loyalty-programs-may-limit-competition-and-they-could-be-pushing-prices-up-for-everyone-220669">original article</a>.</em></p>

Money & Banking

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Do parolees really ‘walk free’? Busting common myths about parole

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/monique-moffa-1380936">Monique Moffa</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/alyssa-sigamoney-1375881">Alyssa Sigamoney</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/greg-stratton-161122">Greg Stratton</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jarryd-bartle-441602">Jarryd Bartle</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michele-ruyters-18446">Michele Ruyters</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a></em></p> <p>Parole is a hot topic in politics and in the media at the moment, fuelled by several high-profile parole applications.</p> <p>Recently, <a href="https://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/no-parole-for-convicted-baby-killer-keli-lane/xoykrtvxe?cid=testtwitter">Keli Lane’s</a> attempt to be released on parole after years in jail for the murder of her baby daughter was unsuccessful. <a href="https://www.heraldsun.com.au/truecrimeaustralia/police-courts-victoria/how-frankston-serial-killer-paul-denyer-will-apply-for-bail/news-story/4613d1b3fced1f4aeaa9c4e08e8b81e0">Paul Denyer</a>, known as the “Frankston Serial Killer” for murdering three women in the 90s was also denied parole.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Snowtown accomplice <a href="https://www.adelaidenow.com.au/truecrimeaustralia/police-courts-sa/bodies-in-the-barrels-helper-mark-haydon-released-on-parole/news-story/fdfbbbe7b59267d8009c6910249de585">Mark Haydon</a> was granted parole with strict conditions, but is <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2024-04-01/snowtown-accomplice-mark-haydon-still-in-custody-after-parole/103653934">yet to be</a> released.</p> <p>Some media coverage of such well-known cases is littered with myths about what parole is, how it’s granted and what it looks like. Here’s what the evidence says about three of the most common misconceptions.</p> <h2>Myth 1: people on parole walk free</h2> <p>Parole is the conditional release of an incarcerated person (parolee) by a parole board authority, after they have served their non-parole period (minimum sentence) in jail. This isn’t always reflected in headlines.</p> <p><a href="https://www.9news.com.au/national/snowtown-murders-bodies-in-barrels-murders-mark-haydon-release-south-australia/f4b62a72-ec3d-4238-94d2-64697fbcdef3">Some coverage</a> suggests people on parole are released early and “walk free” without conditions. This is not true.</p> <p>According to the <a href="https://www.adultparoleboard.vic.gov.au/what-parole/purpose-and-benefits">Adult Parole Board of Victoria</a>: "Parole provides incarcerated people with a structured, supported and supervised transition so that they can adjust from prison back into the community, rather than returning straight to the community at the end of their sentence without supervision or support."</p> <p>Parole comes with strict conditions and requirements, such as curfews, drug and alcohol testing, electronic monitoring, program participation, to name a few.</p> <p>People with experience of parole highlight its punitivism and continued extension of surveillance.</p> <h2>Myth 2: most parolees reoffend</h2> <p>Another myth is that the likelihood all parolees reoffend is high. Research over a number of years has consistently found parole reduces reoffending.</p> <p>For example, <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0004865815585393?journalCode=anja">a 2016 study in New South Wales</a> found at the 12 month mark, a group of parolees reoffended 22% less than an unsupervised cohort.</p> <p>A <a href="https://www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au/Publications/CJB/2022-Report-Effect-of-parole-supervision-on-recidivism-CJB245.pdf">2022 study</a> by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research found parole was especially successful in reducing serious recidivism rates among incarcerated people considered to be at a high risk of reoffending.</p> <p>More recently in Victoria, <a href="https://www.adultparoleboard.vic.gov.au/system/files/inline-files/Adult%20Parole%20Board%20Annual%20Report%202022-23_0.pdf">the Adult Parole Board</a> found over 2022–23, no parolees were convicted of committing serious offences while on parole.</p> <p>In contrast, unstructured and unconditional release increases the risk of returning to prison.</p> <h2>Myth 3: parole is easy to get</h2> <p>While the number of parolees reoffending has dropped, so too has the total number of people who are exiting prison on parole.</p> <p>Over a decade ago, Victoria underwent significant parole reforms, largely prompted by high-profile incidents and campaigns. In just five years following Jill Meagher’s tragic death in 2012, the Victorian government passed <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10345329.2018.1556285">13 laws reshaping parole</a>.</p> <p>The result is the number of people on parole in Victoria has halved since 2012, despite incarceration numbers remaining steady.</p> <p><iframe id="maNRy" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/maNRy/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p>These reforms have made it more difficult for people convicted of serious offences to get parole, as well as preventing individuals or specific groups from being eligible for parole (such as police killers, <a href="https://theconversation.com/no-body-no-parole-laws-could-be-disastrous-for-the-wrongfully-convicted-191083">“no body, no parole” prisoners</a>, and certain high-profile murderers).</p> <p>Similar laws can be found in other states. For example, no body, no parole was introduced in all other Australian states and territories, except for Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.</p> <p>As a consequence, more people are being released at the end of their full sentence. This can be detrimental not only for the incarcerated person but the wider community, because they are not receiving the reintegration support parole provides.</p> <p>Aside from restricted access due to political intervention, parole is facing a new crisis, which has nothing to do with eligibility or suitability.</p> <p>Last year, 40% of Victorian parole applications were denied, often due to reasons <a href="https://www.adultparoleboard.vic.gov.au/system/files/inline-files/Adult%20Parole%20Board%20Annual%20Report%202022-23_0.pdf">unrelated to suitability</a>.</p> <p>Housing scarcity played a significant role, with 59% of rejections (or 235 applications) citing a lack of suitable accommodation as one of the reasons parole was denied. This is playing out <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-08-11/women-on-bail-parole-increased-risk-of-homelessness-qld/102717002">across the country</a>.</p> <p>Parole is vulnerable to community and media hype, and political knee-jerk reactions in response to high profile incidents involving a person on parole. Because of the actions of a few, parole as a process has been restricted for many.</p> <p>While the wider community are active in advocacy efforts to restrict parole from certain people or groups (for example, this petition for <a href="https://www.change.org/p/lyns-law-no-body-no-parole">Lyn’s Law in NSW</a>), public efforts to restrict parole seem at odds with its purposes.</p> <p>Despite this, research suggests when the public are educated about the purposes and intent of parole, they are more likely to be <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3125829">supportive of it</a>.</p> <p>The susceptibility of parole to media and community influence results in frequent, impactful changes affecting individuals inside and outside prisons. Headlines such as “walking free” have the potential to mislead the public on the purpose and structure of parole. Coverage should portray parole beyond mere early termination of a sentence by accurately reflecting its purpose and impact.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/226607/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/monique-moffa-1380936">Monique Moffa</a>, Lecturer, Criminology &amp; Justice, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/alyssa-sigamoney-1375881">Alyssa Sigamoney</a>, Associate Lecturer in Criminology and Justice Studies, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/greg-stratton-161122">Greg Stratton</a>, Lecturer - Criminology and Justice Studies, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jarryd-bartle-441602">Jarryd Bartle</a>, Associate Lecturer, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michele-ruyters-18446">Michele Ruyters</a>, Associate Dean, Criminology and Justice Studies, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/do-parolees-really-walk-free-busting-common-myths-about-parole-226607">original article</a>.</em></p>

Legal

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Why a one-cent stamp is set to sell for millions

<p>An extremely rare stamp that was once bought for a measly one cent is set to sell for millions of dollars, breaking records at a US auction house. </p> <p>While to the untrained eye, the blue stamp seems like any old stamp, the 1868 one-cent Z-grill is actually the rarest stamp in America due to its unique history and rarity. </p> <p>On June 14th, the one-cent Z-grill will be put up for sale by Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries, marking the first time the rare stamp has been on auction since 1998. </p> <p>Experts from the New York auction house say it could fetch $6 million to $7.5 million (AUD), which would make it the single most expensive US stamp ever sold.</p> <p>The reason for the extraordinary price comes down to the fact that out of the two known Z-grill stamp copies, the one up for auction is the only copy available for private purchase by collectors, while other historic copy is held at the New York Public Library.</p> <p>The Z-grill is unique due to its signature embossed paper, which was introduced to the US postal service after the Civil War to prevent stamps from being reused. </p> <p>Since 2005, the coveted stamp has belonged to billionaire investor and “bond king” Bill Gross.</p> <p>“It’s considered the trophy of collecting United States stamps,” said Charles Shreve, who has managed and built Gross’ extensive stamp collection for years and serves as director of international auctions at Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries.</p> <p>“There’s only one. If you want to brag, that’s the stamp.”</p> <p>Mr Gross' entire collection is estimated to be worth $22.6 million to $30 million AUD. The top 100 stamps from the collection will be auctioned off on June 14th, while the remaining stamps will be sold on June 15th.</p> <p>“There’s multiple stamps that’ll bring $500,000 or $750,000 (USD) but the (one-cent) Z-grill is the star of the show,” Shreve said.</p> <p>“I just know some people who are lusting for it, and we want to try to get as many people interested in it as possible.”</p> <p><em>Image credits: Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries</em></p>

Money & Banking

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Rebel Wilson exposes A-lister who "threatened" her over book release

<p>Rebel Wilson has slammed a Hollywood A-lister for allegedly threatening her over the release of her new memoir. </p> <p>The Aussie actress is set to release her autobiography <em>Rebel Rising</em> on April 2nd, which details her rise to stardom from Australia to the US. </p> <p>In the book, she has dedicated a chapter to one particular actor who she had an unfortunate experience with on the set of a movie in 2014. </p> <p>Now, Rebel claims Sacha Baron-Cohen, husband of Aussie actress Isla Fisher, has "threatened" her about the release of such information in the upcoming book. </p> <p>Taking to her Instagram, Rebel named and shamed the actor, writing, “I will not be bullied or silenced with high priced lawyer or PR crisis managers. The ‘a**hole’ that I am talking about in ONE CHAPTER of my book is Sacha Baron Cohen.”</p> <p>"Now the a**hole is trying to threaten me. He’s trying to stop press coming out about my new book. But the book WILL come out and you will all know the truth.”</p> <p>Sacha Baron-Cohen was quick to release a statement in response to the allegations, with his representative sharing the statement with <a href="https://www.tmz.com/2024/03/25/rebel-wilson-calls-out-sacha-baron-cohen-book-memoir/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>TMZ</em></a>. </p> <p>“While we appreciate the importance of speaking out, these demonstrably false claims are directly contradicted by extensive detailed evidence, including contemporaneous documents, film footage, and eyewitness accounts from those present before, during and after the production of The Brothers Grimsby,” the statement said. </p> <p>Wilson and Baron-Cohen worked on the comedy film <em>The Brothers Grimsby</em> in 2014, where Rebel alleges that Baron-Cohen acted sexually inappropriate towards her for the duration of the shoot. </p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

Legal

Entertainment

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"Welcome home, Harold": Iconic Neighbours actor returns to Ramsay Street

<p>More than 15 years after his departure, Harold Bishop is returning to Ramsay Street. </p> <p>Ian Smith's character has long been a fan favourite on <em>Neighbours</em>, after originally starring on the soap between 1987 and 1991, before he returned in 1996 until his departure in 2009. </p> <p>Since then, Harold has made multiple guest appearances, including in the 2022 finale.</p> <p>When Amazon picked up the Aussie show, Smith rejoined the cast for a short time but quickly left after a health scare.</p> <p>But now, Harold is making another comeback. </p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/C5fVoAlvJEJ/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="14"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"> </div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"> <div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: auto;"> <div style="width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center; margin-bottom: 24px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 224px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 144px;"> </div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/C5fVoAlvJEJ/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A post shared by Neighbours (@neighbours)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p>The official <em>Neighbours</em> Instagram shared the exciting news of his return, writing, “After 15 years of living away, the legendary Harold Bishop is returning to Erinsborough."</p> <p>“We are thrilled to welcome Ian Smith back to the show and the opening titles, where he belongs.”</p> <p>Fan were quick to flood the comment section with excitable messages, rejoicing in the fact that a fan favourite character was returning. </p> <p>“The best news. The show misses an elder character like Harold,” one person wrote.</p> <p>Another commented, “Absolutely amazing news to wake up too. Welcome home, Harold.”</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images / YouTube </em></p>

TV

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Bruce Springsteen helps a fan skip school for his concert

<p>Bruce Springsteen has helped a fan skip school to attend his concert. </p> <p>While performing in San Francisco on his world tour, The Boss paused his performance to sign an absentee note for a fan who had missed class to attend the show. </p> <p>The fan, who was at the front of the barricade, held up a sign that read: "Skipping school. Sign my note?"</p> <p>Another concertgoer then captured the moment the 74-year-old rocker signed the note to a round of applause and cheers from his band and the crowd.</p> <p><iframe style="border: none; overflow: hidden;" src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?height=476&href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Freel%2F794567008756785%2F&show_text=false&width=267&t=0" width="267" height="476" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> <p>"That is so awesome. Put tears in my eyes. A true hero," someone wrote in the comments on the Facebook video.</p> <p>"This is the best excuse note a teacher is ever going to see!!" another added.</p> <p>"So cool, Bruce is one of the true talent and a great man of many excuses," a third wrote.</p> <p>The adorable fan interaction comes just weeks after Springsteen returned to the stage for the first time in months after undergoing a lengthy health battle. </p> <p>Springsteen was forced to postpone his 2023 tour with the E Street Band after taking time off to recover from a peptic ulcer disease.</p> <p>Taking to the stage in Phoenix, Arizona, in the first show of the tour, he told the crowd mid-show, "Phoenix, first I want to apologise if there was any discomfort because we had to move the show last time...I hope we didn't inconvenience you too much."</p> <p><em>Image credits: Facebook</em></p>

Music

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"Offer is on the table": New James Bond actor revealed

<p>In a world where the only constant is change, one thing remains certain: James Bond will always be suave, sophisticated, and British.</p> <p>The search for the next 007 has been a rollercoaster of speculation, rumours and hopes dashed faster than a villain's escape plan. But now the wait appears to be over. The man most likely in line to be the next James Bond has been revealed, and his name is Taylor-Johnson ... Aaron Taylor-Johnson. </p> <p>According to a report from <a href="https://www.thesun.co.uk/tv/26774029/aaron-taylor-johnson-offered-role-james-bond/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>The Sun</em></a> on Tuesday, Eon Productions, the brilliant minds behind the iconic spy franchise, appear to have finally settled on their man. According to sources as reliable as Bond's impeccable taste in martinis, Taylor-Johnson is set to don the tuxedo and wield the Walther PPK in the next instalment of the series. Well, at least if he accepts the offer.</p> <p>“Bond is Aaron’s job, should he wish to accept it," <em>The Sun </em>reported. "The formal offer is on the table and they are waiting to hear back.</p> <p>“As far as Eon is concerned, Aaron is going to sign his contract in the coming days and they can start preparing for the big announcement.”</p> <p>Now, some of you might be scratching your heads, wondering, "Aaron who?"</p> <p>Aaron Taylor-Johnson is an English actor, which automatically makes him qualified for the role. Plus, he's been in action films like <em>Tenet</em>, <em>Bullet Train</em> and <em>Avengers: Age of Ultron</em>. So, he's no stranger to high-stakes thrills and spills. Also, did we mention he's British? Because that's kind of a prerequisite.</p> <p>At 33 years of age, Taylor-Johnson would be the youngest actor to step into Bond's impeccably polished shoes since George Lazenby back in 1969. Talk about big shoes to fill. But if anyone can handle the pressure, it's our man Aaron. </p> <p>Now, some purists might be clutching their martini glasses in horror, lamenting the departure of Daniel Craig, who graced our screens for five thrilling films. But fear not, for change is the spice of life, and if there's one thing Bond knows how to handle, it's change. Besides, who wouldn't want to see what Taylor-Johnson brings to the table? Maybe he'll introduce a new signature drink or a quirky catchphrase. The possibilities are as endless as Bond's list of conquests.</p> <p>The response to <em>The Sun</em>'s announcement has caused a few reactions across the globe, with 9News reporting that "A source with knowledge of the situation tells CNN that Johnson has not been cast as Bond. And, BBC News reports that a 'production insider' said there is no truth to the rumours about Taylor-Johnson's casting."</p> <p>So, as we eagerly await the official announcement from Eon Productions, let us raise our glasses to Aaron Taylor-Johnson, the next suave superspy set to save the world, one shaken, not stirred, adventure at a time. </p> <p><em>Images: Getty / Twitter (X)</em></p>

Movies

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Fresh signs that ANOTHER royal pic was manipulated

<p>Ah, the royal family – the gift that keeps on giving, especially when it comes to Photoshop mishaps. It seems like they've developed a knack for stirring up a digital storm every time they release a photo.</p> <p>The latest kerfuffle involves a seemingly innocent snapshot released to celebrate what would have been Queen Elizabeth II's 97th birthday. But oh, what a tangled web of pixels it turned out to be!</p> <p>The photo, featuring a gaggle of royal offspring including the adorable trio of Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, quickly became the centre of attention, and not for the right reasons.</p> <p>According to the eagle-eyed sleuths at <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2024/mar/17/people-question-everything-now-how-kates-photo-scandal-rips-up-the-rules-for-royals-and-the-media" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>The Guardian</em></a>, the photo looked more like a game of digital whack-a-mole than a family portrait. Prince Louis apparently decided to play hide-and-seek within the frame, magically teleporting to a new position. And let's not forget the hair-raising revelation that some locks on one of the granddaughters seemed to have been copy-pasted with reckless abandon. Maybe they were going for a stylish asymmetrical look?</p> <p>"The photograph taken by Catherine at Balmoral and released last year to mark what would have been the 97th birthday of the late Queen bears similar signs of digital alteration," reported <em>The Guardian</em>. "Prince Louis appears to have been moved back into the frame, while locks of a great granddaughter’s hair show telltale repetitions. Back then, though, the image was not urgently 'killed' by the leading international photo agencies, like the latest one, because it didn’t matter so much."</p> <p>But the fun didn't stop there. Oh no, Twitter had a field day with this one too. Allegations flew left and right faster than a royal corgi chasing a squirrel. The Queen's skirt? Edited. The green sofa? Definitely edited. Heck, there were probably bets being placed on whether the corgis were even real or just digital creations.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Did the late Queen ever pose with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren? Seems like no. 🤔 This photo, taken by Kate Middleton, was edited at least in 9 places. Now the mass media are reporting about it too.<br />A little thread👇 <a href="https://t.co/Sx9XjOBr1J">pic.twitter.com/Sx9XjOBr1J</a></p> <p>— Katerina 🇺🇦 (@Le__Katerina) <a href="https://twitter.com/Le__Katerina/status/1769399269365088335?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 17, 2024</a></p></blockquote> <p>"People need to understand that it's not 'just a family photo'," wrote Twitter sleuth Katerina. "It's made for historical record. I don't think you'd want to see doctored photos in your history books."</p> <p><span style="font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Ubuntu, Cantarell, 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif;">Meanwhile, in the land of hashtags and filters, speculation about the health of the Princess of Wales, Kate, reached a fever pitch, with </span><a style="font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Ubuntu, Cantarell, 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif;" href="https://www.oversixty.co.nz/health/caring/princess-kate-s-post-surgery-pic-ignites-even-wilder-conspiracy-theories" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a Mother's Day photo</a><span style="font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Ubuntu, Cantarell, 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif;"> that looked like it had been through more edits than a celebrity's Instagram post. Kate, surrounded by her adorable brood, found herself at the centre of yet another digital debacle. Who knew a simple family photo could cause such a stir?</span></p> <p>In a rare move, <a href="https://www.oversixty.co.nz/lifestyle/family-pets/princess-kate-sensationally-speaks-out-over-photo-fiasco" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Kate herself stepped forward</a> to offer an apology, blaming her newfound love for amateur photography. Note to self: stick to selfies, Kate.</p> <p>But fear not, royal watchers, for this tale of Photoshop folly is far from over. With a family as unpredictable as the British weather, who knows what digital delights await us in the next instalment?</p> <p><em>Image: Twitter (X)</em></p>

Technology

Property

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Princess Diana's childhood home up for rent

<p>The house Princess Diana spent her childhood and teenage years in is now available for the public to rent. </p> <p>Althorp House, located in West Northamptonshire in England, is owned by Diana's brother Earl Spencer, who has lived on the sprawling property as custodian of the estate since 1992. </p> <p>The expansive property has been listed for royal fans with deep pockets to rent on <a href="https://www.elysian-estates.co.uk/althorp/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Elysian Estates</a>, an upmarket equivalent of Airbnb.</p> <p>Althorp House, which is a 90 minute drive out of London, was built in 1508 and has been in the Spencer family for 19 generations.</p> <p>Lady Diana lived in the 90-room stately home for most of her childhood and teenage years, before she married the then-Prince Charles in 1981.</p> <p>Not just one grand property, the estate covers 13,000 acres of countryside as it encompasses cottages, farms, woodlands and villages, which are open to visitors but only at certain times of the year.</p> <p>Now, the home is once again available to rent via Elysian Estates.</p> <p>"Althorp offers unparalleled levels of service, privacy and luxury to rival the finest properties anywhere in the world; yet retains the truly welcoming and homely feel that makes Althorp so special," the listing says.</p> <p>"Walk in the footsteps of kings and queens, feast or celebrate in spectacular surroundings, marvel at the sense of history and artwork, and slumber in pure luxury."</p> <p>In the main house, there are six state bedrooms to choose from offering "a level of opulence befitting royalty, with these very rooms playing as much a part of English history as any royal palace".</p> <p>Prices for the rental are not yet publicly available as an enquiry must be sent to reserve the opulent property.</p> <p>The listing stated that the stay includes "butler service, a team of private chefs and housekeeping, with a dedicated concierge service".</p> <p>Althorp is today most famous for being the final resting place of Princess Diana following her death in Paris.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images / Instagram</em></p>

Real Estate

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The rental housing crisis is hurting our most vulnerable and demands a range of solutions (but capping rents isn’t one of them)

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/andrew-beer-111469">Andrew Beer</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-south-australia-1180">University of South Australia</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/emma-baker-172081">Emma Baker</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-adelaide-1119">University of Adelaide</a></em></p> <p>Roughly <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/housing/housing-occupancy-and-costs/2019-20">one in three Australians</a> rent their homes. It’s Australia’s fastest-growing tenure, but renting is increasingly unaffordable. From 2020 to 2022, our <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4253168">research</a> found a large increase in the proportion of renters who said their housing was unaffordable.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/542737/original/file-20230815-25187-p7vxqo.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/542737/original/file-20230815-25187-p7vxqo.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/542737/original/file-20230815-25187-p7vxqo.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=217&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/542737/original/file-20230815-25187-p7vxqo.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=217&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/542737/original/file-20230815-25187-p7vxqo.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=217&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/542737/original/file-20230815-25187-p7vxqo.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=273&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/542737/original/file-20230815-25187-p7vxqo.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=273&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/542737/original/file-20230815-25187-p7vxqo.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=273&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="horizontal bar chart showing changes in Australian renters' assessments of affordability form 2020 to 2022" /></a><figcaption><span class="caption">Change in Australian renters’ assessments of affordability from 2020 to 2022.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Baker, Daniel, Beer, et al, forthcoming, The Australian Housing Conditions Dataset, doi:10.26193/SLCU9J, ADA Dataverse</span></span></figcaption></figure> <p>Australians are concerned about the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2023/jul/05/rents-rise-again-across-australia-with-sydney-seeing-fastest-rise-in-20-years">pace</a> of <a href="https://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/how-much-has-rent-increased-around-australia/8ljlnf0zm">rent rises</a>. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese <a href="https://www.pm.gov.au/media/national-cabinet-meeting">says</a> increasing housing supply and affordability is the “key priority” for tomorrow’s national cabinet meeting.</p> <p>The crisis has impacts well beyond affordability. The rental sector is where the worst housing accommodates the poorest Australians with the worst health.</p> <h2>The unhealthy state of rental housing</h2> <p>Forthcoming data from the <a href="https://dataverse.ada.edu.au/dataverse/ahcdi">Australian Housing Conditions Dataset</a> highlight some of these parallel challenges:</p> <ul> <li> <p>it’s often insecure – the average lease is less than 12 months, and less than a third of formal rental agreements extend beyond 12 months</p> </li> <li> <p>rental housing quality is often very poor – 45% of renters rate the condition of their dwelling as “average, poor, or very poor”</p> </li> <li> <p>poor housing conditions put the health of renters at risk – 43% report problems with damp or mould, and 35% have difficulty keeping their homes warm in winter or cool in summer</p> </li> <li> <p>compounding these health risks, people with poorer health are over-represented in the rental sector. Renters are almost twice as likely as mortgage holders to have poorer general health.</p> </li> </ul> <p>Measures that potentially restrict the supply of lower-cost rental housing – such as rent caps – will <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4253168">worsen these impacts</a>. More households will be left searching in a shrinking pool of affordable housing.</p> <h2>It’s all about supply</h2> <p>Fixing the rental crisis needs more than a single focus on private rental housing. The movement between households over time between renting and buying homes means the best solutions are those that boost the supply of affordable housing generally. No one policy can provide all the answers.</p> <p>Governments should be looking at multiple actions, including:</p> <ul> <li> <p>requiring local councils to adopt affordable housing strategies as well as mandating <a href="https://www.ahuri.edu.au/analysis/brief/understanding-inclusionary-zoning">inclusionary zoning</a>, which requires developments to include a proportion of affordable homes</p> </li> <li> <p>improving land supply through better forecasting at the national, state and local levels</p> </li> <li> <p>giving housing and planning ministers the power to deliver affordable housing targets by providing support for demonstration projects, subsidised land to social housing providers and access to surplus land</p> </li> <li> <p>boosting the recruitment and retention of skilled construction workers from both domestic and international sources.</p> </li> </ul> <h2>The biggest landlord subsidy isn’t helping</h2> <p>More than <a href="https://data.gov.au/data/dataset/taxation-statistics-2020-21/resource/ebbd32e3-4556-41e1-a8b9-33387457d518">1 million Australians</a> claim a net rent loss (negative gearing) each year. Even though negative gearing is focused on rental investment losses, it is not strictly a housing policy as it applies to many types of investment.</p> <p>The impact of negative gearing on the housing system is untargeted and largely uncontrolled. As a result, it’s driving outcomes that are sometimes at odds with the need to supply well-located affordable housing.</p> <p>The most impactful action the Australian government could take to deliver more affordable rental housing nationwide would involve refining negative-gearing arrangements to boost the supply of low-income rentals. These measures may involve</p> <ul> <li>limiting negative gearing to dwellings less than ten years old</li> <li>introducing a low-income tax credit scheme similar to the one in the United States.</li> </ul> <p>We can learn much from the US, where the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (<a href="https://www.huduser.gov/portal/datasets/lihtc.html">LIHTC</a>) scheme subsidises the acquisition, construction and renovation of affordable rental housing for tenants on low to moderate incomes. Since the mid-1990s, the program has supported the construction or renovation of about 110,000 affordable rental units each year. That adds up to over <a href="https://www.taxpolicycenter.org/briefing-book/what-low-income-housing-tax-credit-and-how-does-it-work">2 million units</a> at an estimated annual cost of US$9billion (A$13.8billion).</p> <p>This scheme is much less expensive per unit of affordable housing delivered than Australia’s system of negative gearing.</p> <p>Closer to home, the previous National Rental Affordability Scheme showed the value of targeted financial incentives in encouraging affordable housing. This scheme, available to private and disproved investors, generated positive outcomes for tenants. The benefits included better health for low-income tenants who were able to moved into quality new housing.</p> <p>A <a href="https://cityfutures.ada.unsw.edu.au/documents/81/Next_moves_report.pdf">raft</a> of <a href="https://apo.org.au/node/260431">evaluations</a> have <a href="https://www.ahuri.edu.au/research/final-reports/267">demonstrated</a> the achievements of this scheme.</p> <h2>Crisis calls for lasting solutions</h2> <p>Short-term measures such as rent caps or eviction bans will not provide a solution in the near future or even the medium or long term. Instead, these are likely to worsen both the housing costs and health of low-income tenants.</p> <p>Reform focused on ongoing needs is called for. Solutions that can be implemented quickly include the tighter targeting of negative gearing and the introduction of a low-income housing tax credit.</p> <p>Talking about change, as the national cabinet is doing, will begin that process of transformation, but it must be backed up by a range of measures to boost the supply of affordable housing. This, in turn, will improve the housing market overall as affordable options become more widely available.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/211275/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/andrew-beer-111469">Andrew Beer</a>, Executive Dean, UniSA Business, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-south-australia-1180">University of South Australia</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/emma-baker-172081">Emma Baker</a>, Professor of Housing Research, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-adelaide-1119">University of Adelaide</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-rental-housing-crisis-is-hurting-our-most-vulnerable-and-demands-a-range-of-solutions-but-capping-rents-isnt-one-of-them-211275">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Outrage after renters confronted with cleaning “scoring system”

<p dir="ltr">An Australian real estate agent has come under fire for their “demoralising” scoring system for tenants during routine inspections. </p> <p dir="ltr">One fired up renter said they were shocked to receive a scorecard from the agent after they complied with an inspection, and shared their feedback on Reddit. </p> <p dir="ltr">The scorecard rated the tenant’s efforts cleaning the property in 17 different rooms and areas, marking them on cleanliness, and if the areas were damaged or required maintenance. </p> <p dir="ltr">The renter was then also given an overall rating out of five stars, based on the upkeep of their rental home. </p> <p dir="ltr">The Reddit user showed that they received just three and half stars, despite being marked down in only one area due to a light globe not working.</p> <p dir="ltr">In their post, the tenant said they had made every effort to clean the home, adding that the rating was “demoralising”.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I’ve been renting a long time, and my deep cleaning routine is based around inspections,” they explained.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I go all out - every room in my little 3x2 villa is given a spring clean, every surface is washed including walls, doors, lights, windows, carpets etc.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Had my latest inspection a few weeks ago and just received the report. Despite the agent commenting once again that she never sees houses as clean as mine, and taking 112 (!) photos of every single thing that shows how great the condition of the house is - having one light globe not working is so terrible that I’m scored three and a half out of five.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The renter went on to say that they had only recently discovered that the broken light globe was the real estate’s responsibility to replace, and does not warrant such a severe marking down in their “score”.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The globe in question is a downlight fitting. We have so many downlights that I don’t even use this particular one,” they continued.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I can’t replace the globe itself, I need to get into the roof to replace the whole unit. Thanks to people here I’ve learned this isn’t even my responsibility to fix!”</p> <p dir="ltr">The renter’s post sparked a huge outrage online, with many up in arms over the current state of the rental market and unrealistic expectations of estate agents. </p> <p dir="ltr">One person said, “I fully believe that the average renter keeps a home to a higher standard than an owner, and it seems deliberately demoralising that someone could be marked down for having a light out.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Another added, “This is ridiculously petty, and more importantly, totally irrelevant to the purpose of a periodic inspection. Which is to identify whether any maintenance is needed.”</p> <p dir="ltr">A third person took their anger out on the entire system, summing it up by writing, “I sort of wonder what little lightbulb clicks in your mind and you wake up one day and ask yourself, ‘How can I be a massive c*** who offers no value to society? I know! I will get into real estate.’”</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images / Reddit</em></p>

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The hidden dangers of household products

<p>The materials, fabrics and fragrances contained inside our homes are host to thousands of chemicals that may pose a threat to human health.</p> <p>Healthy home expert Nicole Bijlsma says there simply aren’t enough regulations to ensure the products and materials in our homes are safe for consumers.</p> <p>“We have this incredible, unregulated, chemical onslaught in our household products, personal care products, building materials and cleaning products which is why the burden of chemicals is increasing with each generation,” Bijlsma says.</p> <p>“Just because it’s on the supermarket shelf doesn’t mean it’s been tested.”</p> <p>The largely unregulated cleaning product industry is often placed under scrutiny in the fight against chemicals but Bijsma says this issue extends to all areas of the home.</p> <p>“What happens is we wait for the disease to occur in the general population before we look back and realise [the harm]…It’s a stupid system; it doesn’t protect consumers and it certainly does not protect the most vulnerable in our society– our children and the unborn fetus.”</p> <p>Only through thorough research can consumers determine where their products are being sourced, under what conditions they’ve been made and the impact they may have on health. Even then there are gaps.</p> <p>Imported items are not under the same regulations as those made in New Zealand.</p> <p>“A lot of the products, especially furnishings, you can’t load with formaldehyde but if you import them from Asia as most people do, they’re going to be loaded with chemicals…Bijlsma says. </p> <p>Bijlsma advises going back to basics when selecting materials and products, reducing the chemical load, choosing natural fibres and buying home made.</p> <p>“The big problem is most chemicals in building materials and household products have never been tested for their impact on human health,” Bijlsma says.</p> <p>Creating a healthy home is of the utmost importance to homeowner Irena Bukhshtaber, who has recently extended her  home to be 100 per cent sustainable and hypoallergenic.</p> <p>“Because our industry standards are so high, usually it’s a local product too…Watch out for imports, from floorboards to air-conditioning, as there’s no way to guarantee what they say on the label unless the seller can guarantee provenance or knows the company.”</p> <p>Despite the time-consuming research process (three years) of renovating the home to a healthy standard Bukhshtaber says the outcome has been worth the effort.</p> <p>“How difficult is it to live with sick or tired family members? How hard is it to live your values? If the outcome is positive then it’s not difficult, but it is time consuming and does require you to spend time researching, calling and discussing with suppliers.”</p> <p>To keep her costs down when renovating, Bukhshtaber advises determining the elements of a home that matter most to you, whether this be using recycled materials, limited chemicals, high-quality design, ethical manufacturing or buying New Zealand made.</p> <p>“None of these things are mutually exclusive but you do need a hierarchy in mind as no one has unlimited budget,” Bukhshtaber says.</p> <p><em>Written by Amelia Barnes. First appeared on</em> <a href="http://www.domain.com.au/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span><em><strong>Domain.com.au.</strong></em></span></a></p> <p><em>Images: Getty</em></p>

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