Hearing loss affects old people’s personality

As people approach old age, they generally become less outgoing. New research from the University of Gothenburg shows that this change in personality is amplified among people with impaired hearing. The findings emphasise the importance of acknowledging and treating hearing loss in the elderly population.The researchers studied 400 individuals 80-98 years old over a six-year period. Every two years, the subjects were assessed in terms of physical and mental measures as well as personality aspects such as extraversion, which reflects the inclination to be outgoing, and emotional stability. The results show that even if the emotional stability remained constant over the period, the participants became less outgoing.Interestingly, the researchers were not able to connect the observed changes to physical and cognitive impairments or to age-related difficulties finding social activities. The only factor that could be linked to reduced extraversion was hearing loss.’To our knowledge, this is the first time a link between hearing and personality changes has been established in longitudinal studies. Surprisingly, we did not find that declining overall health and functional capacity make people less outgoing. But hearing loss directly affects the quality of social situations. If the perceived quality of social interaction goes down, it may eventually affect whether and how we relate to others,’ says Anne Ingeborg Berg, PhD, licensed psychologist and researcher at the Department of Psychology, University of Gothenburg.The study yields interesting knowledge about personality development late in life, and also points to the importance of acknowledging and treating hearing loss among the elderly.The utilisation of hearing aids did not affect the correlation found, which suggests that there is a need for support in the use of aids such as hearing devices.’Our previous studies have shown that outgoing individuals are happier with their lives. It is hypothesised that an outgoing personality reflects a positive approach to life, but it also probably shows how important it is for most people to share both joy and sadness with others. …

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Healthy eating may reduce the risk of preterm delivery

In the study, which was conducted by researchers from the University of Gothenburg, Sahlgrenska University Hospital and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, the participants completed a scientifically evaluated questionnaire about what they had been eating and drinking since becoming pregnant.The researchers also had access to information about the women’s general lifestyle e.g. level of education, living conditions, income, weight, physical activity, smoking habits, alcohol consumption, number of children and medical factors such as history of preterm delivery.15% lower riskThe results show that the group of women with the ‘healthiest’ pregnancy diet had a roughly 15% lower risk of preterm delivery compared with those with the most unhealthy diet. The correlation remained after controlling for ten other known risk factors for preterm delivery.’Pregnant women have many reasons to choose a healthy diet with lots of vegetables, fruit, whole grain products and some types of fish, but this is the first time we can statistically link healthy eating habits to reduced risk of preterm delivery,’ says Linda Englund-gge, researcher at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg.Associated with complicationsPreterm delivery, defined as spontaneous or induced delivery before the end of gestational week 37, can be associated with acute and long-term complications and is a major problem in modern maternity care. Measures to prevent preterm delivery are therefore of high priority.Should this lead to revised dietary recommendations for pregnant women?’No, and it is not harmful to occasionally eat something unhealthy. But our study shows that the dietary recommendations given to pregnant women are important,’ says Englund-gge:’Dietary studies can be very complex. Any given food item may contain a wide range of substances and is usually consumed together with other foods. This makes it difficult to find out its exact effects of one single food. We show that there is a statistically established link between a healthy diet and reduced risk of preterm delivery, but our study wasn’t designed to identify any underlying mechanisms.Encourage healthy eating habitsEnglund-gge says that studies of the overall dietary pattern and the total quality of the foods consumed are important complements to coming studies of how single food items affect the risk of preterm delivery. The researchers are hoping that the study will inspire doctors, midwives and others who work with pregnant women to encourage healthy eating habits.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Gothenburg. The original article was written by Krister Svahn. …

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Simplified solutions to deforestation ineffective in long run

May 29, 2013 — Deforestation is the second largest source of CO2 emissions after consumption of fossil fuels. So-called PES programmes, where landowners are paid to replant or protect forests, have been promoted as a way to reduce deforestation. However, the effectiveness of the programmes has been questioned, and new research from the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, points to potential negative long-term effects and a need for broader guidelines and policies.

PES programmes have been promoted as a cost-effective tool to combat climate change. However, the rather limited documentation on the effectiveness of the programmes is discouraging.

‘Human behaviour is not always predictable, and short-term positive effects may turn to negative effects in the long term,’ says Anna Nordén, economics researcher at the School of Business, Economics and Law, University of Gothenburg.

In her recently presented doctoral thesis titled Essays on Behavioral Economics and Policies for Provision of Ecosystem Services, Nordén explores the weaknesses of PES programmes and the importance of complementing them with additional measures.

The established climate targets make the measurability of PES programmes appealing — it is tempting to point to results by quantifying forests that would probably have been cut down in the absence of PES programmes. Paying landowners for abstaining from deforestation is considered the most effective programme design. However, this strategy implies that those who are already maintaining their forests are not rewarded. Nordén conducted experiments to identify the consequences of such programmes, and found that those who are already displaying the desired behaviour tend to eventually lose their willingness to protect their forests.

‘The net effect of these programmes may be negligible, meaning that the money spent may not do much to reduce emissions and combat climate change,’ says Nordén, who calls for better awareness of the effects of different reward systems.

Nordén also studied what motivates landowners to participate in PES programmes and how they react to the size and type of the payments they receive. In a study in Costa Rica, landowners were offered either cash or education.

‘Both payment types stimulated participation, but when we looked at long-term participation — more than five years — cash had a greater effect. And the more cash the landowners were offered, the more motivated they were to participate in the programme. They did not respond the same to more education.’

Yet cash payments can also have negative effects on the climate. Nordén gives an example:

‘When a poor landowner is paid in cash, he may become able to pay somebody to cut down his forest.’

Nordén is critical to the narrow focus of climate negotiations on PES programmes.

‘It seems naive to believe that just one policy will reduce deforestation. My research points to the importance of complementing the programmes with other tools and measures, and of paying better attention to long-term effects.’

The thesis was presented on 24 May 2013 Thesis title: Essays on Behavioral Economics and Policies for Provision of Ecosystem Services

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