Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


10,000 steps has no scientific basis. Another health myth bites the dust

Public Health chiefs have announced that you are better off going for a brisk walk than trying to achieve 10,000 steps a day.

They think the 10,000 steps idea came from a pedometer manufacturers in Japan and has no scientific basis.

In terms of people getting the full health benefits they really need to make sure that they exercise to a moderate intensity. That includes walking, gardening and housework as long as it makes you breathe faster and raises your heart rate.

Two and a half hours a week or half that if you do vigorous exercise such as running. As 20% of middle-aged adults only do half an hour a week there is a long way to go. Starting with a daily ten-minute brisk walk – half the official guidance – would be a good start.

Previous posts on exercise

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Cleaning up the rivers in Burnley

Parking round the back of the shops in the town centre I spotted these stone monuments.

They are commemorating the clean up of the River Brun (from which Burnley takes its name). The river runs through the town centre, mostly hidden from view but can be seen if you know where to look.

The poem about the Brun, by George Hindle in 1896, refers to the “radiant sun”. I’ve not seen much of that in Burnley lately!


Helmshore Textile Museum part 2

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I wrote about the textile museum in a previous post and included photographs of the machinery in use at the time. However I was also interested in its social history and the interesting additions to our everyday language.

The museum also includes displays of the mill offices and the quality control machines, a typewriter and a clocking-in machine.DSC02118DSC02121DSC02119DSC02120

When I started work in the 1960s and worked in old mills which had been converted for modern use we still had those type-writers and clocking in machines.

(They even had them during war-time e.g. in the factories building Zeppelins in Friederichshaven, Germany).

And clocking-in machines were still widely used in the 1990s in many businesses.

There were also lots of rules to follow e.g. no swearing, no smoking (for obvious safety reasons), and no sharing the lavatory! Workers were also told how often they should wash and bathe themselves.

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Back in…

View original post 673 more words


Finland leapfrogs neighbours to claim top spot in happiness league

According to the UN’s annual report on happiness and well-being Finland is the happiest place on earth.

What’s not to like? Saunas, the Northern Lights, Moomins, Angry Birds, friendly people, Lapland, reindeers and Father Christmas (if you believe?).

And don’t forget heavy metal bands. A Finnish friend sent me a Nightwish CD swearing it was the national music of Finland. (Read more about them and hear them here).

The fact that it’s dark for half the year in the North and Summers are short doesn’t seem to bother the hardy Finns that much.

I’ve visited a couple of times to Helsinki and Espoo and apart from the difficulty in buying alcohol it seems a wonderful place. I’ve also flown to Lithuania via Helsinki on a number of occasions and it never closes (well once it did),and the airline crews are really helpful.

Finnair is my favourite airline – even though you don’t get free Lapin Kulta beer in economy anymore – and Helsinki is probably my favourite airport. Did I mention that the reindeer stew is very tasty too? And those liquorice and caramel toffees? And my Finnish felt boots I bought in Lithuania are perfect for this cold weather.

So congratulations on topping the list of 156 countries surveyed for the annual UN report. As usual the Scandinavians all feature in the top ten (along with several other countries that enjoy snow – is that significant?). In fact the same countries appeared in last year’s top ten but in a different order.

I described the methodology in last year’s blog on this topic here.

  1. Finland
  2. Norway (in top spot last year)
  3. Denmark
  4. Iceland
  5. Sitzerland
  6. Netherlands
  7. Canada
  8. New Zealand
  9. Sweden
  10. Australia

War-Torn countries and sub-Saharan Africa feature at the bottom of the table.

How did the UK do? We came in at 19th place, the same as last year, and the US dropped to 18th from 14th.


Illegal schools should be shut down immediately & all home-educated kids registered

There has been a surge in the number of illegal schools and out-of-hours tuition centres according to the Department for Education.

Many of these are faith schools which teach almost exclusively religious texts – and they include all religions.

Ofsted has found over 350 illegal schools and have managed to inspect 200 of them. Fifty of these have been issued with warning notices and twelve are under criminal investigation.

Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s chief inspector, has again called for tougher powers to regulate and close illegal schools. Something councils have been calling on the government for some time to give them more powers but the government – or more likely their PC civil servants – are worried about upsetting religious groups.

Councils are convinced that many children being taken out of school to be  home-educated are actually being sent to these illegal schools.

Last year Spielman was quoted as saying “It is clear that weaknesses in current legislation allow some organisations to teach school-aged children religious texts full-time, while avoiding registration and proper scrutiny. Action is needed now to protect the children who attend these places”

The new education secretary has promised to get tough on this issue as there is growing concern that children are at risk of being radicalised, trafficked, abused, or growing up ignorant without a proper education.

And it’s not just illegal schools but children who are home educated or home schooled. A bill to require all children to be registered and tracked once they reach school age will be debated in the House of Lords next month. Last year there were 30,000 children known to be home educated, double the numbers five years previously. And that’s just those the authorities know about.

The education department says “Unregistered schools are illegal and unsafe. There are clear powers in place for local authorities and the police to intervene where children are being put at risk or not receiving suitable education. We expect them to use the and will support them to do so”.

So why do councils feel helpless and Ofsted restricted in what it can inspect? Hackney Council recently found almost thirty unregistered yeshivas in the borough educating between 1,000 and 1,500 boys from the Haredi Orthodox Jewish community.

Last year a senior officer in the Metropolitan Police said “segregated, isolated communities, unregulated education and home schooling are a breeding ground for extremists and future terrorists“. This is just one aspect of radicalisation. Judges appear to be going soft on convicted terrorists allowing them shorter or no prison sentences because they have children. Yes judge let’s give them back to their parents so they can influence them even more!

  • I hope the bill goes through despite opposition from do-good liberals (including luvvie self-publicists who boast about home education and are prepared to go to prison for their beliefs) who demand the right to educate their kids themselves. They are being selfish and denying their children the opportunity of a good education with recognised standards.
  • I also firmly believe that we shouldn’t have any faith schools at all. They are decisive and produce selfish children


Brits are fatties and lie about it!

Brits are eating 50% more food than they admit to according to latest research from the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

Apparently we are exceeding the official health recommendations by the equivalent of one Big Mac a day.

Men are consuming 3.119 calories – not the 2,065 they own up to. And women are consuming 2,393 instead of the 1,570 they own up to.

The researchers used the National Diet & Nutrition Survey. Amazingly they found that a third of people in the survey actually claimed to be eating less than they would need to stay alive. People say that they are eating less than in the 1970s but it’s just not true as rising obesity levels illustrate.

This time the researchers used gold standard biological measurements of how energy is metabolised on a subset of the 4,500 in the survey. They then compared what this group said they ate and what the test results showed and extrapolated those finding across the whole sample.

Its’ clear you can’t trust self-report surveys when it comes to eating habits (or I suspect exercise habits as well).

See earlier posts on obesity


Nurses have no time for compassion

On the one hand the idea that all nurses are compassionate creatures was never true. I say that as someone with 20 plus years experience working in the NHS and more recently as a patient.

That’s not to say some, maybe most, nurses aren’t. I particularly remember one who held my hand throughout an uncomfortable 2-hour eye operation carried out under local anaesthetic and another who rubbed my back during an endoscopy examination.

But according to a recent study of professional values there is “a moral vacuum at the heart of nursing”.

Nurses are so ground down that they end up as “robots going through the motions” with a focus on clinical skills driving compassion from the job“. Yet compassion is part of the UK’s Nursing Vision.

Eight out of ten say their work conflicts with their personal values much of the time. The study concluded that it was that moral disengagement that leads to patients being put at risk.

Kristen Kristjansson, the psychologist from the University of Birmingham who led the study, said that the state of nursing was far more depressing than any other profession he had studied including lawyers, teachers, and doctors.

He added “When you have been working for five years or more you usually realise that following the rules is not the only important thing. You have to rely on your moral compass” But the nurses didn’t.

In the study of 700 nurses almost half of them sad they acted the way they did because it was what the rules decreed rather than because it was the right thing to do.

The only standard was what was laid down in the codes. Unlike other professions they did;t seem to pick up on their own values as they got more experienced.

This is bad news for patients who can tell when someone is going through the motions. The nurses say they don’t have time to show care and compassion and often come away from patients feeling they could have done more.

Professor Kristjansson worries that this “Mr Spock” mentality means they could struggle in a morally stressful situation such as happened at Mid Staffs where few nurses felt able to speak out about patient neglect.

He thought it was positive that nurses were now seen as a professionals requiring degree-level skills rather than just as assistants to doctors but felt the pendulum had swung too much the other way, away from the ethical core of nursing. Nurses since Florence Nightingale had done more than administer medicines – they created an ethos in hospitals to put patients at ease.

Sir Robert Francis QC, who chaired the public inquiry into the Mid Staffs scandal, backed up the Professor’s calls for more emphasis on virtue and character in nurses’ training.

A commonly accepted set of values has to be the foundation of professional practice to enable those with this vocation to navigate the ethical dilemmas they face daily”.

Janet Davies, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said the report “demonstrates the emotional pressure on caring professions who, when faced with an inability to work as they know they should, become compromised”.

It’s almost five years since they decided to overhaul the training of health care assistants and introduced compassion as on of the 6Cs of nursing care (see post). Other research has shown compassion is a key characteristic of the best carers and there are questions about whether or not a degree  is really necessary?

It seems like we continually re-invent the wheel as far as nursing is concerned

The way things are going we will have fewer whistleblowers (not that the NHS has a good reputation for the way they treat such people) and the only way to wake people up will be another crisis.