Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


British women walking taller

Scientists say British women have grown taller faster than most of the rest of the world.

British women now average 5′ 5″ (164.4 cm) compared to 5′ (153.4 cm) at the start of the century.

This pushes them up the world league table of the tallest from 57th place in 1914 to 38th place today.

British men have grown to 5′ 10″ (178 cm), up 10.6 cm, and have moved up from 36th to 31st place.

Who are the tallest?

Latvian women are the tallest and  average 5′ 7″ (170 cm)

Dutch men are the tallest at 6′ (183 cm)

Who are the shortest?

Men from East Timor and the Yemen at 5′ 3″ (160 cm), Laos (161 cm), Madagascar and Malawi (both 5′ 4″ or 162 cm).

Women from Guatemala at 4′ 11″ (149 cm), the Philippines  (150 cm), and Bangladesh, Nepal and East Timor (all 151 cm).

The researchers compared data from people who were 18 in 914 with those of the same age in 2014. The difference is partly genetic and partly due to nutrition, sanitation, and health. Particularly important is the mother’s health and nutrition during pregnancy.

Height is a mirror to our social environment” said Professor Majid Ezzati from the School of Public Health at Imperial College.

The biggest increases have been in rapidly developing countries such as Japan and South Korea where women are now 8″ (20 cm) taller than before WW11. Iranian men have grown by the same amount.

Americans have grown by 5cm over the review period but have dropped down the league tables from 3rd for men and 4th for women in 1914 to 37th and 42nd place respectively. This was probably connected to their obesity problem – lots of calories but not good nutrition – said Professor Ezzati.

In sub-Saharan Africa people are actually getting smaller.

Tall people tend to have a longer life expectancy, with a reduced risk of heart disease. On the other hand, there is some evidence that they are at greater risk of certain cancers, such as colorectal, postmenopausal breast and ovarian cancers.

One hypothesis is that growth factors may promote mutated cells,” said another Imperial co-author, Elio Riboli.

I’m always a bit bemused by stories like this about average height because I come from a tall family and am used to being around tall people. 6′ (183 cm) doesn’t seem tall to me yet it’s taller than the average British male.

And being tall does have some advantages at work.

League table showing top 10 from 187 countries surveyed

The nations with the tallest men in 2014 (1914 ranking in brackets):

  1. Netherlands (12)
  2. Belgium (33)
  3. Estonia (4)
  4. Latvia (13)
  5. Denmark (9)
  6. Bosnia and Herzegovina (19)
  7. Croatia (22)
  8. Serbia (30)
  9. Iceland (6)
  10. Czech Republic (24)

The nations with the tallest women in 2014 (1914 ranking in brackets):

  1. Latvia (28)
  2. Netherlands (38)
  3. Estonia (16)
  4. Czech Republic (69)
  5. Serbia (93)
  6. Slovakia (26)
  7. Denmark (11)
  8. Lithuania (41)
  9. Belarus (42)
  10. Ukraine (43)

Source: eLife

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The world is becoming more short-sighted

A couple of years ago I posted this elsewhere when experts were blaming too much time spent on near electronic devices, smartphones, tablets, Kindle et. With the increase in the use of mobile gadgets and smartphones since then the risk must still be there, if not greater.

It’s been suspected for a while that lack of outdoor activity – for various reasons including safety fears – where you are exposed to UV light and can focus on distant objects more easily, and over-indulgence in screen time, has led to an increase in the number of myopic i.e. short-sighted, children. I also posted on research from Cambridge University about this over six years ago.

More recently scientists, at the Brien Holden Vision Institute in Australia, were predicting that half the world could be short-sighted by 2050 with 1 in 10 people suffering sever myopia.

The increase is particularly acute in Asia. 90% of teenagers and young people in China are short-sighted and in Seoul 96.5% of 19-year old men are too. In Europe and the West about half of young adults have the condition.

The scientists, reporting in the journal Opthalmology,  said “Among environmental factors, so-called high pressure educational systems, especially at a very young age in countries such as Singapore, Korea, Taiwan, and China, may be a causative lifestyle change, as may the excessive use of near electronic devices

If true the message is clear. Get off your backside, ditch the gadgets and get outside to enjoy the scenery.


Brits are fatties – no getting away from it

  • Almost two out of three British adults are overweight.
  • We are the fattest country in western Europe.
  • Our obesity rates have doubled in the past 20 years.
  • We are the 6th heaviest developed country behind Mexico, the US, New Zealand, Finland, and Australia (some surprises there for me)

We also have high rates of teenage drunkedness (even though teenagers now drink less that previous generations), high cancer rates (and above average cancer deaths) and a shortage of doctors and nurses (18% lower than average for doctors and 12% lower for nurses), according to the OECD.

Our health overall is average for all the OECD countries but our obesity levels stand out. At least our child obesity rates have become stable at 24% unlike the rest of Europe where it is increasing. But that still means 1 in 4 children are very fat!

The worry is that it’s now becoming normal in Britain to be overweight. With Public Health officials being sensitive to medical staff actually telling parents their kids are fat.

The Obesity Health Alliance of doctors and charities said the results were shocking and the solution lies in stopping children becoming obese.

The National Obesity Forum chairman said “One could weep over the figures, the results of successive governments who have done nothing for 30 years”

Public Health England said “our plans to tackle obesity are among the most ambitious. We’re working to make food healthier and delivering campaigns encouraging people to choose healthier food and lead healthier lives. Change will not happen overnight

Perhaps if we called a spade and spade and named and shamed parents of obese kids we might get somewhere instead of pussyfooting around so as not to upset anybody. Letting your kids become obese is child abuse surely?


Are you teaching your kids to be quitters?

Biz Psycho

Not a good thing! Research clearly shows the importance of perseverance in school and in life.

So next time you are struggling with a task in front of your children don’t make it look too easy. By trying and repeatedly failing at a task you are helping children understand the value and importance of persistence.

Many cultures emphasise the value of effort and perseverance. This emphasis is substantiated by scientific research: individual differences in conscientiousness, self-control and ‘grit’ correlate with academic outcomes independent of IQ” wrote scientists at  the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

They wondered if persistence and quitting could be learnt. “Does seeing an adult exert effort to succeed encourage infants to persist longer at their own challenging tasks?”

In an experiment they ran at MIT, reported in the journal Science, 250 15-month old children watched adults perform a task getting a keychain attached to a carabiner out…

View original post 210 more words


Another supermarket helping people on autism spectrum

I’ve already posted about what my local Tesco store is doing to help people with this disorder and I noticed that the Rawtenstall branch of ASDA, in association with the National Autistic Society is doing its bit as well.

The Meet Jenny  activity was inspired by the way her 4-year old boy was helped by using symbols and pictures. So her little helper activity is a velcro-backed visual shopping list showing a range of items. It helps people with autism to avoid being overloaded with information.


Noisy kids getting short shrift in pubs and cafés – and not before time!

Who doesn’t enjoy a meal out with the kids? Well pubs and cafes it seems.

The editor of the The Good Pub Guide says most landlords welcomed families “with their fingers crossed behind their backs”. The disruption caused by children running amok or babies screaming uncontrollably now accounts for more public dissatisfaction than anything else.

And when staff ask the children to be quiet they get abused by over-protective parents who should be sorting it out themselves.

Pubs obviously need the business and can make more money from children’s portions but it’s a fine line. One pub, The Waterfront in Burton-on-Thames, which actually banned under-5s because parents refused to move high chairs and prams blocking exits had a Facebook page set up asking people to boycott the pub. Fortunately trade hasn’t suffered.

And it’s not just pubs. Coffee shops have the same problem with yummy mummies and their off-road sized prams. The Organic Kitchen in Epping Forest decided enough was enough saying riotous children were spoiling the café’s atmosphere. The proprietor, who bought baby-changing facilities and high chairs when she first opened, said there were far too many instances of mums going in with new-born babies and just allowing them to cry. So now there’s a “babies banned” sign saying “No children under 5″.

And it wasn’t just the noise. Prams “the size of Essex” blocked passageways and made it difficult for staff when carrying hot food. Well-behaved children are still welcome but parents aren’t the target customers anyway as the café has a Los Angeles ambience serving avocado on rye bread!

Of course not everyone is happy, one mum saying it was discrimination against parents (against poor parenting maybe). Another called Annabel thought they were “shooting themselves in the foot as there were three independent schools and two state schools in the street“.

And parenting site Netmums defended families saying we are family-unfriendly in the UK compared with the rest of Europe and so our children behave accordingly. What utter bilge. If they had some manners they’d know how to behave but don’t blame the parents of course, it’s everyone else’s fault for not understanding.

But it’s not just the Brits who are getting fed-up with kids in eating and drinking places. The Dutch have a No Kids Allowed group which invites people to compile a list of hotels, restaurants and cafés free from “screaming, stomping, screeching, snotty children and their permissive parents“.

Within a month of being set up the group has received a torrent of TV and press coverage and a national newspaper poll showed that 70% of its readers supported the idea of banning children from some restaurants.

One of the groups organisers Annabel Nannings (obviously not Epping Forest Annabel) is herself a mother of a two-year old said her visits to restaurants in her native Amsterdam were often spoilt by children running around annoying staff and diners. “People do nothing about it or assume you like their kids” she said. “It’s not normal, desirable behaviour and shouldn’t be accepted“.

A parenting adviser from the Netherlands Youth Institute said it was too easy to criticise poor parenting and that she was more interested in positive labelling for places parents can go where their kids feel at ease.

I first blogged about this 5 years ago when a coffee shop in Berlin banned prams.  This was about the time my colleague and I had sadly forsaken our favourite bistro, where we used to meet for a glass of wine and coffee to go over the week’s business, when they introduce kid’s menus. Suddenly the place was invaded by oversized prams, noisy kids and mums on smart phones oblivious to the havoc they were causing.

I had occasion to meet some friends there recently but warned them that there might be a problem with kids and prams. We got there at 1100 and it seemed OK but before long the yummy mums arrived in convoy complete with their “essex prams”. Too late to leave as by then we’d ordered! Fortunately they went upstairs. Maybe they’d got the message?

The more people and proprietors make a fuss the more parents might think twice about inflicting out-of-control kids on the rest of us.

Update 31 August

Now a coffee shop owner in Devon has banned under 12s from his establishment.The Chart Room, in Brixham, Devon is an ocean-liner themed coffee lounge which also houses antiques and collectables.

Bob Higginson said it was designed for people to experience the “opulence and splendour of early steamship travel without distraction”.

Can’t blame him