Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


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.

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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.


Domestic abuse law not being enforced by police

It’s two years since the new offence of coercive and controlling behaviour (see my post on this here) came into force yet only 532 charges have been brought in England even though more than 4,000 offences were recorded by the police in one year.

The offence carries a maximum sentence of 5 years.

Six police forces have brought 5 charges or less and only eight of the 43 forces in England and Wales have taken up an accredited training programme dealing with the offence.

Elfyn Llwyd, whose private members’ bill led to the introduction of the offence said it was very frustrating that training had been so low. “The poor take-up of training among the Welsh and English police is reflected in the low number of prosecutions. The government must ensure that training is made mandatory and funded centrally“.

It’s just not good enough. When police forces are spending money demonstrating how PC they are by painting their cars and finger nails it suggests that they haven’t got their priorities right in protecting victims of what Theresa May, then Home Secretary, said could be “tantamount to torture”.

Essex police were also criticised for their campaign offering support to over-55 year old victims of domestic abuse who decided to stay with their partners.

It included a fictional case study which said “She knew the abuse in her relationship was wrong but also knew she wouldn’t leave. With help and support from specialist organisations and agencies she and her husband stayed together, but safely”.

Refuge, the domestic violence charity, were less than impressed saying it was the police’s job to arrest abuse perpetrators and that it seemed they were failing victims. Every week two women were killed by their partners or former partners.

Essex police acknowledged it had used “clumsy language“.


Self-service in supermarkets means help yourself – to the tune of £3 billion a year

Or just steal it?

Just over three years since I posted about self-scanning, self-service tills, and the opportunities for theft.

The figures just published show that shoplifters are stealing £3billion a year using self-service!

One in four people actually admit to stealing almost £25-worth each month so you wonder about the actual numbers. The level of stealing has doubled in the last four years equivalent to £5 per person in Britain per month usually vegetables, toiletries and dairy products. Northerners  and Scots steal almost twice as much as Southerners

Some of the losses are attributed to faulty equipment which doesn’t scan or register items properly but 40% of the shoplifters said they knew they could get away with it.

With 50,000 machines – 12,000 in Tesco alone – the potential for theft is enormous. And who pays for it? Well honest customers do as prices are adjusted to allow for theft.

The company which carried out the survey said “ Supermarkets need to increase the number of staff who monitor the self-scan check-outs even though the point of these is to reduce the need for staff“.

Call me a Luddite but I prefer to actually pay at a till with some human interaction. All these cost-saving attempts at raising  productivity have loopholes that people will exploit.


If you want to be happier – ditch Facebook!

Just a reminder

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stick_figure_liking_it_500_wht_9170Research from The Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen in Denmark (one of the happiest countries in the world) has found that giving up your Facebook account boosts happiness and reduces anger and loneliness.

Life satisfaction rose significantly in the space of a week when participants were unable to read the updates of their friends. The institute was surprised by the changes in such a short time and wants to raise awareness on the influence of social media on feelings of fulfilment.

Facebook and other social media sites are “a constant flow of edited lives which distort our view of reality” it said in its report The Facebook Experiment.

They recruited over a thousand people in Denmark and asked half of them to avoid Facebook for a week. Participants were asked to rate their life satisfaction on a scale of 1 to 10 before and after the experiment.

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Universities must promote free speech

Enough of safe spaces, no-platforming, and other pathetic leaning-over-backwards to placate the sensitive snow-flake generation.

Toughen up you brightest of the bright (allegedly)

Sir Michael Barber, the head of the new student watchdog has vowed to enforce free speech on campuses.

He says that students or academics who prevented discussion or debate out of fear of offending others were on a “slippery slope“. Universities, in his view, “should be places of intellectual and personal “discomfort”. Being comfortable was a step towards being “complacent” or “self-satisfied” whereas he thought more profound learning required discomfort.

The Office for Students  will adopt “the widest possible definition of freedom of speech – namely anything within the law” when it begins monitoring campuses in April.

He says he hopes they will never have to intervene (I think they’ll be busy) but if they do “it will be to widen freedom of speech rather than restrict it”

In defence of students he thought this generation “was demonstrably the best educated in history, hard-working, thoughtful, curious and ambitious“.  He then added “Then, just occasionally I read or hear something that suggests a potential threat to the freedom of speech that underpins such optimism”.

I think the problem is more widespread than he is prepared to admit. I anticipate some universities will be criticised and fined, if not suspended.

I have posted before about daft campuses.