Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?

Live longer – drink more coffee!


s1032160_2Coffee has its detractors I know but without my daily input of caffeine  I’d be lost. I know I’m only topping up my caffeine levels to what feels normal but that’s OK. And I have no truck with the coffee bar habitués who order skinny de-caffs – what’s the point? And even worse those who order skinny decaffs with a cream and cherry syrup topping or have a chocolate/caramel/sticky toffee bun on the side. Who are they kidding? Having skinny decaff doesn’t really give you a licence to indulge on other high calorie goodies.

But I digress. The latest research says that drinking three or more cups of coffee a day makes it less likely you will die an early death.

American researchers have found that coffee contains bioactive chemicals that may protect drinkers against diseases such as diabetes and dementia.

Three cups a day lowers your risk of premature…

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I’m not happy. Something’s knocking years off our lives

red_arrow_down_crash_1600_wht_2751Bad news for silver surfers this week. For the first time since 1981 there has been a fall in the number of healthy years we can expect as we get older.

According to the ONS the apparently inexorable increase in our healthy longevity has suddenly reversed.

Why? Well the experts blame obesity, heavy drinking plus failings in health care.

Taking the length of time people over 65 can remain healthy the number of years has dropped from 11.2 to 10.9 for women and from10.6 to 10.3 years for men.

And for babies born today they can expect to live longer but they may not stay healthy for as many years as previously, down from 64.1 year to 63.2 years for a girl and from 63.9 years to 63.3 years for a boy.

The sad news is that a girl born in the last couple of years may live to the ripe old age of 83 but will spend the last 20 years of her life with a disability or long-term illness.

The charity Age UK admits the figures are worrying as we all want to live as well as we can for as long as we can. They say “We can’t afford to ignore any signs that health in later life may be getting worse rather than improving …. we need to ask serious questions about why people are not thriving as well as they could or should in older age”

Rudi Westendorp, professor of old age medicine at the University of Copenhagen thinks earlier diagnosis means people have long-term conditions diagnosed earlier. “(Although) disease-free life expectancy is going down it shows we are on the ball and can prevent further mishaps”

Baroness Greengross, CEO of the International Longevity Centre. said may elderly people were learning to live rewarding lives while managing long-term conditions. “The exception is dementia which is the modern equivalent of the plague in the middle ages. That is our greatest challenge”.

So it’s partly up to us to stay healthy by looking after ourselves, our genes notwithstanding. Where did I put that glass of red wine?

Middle aged dads are evolution’s heroes

Forget your lean testosterone-driven  alpha male.

It’s the men with love handles, slightly overweight,who live longer, are better at passing on their genes – and are more attractive to the opposite sex! A recent study of women in Latvia confirmed that such men are more sexually attractive than lean men.

It’s a mystery why men remain fertile for so long after they have passed their reproductive and physical peaks.

41a1gp0xwpl-_ac_us160_Richard Bribiescas, anthropology professor at Yale University thinks he knows the answer. In his book “How Men Age” he sets out a theory about pudgy dads which suggests that the slow ebbing of male sex hormones after the late teens is the key to longevity not just for men but also for women.

Most men become slightly fatter after fatherhood and find it increasingly difficult to build muscles as their testosterone declines. this however prolongs their lives and strengthens their immune system. It may even leave them less vulnerable to her attacks and prostate cancer.

It also means middle-aged fathers are less likely to chase other women and more likely to invest time in their children.

One study in the US found that men who burnt up more energy when at rest were 50% more likely to die than those with a slower metabolism.

Bribiescas says “macho makes you sick“. While men are larger and physically stronger than women they have a big weakness. They find it harder to fight off infections and illnesses compared to women and this impacts on the rate at which men age.

On the other hand motherhood in almost all cases shortens a women’s lifespan. A study in Poland found that the more children you had the more aged you looked (no surprise there surely) and that the more children you have the earlier you die.


Posting more photos on Facebook helps you live longer?

stick_figure_liking_it_500_wht_9170According to US research Facebook users who upload the most photographs are less likely to die prematurely. The researchers analysed 12 million users in California and linked them to the state’s public health records.

The top 10% of people posting the most photographs were 30% less likely to die earlier than the average user. 

It had nothing to do with the number of “likes“. And it wasn’t how many people you invited to be your friend but how many invited you that was important.

Even the average Facebook user is less likely to die prematurely than a n0n-user! However that analysis didn’t allow for differences in socio-economic status e.g. homeless people are unlikely to be on Facebook.

Does it also suggest that being “popular” makes you live longer? Maybe. According to the researchers Hobbs and Fowler, it’s hard to say which way that goes. It could be that individuals who are more likely to live longer are more attractive to others in the first place. They say that needs more research.

The researchers felt that taking photographs indicated a strong network of family and friends which research has shown benefits health (social relationships seem to be as predictive of lifespan as smoking, and more predictive than obesity and physical inactivity).

The researchers concede thatIt is only on the extreme end, spending a lot of time online with little evidence of being connected to people otherwise, that we see a negative association”.

But that assumes that people taking photographs are also interacting face-to-face. How many of the photographs were “selfies”?  Do narcissistic people live longer – or would they hate to see themselves ageing online?

And other research suggest that Facebook users are not necessarily the healthiest or happiestOne study links heavy use of social media with depression.

Sitting at a computer or desk for hours is associated with increased risks of heart disease and diabetes.

Staring at screens throughout the day and night disrupts your sleep patterns and your cognitive ability.

And let’s not forget Facebook friends aren’t real, are they?

Divorce, conscious uncoupling, or graduation?


graduation_hat_tassel_flip_anim_500_wht_14455A bit tired of your other half? Feel you’ve grown apart? You still love the other person but not enough to be with them all the time?

You don’t want a divorce and if you’re the wrong generation to go the Gwyneth Paltrow route of conscious uncoupling perhaps the trend in Japan might be of interest.

Sotsukon or “graduation from marriage” is a sophisticated way to arrange your life and was proposed in a book by Yumiko Sugiyama back in 2004 –  Sotsukon no Susume or”I recommend graduating“.

It’s for people who still love each other, don’t want the messiness of a divorce, but no longer want to live together all the time.

Once you’ve raised the kids and sent them out into the world your marriage enters a new phase from which you graduate.

In Japan, traditionally the man is the head of the household…

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