The News – 01 April 2015


  • While Easter is traditionally a time of feasting, Tasmanians are being warned it is time to change old habits and start eating healthily and moving more.
  • Ross River virus cases hit 20-year high in Queensland, health officials urge precaution against mosquitoes.
  • High levels of homophobia among teenage boys are harming the mental health of young gay people and putting them at risk of suicide, according to a study commissioned by beyondblue.

News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 1st April 2015. Read by Rebecca Foster.

Family income has an impact on children’s brain development particularly among those from parents earning lower incomes, a US study suggests.

The finding has the potential to impact on government policies as it suggests programs aimed at reducing family poverty may have meaningful effects on children’s brain functioning and cognitive development.
While socio-economic factors have previously been linked to cognitive function, this latest study, published … in Nature Neuroscience , attempts to see how socio-economic factors influence brain structure.
For the study the team isolated two distinct socio-economic factors — parental education and family income — and their affect on brain surface area and cortical thickness.

More than 1000 children aged between three and 20 years were involved in the study, which included a questionnaire for parents on education and income, cognitive testing of the participants, DNA testing for ancestry and brain imaging.
While the study finds increases in parental education and family income are both associated with increases in brain surface area, it appears family income has a stronger relationship.
Co-author Associate Professor Kimblerly Noble, of Colombia University in New York, says the relationship between income and brain surface area is greatest at the lower end of the family income scale.
For every dollar increase in income, the increase in brain surface area was proportionally greater in children from the lower end of the family income spectrum than those from higher income families.

The impact was particularly noted in regions of the brain associated with language and executive functions such as memory and problem solving.
The researchers acknowledge further work is needed to understand the underlying mechanisms behind this impact.

“If evidence supports our hypotheses, then it would suggest that governments would be well served to increase the generosity of social services for the most disadvantaged families,” says Noble.

The number of Ross River virus cases in Queensland has hit a 20-year high.

Queensland Health said more than 3,500 people have contracted the mosquito-borne disease since January.
That is about 1,000 more than all of the cases recorded in 2014.
Rain and humid weather across southern parts of the state are to blame for an influx of mosquitoes.
Councils have been spraying around wetlands, but health officials are urging people to take precautions to avoid being bitten.

High levels of homophobia among teenage boys are harming the mental health of young gay people and putting them at risk of suicide, according to a study commissioned by beyondblue.

It revealed a third of boys aged 14 to 17 would not be happy to have a same-sex attracted person in their friendship group and one in five found it hard to treat a gay person the same as others.

Forty per cent agreed they felt “anxious” or “uncomfortable” around same-sex attracted people.
A quarter said derogatory terms such as “homo” and “dyke” are “not really that bad”.
The chairman of beyondblue, Jeff Kennett, told Radio National the results were disturbing.
“Over half of those we surveyed have witnessed first hand people being bullied for their sexuality. Over half – now that’s of concern,” he said.
“And just under half said that they’d seen people bullied for the same reason on social media.
“That rings alarm bells for me because not only have we had deaths among young people who’ve been bullied on social media, we’ve had copycat deaths among young people.”

The NSW president of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), Judy Brown, said community leaders needed to shoulder some of the blame for the intolerant attitudes.

The findings reveal young males have more homophobic attitudes than the general public.
They have prompted beyondblue to launch a campaign to end lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) discrimination among teenagers, particularly boys.
A television ad shows a group of boys bullying a left-handed teenager to highlight the absurdity of discriminating against people for being themselves.

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