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Children May Be Losing the Equivalent of One Night’s Sleep a Week From Social Media Use, Study Suggests

Children under 12 may be losing the equivalent of one night’s sleep every week due to excessive social media use, a new study suggests. Insider reports:
Almost 70% of the 60 children under 12 surveyed by De Montfort University in Leicester, UK, said they used social media for four hours a day or more. Two thirds said they used social media apps in the two hours before going to bed. The study also found that 12.5% of the children surveyed were waking up in the night to check their notifications.

Psychology lecturer John Shaw, who headed up the study, said children were supposed to sleep for between nine to 11 hours a night, per NHS guidelines, but those surveyed reported sleeping an average of 8.7 hours nightly. He said: “The fear of missing out, which is driven by social media, is directly affecting their sleep. They want to know what their friends are doing, and if you’re not online when something is happening, it means you’re not taking part in it. “And it can be a feedback loop. If you are anxious you are more likely to be on social media, you are more anxious as a result of that. And you’re looking at something, that’s stimulating and delaying sleep.”
“TikTok had the most engagement from the children, with 90% of those surveyed saying they used the app,” notes Insider. “Snapchat was used by 84%, while just over half those surveyed said they used Instagram.”

Sleepless Nights Make People More Selfish and Asocial, Study Finds

A study found losing just one hour of rest could kill people’s desire to help others, even relatives and close friends. The team noted that a bad night appeared to dampen activity in the part of the brain that encouraged social behavior. “We discovered that sleep loss acts as a trigger of asocial behavior, reducing the innate desire of humans to help one another,” said Prof Matthew Walker, co-author of the study at the University of California, Berkeley. “In a way, the less sleep you get, the less social and more selfish you become.” Writing in the PLoS Biology journal, the team suggest that a chronic sleep deficit could harm social bonds and compromise the altruistic instincts that shape society. “Considering the essentiality of humans helping in maintaining cooperative, civilized societies, together with the robust erosion of sleep time over the last 50 years, the ramifications of these discoveries are highly relevant to how we shape the societies we wish to live in,” said Walker.

The team examined the willingness of 160 participants to help others with a “self-reported altruism questionnaire”, which they completed after a night’s sleep. Participants responded to different social scenarios on a scale from “I would stop to help” to “I would ignore them.” In one experiment involving 24 participants, the researchers compared answers from the same person after a restful night and after 24 hours without sleep. The results revealed a 78% decline in self-reported eagerness to help others when tired. The team then performed brain scans of those participants and found a short night was associated with reduced activity in the social cognitive brain network, a region involved in social behavior. Participants were as reluctant to assist friends and family as strangers, the researchers said. “A lack of sleep impaired the drive to help others regardless of whether they were asked to help strangers or close relatives. That is, sleep loss triggers asocial, anti-helping behavior of a broad and indiscriminate impact,” said Walker.

To determine whether altruism takes a hit in the real world, the team then tracked more than 3m charitable donations in the US before and after clocks were shifted an hour forward to daylight saving time, suggesting a shorter period of sleep. They found a 10% drop in donations after the transition. “Our study adds to a growing body of evidence demonstrating that inadequate sleep not only harms the mental and physical wellbeing of an individual but also compromises the bonds between individuals, and even the altruistic sentiment of an entire nation,” said Walker. Luckily, we can catch up on sleep. Walker said: “The positive note emerging from all our studies is that once sleep is adequate and sufficient the desire to help others is restored. But it’s important to note that it is not only sleep duration that is relevant to helping. We found that the factor that was most relevant was actually sleep quality, above and beyond sleep quantity,” he added.

Plastic Might Be Making You Obese

The global obesity epidemic is getting worse, especially among children, with rates of obesity rising over the past decade and shifting to earlier ages. In the US, roughly 40% of today’s high school students were overweight by the time they started high school. Globally, the incidence of obesity has tripled since the 1970s, with fully one billion people expected to be obese by 2030. The consequences are grave, as obesity correlates closely with high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and other serious health problems. Despite the magnitude of the problem, there is still no consensus on the cause, although scientists do recognize many contributing factors, including genetics, stress, viruses and changes in sleeping habits. Of course, the popularity of heavily processed foods — high in sugar, salt and fat — has also played a role, especially in Western nations, where people on average consume more calories per day now than 50 years ago. Even so, recent reviews of the science conclude that much of the huge rise in obesity globally over the past four decades remains unexplained.

An emerging view among scientists is that one major overlooked component in obesity is almost certainly our environment — in particular, the pervasive presence within it of chemicals which, even at very low doses, act to disturb the normal functioning of human metabolism, upsetting the body’s ability to regulate its intake and expenditure of energy. Some of these chemicals, known as “obesogens,” directly boost the production of specific cell types and fatty tissues associated with obesity. Unfortunately, these chemicals are used in many of the most basic products of modern life including plastic packaging, clothes and furniture, cosmetics, food additives, herbicides and pesticides. Ten years ago the idea of chemically induced obesity was something of a fringe hypothesis, but not anymore.

NHS Gives Amazon Free Use of Health Data Under Alexa Advice Deal

Amazon has been given free access to healthcare information collected by the NHS as part of a contract with the government. The material, which excludes patient data, could allow the multinational technology company to make, advertise and sell its own products.

In July the health secretary, Matt Hancock, said a partnership with the NHS that allowed Amazon Alexa devices to offer expert health advice to users would reduce pressure on “our hard-working GPs and pharmacists.” But responses to freedom of information requests, published by the Sunday Times, showed the contract will also allow the company access to information on symptoms, causes and definitions of conditions, and “all related copyrightable content and data and other materials.” Amazon, which is worth $863bn and is run by the world’s richest person, Jeff Bezos, can then create “new products, applications, cloud-based services and/or distributed software,” which the NHS would not benefit from financially. It can also share the information with third parties. Labour’s shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, told the Sunday Times that the government was “highly irresponsible” and “in the pocket of big corporate interests.”

Google’s Secret ‘Project Nightingale’ Gathers Personal Health Data on Millions of Americans

Google is teaming with one of the country’s largest health-care systems on a secret project to collect and crunch the detailed personal health information of millions of Americans across 21 states, WSJ reported Monday, citing people familiar with the matter and internal documents.

The initiative, code-named “Project Nightingale,” appears to be the largest in a series of efforts by Silicon Valley giants to gain access to personal health data and establish a toehold in the massive health-care industry. Amazon.com, Apple and Microsoft are also aggressively pushing into health care, though they haven’t yet struck deals of this scope. Google launched the effort last year with St. Louis-based Ascension, the country’s second-largest health system. The data involved in Project Nightingale includes lab results, doctor diagnoses and hospitalization records, among other categories, and amounts to a complete health history, complete with patient names and dates of birth.

Neither patients nor doctors have been notified. At least 150 Google employees already have access to much of the data on tens of millions of patients, according to a person familiar with the matter and the documents.

Google in this case is using the data in part to design new software, underpinned by advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Google appears to be sharing information within Project Nightingale more broadly than in its other forays into health-care data. In September, Google announced a 10-year deal with the Mayo Clinic to store the hospital system’s genetic, medical and financial records.

Google co-founder Larry Page, in a 2014 interview, suggested that patients worried about the privacy of their medical records were too cautious. Mr. Page said: “We’re not really thinking about the tremendous good that can come from people sharing information with the right people in the right ways.”

Bones are changing in surprising ways: Phone Use is To Blame, Research Suggests

New research in biomechanics suggests that young people are developing hornlike spikes at the back of their skulls — bone spurs caused by the forward tilt of the head, which shifts weight from the spine to the muscles at the back of the head, causing bone growth in the connecting tendons and ligaments. The weight transfer that causes the buildup can be compared to the way the skin thickens into a callus as a response to pressure or abrasion.

The result is a hook or hornlike feature jutting out from the skull, just above the neck. In academic papers, a pair of researchers at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, argues that the prevalence of the bone growth in younger adults points to shifting body posture brought about by the use of modern technology. They say smartphones and other handheld devices are contorting the human form, requiring users to bend their heads forward to make sense of what’s happening on the miniature screens.

Of course, bad posture was not invented in the 21st Century – people have always found something to hunch over. So why didn’t we get the skull protuberances from books? One possibility is down to the sheer amount of time that we currently spend on our phones, versus how long a person would previously have spent reading. For example, even in 1973, well before most modern hand-held distractions were invented, the average American typically read for about two hours each day. In contrast, today people are spending nearly double that time on their phones.

‘They’re Basically Lying’ – Mental Health Apps Caught Secretly Sharing Data

“Free apps marketed to people with depression or who want to quit smoking are hemorrhaging user data to third parties like Facebook and Google — but often don’t admit it in their privacy policies, a new study reports…” writes The Verge.

“You don’t have to be a user of Facebook’s or Google’s services for them to have enough breadcrumbs to ID you,” warns Slashdot schwit1. From the article:
By intercepting the data transmissions, they discovered that 92 percent of the 36 apps shared the data with at least one third party — mostly Facebook- and Google-run services that help with marketing, advertising, or data analytics. (Facebook and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.) But about half of those apps didn’t disclose that third-party data sharing, for a few different reasons: nine apps didn’t have a privacy policy at all; five apps did but didn’t say the data would be shared this way; and three apps actively said that this kind of data sharing wouldn’t happen. Those last three are the ones that stood out to Steven Chan, a physician at Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, who has collaborated with Torous in the past but wasn’t involved in the new study. “They’re basically lying,” he says of the apps.

Part of the problem is the business model for free apps, the study authors write: since insurance might not pay for an app that helps users quit smoking, for example, the only ways for free app developer to stay afloat is to either sell subscriptions or sell data. And if that app is branded as a wellness tool, the developers can skirt laws intended to keep medical information private.

A few apps even shared what The Verge calls “very sensitive information” like self reports about substance use and user names.

Targeted advertising hits emergency rooms

Patients sitting in emergency rooms, at chiropractors’ offices and at pain clinics in the Philadelphia area may start noticing on their phones the kind of messages typically seen along highway billboards and public transit: personal injury law firms looking for business by casting mobile online ads at patients.

The potentially creepy part? They’re only getting fed the ad because somebody knows they are in an emergency room.

The technology behind the ads, known as geofencing, or placing a digital perimeter around a specific location, has been deployed by retailers for years to offer coupons and special offers to customers as they shop. Bringing it into health care spaces, however, is raising alarm among privacy experts.

Study links decline in teenagers’ happiness to smartphones

A precipitous drop in the happiness, self-esteem and life satisfaction of American teenagers came as their ownership of smartphones rocketed from zero to 73 percent and they devoted an increasing share of their time online. Coincidence? New research suggests it is not. In a study published Monday in the journal Emotion, psychologists from San Diego State University and the University of Georgia used data on mood and media culled from roughly 1.1 million U.S. teens to figure out why a decades-long rise in happiness and satisfaction among U.S. teenagers suddenly shifted course in 2012 and declined sharply over the next four years.

In the new study, researchers tried to find it by plumbing a trove of eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders’ responses to queries on how they felt about life and how they used their time. They found that between 1991 and 2016, adolescents who spent more time on electronic communication and screens — social media, texting, electronic games, the internet — were less happy, less satisfied with their lives and had lower self-esteem. TV watching, which declined over the nearly two decades they examined, was similarly linked to lower psychological well-being.

By contrast, adolescents who spent more time on non-screen activities had higher psychological well-being. They tended to profess greater happiness, higher self-esteem and more satisfaction with their lives. While these patterns emerged in the group as a whole, they were particularly clear among eighth- and 10th-graders, the authors found: “Every non-screen activity was correlated with greater happiness, and every screen activity was correlated with less happiness.”