Dissatisfaction with one’s appearance is a familiar feeling to many of us. In a society with idealized bodies plastered all over the media we consume, from magazines to movies and everywhere in between, drawing unfavorable comparisons of oneself to the results of Photoshop might even be inevitable. People do not fret over their looks for no reason, either: perceived attractiveness is, for example, likely to be tied to employment rate and wages earned.[i] Teenagers, too, feel the pressure of trying to measure up to modern times’ Aphrodite and Adonis – perhaps even more keenly than adults, at times. Research shows time and again that young people worry quite a lot over their looks, and sometimes those worries can put them on the path to self-destruction. And since such low self-perception and the disorders associated with it tend to be rooted in adolescence, if they do not outright begin then, it is important to be aware of how these problems crop up in young people if we hope to combat them in the population at large.
Two of the biggest problems facing America today are unemployment and obesity – two seemingly unrelated but equally serious issues. After some of the most difficult economic times since the 1930s, America’s unemployment levels peaked at almost 10% in 2009, leveling out to around 6.3% today. Obesity, likewise, has more than doubled for both adults and children in the US since the 1970s, with around 69% of adults being overweight or obese, and 35% being obese. More and more studies, however, are investigating the link between unemployment and obesity and as results start to flood in, it seems that they are not as unrelated as they seemed.
Studies are starting to show that there is a significant link between unemployment and obesity, especially amongst unskilled workers who are struggling to find work. In fact, a Gallup study suggests that if you are between 18 and 44 and unemployed, you are 30% more likely to be obese than your counterparts in full-time employment. High-skilled workers, who may have had sedentary jobs that led them to develop their own fitness plan are more likely to continue exercising and may have savings to help them to eat healthy after losing employment. Low-skilled workers, alternatively, tend to work physical jobs and use that to burn calories. When the job is lost, their only form of exercise goes with it, and it can be difficult to get out of a cycle of watching TV and eating junk food. Of course, these are sweeping generalisations but the statistics are hard to ignore.
Depression is one of the most common ailments of our time. The CDC estimates that just under 10% of the US population is depressed at any one time; so many people are afflicted with depression, in fact, that it is the leading cause of disability in the country. With such a widespread and varied group of patients, methods of treatment vary widely as well. Medication and therapy, while certainly the best-known treatments, are far from the only ways we have to combat mental illness. Recent research suggests that depression can also be tackled by instead treating patients’ insomnia.
Depression often accompanies other mental and physical maladies. One of its more common attendants is sleep disorders: as many as 60% of adults with depression also suffer from symptoms of insomnia, and a 2011 study established that there was a link between the two disorders rather than it being a matter of shared symptoms. As insomnia places stress on the mind and body much like depression does, this can make life even more difficult for depressed patients already struggling to overcome a daunting obstacle to their ability to function.
Have you ever felt your heart ache with sadness, or the flutter of nervous butterflies in your stomach? How about the all-over tingle of happiness or the pit-of-the-stomach emptiness of depression? We sneer with disgust and puff our chests with pride – all these may be true in a metaphorical sense and we certainly have the language connections to back them up. However, recent research suggests that our emotions have real physiological reactions to go with them.
It has long been accepted that emotions induce some sort of physiological reaction – cheeks burning with shame, for example, or palms that sweat with nerves. Now though, researchers in the Biomedical Engineering department of Aalto University, Finland have mapped exactly which parts of the body are affected by which emotions.