Category Archives: Health

A Week to Be Nice: Force Festive Feelings for this Holiday Season

By P. Getty

Since it’s the week of Christmas, my wife’s favorite holiday in December, I’ve been forced to promise not to write anything “negative” or “angry” for this weeks entry. Because I love my wife, and fear for my life, I go against my gut, which is telling me to give both barrels to the medical and insurance industries (the second part of my continuing series). Nevertheless, because I still have a mind to be bad, I will keep this short and sweet, adhering to that age-old proverb instructing me not to say anything if I don’t have anything nice to say.  Indeed, I will appeal to my clenched-teeth cheeky festive side and just say, “Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, a colorful Kwanzaa, a prosperous New Year, and a swell whatever other day of merry making exists that I don’t rightly know about that others may observe!”

No one really wants to do work this week, including me, so rather than connecting this week’s thought to some piece of psychology, I would like to direct your attention to a couple of articles and Web sites that I found interesting, fun or in someway related to the holiday season.  Enjoy!

A Child’s Christmas in America: Santa Claus as Deity, Consumption as Religion, by R. W. Belk

Seasonal Variation and Meteotropism in Suicide…, by A Preti

The Best Christmas Song Ever Sung, “Merry F’ing Christmas” by Mr. Garrison.

Are you aware of your partner’s secret STD?

By Kevin R. Betts

“Don’t wait until you’re naked in bed with someone to tell them you have an STD.” This is legitimate advice from therapist and relationship expert Rachel A. Sussman, as quoted in a recent CNN health article. But as an uninfected individual, is this unfortunate scenario something that you need to be concerned about? Certainly an individual that you willingly become intimate with wouldn’t put you at risk without at least informing you. Right? Not necessarily.

Take HIV infection as an example. Fisher, Kohut, and Fisher (2009) point out that most research in the social sciences aimed at preventing the spread of HIV targets uninfected individuals. Meanwhile, research aimed at preventing high risk behaviors among infected individuals remains scarce. Yet it is infected individuals that are the greatest threat to the spread of this disease. Fisher et al. (2009) argue that this inappropriate focus on the behaviors of uninfected individuals resulted from the well-intentioned efforts of researchers to avoid strengthening existing patterns of prejudice, fear of contagion, and blaming the victim. Although these intentions are admirable, they nonetheless have neglected to consider an important link in the chain of infection. Many infected individuals remain willing to hide information about HIV and other contagious diseases from their partner(s). Fisher et al. (2009) urge social scientists to refocus their efforts on preventing high risk behaviors among infected individuals.

What should uninfected individuals take from this example? It is important that you speak with your partner(s) about sexually transmitted diseases. Although this discussion may be uncomfortable, it may also save you extensive physical and psychological distress down the line.

Read more:

8 tips for telling your partner a health secret (CNN)

Fisher, W.A., Kohut, T., & Fisher, J. (2009). AIDS exceptionalism: On the social psychology of HIV prevention research. Social Issues and Policy Review, 3, 45-77.

View other posts by Kevin R. Betts

Breast augmentation and female sexuality

The Daily Star and Daily Mail recently ran articles speculating whether Coleen Rooney had had a ‘boob job’. According to the Daily Star, apparently ‘Wayne splashed out £10,000 for his wife to have a breast enlargement as a present in the wake of allegations about him sleeping with prostitutes’. Whether Mrs Rooney has had cosmetic surgery on her breasts or not, breast augmentation tells us something about contemporary gender relations and specifically notions of femininity and female sexuality.

According to Bordo (1999: 283) the pornographisation of culture and changing media representations of girls’ and women’s bodies, since the 1950s, has meant that both girls/boys and wo/men have become socialized to expect to see female breasts as ‘glorious globes standing at attention even when supine’. She goes on to point out that ‘real breasts are the anomaly in visual culture today; it’s rather a shock when a naked actress lies down and her breasts flop off to the side. It doesn’t look right anymore’. What Bordo is arguing, is that the contemporary ‘idealised’ and ‘sexualised’ female body is one that doesn’t have ‘natural’ breasts, and as such, results in many girls and women being dissatisfied with their bodies. For some women at least, such dissatisfaction leads to breast augmentation. Indeed, statistics on plastic surgery in the UK (see link below) show many more women than men undergoing the surgeon’s knife, especially for breast enlargement.

Coleen’s £10k Boob Job

Plastic surgery in the UK

Cosmetic surgery

Gendering responsibility for child obesity

The Daily Mail’s recent article ‘Has feminism killed the art of home cooking?’ serves as an example of the mediated discourses which hold feminist values and therefore women, as responsible for the so-called child obesity epidemic (WHO, 2010). The argument centers on three discourses – morality, science and gender.

In contemporary societies the responsibility for health is increasingly that of the individual (Petersen 1997). That is, we are held morally responsible for the quality and quantity of food that passes our lips, the amount of exercise we take and so on. So weight gain is presumed to be a result of health-defeating practices. However unlike adults, children are clearly not able to self-regulate and manage their own health because children cannot be responsible for food production and consumption themselves. That responsibility, it is argued, resides with parents and specifically with mothers. Drawing on natural science discourses, advocates of this position argue that due to biology ‘women possess a greater nurturing instinct than men’. Therefore mothers are presumed to have primary responsibility for their children’s health. If children are overweight it is mothers and not fathers who are held accountable.

Maher, Fraser and Wright’s (2010) research on media representations of mothers has identified two ways in which they are held accountable. The first, like the Daily Mail, points to the increasing absence of the family meal. It suggests that if women didn’t follow feminist values and work so long or so hard, then they would have more time to spend at home creating nutritious meals. It is their absence from the home that is blamed as the reason children eat at junk food outlets far too often, survive on processed meals and eat too many snack foods. The second way mothers are held accountable is through pregnancy. Scientists argue that ‘diet, exercise and women’s attentiveness before and during pregnancy are linked to specific disabilities, to childhood health generally and, more recently, to childhood obesity’ (Maher, Fraser and Wright, 2010).

It is these mediated discourses that hold mothers specifically responsible for the battle of the bulge, but more generally they argue ‘it’s feminism we have to thank for the spread of fast-food chains and an epidemic of childhood obesity.’

Has feminism killed the art of home cooking?

Is it really women’s fault our kids are fat?

WHO – Obesity and overweight

Obesity

Are we what we eat?

Having read the previous post ‘Dining with death’ I thought I’d offer a short gendered perspective on vegetarianism.

It is no accident that in Western cultures the vast majority of vegetarians are women – only about 30% are men. One of the key reasons for this is that there is a strong link between the eating of animal flesh and maleness (Potts and Parry, 2010). So entrenched is this connection that men’s consumption of meat is seen as an exemplar of normative masculinity (Sobal, 2005). Indeed it is widely considered to be an essential sustenance for the healthy male body. Red meat in particular is seen as important for men because it consists of muscle (much like the prototypical image of the male body), which provides for strength, energy and virility. Red meat is frequently eaten in a semi-cooked or near raw state with signs of blood thereby symbolising vitality and strength (Potts and Parry, 2010).

Eating red meat in a more or less raw state also enables a power relationship to be formed between the slaughtered animal and the consumer that links to masculine power and domination over nature (Fiddes, 1991). A refusal to consume meat thereby signals the opposite of red-blooded masculinity – femininity. Such gendered notions are often expressed in the media by ‘hunter-gatherer’ metaphors (Gough, 2007). Not surprisingly then, fewer men than women are vegetarian. Vegetarian men typically come under more scrutiny than women and often bear the brunt of ridicule for their choice of food.

Vegetarianism

Masculinity

Is it irresistible: How can we stop drinking?

When the economy is in the tank, more Americans drown their sorrows in alcohol. The number of U.S. adults drinking booze is at a 25-year high, according to a new Gallup poll. Gallup, which has been keeping track of U.S. drinking habits for the last 71 years, reports that while the numbers move up and down slightly each year, the statistics on American drinking are surprisingly steady. Is drinking a habit that is impossible to stop?

Well, one of the most consistent and robust findings in behavioral sciences supports the notion that our behavior is, to a great extent, habitual and that we encounter difficulties in changing our behavior for the better because we are creatures of habit. However, Chatzisarantis & Hagger’s (2010) recent study indicated that implementation intentions have been shown to be an effective self-regulatory strategy influencing habit performance. In general, implementation intentions are conditional statements of intentions, commonly known as if–then plans, taking the form “If a performance context z arises, then I will do x.” In the case of stopping drinking, implementation intentions were operationally defined as strategic plans linking socializing goals to strategies facilitating refusal of alcohol. For example, if it is Friday night at the local pub, as soon as a friend or a fellow student offers me an alcoholic drink, I will refuse it by . . . (report what you are going to do or say.). Their study demonstrated that goal-related implementation exercises linking socializing goals to behavioral tendencies to refuse alcohol reduced the acceptance of an offer of a free alcoholic drink among habitual drinkers, as well as nonhabitual drinkers. These findings indicate that goal-related implementation exercises are effective in obstructing habitual health risk behaviors, such as drinking alcohol.

Americans drinking alcohol hits 25-year high

Nikos L. D. Chatzisarantis & Martin S. Hagger (2010). Effects of Implementation Intentions Linking Suppression of Alcohol Consumption to Socializing Goals on Alcohol-Related Decisions. Journal of Applied Social Psychology,   40, 1618 – 1634.