Millions of Australian adults are unvaccinated and it’s increasing disease risk for all of us

Flu vaccination uptake rates are low in adults, including among those who work in health, aged care and childcare. from www.shutterstock.com C Raina MacIntyre, UNSW; Holly Seale, UNSW, and Rob Menzies, UNSW Public attention has recently focused on improving vaccination rates in Australian infants and children. But actually the largest unvaccinated group of people recommended for immunisation are adults. Of 4.1 million unvaccinated Australians, 92% (3.8 million) are adults, and only a small fraction are children. Improving adult vaccination rates will reduce their risk of illness and death, and lower transmission of infection in the community. Fewer adults than children are vaccinated The government provides free adult vaccines for influenza (flu), pneumococcal pneumonia and shingles for people over the aged of 65 years, and selected vaccines for those with underlying medical conditions, Indigenous people older than 15 years and pregnant women. However, our latest research…
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How junk food shapes the developing teenage brain

The teenage brain has a voracious drive for reward, diminished behavioural control and a susceptibility to be shaped by experience. This often manifests as a reduced ability to resist high-calorie junk foods. (Shutterstock) Amy Reichelt, Western University Obesity is increasing worldwide, especially among children and teenagers. More than 150 million children in the world are obese in 2019. These children have increased risk of heart disease, cancers and Type 2 diabetes. Teenagers with obesity are likely to remain obese as adults. If these trends continue, 70 per cent of adults aged 40 years could be either overweight or obese by 2040. I am a neuroscientist and my research investigates how diet changes the brain. I want to understand how unhealthy diets impact the developing brain, and also why young people today are so prone to developing obesity. Adolescents are the greatest consumers of calorie-rich “junk” foods. During puberty, many children have an insatiable appetite…
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Shows for little people: why seeing live music early matters

Artists such as The Wiggles help kids learn how to listen to live music. AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy Liz Giuffre, Macquarie University The mass media invented the teenager during the 1950s and 60s – and thus emerged a whole new audience for popular culture. What we’re seeing now is the recognition of children as an ever more important audience. Musicians and performers, including many on the program at the Sydney Festival, are tailoring their shows to meet the needs of their young fans. Of course adolescence was nothing new back in the 1950s – but teenagers became an identifiable group who were targeted by people selling music, advertising and live performance in a way that they never had been during this time. The follow-on effect has been quite remarkable, with 50s and 60s teenagers – AKA babyboomers – continuing their teenage patterns of music and media consumption. As Andy Bennett and his colleagues have noted of the emerging era of Aging and Popular Music Studies, “in the…
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4 ways to get your kids off the couch these summer holidays

Come school holidays, your school-aged kids are more likely to spend longer on their screens than they do in term time. Here’s how to get them outside and active, with a bit of planning. from www.shutterstock.com Tim Olds, University of South Australia; Amanda Watson, University of South Australia, and Carol Maher, University of South Australia The sun’s shining and there’s a trampoline in the backyard. Yet your kids want to spend their summer holidays lying on the couch playing computer games all day. So what can you do to help your school-aged kids stay active and healthy this summer?   Read more: More than one in four Aussie kids are overweight or obese: we're failing them, and we need a plan Kids put on weight over the holidays In 2016, a US study found that all the increase in fatness of school-aged children occurred over the summer holidays. During term time, kids get leaner and leaner, only to put it all back on, and then some, during the holidays. The…
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Invisible sexuality: older adults missing in sexual health research

Studies that deliberately exclude older adults from their samples render older adults’ sexuality invisible. shutterstock Sue Malta, University of Melbourne The Australian Study of Health and Relationships (ASHR), the latest findings of which were released recently, has much to commend it. Like its counterpart, the British National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (NATSAL), it provides an illustration of sexual practices of today’s adults. Both studies share a surprising common finding: respondents in both countries are having sex less often than they did a decade ago. The two surveys also have another thing in common: both leave out a significant proportion of the population – older adults. The sample for the NATSAL is aged 18 to 44. The ASHR’s sample is aged 18 to 69 – and the first ASHR over a decade ago included only adults to age 59, ignoring those aged 60 and above. While there may be some justification for leaving out the fastest-growing segment of the popula…
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Home for the holidays? LGB youth report lower parental support than heterosexual youth

LGTBQ Asian Community marches with QUEER ASIAN YOUTH banner at the 2017 Toronto Pride Parade. Shawn Goldberg/Shutterstock Hilary Rose, CFLE, Concordia University During the holidays, most people — including young people — spend more time at home and with their families. But home and family can feel different based on varying levels of support from one’s family. Our research found LGB (lesbian, gay and bisexual) youth’s perceptions of family support remained the same or, in fact, worsened from 1998 to 2013. Our study’s trend analyses show that, generally, youth’s perceived parental support and family relations have improved steadily since 1998. As hopeful as that might be, the LGB youth in our study — average age 14¾ years — don’t see their parents and families as being as supportive as their heterosexual peers do, or indeed as they used to. It’s a striking difference when you consider that attitudes toward LGBTQ+ people have generally improved over time. Missing Support and …
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A year of resistance: How youth protests shaped the discussion on climate change

Millions of youth have participated in climate strikes, negotiations, press conferences and events, demanding urgent climate action this year. (Shutterstock) Joe Curnow, University of Manitoba and Anjali Helferty, University of Toronto Greta Thunberg made history again this month when she was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. The 16-year-old has become the face of youth climate action, going from a lone child sitting outside the Swedish parliament building in mid-2018 to a symbol for climate strikers — young and old — around the world. Thunberg was far from the first young person to speak up in an effort to hold the powerful accountable for their inaction on climate change, yet the recognition of her efforts come at a time when world leaders will have to decide whether — or with how much effort — they will tackle climate change. Their actions or inactions will determine how much more vocal youth will become in 2020. Thunberg coined the hashtag #FridaysforFuture in A…
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Connecting online can help prevent social isolation in older people

Social technologies could provide valuable opportunities for isolated older persons to stay connected to the world. shutterstock Jenny Waycott, University of Melbourne John*, a widower, is a retired engineer aged in his 90s. He lives alone in the family home and has struggled with loneliness and depression since his wife passed away. He feels frustrated that as he gets older he can no longer do many of the things he used to enjoy, which exacerbates his sense of feeling alone in the world. Social isolation in old age In Australia, one-quarter of people aged 65 and above live alone. Some older people, like John, will be vulnerable to social isolation, which occurs when people have limited opportunities for human contact and become disconnected from society. Not all older people who live alone are socially isolated. And social isolation is certainly not limited to old age. But social isolation in old age is a significant concern. It is linked to a range of health problems and, …
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Episode – Choose Your Story: the inappropriate game your kids have probably played

The game’s players are able to customise their own storyline, which can then be ‘featured’ and shared with other players. The catch is, there’s more than 12 million creators - and the content isn’t exactly well-regulated. STEFANY LUNA DE LINZY / Shutterstock.com Janine M. Cooper, Murdoch Children's Research Institute As smartphone ownership surges, we’re seeing a drastic rise in the use of mobile apps, many of which are marketed towards impressionable young audiences. One such app is Episode – Choose Your Story, a free game with more than 50 million downloads and five million weekly users. Episode is coming under scrutiny by parents and users, many as young as 10, for its inappropriate themes. Such apps are far-reaching, and parenting their use can be tricky. According to a US report published this year, which surveyed 1,677 kids, 41% of tweens (aged 8-12) and 84% of teens (aged 13-18) owned a smartphone. There’s an increasing number of games targeted at these age groups,…
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Friday essay: From Bowie to Bieber – the under-appreciated art of the music video

The music video for Justin Bieber’s Sorry is one of the contenders at Sunday’s MTV Music Video Awards. Justin Bieber Vevo/Youtube Catherine Strong, RMIT University and Dr Phoebe Macrossan, UNSW The spectacular release of Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade earlier this year, and the critical response to it, has fleetingly put the music video in the spotlight. For a ubiquitous and influential art form, music videos tend to be easily dismissed and under-analysed, which means it took something as extreme as Beyoncé’s approach – an entire album complete with extraordinary visuals and social commentary – to draw attention to them. This Sunday, the MTV music video awards will be held at Madison Square Garden. Beyoncé has received 11 nominations and there is even a new award category called Breakthrough Long Form Video, suggesting her influence continues to ripple through the industry. Adele has received eight nominations. Two videos featuring the late David Bowie, Lazarus and Blacksta…
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Having problems with your kid’s tantrums, bed-wetting or withdrawal? Here’s when to get help

Problems sometimes arise when a child is going through a big change, such as starting school or welcoming a new sibling to the family. Shutterstock Jade Sheen, Deakin University and Elizabeth Westrupp, Deakin University Remember anxiously waiting for your child to take their first steps or speak their first words? It’s exhilarating when they reach a new stage in their development. Every child grows and develops differently. Some will change at a steady pace and amaze us each day with a new skill or word, whereas others appear slow to change before taking a huge developmental leap. These differences make us all unique – but they also make it a challenge to know when the worry is justified and when to seek help.   Read more: What’s in a milestone? Understanding your child’s development A new Australian government initiative may ease parents’ concerns by supporting GPs to better understand infant and childhood development and, particularly, the early signs of me…
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There’s a yawning gap in the plan to keep older Australians working

A key reason for deciding to retire has to do with getting tired at and through work, how that tiredness affects partners and families. www.shutterstock.com Andreas Cebulla, University of Adelaide In the past decade a 30-year trend to earlier retirement has been reversed. In OECD countries the average age at which people retire has risen by about one to two years. In Australia the average age has risen from 64 to 65.6 for men, and from 61.8 to 64.2 for women. For the Australian government, though, this isn’t enough. In a speech last night, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg spoke of the pressure put on Australia’s health, aged care and pension systems by an ageing population. Over the next four decades the number of Australians working and paying income tax for every person over the age of 65 would fall from 4.5 to 2.7, he said. The proportion of people over 65 in the workforce would therefore have to grow substantially. The government needs people to keep working and paying incom…
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