Expert Reveals Why Rich People Are Acquiring Race Horses

Millionaires who currently do not have the billions that can help them purchase their personal sports team have begun to spend millions on alternatively buying racehorses. According to Keeneland Racing’s racing and sales’ Vice president, Bob Ellison, a lot of excitement comes with being the owner of Thoroughbred horses.

Ellison mentioned that the millionaires are so enthusiastic about getting a good deal and that has willingly made them spend so much on high-quality horses. According to him, twenty-seven horses at the sale were sold for one million dollars or above. 14 of the buyers were international buyers while 13 of them were from the US. Three other horses were sold for over $2 million while there was a yearling that sold for $2.4 million. In summary, the buyers spent about $377 million on the purchase of about 3,000 yearlings.

Expensive Hobby

Ellison mentioned that this activity is a form of investment but added that acquiring race horses didn’t just become a hobby for the richest people all around the world. It can sometimes cost several thousands of dollars to acquire prized horses.

Polo, considered to be the sport for kings, is most times regarded as a hobby for members of the upper class. It is one where the elite gather to have cocktails and also socialize as they watch the sport. Yearly, socialites, designers, and Hollywood stars attend the Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic. In fact, Chinese billionaires are reportedly beginning to see Polo as the new elite sport.

It is at the Kentucky Derby that some horses purchased at the Keeneland Sale compete. Ellison noted that the famous guests here  include Peter Brand ruling houses from the Middle East, Bobby Flay, George Strawbridge and Charlotte Webber,

The Vice president of UAE, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, reportedly purchased 27 yearlings for about twenty million dollars at this year’s sale. The total purchases included seven yearlings he bought for over a million dollars. The Vice President is considered one of the biggest owners of such horses in the world. He also owns a huge stable and different racing operations. Sheikh Hamdan, his brother, also bought 19 horses spending over $12 million.

Investment Opportunity

It is important to examine if these horse purchases have the potentials and can eventually become money makers for their buyers. Ellison noted that the possibility of that is dependent on the extent to which the horses race after they are sold. For instance, Justify was purchased for $500,000 and after it won the Triple Crown for this year, the horse is now worth a whopping $75 million.

Generally, breeders put in much effort into grooming horses for top sales as well as promising returns, be it through natural practices or commercial practices. According to Ellison, some breeders treat horses as is if they were tomatoes as they polish and feed them in an environment that is highly controlled, while some other breeders prefer to raise horses in the field. He added that irrespective of the method that the breeders used for raising the horses this year, the horses appeared to have more mass and are more athletically built.

Ellison added that while some buyers are particular about the size of the horse, how it looks racing, how its coat looks and how muscular it is, other buyers are particular about a horse that can run on grass and so want to know how fast the horses can finally transition to a race track.

Ellison, however, stated that there are some things buyers ought to consider to increase their chances of getting a better return. One of such is that colts, i.e. male horses, are generally worth more than fillies or mares (female horses).

Also, purchasing more than a yearling at each sale increases the chances of winning. Also the pedigree of the yearling matters.

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Study helps unravel why pregnant women develop heart failure similar to older patients

pregnant women

Researchers at Penn Medicine have identified more genetic mutations that strongly predispose younger, otherwise healthy women to peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM), a rare condition characterized by weakness of the heart muscle that begins sometime during the final month of pregnancy through five months after delivery. PPCM can cause severe heart failure and often leads to lifelong heart failure and even death. The study is published today in Circulation.

PPCM affects women in one out of every 2,000 deliveries worldwide, with about a third of those women developing heart failure for life, and about five percent of them dying within a few years. Maternal mortality in the United States has doubled in the last 20 years, and PPCM is a leading cause of these deaths. Previously, the reasons behind why women developed PPCM remained a mystery until a 2016 study strongly suggested that some genetic mutations predispose women to the disease. Zoltan P. Arany, MD, PHD, the Samuel Bellet Professor of Cardiology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania was also the senior author of that study. This newly released study shines a light on four more genetic variants that had not previously been associated with PPCM. It found that this genetic profile is highly similar to that found in patients with non-ischemic dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a very similar disease that typically impacts middle-aged men and women, and one that the medical community knows more about.

“This study provides the first extensive genetic and phenotype landscape of PPCM and has major implications for understanding how PPCM and DCM are related to each other,” said Arany. “It shows that predisposition to heart failure is an important risk factor for PPCM, suggesting that approaches being developed for DCM may also apply to patients with PPCM.”

For the study, Penn researchers identified nearly 470 women with PPCM, retrospectively, from several academic centers in the United States and abroad, and looked at clinical information and DNA samples. Then, they performed next-generation sequencing on 67 genes, including a gene known as TTN, which generates a large protein that controls how heart muscle cells contract and pump blood. 10.4 percent of the patients sampled showed shortened variants in the TTN gene, compared with just 1.2 percent of the reference population. Researchers also found overrepresentation of shortened variants in three other genes not previously associated with PPCM, but previously associated with DCM.

Researchers hope this will push for changes to allow physicians to follow similar, well-established genetic testing practices and counseling guidelines already used for patients with DCM, as well as gene-specific therapies.

“We believe this study shows how important genetic screening and counseling are for women who develop PPCM, something that isn’t currently common practice, and perhaps even for their female family members of child-bearing age,” Arany said. “As a physician, knowing you have a patient with PPCM who shows these genetic mutations would lead you to make changes in care, such as lowering the threshold for defibrillator use in the case of high-risk variants, or counseling family members on their risk of developing PPCM.”

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Why You Should Think Twice About Using Headphones At The Gym

There are certain things most women can’t exercise without, from a decent hair-tie, to keep our locks off our faces, to the correct clothing that won’t fall down or cling too tightly during high-intensity moves. Although it’s likely you frequently spot at least a couple people in the gym working out without headphones, or even running outside without them — the horror! — the vast majority of us prefer to train while listening to something, whether it’s music, podcasts, or even audiobooks. 

Wearing headphones in the gym isn’t something most of us think twice about. Doing so is second nature, particularly if you’ve been working out for a while. Headphones make sessions go faster and ensure we focus entirely on what we’re doing rather than worrying about everybody else around us. However, there are several reasons why wearing headphones at the gym isn’t the best idea. Before you grab your favorite pair on your way to your workout, consider the following. 

Blocking everything out has its setbacks

According to News24, pumping loud music into your ears for a prolonged period of time can impact your balance through the vestibular system, making running on the treadmill more dangerous. It can also potentially damage your hearing in the long run. Although headphones may make it easier to concentrate, scrolling endlessly through songs while trying to find the right one for the exercise in question could be robbing you of valuable workout time. Likewise, if your music is too loud it may be distracting fellow gym goers, so try not to block everything out exactly. It’s worth noting, too, if the cord on your earphones isn’t the right length, it might restrict your movement, making it more difficult to strength train properly. You could even hurt your neck while working your core. 

Also, did you know you should be cleaning your headphones regularly after each use? Sweat and bacteria cling to them, which can lead to ear infections, particularly if they’re frequently tossed into your bag with the rest of your gear. However, as with headphones themselves, there’s no one size fits all rule here. As trainer Sue Reynolds Reed advised, try one exercise session without headphones, to ensure your breathing and focus are both on point (via Health E News). Put simply, if headphones assist with your workout, include them. If they’re distracting you, it’s best to go without. Either way, keep them clean and take note of any changes in your hearing, just in case.

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Why it’s important to call the Johnson & Johnson vaccine review phase a ‘pause’

Why it's important to call the Johnson & Johnson vaccine review phase a 'pause'

As the distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine remains on hold while federal health officials review a potential blood-clotting side effect, public health authorities and scientists find themselves in a delicate position when it comes to the messaging about the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines to the United States public, two Northeastern scholars of public health law and communications say.

Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said they were reviewing reports of six cases in which women who received the single-shot vaccine developed a rare, dangerous blood-clotting disorder. It’s not clear yet whether the vaccine is related to or caused the health condition, and the CDC recommended pausing its distribution “to be extra careful,” according to the announcement.

Public health officials and Northeastern researchers Wendy Parmet and Susan Mello are concerned that the pause, if it’s not communicated clearly, might be the tipping point for members of the public who were already hesitant about getting a COVID-19 vaccine to decide not to get inoculated against the highly contagious disease.

“I think regulators have to thread a very fine needle, and they’re doing so in a moment that is very fraught,” says Parmet, Matthews distinguished university professor of law and director of the Center for Health Policy and Law at Northeastern.

“We have a pandemic that is still very much raging in some parts of the country, we have a very active anti-vaccination movement and a significant percentage of the population outside of the movement who are hesitant of vaccines in the first place,” she says. “We’re in a pickle here.”

Such an effect could have widespread consequences as the U.S. races to vaccinate enough of the population to reach herd immunity—the threshold at which enough people are immune to a disease to suppress its spread and protect more vulnerable populations.

“This is exactly what you didn’t want to happen, in terms of potential side effects,” says Mello, assistant professor of communication studies whose research includes risk perception and health communication.

But, she says, there are early indications that public health officials are successfully navigating this communications quagmire.

Mello says that both health authorities and journalists are stressing the rarity of the blood clots—6.8 million doses of the vaccine have been administered and only six cases of clotting have occurred, making the odds more than one in a million.

“People will often think of themselves as that one, though,” Mello says, which is why it’s also important that officials stress the relative risk.

The odds are significantly higher that people who use oral contraceptives will develop similar blood clots, “and people have been taking birth control for years,” Mello says. And the odds of developing blood clots after being hospitalized for COVID-19 are roughly one in five.

“What we’re seeing is that you’re much more likely to contract COVID-19, and then much more likely to experience blood clotting from the disease than you ever are from getting the vaccine,” Mello says.

Anthony Fauci, considered among the top infectious disease doctors in the U.S., expects Johnson & Johnson to get its vaccine “back on track” shortly, after which it would become available to the public once again, although perhaps to a more specific portion of the population, if the instances of blood clotting in young women is associated with the vaccine.

Because it’s likely to be back, Mello says the use of the word “pause,” instead of something more finite, was a good choice.

After all, Parmet says, public opinion on matters related to health aren’t as crystalized as they may have become on other social and political issues.

“There’s a significant portion of the population who may have inclinations and questions, but what studies have shown is that people can change their minds over the course of engagement with medical information provided by their doctors,” she says.

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Why women may be better equipped to fight COVID

covid

When it comes to COVID-19, women seem to be the stronger sex, suffering severe disease at about half the rate as men, but the reason for this has been elusive.

Now, a chance experiment by an ophthalmology researcher at Duke Health has led to an insight: Women have more of a certain type of immune cell that fights infections in mucosal tissue, and these immune cells amass in the lungs, poised to attack the COVID virus.

“Better armed with these specialized immune cells, women appear to be more equipped to fight some of the most severe impacts of COVID-19, notably the respiratory infections that can become life-threatening,” said Daniel Saban, Ph.D., an associate professor in Duke’s Department of Ophthalmology and in the Department of Immunology.

Saban, who led the study that appears online in the Cell Press journal Med, said the investigation began last spring as COVID first spread and he was sidelined from his normal caseload studying eye diseases. A piece of equipment in his lab—a device that can perform 36-color flow cytometry—was sitting idle, so he decided to use it to examine blood samples from COVID patients.

“We didn’t start with a hypothesis,” Saban said. “It was a completely unbiased approach, where we asked our colleagues to provide blood and tissue samples from COVID patients as well as healthy people. We had no idea what we would find, if anything.”

Saban and the members of his lab, including Chen Yu, Ph.D. and Sejiro Littleton, quickly saw that a white blood cell called mucosal associated invariant T cells, or MAIT cell, circulated more abundantly in the blood from healthy women compared to healthy men. MAIT cells are highly specialized white blood cells that contribute to immune defenses in mucosal organs and tissues.

Among COVID patients, however, there were few MAIT cells circulating in the blood, even among women, where the population of MAIT cells radically fell off, leading the researchers to question where these cells had gone.

They found their answer in tissue samples from the lungs of COVID patients. Overall, there were an abundance of MAIT cells in the lung tissue of people with COVID, but upon closer inspection, they found night-and-day differences between the sexes.

“We first found this dichotomy in healthy blood,” Saban said. “Circulating MAIT cells in women expressed genes indicative of a robust profile poised for fighting an infection, but this was not the case in males. Then we looked in the tissue and were able to find evidence of this same pattern by sex.”

Saban said there are numerous examples of sexual differences in the immune responses to infections, noting those differences have been prevalent all along with COVID-19.

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Shocking New Facts Reveal why You Should ALWAYS Sleep at Work

It’s time to put the myth to sleep. The Spanish didn’t really invent siestas as we know them, they just perfected the practice. The word siesta has its origins from the Latin word sexta. In days gone past, the Romans stopped to eat and rest in the sixth hour of the day.

The Spanish have historically had peculiar working hours, with time, they managed to slot in a couple of hours to nap in their daily routines. Their culture supports a practice called presenteeism, which translates to spending more work hours to give the impression of being busy and committed to the workplace. Traditionally, most companies believed that spending more hours at work meant improved productivity. Whilst this is not necessarily always the case, the introduction of afternoon siestas between 2-5pm did allow them to rejuvenate and carry on with their daily activities.

Power Naps

For the siesta to survive in the new age, many things need to be taken into consideration. The sleeping culture of big cities needs to be revised in order to ensure compatibility with the workforce.

There have already been a few initiatives among the Spanish populace to save siesta sessions. Last year sleep pods were tried out in Madrid’s Atocha train station to offer a temporary lunch break relief for tired office work.

An app known as SiestAPP has also been developed to help users refresh and revitalize. The app works by letting users grab some precious 40 winks and then waking them up just in time to get back to work.

In the New Age, people are paid by the Hour, Napping in the Afternoon may thus not make sense for most employers

Downtime

When we take breaks and/or sleep, the brain engages in mundane but important activities. Scientists have always suspected that when one is not actively engaged in a learning experience, the brain strives to amalgamate new data. It is during this time that memory gets stored up and the brain gets to subconsciously rehearse new skills by etching them into the brain tissue.

Most students can give testimony to the fact that after a late night out studying, they were able to recall most of the things learnt in the morning after a good night of sleep. Musicians practicing instruments also experience this same phenomenon. In essence, a good sleep session is an essential component of memory.

Psychology

Psychologists have established that taking breaks and vacations can have real advantages for most people. A vacation takes the mind out of focus on particular issues and helps it concentrate on new things.

Taking a quick shower on a hot day can have the same benefits as a good sleep session. By distracting the mind and giving it a new pre-occupation, different parts of the brain responsible for creativity and memory are triggered. This can have a great benefit in how we are able to execute work much more efficiently afterward.

Siestas allow the brain to switch off for a while and take inventory of the day’s happenings whilst preparing us for future functionality with improved effectiveness

Hobbits

In Tolkien’s Middle Earth magnum opus, the Hobbits are known to partake in two breakfasts, the first and the second. The same way pre-industrial Europe was known to have a first and second sleep session typically divided by an hour of crepuscular activity. Numerous studies have shown that taking naps helps the brain sharpen concentration and improve productivity at workplaces.

A good downtime session can significantly help improve the attention span of people

While there are a couple of forward-thinking companies in the US that allow workers to take naps at the office, most still don’t cater for such needs. A good alternative for those unable to take naps at the office space because of their bosses would be to spend some time outdoors exploring. By taking our minds off work and school for short periods, we’re able to prepare the brain for intensive information processing later in the day.

A good downtime session can help improve the attention span of individuals too. Sleep and meditation are considered to be some great ways to help the mind focus on issues we deem important when we’re feeling a bit fatigued. A nap a day, keeps the productivity at an all-time high. It’s the miracle cure that seems too good to be true, yet still, it is.

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Why Turmeric Acid Is a Sure Way to Get Paparazzi Snapping Our Smiles

In the age of Instagram models and fashion bloggers, more people want to look their best whenever the camera lens shutter and flash. Getting the right pose and caption is as important as ever. However, no matter how well dressed for an occasion one may be, sometimes, the greatest asset in any photo is the smile.

Revealing a set of well-stacked pearly whites for audiences is a sure fire way to get hits and adoration. It’s the cherry on top of the cake in your clad ensemble. Truthfully, smiling is a form of art in itself. The models in fashion industries know it, magazine editors too.

The advent of smartphones has revolutionized modern telephony. Most of our gadgets come equipped with high pixel cameras. Thus, at any instant, a photo op moment can arise. The need to experience a rush of dopamine in our brains is the primary motivator why millions flock on social media platforms to share their pictures with the online community. The tingling sensation of compliments and praises turns into a craving that needs to be filled with each passing day.

Today, we analyze the essence of smiles and the cheapest, healthiest and most convenient ways to get the ever-essential pearly whites.

Brushing Our Teeth

Common sense dictates that regularly-brushed teeth are a must if we aim to keep our oral hygiene in place. The best time to brush teeth is usually about 30 minutes before or after eating food. Doing so ensures that our teeth remain healthy and clean enough. This is because when we brush before or after meals, we not only brush off the gunk from previous meals but also clear bacterial remnants.

Often times, once we brush right before meals, we tend to feel everything we consume immediately after to taste weird. This weird aftertaste is usually a result of the scrubbed off bacterial remnants.

Tip: After eating acidic foods and beverages like orange juice, it is advisable to wait at least 30 minutes before brushing the teeth. The reason behind this school of thought is that acids tend to weaken the enamel in teeth. Rushing to brush our teeth right after consuming acids can inflict further damage to our oral area.

The Power of Turmeric

Turmeric is a wonderful food additive. It blends so perfectly with foods like curries by bringing enhanced color and flavoring that makes them stand out. For eons, we have all come to associate turmeric with this sole function plus a couple of others. Incredibly, it turns out that turmeric is fantastic when used to whiten teeth as well!

Most of us buy commercial toothpaste looking to improve our dental hygiene. Some of us have toothaches, plaque, and yellow teeth and seek to achieve improved health and appearance of our teeth by making a purchase of expensive toothpastes.

Despite the condition of your teeth, using turmeric paste is always a good idea!

The truth however is that most toothpastes only serve us for short-term benefits. Some of them have come to be associated with causing damage to our dental health by contributing to several oral infections, brittle teeth, gum irritation, toothaches, yellowing of the teeth and receding gums.

Typically, when such incidences happen, the go-to option for most of us is increasing the use of toothpastes by brushing their much more often. Whilst this is done in good faith, at times, we further worsen our conditions.

Luckily, Mother Nature is always there for us in such situations. Today, it delivers a safe alternative in the form of turmeric. Truthfully, it seems like a far-fetched idea. Who would ever come to believe that the substance that makes mustard yellow is an essential ingredient in whitening teeth?

Homemade, teeth-whitening turmeric paste

Concoction

All we need is one tablespoon of coconut oil, some peppermint oil and one tablespoon of turmeric powder. To make the perfect paste, we need to mix the ingredients properly. The next step would be to wet our toothbrushes and dip them in the mixture. From there, we should just brush as we would normally when using toothpaste. For effectiveness, experts recommend brushing our teeth with this paste on a daily basis until we attain our set objectives.

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Why Morgan Freeman’s New PSA Is Raising Eyebrows

Whether he’s playing a chauffeur, a LEGO figure, a boxing coach, or God, Morgan Freeman brings an unforgettable presence – and his glorious voice – to every role he takes on. His trademark baritone vocals give an air of authority to his performances. That’s precisely why the 83-year-old actor was a natural choice to star in a new public service announcement from The Creative Coalition, in which he urges viewers to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

In the 45-second clip, Freeman gently pokes fun at his public image. “I’m Morgan Freeman. I’m not a doctor, but I trust science,” he says. “And I’m told that for some reason, people trust me.” He goes on to add, “If you trust me, you’ll get the vaccine.”

Math buffs will surely appreciate Freeman mentioning the distributive property – the rule for solving equations such as a (b-c),  making the metaphor that getting the vaccine is simply people “taking care of one another.” 

The PSA ends with the Bruce Almighty star pleading, “Help make our world a safe place for us to enjoy ourselves again. Please.”

While many found the message to be a positive and inspirational humanitarian effort, not all viewers felt the same. 

Not everyone trusts Morgan Freeman's belief in science

Morgan Freeman received praise from fans who have already gotten the coronavirus vaccination or are planning to do so.

 One Twitter user wrote, “Thank you for your endorsement of the vaccine, Mr. Freeman. We trust you and your advice to all your friends and admirers to do what is in their own best interests. Your concern for others is deeply appreciated.” Another fan added, “I have my second dose of pfizer in about a week. Thank you mr freeman for being a voice of reason.” 

However, there were many critics that weren’t easily persuaded. One user tweeted, “Is Morgan Freeman then liable if I suffer any severe side-effects?” Another commented, “I like him well enough as an actor, as he’s skilled quite within his profession. I don’t trust him as medical professional or scientist. He’s not my source for medical guidance regarding experimental treatments. Sadly, many superficial people believe celebrities re anything.”

Of course, leave it to Twitter to throw in a few jokes, with a fan writing, “I just want his voice injected in me.”

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The Bystander Effect Explains Why Some People Don't Help When Others Are In Danger-Here's How to Fight Against It

What-Is-The-Bystander-Effect-GettyImages-1202279688-1267295319

The data is clear: Hate crimes against Asian Americans have skyrocketed since the pandemic began. Anti-violence organization Stop AAPI Hate reported nearly 3,800 incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders from March 2020 to February 2021, and New York City alone had an 867% increase in Asian hate crime victims in 2020 compared to the previous year.

What's most shocking? Some of these crimes have happened right in front of other people—who haven't stepped in to help. In a video that's now gone viral, a 65-year-old Asian American woman can be seen being thrown to the ground and repeatedly assaulted in full view of security guards in a building nearby. The security guards look out and clearly see what's going on, as one of them closes the door on her.

Plenty of people online have expressed shock and outrage that something like this could happen right in front of others, with no one rushing to help. But this kind of thing happens more often than you'd think. In fact, it's a social phenomenon with a name. It's called the bystander effect, and it's been well documented for decades. Here's what you need to know.

What exactly is the bystander effect?

The bystander effect is a social psychology theory that says that a person is less likely to offer help to a victim when more people are around, Todd Lucas, PhD, a social and health psychologist at Michigan State University, tells Health. "It's an irony of human behavior," he says.

The term was first coined in the 1960s by psychologists Bibb Latané and John Darley who analyzed the 1964 murder of a woman named Kitty Genovese in New York City. Genovese was stabbed to death outside of her apartment, but none of her neighbors reacted to help her, even though they were aware of what was going on.

"It's really a classic example of unhelpful behavior," Victoria Banyard, PhD, associate director for the Center on Violence Against Women and Children at the Rutgers School of Social Work, tells Health.

Why does the bystander effect happen?

There are a few possible reasons for this. One is what Lucas calls "diffusion of responsibility." Meaning, the more people there are around, the less any single person feels responsible for helping in any situation.

People are also "social creatures" and we tend to react to social cues from those around us, Banyard says. "We want to fit in and, if other people seem to think this isn't serious, we tend to react the same way," she says.

Experts say this is potentially damaging on so many levels. On a very basic—but important—level, the bystander effect increases the odds that someone will get hurt. "There may be a chance to keep something from escalating and prevent someone from being harmed if people actually intervene," Banyard says.

But the bystander effect isn't just harmful on a physical level—it's damaging on a mental level for the victim, too. "It sends a message to the victim that people don't think they're worth helping," Banyard says.

What you can do to stop the bystander effect

It's easy to think you wouldn't fall victim to the bystander effect, but it's a common social phenomenon that has impacted plenty of others. If you notice something seems off in a crowd but no one else is reacting, Lucas recommends listening to your gut. "Be confident in your values and assessment of the situation," he says. "If you think somebody needs help, recognize that might be correct. Even if no one else is acting, it may be appropriate to act."

One person taking action can create a domino effect, where others recognize that there is a problem and step in to help, too, Lucas says. "You don't need to be the person that fixes the situation entirely—you just need to be the person who starts the chain reaction," he says.

If you're a victim in a crowd and no one is helping you, Lucas recommends singling out a particular person or looking for someone who seems like they could be helpful and appealing directly to them. "You can better overcome a bystander effect that way," he says.

Even simply being aware that the bystander effect is a thing can be helpful, Banyard says. Organizations like Hollaback and Step Up also have courses you can take to learn more about the bystander effect and strategies for intervening in different situations.

And, of course, if you see someone being victimized, do your best to intervene. "Take action," Banyard says. "It's simple."

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COVID-19’s parallel pandemic: Why we need a mental health ‘vaccine’

COVID-19’s parallel pandemic: Why we need a mental health 'vaccine'

Younger people are at lower risk of severe health outcomes if they develop COVID-19, and are therefore not a priority group for vaccine rollout. However, a silent mental health pandemic wave is in full force, and this time it is targeting younger age groups.

It is well recognized that older age groups (ages 60+) are at increased risk of severe illness and death if they develop COVID-19. As such, several regions are rolling out vaccines according to age, with priority for older adults.

The pandemic’s mental health impact by age

The pandemic’s impact on mental health throughout our society will likely outlive COVID-19. As clinical psychologists and trauma researchers, our team is interested in understanding mental health risk and resilience factors during COVID-19. In terms of high-risk groups from a mental health perspective, early evidence suggests that the age trends are inverted, where younger people are at the highest risk of poor mental health outcomes.

Our recent study published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry looked at early anxiety symptoms during the pandemic. In close to 50,000 Canadians across several age groups, we showed this trend.

There were clinically significant levels of anxiety in 36 percent of younger Canadians (ages 15-34), followed by 27.1 percent of people aged 35 to 54, and finally 14.5 percent of those 55 and older. Younger people also had more COVID-19 worries compared to older groups.

These early trends of age-related differences in mental health symptoms have also been shown in other studies, both COVID-19 specific studies and pre-COVID-19 research. Indeed, our previous research has shown that older adults have lower rates of common mental disorders such as anxiety and depression.

One theory is that older adults have advanced cognitive and behavioral strengths that allow them to have greater emotion regulation. These strengths are developed over time as a result of age-related changes in perspective.

From this viewpoint, older adults may have a learned “antibody” against the COVID-19 mental health impacts. Nonetheless, despite these apparent strengths in older groups, mental health symptoms are elevated across all ages compared to pre-COVID times.

Pandemic mental health ‘vaccination’

As with the development of the vaccine to reduce the physical health impacts of the pandemic, we must also consider how to address the mental health impacts. If we had a mental health “vaccine,” what might that look like? Based on the research related to collective or mass traumas (traumas affecting large groups of people), we are best suited to aim for secondary prevention.

Secondary prevention means reducing the effects of a disease when the disease is already present in its early form. Essentially, it means preventing it from worsening. In the context of mental health, this would mean targeting mental health symptoms early in order to decrease major long-term effects.

Early intervention research suggests that cognitive behavioral therapies (CBTs) can be especially effective at reducing the risk of worsened mental health issues. It may be appropriate to implement a “CBT-vaccine” for those showing early elevated symptoms. If so, younger people would be a high-risk group to target for priority prevention.

Younger people have higher rates of anxiety and other mental health problems. There is also early evidence to suggest that when mental health symptoms are present, younger people may have worse outcomes than older groups (similar to current poorer physical outcomes we are seeing when older adults develop COVID-19), but this research is mixed.

What we do know is that mental health problems, especially when long-lasting, can have a major impact on quality of life, daily functioning and physical health, including illness onset and death, for all ages. Longstanding issues may result in loss of employment and are costly for our health-care system.

Mental health must be a priority across all ages, but may be especially important in younger people. We need to engage in similar efforts toward applying a widely accessible mental health “vaccine” as we are doing for the COVID-19 vaccine if we truly want to get all elements of this pandemic under control.

Unfortunately, for many, receiving scientifically supported treatments delivered by a qualified mental health professional is a luxury. Services are difficult to access, especially during this time when the need is higher. Long term, we must continue investing in mental health professionals to meet the service needs of the population.

The initial dosage is digital

Due to the limited supply of qualified mental health professionals, a good place to start may be providing widely accessible and scientifically supported online CBT programs. This would eliminate difficult decisions regarding prioritizing access to care.

Although people recognize the current need for mental health supports, there has been confusion regarding available resources. Uptake has also been low to moderate for publicly funded online mental health programs. In a nationally representative Canadian study conducted in late May, only two percent of Canadians reported using virtual mental health resources.

Publicly funded programs such as Wellness Together and AbilitiCBT are also limited by the duration and frequency of usage available, and there is little scientific information about understanding how these pandemic-specific programs may reduce mental health symptoms, and who might benefit the most. Internet or app-based CBT programs widely vary in terms of content, level of engagement and how effective they are. In a recent publication on digital advancements in mental health, the authors accurately state: “We applaud investments in virtual mental health services by governments and industry but caution that a thoughtful approach is needed to direct those resources to realize its full potential.”

Providing effective online self-guided programs could potentially keep milder mental health cases out of the queue for one-on-one treatment with a mental health professional. This would create greater opportunities for more complex and severe cases to receive intensive individual treatments. Several existing online programs targeting specific mental health symptoms are supported by large numbers of clinical trials such as This Way Up.

However, they are occasionally costly and it is challenging for consumers to know which programs are scientifically supported and effective, especially with the massive increase of online programs and apps in the past decade. The responsibility should not fall on consumers to figure that out. Think of it this way—we would never ask people to go figure out which COVID-19 vaccine or treatment is best. Health professionals make clear recommendations based on existing well designed clinical trials.

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