Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Facebook users have more friends

This will be nasty news to "Baroness" Greenfield, the smart Jewish girl who brown-nosed her way to a peerage by pandering to elite prejudices. She condemns the way ordinary people make "too much" use of TV and computers while selling computer software herself

Facebook, it turns out, isn't just a waste of time. People who use it have more close friends, get more social support and report being more politically engaged than those who don't, according to a new national study on Americans and social networks.

The report comes as Facebook, Twitter and even the buttoned-up, career-oriented LinkedIn continue to engrain themselves in our daily lives and change the way we interact with friends, co-workers and long-lost high school buddies.

Released Thursday by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, the report also found that Facebook users are more trusting than their non-networked counterparts.

When accounting for all other factors - such as age, education level or race - Facebook users were 43 percent more likely than other Internet users to say that "most people can be trusted." Compared with people who don't use the Internet at all, Facebook users were three times more trusting.

The reason for this is not entirely clear. One possible explanation: People on social networks are more willing to trust others because they interact with a larger number of people in a more diverse setting, said Keith Hampton, the main author of the study and a communications professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

When all else is equal, people who use Facebook also have 9 percent more close ties in their overall social network than other Internet users. This backs an earlier report from Pew that, contrary to studies done earlier in the decade, the Internet is not linked to social isolation. Rather, it can lead to larger, more diverse social networks.

Social-networking users also scored high in political engagement. Because LinkedIn users (older, male and more educated) fall into a demographic category that's more politically active than the general population, they were most likely to vote or attend political rallies. But after adjusting for those characteristics, Facebook users, especially those who use the site multiple times a day, turned out to be more politically involved than those who don't use it.

Overall, the average American has a little more than two close confidants, 2.16 to be exact, according to the report. This is up from an average of 1.93 close ties that Americans reported having in 2008. There are also fewer lonely people: 9 percent of respondents said they had no one with whom they could discuss important matters. That's down from 12 percent in 2008.

The report didn't try to dig into cause and effect, so it's not clear whether the widening use of social networks is causing less loneliness. But it did find that people who use the Internet are less socially isolated than those who don't. Those on social networks, even less so - just 5 percent said they had no one to talk to about important stuff.

The researchers also got numbers to back up what's in the mind of many Facebook users past a certain age: Yes, all your old high school classmates really are coming out of the woodwork and "friending" you. The average Facebook user has 56 friends on the site from high school. That's far more than any other social group, including extended family, co-workers or college classmates.

Facebook's settings let users add the high school they attended to their profile, along with the year they graduated. Other users can then search for their classmates and add them as friends for a virtual reunion.

"It's really reshaping how people maintain their networks," Hampton said. In the past, when people went to college or got jobs and moved away from their home towns, they left those relationships behind, too. This was especially true in the 1960s, when women not in the work force would move to the suburbs with their husbands and face a great deal of isolation, Hampton said.

Now, with social networks, these ties are persistent. "Persistent and pervasive," Hampton said. "They stay with you forever."

The survey was conducted among 2,255 adults from Oct. 20 to Nov. 28, 2010. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.3 percentage points for the full sample.


High doses of statins could increase risk of diabetes

More epidemiological naivety. All we see here is that ill health can be general. People with high blood pressure (etc.) are more likely to get diabetes too

High doses of cholesterol-lowering pills can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, researchers warn. They have found that patients taking intensive courses of statins were 12 per cent more likely to get the disease.

But experts pointed out that that the risk was far outweighed by the substantial benefits – the pills were shown to reduce the likelihood of heart attacks by 16 per cent.

More than seven million people in Britain now take statins - as many as one in three adults over the age of 40. It is not known exactly how many are on high doses of more than 80 miligrams a day, but it is likely to only be a small proportion most at risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Researchers from the University of Glasgow looked at five previous studies involving 32,700 patients. They were either on high doses of 80 mg or moderate doses of 20mg to 40 mg.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found there were 149 extra cases of type 2 diabetes recorded amongst the patients on high dose statins, representing a 12 per cent risk.

The authors concluded: 'Our findings suggest that clinicians should be vigilant for the development of diabetes in patients receiving intensive statin therapy.'

Statins are extremely effective in lowering levels of cholesterol, the fatty substance in the blood that clogs up arteries leading to heart attacks and strokes.

Last night experts urged people not to stop taking the pills on the basis on this evidence. Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director of the British Heart Foundation, said: 'Nobody should stop taking their prescribed statins because of the evidence shown in this research.

'Statins play a vital role in protecting the hearts of many, many people and the benefits still far outweigh any risks associated with diabetes. 'The increased risk occurred predominantly in those taking a high dose of these drugs, whereas most people are on low or moderate doses. 'Always speak to your doctor if you have any concerns about your medication. Don’t simply stop taking it.'

Experts also pointed out that patients on statins may have been at higher risk of diabetes in the first place if they were overweight.

Libby Dowling, clinical advisor at Diabetes UK said: 'This analysis of previous studies has found that high doses of statins increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, yet at the same time reduce the risk of heart disease.

'What we don’t know from this research is whether the people being prescribed the high-dose statins were overweight as having a large waist puts you at increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes anyway.


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