Is everything you think you know about depression wrong?

In this extract from his new book, Johann Hari, who took antidepressants for 14 years, calls for a new approach

In the 1970s, a truth was accidentally discovered about depression one that was quickly swept aside, because its implications were too inconvenient, and too explosive. American psychiatrists had produced a book that would lay out, in detail, all the symptoms of different mental illnesses, so they could be identified and treated in the same way across the United States. It was called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. In the latest edition, they laid out nine symptoms that a patient has to show to be diagnosed with depression like, for example, decreased interest in pleasure or persistent low mood. For a doctor to conclude you were depressed, you had to show five of these symptoms over several weeks.

The manual was sent out to doctors across the US and they began to use it to diagnose people. However, after a while they came back to the authors and pointed out something that was bothering them. If they followed this guide, they had to diagnose every grieving person who came to them as depressed and start giving them medical treatment. If you lose someone, it turns out that these symptoms will come to you automatically. So, the doctors wanted to know, are we supposed to start drugging all the bereaved people in America?

The authors conferred, and they decided that there would be a special clause added to the list of symptoms of depression. None of this applies, they said, if you have lost somebody you love in the past year. In that situation, all these symptoms are natural, and not a disorder. It was called the grief exception, and it seemed to resolve the problem.

Then, as the years and decades passed, doctors on the frontline started to come back with another question. All over the world, they were being encouraged to tell patients that depression is, in fact, just the result of a spontaneous chemical imbalance in your brain it is produced by low serotonin, or a natural lack of some other chemical. Its not caused by your life its caused by your broken brain. Some of the doctors began to ask how this fitted with the grief exception. If you agree that the symptoms of depression are a logical and understandable response to one set of life circumstances losing a loved one might they not be an understandable response to other situations? What about if you lose your job? What if you are stuck in a job that you hate for the next 40 years? What about if you are alone and friendless?

The grief exception seemed to have blasted a hole in the claim that the causes of depression are sealed away in your skull. It suggested that there are causes out here, in the world, and they needed to be investigated and solved there. This was a debate that mainstream psychiatry (with some exceptions) did not want to have. So, they responded in a simple way by whittling away the grief exception. With each new edition of the manual they reduced the period of grief that you were allowed before being labelled mentally ill down to a few months and then, finally, to nothing at all. Now, if your baby dies at 10am, your doctor can diagnose you with a mental illness at 10.01am and start drugging you straight away.

Dr Joanne Cacciatore, of Arizona State University, became a leading expert on the grief exception after her own baby, Cheyenne, died during childbirth. She had seen many grieving people being told that they were mentally ill for showing distress. She told me this debate reveals a key problem with how we talk about depression, anxiety and other forms of suffering: we dont, she said, consider context. We act like human distress can be assessed solely on a checklist that can be separated out from our lives, and labelled as brain diseases. If we started to take peoples actual lives into account when we treat depression and anxiety, Joanne explained, it would require an entire system overhaul. She told me that when you have a person with extreme human distress, [we need to] stop treating the symptoms. The symptoms are a messenger of a deeper problem. Lets get to the deeper problem.

*****

I was a teenager when I swallowed my first antidepressant. I was standing in the weak English sunshine, outside a pharmacy in a shopping centre in London. The tablet was white and small, and as I swallowed, it felt like a chemical kiss. That morning I had gone to see my doctor and I had told him crouched, embarrassed that pain was leaking out of me uncontrollably, like a bad smell, and I had felt this way for several years. In reply, he told me a story. There is a chemical called serotonin that makes people feel good, he said, and some people are naturally lacking it in their brains. You are clearly one of those people. There are now, thankfully, new drugs that will restore your serotonin level to that of a normal person. Take them, and you will be well. At last, I understood what had been happening to me, and why.

However, a few months into my drugging, something odd happened. The pain started to seep through again. Before long, I felt as bad as I had at the start. I went back to my doctor, and he told me that I was clearly on too low a dose. And so, 20 milligrams became 30 milligrams; the white pill became blue. I felt better for several months. And then the pain came back through once more. My dose kept being jacked up, until I was on 80mg, where it stayed for many years, with only a few short breaks. And still the pain broke back through.

I started to research my book, Lost Connections: Uncovering The Real Causes of Depression and the Unexpected Solutions, because I was puzzled by two mysteries. Why was I still depressed when I was doing everything I had been told to do? I had identified the low serotonin in my brain, and I was boosting my serotonin levels yet I still felt awful. But there was a deeper mystery still. Why were so many other people across the western world feeling like me? Around one in five US adults are taking at least one drug for a psychiatric problem. In Britain, antidepressant prescriptions have doubled in a decade, to the point where now one in 11 of us drug ourselves to deal with these feelings. What has been causing depression and its twin, anxiety, to spiral in this way? I began to ask myself: could it really be that in our separate heads, all of us had brain chemistries that were spontaneously malfunctioning at the same time?

To find the answers, I ended up going on a 40,000-mile journey across the world and back. I talked to the leading social scientists investigating these questions, and to people who have been overcoming depression in unexpected ways from an Amish village in Indiana, to a Brazilian city that banned advertising and a laboratory in Baltimore conducting a startling wave of experiments. From these people, I learned the best scientific evidence about what really causes depression and anxiety. They taught me that it is not what we have been told it is up to now. I found there is evidence that seven specific factors in the way we are living today are causing depression and anxiety to rise alongside two real biological factors (such as your genes) that can combine with these forces to make it worse.

Once I learned this, I was able to see that a very different set of solutions to my depression and to our depression had been waiting for me all along.

To understand this different way of thinking, though, I had to first investigate the old story, the one that had given me so much relief at first. Professor Irving Kirsch at Harvard University is the Sherlock Holmes of chemical antidepressants the man who has scrutinised the evidence about giving drugs to depressed and anxious people most closely in the world. In the 1990s, he prescribed chemical antidepressants to his patients with confidence. He knew the published scientific evidence, and it was clear: it showed that 70% of people who took them got significantly better. He began to investigate this further, and put in a freedom of information request to get the data that the drug companies had been privately gathering into these drugs. He was confident that he would find all sorts of other positive effects but then he bumped into something peculiar.

Illustration
Illustration by Michael Driver.

We all know that when you take selfies, you take 30 pictures, throw away the 29 where you look bleary-eyed or double-chinned, and pick out the best one to be your Tinder profile picture. It turned out that the drug companies who fund almost all the research into these drugs were taking this approach to studying chemical antidepressants. They would fund huge numbers of studies, throw away all the ones that suggested the drugs had very limited effects, and then only release the ones that showed success. To give one example: in one trial, the drug was given to 245 patients, but the drug company published the results for only 27 of them. Those 27 patients happened to be the ones the drug seemed to work for. Suddenly, Professor Kirsch realised that the 70% figure couldnt be right.

It turns out that between 65 and 80% of people on antidepressants are depressed again within a year. I had thought that I was freakish for remaining depressed while on these drugs. In fact, Kirsch explained to me in Massachusetts, I was totally typical. These drugs are having a positive effect for some people but they clearly cant be the main solution for the majority of us, because were still depressed even when we take them. At the moment, we offer depressed people a menu with only one option on it. I certainly dont want to take anything off the menu but I realised, as I spent time with him, that we would have to expand the menu.

This led Professor Kirsch to ask a more basic question, one he was surprised to be asking. How do we know depression is even caused by low serotonin at all? When he began to dig, it turned out that the evidence was strikingly shaky. Professor Andrew Scull of Princeton, writing in the Lancet, explained that attributing depression to spontaneously low serotonin is deeply misleading and unscientific. Dr David Healy told me: There was never any basis for it, ever. It was just marketing copy.

I didnt want to hear this. Once you settle into a story about your pain, you are extremely reluctant to challenge it. It was like a leash I had put on my distress to keep it under some control. I feared that if I messed with the story I had lived with for so long, the pain would run wild, like an unchained animal. Yet the scientific evidence was showing me something clear, and I couldnt ignore it.

*****

So, what is really going on? When I interviewed social scientists all over the world from So Paulo to Sydney, from Los Angeles to London I started to see an unexpected picture emerge. We all know that every human being has basic physical needs: for food, for water, for shelter, for clean air. It turns out that, in the same way, all humans have certain basic psychological needs. We need to feel we belong. We need to feel valued. We need to feel were good at something. We need to feel we have a secure future. And there is growing evidence that our culture isnt meeting those psychological needs for many perhaps most people. I kept learning that, in very different ways, we have become disconnected from things we really need, and this deep disconnection is driving this epidemic of depression and anxiety all around us.

Lets look at one of those causes, and one of the solutions we can begin to see if we understand it differently. There is strong evidence that human beings need to feel their lives are meaningful that they are doing something with purpose that makes a difference. Its a natural psychological need. But between 2011 and 2012, the polling company Gallup conducted the most detailed study ever carried out of how people feel about the thing we spend most of our waking lives doing our paid work. They found that 13% of people say they are engaged in their work they find it meaningful and look forward to it. Some 63% say they are not engaged, which is defined as sleepwalking through their workday. And 24% are actively disengaged: they hate it.

A
Antidepressant prescriptions have doubled over the last decade. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA

Most of the depressed and anxious people I know, I realised, are in the 87% who dont like their work. I started to dig around to see if there is any evidence that this might be related to depression. It turned out that a breakthrough had been made in answering this question in the 1970s, by an Australian scientist called Michael Marmot. He wanted to investigate what causes stress in the workplace and believed hed found the perfect lab in which to discover the answer: the British civil service, based in Whitehall. This small army of bureaucrats was divided into 19 different layers, from the permanent secretary at the top, down to the typists. What he wanted to know, at first, was: whos more likely to have a stress-related heart attack the big boss at the top, or somebody below him?

Everybody told him: youre wasting your time. Obviously, the boss is going to be more stressed because hes got more responsibility. But when Marmot published his results, he revealed the truth to be the exact opposite. The lower an employee ranked in the hierarchy, the higher their stress levels and likelihood of having a heart attack. Now he wanted to know: why?

And thats when, after two more years studying civil servants, he discovered the biggest factor. It turns out if you have no control over your work, you are far more likely to become stressed and, crucially, depressed. Humans have an innate need to feel that what we are doing, day-to-day, is meaningful. When you are controlled, you cant create meaning out of your work.

Suddenly, the depression of many of my friends, even those in fancy jobs who spend most of their waking hours feeling controlled and unappreciated started to look not like a problem with their brains, but a problem with their environments. There are, I discovered, many causes of depression like this. However, my journey was not simply about finding the reasons why we feel so bad. The core was about finding out how we can feel better how we can find real and lasting antidepressants that work for most of us, beyond only the packs of pills we have been offered as often the sole item on the menu for the depressed and anxious. I kept thinking about what Dr Cacciatore had taught me we have to deal with the deeper problems that are causing all this distress.

I found the beginnings of an answer to the epidemic of meaningless work in Baltimore. Meredith Mitchell used to wake up every morning with her heart racing with anxiety. She dreaded her office job. So she took a bold step one that lots of people thought was crazy. Her husband, Josh, and their friends had worked for years in a bike store, where they were ordered around and constantly felt insecure, Most of them were depressed. One day, they decided to set up their own bike store, but they wanted to run it differently. Instead of having one guy at the top giving orders, they would run it as a democratic co-operative. This meant they would make decisions collectively, they would share out the best and worst jobs and they would all, together, be the boss. It would be like a busy democratic tribe. When I went to their store Baltimore Bicycle Works the staff explained how, in this different environment, their persistent depression and anxiety had largely lifted.

Its not that their individual tasks had changed much. They fixed bikes before; they fix bikes now. But they had dealt with the unmet psychological needs that were making them feel so bad by giving themselves autonomy and control over their work. Josh had seen for himself that depressions are very often, as he put it, rational reactions to the situation, not some kind of biological break. He told me there is no need to run businesses anywhere in the old humiliating, depressing way we could move together, as a culture, to workers controlling their own workplaces.

*****

With each of the nine causes of depression and anxiety I learned about, I kept being taught startling facts and arguments like this that forced me to think differently. Professor John Cacioppo of Chicago University taught me that being acutely lonely is as stressful as being punched in the face by a stranger and massively increases your risk of depression. Dr Vincent Felitti in San Diego showed me that surviving severe childhood trauma makes you 3,100% more likely to attempt suicide as an adult. Professor Michael Chandler in Vancouver explained to me that if a community feels it has no control over the big decisions affecting it, the suicide rate will shoot up.

This new evidence forces us to seek out a very different kind of solution to our despair crisis. One person in particular helped me to unlock how to think about this. In the early days of the 21st century, a South African psychiatrist named Derek Summerfeld went to Cambodia, at a time when antidepressants were first being introduced there. He began to explain the concept to the doctors he met. They listened patiently and then told him they didnt need these new antidepressants, because they already had anti-depressants that work. He assumed they were talking about some kind of herbal remedy.

He asked them to explain, and they told him about a rice farmer they knew whose left leg was blown off by a landmine. He was fitted with a new limb, but he felt constantly anxious about the future, and was filled with despair. The doctors sat with him, and talked through his troubles. They realised that even with his new artificial limb, his old jobworking in the rice paddieswas leaving him constantly stressed and in physical pain, and that was making him want to just stop living. So they had an idea. They believed that if he became a dairy farmer, he could live differently. So they bought him a cow. In the months and years that followed, his life changed. His depressionwhich had been profoundwent away. You see, doctor, they told him, the cow was an antidepressant.

To them, finding an antidepressant didnt mean finding a way to change your brain chemistry. It meant finding a way to solve the problem that was causing the depression in the first place. We can do the same. Some of these solutions are things we can do as individuals, in our private lives. Some require bigger social shifts, which we can only achieve together, as citizens. But all of them require us to change our understanding of what depression and anxiety really are.

This is radical, but it is not, I discovered, a maverick position. In its official statement for World Health Day in 2017, the United Nations reviewed the best evidence and concluded that the dominant biomedical narrative of depression is based on biased and selective use of research outcomes that must be abandoned. We need to move from focusing on chemical imbalances, they said, to focusing more on power imbalances.

After I learned all this, and what it means for us all, I started to long for the power to go back in time and speak to my teenage self on the day he was told a story about his depression that was going to send him off in the wrong direction for so many years. I wanted to tell him: This pain you are feeling is not a pathology. Its not crazy. It is a signal that your natural psychological needs are not being met. It is a form of grief for yourself, and for the culture you live in going so wrong. I know how much it hurts. I know how deeply it cuts you. But you need to listen to this signal. We all need to listen to the people around us sending out this signal. It is telling you what is going wrong. It is telling you that you need to be connected in so many deep and stirring ways that you arent yet but you can be, one day.

If you are depressed and anxious, you are not a machine with malfunctioning parts. You are a human being with unmet needs. The only real way out of our epidemic of despair is for all of us, together, to begin to meet those human needs for deep connection, to the things that really matter in life.

This is an edited extract from Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression and the Unexpected Solutions by Johann Hari, published by Bloomsbury on 11 January (16.99). To order a copy for 14.44 go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over 10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of 1.99. It will be available in audio at audible.co.uk

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jan/07/is-everything-you-think-you-know-about-depression-wrong-johann-hari-lost-connections

WHOA: Geraldo Rivera BLASTS Brian Stelter in back-and-forth over CNN’s attacks on Trump’s mental health

CNN hates Trump so much they’ve built a whole conspiracy theory around his mental health. Think about that for a minute, he’s driven them SO CRAZY they think HE’S crazy …

Project much, CNN?

Read more: http://twitchy.com/samj-3930/2017/08/22/whoa-geraldo-rivera-blasts-brian-stelter-in-back-and-forth-over-cnns-attacks-on-trumps-mental-health/

What Its Like To Be In Love When You Have Depression

No one will love you until you learn to love yourself is an easy enough phrase to believe is true. But its terrifying, especially when you have depression. What if you never learn? As a teenager, it made me fear for my life as an adult. I was certain I would never be capable of being in a relationship, but I was very wrong. Honestly, I do not like myself very much, and in August of 2013, a boy fell very, very much in love with me.

I have dealt with depression for as long as I can remember. Ive been on and off medications, been to therapy, but its still alive and well, comfortable in its home in my bones. I can feel it every day, a tiny inkling that causes breathtaking emotional pain at the most inconvenient of times.

My depression doesnt care that I am in a relationship with a boy who makes me laugh, tells me Im beautiful 20 times a day, and cares more deeply for me than any other boy has. I am grateful for the nights he holds me while I cry for hours for no reason. I am thankful that he puts up with my random periods of irritability. He constantly attempts to comfort me if I am suddenly uncomfortable when were out in public. He fills me with hope for the future when I lead myself down the darkest of paths, plays with my hair when Im having trouble sleeping, and encourages me to eat when I have no appetite. He takes care of me and I never even had to explain myself. I still consciously think to myself, nine months into this relationship, Wow, someone is in love with me. I often think about how lucky I am to be loved, regardless of my flaws in chemistry.

This intense love is frightening, because every day, I fear that one more thing will push him over the edge. That one more time of me rolling over in bed, teary-eyed, for no reason, could push him away. I know it upsets him, and I reassure him through my salty, blurred vision that its not his fault. I am often overcome with guilt and I hate that my feelings about myself cause any pain on his part. Sometimes he is not easily convinced, but I try as hard as I can with the little energy I have. Some of our nights end in a tight hug and an Im sorry mumbled from my lips, but Im just thankful that he is still happy to wake up to me every morning.

Every day is a struggle. I am constantly on edge, going back and forth between caring too much and not caring at all, wondering when he will have enough. He is quick to remind me how much he loves me, but I am just as quick to be overcome with crippling doubt. We both know that this is how forever will be, and if he hasnt given up yet, Im certain that he is 100% all in.

Never let anyone tell you that you are not worth being loved if you dont love yourself. Never let anyone tell you that your mental illness is the reason why you are not in a relationship. Never let anyone tell you that you should smile more, fix your hair, or wear more color. Never let anyone makes you feel bad about what you cant always control.

Someone will be in love with you regardless of your most comfortable state, and if that happens to be curled up on the floor of your room, crying as you listen to your favorite sad songs, then you have found true love.

featured image – Bhumika Bhatia

Read more: http://thoughtcatalog.com/holly-everett/2014/06/what-its-like-to-be-in-love-when-you-have-depression/

Are smartphones really making our children sad?

US psychologist Jean Twenge, who has claimed that social media is having a malign affect on the young, answers critics who accuse her of crying wolf

Last week, the childrens commissioner, Anne Longfield, launched a campaign to help parents regulate internet and smartphone use at home. She suggested that the overconsumption of social media was a problem akin to that of junk-food diets. None of us, as parents, would want our children to eat junk food all the time double cheeseburger, chips, every day, every meal, she said. For those same reasons, we shouldnt want our children to do the same with their online time.

A few days later, former GCHQ spy agency chief Robert Hannigan responded to the campaign. The assumption that time online or in front of a screen is life wasted needs challenging. It is driven by fear, he said. The best thing we can do is to focus less on the time they spend on screens at home and more on the nature of the activity.

This exchange is just one more example of how childrens screentime has become an emotive, contested issue. Last December, more than 40 educationalists, psychologists and scientists signed a letter in the Guardian calling for action on childrens screen-based lifestyles. A few days later, another 40-odd academics described the fears as moral panic and said that any guidelines needed to build on evidence rather than scaremongering.

Faced with these conflicting expert views, how should concerned parents proceed? Into this maelstrom comes the American psychologist Jean Twenge, who has written a book entitled iGen: Why Todays Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood and What That Means for the Rest of Us.

If the books title didnt make her view clear enough, last weekend an excerpt was published in the American magazine the Atlantic with the emotive headline Have smartphones destroyed a generation? It quickly generated differing reactions that were played out on social media these could be broadly characterised as praise from parents and criticism from scientists. In a phone interview and follow-up emails, Twenge explained her conclusions about the downsides of the connected world for teens, and answered some of her critics.

The Atlantic excerpt from your book was headlined Have smartphones destroyed a generation? Is that an accurate reflection of what you think?
Well, keep in mind that I didnt write the headline. Its obviously much more nuanced than that.

So why did you write this book?
Ive been researching generations for a long time now, since I was an undergraduate, almost 25 years. The databases I draw from are large national surveys of high school and college students, and one of adults. In 2013-14 I started to see some really sudden changes and at first I thought maybe these were just blips, but the trends kept going.

Id never seen anything like it in all my years of looking at differences among generations. So I wondered what was going on.

What were these sudden changes for teens?
Loneliness and depressive symptoms started to go up, while happiness and life satisfaction started to go down. The other thing that I really noticed was the accelerated decline in seeing friends in person it falls off a cliff. Its an absolutely stunning pattern Id never seen anything like that. I really started to wonder, what is going on here? What happened around 2011-2012 [the survey data is a year or two behind] that would cause such sudden changes?

And you concluded these changes were being brought about by increased time spent online?
The high-school data detailed how much time teens spend online on social media and games and I noticed how that correlated with some of these indicators in terms of happiness, depression and so on.

I was curious not just what the correlations were between these screen activities, mental health and wellbeing, but what were the links with non-screen activities, like spending time with friends in person, playing sports, going to religious services, doing homework, all these other things that teens do?

And for happiness in particular, the pattern was so stark. Of the non-screen activities that were measured, they all correlated with greater happiness. All the screen activities correlated with lower happiness.

Youve called these post-millennials the iGeneration. What are their characteristics?
Im defining iGen as those born between 1995 and 2012 that latter date could change based on future data. Im reasonably certain about 1995, given the sudden changes in the trends. It also happens that 1995 was the year the internet was commercialised [Amazon launched that year, Yahoo in 1994 and Google in 1996], so if you were born in that year you have not known a time without the internet.

But the introduction of the smartphone, exemplified by the iPhone, which was launched in 2007, is key?
There are a lot of differences some are large, some are subtle, some are sudden and some had been building for a while but if I had to identify what really characterises them, the first influence is the smartphone.

iGen is the first generation to spend their entire adolescence with the smartphone. This has led to many ripple effects for their wellbeing, their social interactions and the way they think about the world.

Psychology
Psychology professor Jean Twenge. Photograph: Gregory Bull/AP

Why are you convinced they are unhappy because of social media, rather than it being a case of the unhappy kids being heavier users of social media?
That is very unlikely to be true because of very good research on that very question. There is one experiment and two longitudinal studies that show the arrow goes from social media to lower wellbeing and not the other way around. For example, an experiment where people
gave up Facebook for a week and had better wellbeing than those who had not.

The other thing to keep in mind is that if you are spending eight hours a day with a screen you have less time to spend interacting with friends and family in person and we know definitively from decades of research that spending time with other people is one of the keys to emotional wellbeing; if youre doing that less, thats a very bad sign.

A professor at Oxford University tweeted that your work is a non-systematic review of sloppy social science as a tool for lazy intergenerational shaming how do you respond?
It is odd to equate documenting teens mental health issues with intergenerational shaming. Im not shaming anyone and the data I analyse is from teens, not older people criticising them.

This comment is especially strange because this researchers best-known paper, about what he calls the Goldilocks theory, shows the same thing I find lower wellbeing after more hours of screen time. Were basically replicating each others research across two different countries, which is usually considered a good thing. So I am confused.

Your arguments also seem to have been drawn on by the conservative right as ammunition for claims that technology is leading to the moral degradation of the young. Are you comfortable about that?
My analyses look at what young people are saying about themselves and how they are feeling, so I dont think this idea of older people love to whine about the young is relevant. I didnt look at what older people have to say about young people. I looked at what young people are saying about their own experiences and their own lives, compared to young people 10, 20, or 30 years ago.

Nor is it fair or accurate to characterise this as youth-bashing. Teens are saying they are suffering and documenting that should help them, not hurt them. I wrote the book because I wanted to give a voice to iGen and their experiences, through the 11 million who filled out national surveys, to the 200 plus who answered open-ended questions for me, to the 23 I talked to for up to two hours. It had absolutely nothing to do with older people and their complaints about youth.

Many of us have a nagging feeling that social media is bad for our wellbeing, but we all suffer from a fear of missing out.
Teens feel that very intensely, which is one reason why they are so addicted to their phones. Yet, ironically, the teens who spend more time on social media are actually more likely to report feeling left out.

But is this confined to iGeners? One could go to a childs birthday party where the parents are glued to their smartphones and not talking to each other too.
It is important to consider that while this trend also affects adults, it is particularly worrisome for teens because their brain development is ongoing and adolescence is a crucial time for developing social skills.

You say teens might know the right emoji but in real life might not know the right facial expression.
There is very little research on that question. There is one study that looked at the effects of screens on social skills among 11- to 12-year-olds, half of whom used screens at their normal level and half went to a five-day screen-free camp.

Those who attended the camp improved their social skills reading emotions on faces was what they measured. That makes sense thats the social skill you would expect to suffer if you werent getting much in-person social interaction.

So is it up to regulators or parents to improve the situation? Leaving this problem for parents to fix is a big challenge.
Yes it is. I have three kids and my oldest is 10, but in her class about half have a phone, so many of them are on social media already. Parents have a tough job, because there are temptations on the screen constantly.

What advice would you give parents?
Put off getting your child a phone for as long as possible and, when you do, start with one that doesnt have internet access so they dont have the internet in their pocket all the time.

But when your child says, but all my friends have got one, how do you reply?
Maybe with my parents line If your friends all jumped in the lake, would you do it too? Although at that age the answer is usually yes, which I understand. But you can do social media on a desktop computer for a limited time each day. When we looked at the data, we found that an hour a day of electronic device use doesnt have any negative effects on mental health two hours a day or more is when you get the problems.

The majority of teens are on screens a lot more than that. So if they want to use Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook to keep up with their friends activities, they can do that from a desktop computer.

That sounds hard to enforce.
We need to be more understanding of the effects of smartphones. In many ways, parents are worried about the wrong things theyre worried about their kids driving and going out. They dont worry about their kids sitting by themselves in a room with their phone and they should.

Lots of social media features such as notifications or Snapchats Snapstreak feature are engineered to keep us glued to our phones. Should these types of features be outlawed?
Oh man. Parents can put an app [such as Kidslox or Screentime] on their kids phone to limit the amount of time they spend on it. Do that right away. In terms of the bigger solutions, I think thats above my pay grade to figure out.

Youve been accused by another psychologist of cherry-picking your data. Of ignoring, say, studies that suggest active social media use is associated with positive outcomes such as resilience. Did you collect data to fit a theory?
Its impossible to judge that claim she does not provide citations to these studies. I found a few studies finding no effects or positive effects, but they were all older, before smartphones were on the scene. She says in order to prove smartphones are responsible for these trends we need a large study randomly assigning teens to not use smartphones or use them. If we wait for this kind of study, we will wait for ever that type of study is just about impossible to conduct.

She concludes by saying: My suspicion is that the kids are gonna be OK. However, it is not OK that 50% more teens suffer from major depression now versus just six years ago and three times as many girls aged 12 to 14 take their own lives. It is not OK that more teens say that they are lonely and feel hopeless. It is not OK that teens arent seeing their friends in person as much. If we twiddle our thumbs waiting for the perfect experiment, we are taking a big risk and I for one am not willing to do that.

Are you expecting anyone from Silicon Valley to say: How can we help?
No, but what I think is interesting is many tech-connected people in Silicon Valley restrict their own childrens screen use, so they know. Theyre living off of it but they know its effects. It indicates that pointing out the effects of smartphones doesnt make you a luddite.

iGen: Why Todays Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood and What That Means for the Rest of Us by Jean Twenge is published by Simon & Schuster US ($27) on 22 August

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/aug/13/are-smartphones-really-making-our-children-sad

A moment that changed me: finding out that my dad was an Auschwitz baby | Namalee Bolle

The discovery that my real grandparents died in the Holocaust helped me understand my father and made me determined to help others, says artist and writer Namalee Bolle

Mum was sombre as she spoke, so I knew it was serious. Shes not the kind of mother who is unsmiling very often so when she is, its deeply unsettling. Her kind almond eyes were intense as she became the storyteller of the kind of drama you go to the movies for.

Oma is not your real grandmother. In 1943 she pretended Dad was her own baby that she lost in a miscarriage. She risked her life and saved your dad from the Nazis. Her voice became quieter as she told the family secret.

Your grandad handed Dad to her in the middle of the night with tears streaming down his face and never returned. Your real grandparents were Jews who died in Auschwitz.

As a 16-year-old teenager I was at my wits end about my erratic, volatile dad but suddenly it all made perfect sense. His rages, panic attacks and severe depression only seemed to worsen as the years went by, and he had an awful debilitating lung condition from which he struggled to breathe. Sometimes he was lovely comedic with a weird Dutch sense of humour that had us in stitches, but fun Dad didnt last long before he became gloomy Dad again.

Intuitively I knew in my heart he loved us and I tried to reach out to him, but it was monumentally challenging because I was still a child, and he was psychologically abusive to me and my younger sister whom I was ferociously protective of. Our home felt like a war zone where Shirani and I were fighting for our own survival, against our father.

My grandparents names were Leo and Hildegard Denneboom. My dads name was originally Leo too, but he was renamed Hans Bolle and grew up in Amsterdam. Jacoba Bolle, Dads heroic second mother, was married to Max Bolle, but he died of a heart attack when Dad was only 17.

Years later I would discover psychosomatic connections between unhealed grief and respiratory problems, but I know Dad wouldnt have listened. He was in denial of the root cause of his problems and refused help. It was as if he felt he deserved to suffer for still being alive. I believe this survivors guilt is what eventually led to his own death five years ago this summer, four years after his adoptive mother Jacoba died at 96.

Hans
Intuitively I knew in my heart he loved us . Hans Bolle. Photograph: Namalee Bolle

What dad really needed was a therapist like Dr Viktor Frankl, inventor of logotherapy, who was a Holocaust survivor himself, as documented in his brilliant book Mans Search for Meaning. Frankls existential method was highly relatable to our situation and he inspired me to train as a psychotherapist myself.

I didnt start to fully acknowledge I was a second generation Holocaust survivor until I was in my late 20s and well into my fashion career, having cofounded my own magazine SUPERSUPER! The ultra-bright, relentlessly positive tone and hyper-colourful styling were in fact born of coping mechanisms of growing up with the overarching burden of death and my dads colossal pessimism about his past. I also became aware of epigenetic inheritance the transferral of trauma through DNA that makes it more likely for me to be affected by stress so I learned mindfulness meditation and reiki to self-soothe and protect myself.

Dad simply did not know how to stop the pain spilling out of him and into us. He was tortured by his past and had no tools for dealing with it as emotional difficulties and mental health problems were not something a man felt comfortable admitting to at the time. Without the unconditional love of my incredible mother I do not believe he would have lasted as long as he did. I have thought endlessly about my grandmothers altruism in helping a baby in need while putting herself in grave danger. Thanks to her I would not think twice about adopting a child.

The discovery of my true background has given me the deepest awareness to search with tremendous empathy when determining the link between PTSD and the mental and physical symptoms it creates. Now I am going to honour my family and our bittersweet tale by helping others with their healing too.

Namalee Bolle is an artist and writer with a background in fashion and creative direction. Winner of the Guardian Jackie Moore award for fashion journalism, she was also fashion director for Sleazenation, co-founder of SUPERSUPER! magazine and has contributed to I-D, the Evening Standard and Vogue

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/11/a-moment-that-changed-me-mum-dad-auschwitz-baby

General election: May falters during challenge over record on public services

PM confronted by nurse over issue of low pay in Question Time special, while Jeremy Corbyn is questioned over Trident and national security

Theresa May came under sustained pressure over the Conservative partys record on public sector pay, mental health services and social care in a combative election edition of BBC1s Question Time broadcast less than a week before polling day.

The prime minister faced a string of awkward questions from members of the public, including a challenge from a nurse, Victoria Davey, who left May faltering after confronting her over the 1% pay increase received by NHS staff.

May said she recognised the hard work people did in the health service but said her party had taken the difficult decision of enforcing pay restraint. Im being honest with you saying we will put more money in, but there isnt a magic money tree that we can shake to get everything we want, she said.

The prime minister claimed wages in the NHS had increased, to which a man in the audience shouted that there had been a real-terms salary drop of 14% since 2010, adding: So dont tell us were getting a pay rise.

One woman from the audience became emotional as she described emerging from a fitness-for-work test in tears after being asked about her suicide attempts. Im not going to make any excuses for the experience youve had, said the prime minister.

Under pressure after refusing to turn up for a TV debate earlier in the week, May was animated at first and rejected an accusation that she had performed a U-turn by calling a snap general election. No its not, sir I had the balls to call an election, she said.

Appearing straight after May on the programme, Jeremy Corbyn also faced hostile questioning, coming under pressure over defence and security.

Pressed over his willingness to push the nuclear button in the face of imminent threat, the Labour leader said: I think the idea of anyone ever using a nuclear weapon anywhere in the world is utterly appalling and terrible. It would result in the destruction of lives and community and environment of millions of people. I would be actively engaged to ensure that danger didnt come about.

Asked again if there were any circumstances in which he would use such a weapon, Corbyn said his party had committed to renew Trident. I would view the idea of using a nuclear weapon as something resulting in a failure of the whole worlds diplomatic system, he said. There has to be no first use. There has to be a process of engagement to bring about ultimately global nuclear disarmament You cannot countenance a world in which we could all be destroyed by nuclear war.

Jeremy
Jeremy Corbyn takes questions from the audience. Photograph: WPA Pool/Getty Images

The comments led to a heated exchange, with an exasperated member of the audience asking if Corbyn would not even fire back if attacked.

I would say no first use of the weapon. That has to be the basis of what we do, the Labour leader said.

He then argued: Weve only got one planet, lets get together when we live on it and above all lets not destroy it The most effective use of it is not to use it because it is there.

Corbyn did receive support from one woman in the audience who said she could not understand why others wanted to kill millions of people by discharging a nuclear weapon.

Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, said later: There is no point in having a nuclear weapon unless you are willing in principle to deploy it. Im afraid there is a lesson here about Jeremy Corbyns psychology and his politics and his naivety, with which he approaches not just the logic of the nuclear deterrent but also the Brexit negotiations.

Corbyn began his appearance, and received cheers, when he said that he would have preferred to be debating the prime minister head-to-head. He challenged May to spell out the impact of her dementia tax in the final days of the election, saying it was staggering that pensioners would not be told the level of a promised cap on social care costs.

In her session, May was asked why she was not able to provide details of the maximum amount of money people would have to spend on social care, which was only promised after days of backlash against the policy.

May defended her failure to set out additional details, even though the policy is blamed for reducing the Conservatives lead in the polls in the past fortnight. Were talking about two different things. On the floor, its important people have a protection of their savings, which is greater than it is today. Thats why weve set it at 100,000. But on the cap, I think its right we have that consultation, with individuals, with organisations that deal with these issues, with charities to make sure we get that at the right level, she said.

May focused on Brexit and attacks on Labour over the question of leadership two subjects her campaign is planning to concentrate on in the final few days of the campaign.

I called a general election because I believe the British people have a right to vote and say who they want to see leading them through the Brexit process, she said. And I believe they should have a prime minister with a resolute determination to carry out their will.

On Friday, May attempted to court business with a Financial Times interview in which she vowed to consult companies during Brexit negotiations. She promised she would work with business and identify with them what their main concerns are when it comes to designing a new immigration system, and stressed that there would be an implementation phase.

On the BBC1 programme, she hit out at Corbyn with her election mantra that he could only get into Downing Street propped up by the Lib Dems and the Scottish Nationalists, adding: Youd have Diane Abbott, who cant add up around the cabinet table, John McDonnell who is a Marxist, Nicola Sturgeon who wants to break our country up and Tim Farron who wants to take us back into the EU.

The audience challenged Corbyn on Labours policies on a higher minimum wage, corporation tax rises and zero-hour contracts, with one man claiming the agenda would hurt business.

The Labour leader responded by saying there would be support for small firms to cope with the increase in the wages that employees would be entitled to. There are many big companies that could well afford to pay it and shouldnt be just paying the minimum wage, he said.

Small companies could have problems, we fully recognise that, Corbyn added, but said a Labour government would work with them, either to give them tax relief or support in order to make sure the real living wage was paid but they didnt close down as a result.

Asked by student Edward Robbins about the zero-hours contracts that offer casual, flexible work, Corbyn said: Im not going to stop you working, its OK.

Andrew Gwynne, Labours election coordinator said: Its very regrettable the prime minister wouldnt debate with Jeremy and, after tonight, I can see why. She has no answers to the issues that really concern people on the doorstep, the NHS and cuts facing our schools, and far from appearing strong and stable, she was definitely on the back foot answering most of the questions pitched to her.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jun/02/general-election-may-falters-during-challenge-over-record-on-public-services

Peter Dutton’s office tells Canadian-Australian: ‘go back to US and deal with Trump’

Doug Stetner, who has represented Australia in underwater rugby, called Duttons office to voice support for asylum seekers

A Canadian-born Australian citizen who called Peter Duttons Brisbane office to voice opposition to treatment of asylum seekers says an electorate officer told him to go back to the United States then and deal with Trump.

Doug Stetner, an Australian citizen for 21 years, who represented the national mens team at the 2015 underwater rugby world cup in Colombia, said the response from the immigration ministers staffer was both offensive and comical.

Basically, go back to where you come from. I felt like I was talking to Pauline Hansons party. It was very disappointing, Stetner said.

The Brisbane resident, who has been eligible to vote in the last eight federal elections, said he decided to contact his local MP Ross Vasta after reading of revelations of the strategic worsening of conditions for Nauru and Manus Island detainees.

But Vastas office did not pick up, so Stetner decided to contact the immigration ministers electorate office in Strathpine. He said a male staffer fielded the call.

Stetner, 55, a university computer systems administrator, said he was polite but firm. Basically I said I disagreed with the way they were handling things over there [on Nauru and Manus Island] and they should bring all of these people back to Australia until they can determine whats going to go on with them.

Douglas
Douglas Stetner (front, left) and his colleagues in the Australian underwater rugby team. Photograph: Douglas Stetner

He said the staffer told him he did not know what it was like in the detention centres as reporters are not telling you whats real.

I said, If you let the reporters in there, we might get whats real, but theyre blocking the media so you just get to a point where you dont trust the government on anything theyre saying, Stetner said.

Stetner told the electorate officer it made him embarrassed or ashamed to be an Australian to see this going on in Australian-run detention centres. And then he came out with, Well, why dont you just go back to the US then and deal with Trump?

I was a bit surprised by that. I said I was an Australian citizen and Canadian, not American. Anyway, they represent us and all I can do is call them and tell them this is what Im thinking.

Guardian Australia twice contacted Duttons electorate office to seek the staffers account of the conversation. Two male staffers who answered calls denied having a conversation with Stetner.

Neither the office, nor Duttons ministerial media spokesman, also contacted by Guardian Australia, provided a response.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/may/20/peter-duttons-office-tells-canadian-australian-go-back-to-us-and-deal-with-trump

Popular social media sites ‘harm young people’s mental health’

Poll of 14- to 24-year-olds shows Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter increased feelings of inadequacy and anxiety

Four of the five most popular forms of social media harm young peoples mental health, with Instagram the most damaging, according to research by two health organisations.

Instagram has the most negative impact on young peoples mental wellbeing, a survey of almost 1,500 14- to 24-year-olds found, and the health groups accused it of deepening young peoples feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.

The survey, published on Friday, concluded that Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter are also harmful. Among the five only YouTube was judged to have a positive impact.

The four platforms have a negative effect because they can exacerbate childrens and young peoples body image worries, and worsen bullying, sleep problems and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness, the participants said.

The findings follow growing concern among politicians, health bodies, doctors, charities and parents about young people suffering harm as a result of sexting, cyberbullying and social media reinforcing feelings of self-loathing and even the risk of them committing suicide.

Its interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and wellbeing. Both platforms are very image-focused and it appears that they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people, said Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, which undertook the survey with the Young Health Movement.

She demanded tough measures to make social media less of a wild west when it comes to young peoples mental health and wellbeing. Social media firms should bring in a pop-up image to warn young people that they have been using it a lot, while Instagram and similar platforms should alert users when photographs of people have been digitally manipulated, Cramer said.

The 1,479 young people surveyed were asked to rate the impact of the five forms of social media on 14 different criteria of health and wellbeing, including their effect on sleep, anxiety, depression, loneliness, self-identity, bullying, body image and the fear of missing out.

Instagram emerged with the most negative score. It rated badly for seven of the 14 measures, particularly its impact on sleep, body image and fear of missing out and also for bullying and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness. However, young people cited its upsides too, including self-expression, self-identity and emotional support.

YouTube scored very badly for its impact on sleep but positively in nine of the 14 categories, notably awareness and understanding of other peoples health experience, self-expression, loneliness, depression and emotional support.

However, the leader of the UKs psychiatrists said the findings were too simplistic and unfairly blamed social media for the complex reasons why the mental health of so many young people is suffering.

Prof Sir Simon Wessely, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: I am sure that social media plays a role in unhappiness, but it has as many benefits as it does negatives.. We need to teach children how to cope with all aspects of social media good and bad to prepare them for an increasingly digitised world. There is real danger in blaming the medium for the message.

Young Minds, the charity which Theresa May visited last week on a campaign stop, backed the call for Instagram and other platforms to take further steps to protect young users.

Tom Madders, its director of campaigns and communications, said: Prompting young people about heavy usage and signposting to support they may need, on a platform that they identify with, could help many young people.

However, he also urged caution in how content accessed by young people on social media is perceived. Its also important to recognise that simply protecting young people from particular content types can never be the whole solution. We need to support young people so they understand the risks of how they behave online, and are empowered to make sense of and know how to respond to harmful content that slips through filters.

Parents and mental health experts fear that platforms such as Instagram can make young users feel worried and inadequate by facilitating hostile comments about their appearance or reminding them that they have not been invited to, for example, a party many of their peers are attending.

May, who has made childrens mental health one of her priorities, highlighted social medias damaging effects in her shared society speech in January, saying: We know that the use of social media brings additional concerns and challenges. In 2014, just over one in 10 young people said that they had experienced cyberbullying by phone or over the internet.

In February, Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, warned social media and technology firms that they could face sanctions, including through legislation, unless they did more to tackle sexting, cyberbullying and the trolling of young users.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/may/19/popular-social-media-sites-harm-young-peoples-mental-health

Teenager dropped by football club loses post-traumatic stress claim

Sen Cookes father says his sons dream of playing in the UK was harmed when he was denied the opportunity to play in front of talent scouts

An Irish teenager has lost a case taken against his former football club, where he claimed he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after he was dropped from the team as a 13-year-old.

Sen Cooke, 18, sued Carrigaline United over alleged ill treatment by coaches at the club. Cooke told Judge Sen ODonnabhain at Cork circuit court that he was a good player who hoped to play professionally in Britain, but was not given the chance to play in front of talent scouts after he was allegedly dropped.

His father, Declan Cooke, brought a vote of no confidence against the clubs coaches in the 2012-2013 season, the Irish Independent reports. He lost by a vote of 9 to 2.

Tim Mawe, who succeeded Declan Cooke as manager of the club in 2011, said everything possible was done to accommodate Sen.

Mawe said Sen played regularly during the successful 2011-2012 season, but he was told by other parents that there was non-stop complaining about the clubs management from his father.

The court heard Mawe was very hurt when Cooke brought the vote of no confidence against him, but rejected suggestions from barrister Matthew Maguire that he took any bad feelings out on Sen. We were volunteers. We were doing a great job. It was hurtful. There was no appreciation. He was the same as any player. We picked on merit.

Mawe said Sen was injured in the summer of 2012, missed a lot of pre-season training as a result and had to come off the pitch one time because he was injured.

Sen Cooke told the court that before a game in 2012 Mawe pulled him aside and said that he was not good enough to play. Mawe denied this, saying Sen Cookes mother arrived at the match and once she realised her son was not playing there was a huge commotion.

Maguire told the court that Cooke was not allowed to play during a match which was attended by a talent scout from the English club Aston Villa.

The judge said it was an emotional and difficult case and that Declan Cooke was undoubtedly a caring parent but was not over-blessed with insight.

In dismissing the case ODonnabhain said Mawe appeared to be conscientious and truthful.

In a statement published on Twitter, Sen Cooke said he had no regrets in taking the case. We wanted justice to be served, he wrote.

Cooke added that he had to leave the club I played for and loved since the age of six as a result of being dropped from the team.

Im very proud of my parents for taking the stand for me and sticking up for what was the right thing to do … We feel justice has been served as this case has now been exposed and we can move on from these traumatic years and leave this case behind us.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/30/teenager-dropped-by-football-club-loses-post-traumatic-stress-claim

Stroke and dementia risk linked to low-sugar drinks, study finds

Drinking a can of diet soft drink a day associated with almost three times higher risk, say researchers but critics warn against causal connection

Consuming a can a day of low- or no-sugar soft drink is associated with a much higher risk of having a stroke or developing dementia, researchers claim.

Their findings have prompted renewed questions about whether drinks flavoured with artificial sweeteners can increase the risk of serious illness, as heavily sugared drinks have already been shown to do.

Drinking at least one artificially sweetened beverage daily was associated with almost three times the risk of developing stroke or dementia compared to those who drank artificially sweetened beverages less than once a week, according to the American researchers who carried out a study published in Stroke, the journal of the American Heart Association.

After adjustments for age, sex, education (for analysis of dementia), calorific intake, diet quality, physical activity and smoking, higher recent and higher cumulative intake of artificially sweetened soft drinks were associated with an increased risk of ischaemic stroke, all-cause dementia and Alzheimers disease dementia, the co-authors write.

Those consuming at least a can of so-called diet drinks every day were 2.96 times more likely to suffer an ischaemic stroke and 2.89 times more likely to develop Alzheimers disease than those who drank them less than once a week, they found.

Ischaemic strokes occur when blood cannot get to the brain because of a blockage, often one caused by a blood clot forming in either an artery leading to the brain or inside a vein in the brain itself. They comprise the large majority of the 152,0000 strokes a year which occur.

Surprisingly, though, the research also contradicted previous studies by finding that sugared drinks did not raise the risk of either serious outcome. It is based on data for more than 4,300 participants in the Framingham Heart Study, a long-term medical research project in the United States.

To our knowledge, our study is the first to report an association between daily intake of artificially sweetened soft drink and increased risk of both all-cause dementia and dementia because of Alzheimers disease, the co-authors added.

However, they admitted that they could not prove a causal link between intake of diet drinks and development of either medical condition because their study was merely observational and based on details people provided in questionnaires logging their food and drink habits.

Matthew Pase, a senior fellow in the department of neurology at Boston Universitys school of medicine who was one of the co-authors, said that despite no evidence of a causal link, the apparent connection between sweetened drinks and the two conditions does identify an intriguing trend that will need to be explored in other studies.

This is not the first time that sweetened drinks have been implicated in the development of serious ill-health. The paper quotes the Northern Manhattan study as having found that daily consumption of artificially sweetened soft drink was associated with a higher risk of combined vascular events but not stroke. It also cites the conclusion of the Nurses Health study and Health Professionals follow-up study that greater consumption of sugar and artificially sweetened soft drinks was each independently associated with a higher risk of incident stroke over 28 years of follow-up for women and 22 years of follow-up for men.

Sales of diet versions of soft drinks have boomed in recent years as sales of fully sugared ones have declined sharply.

Defras Family Food Survey, published last month, found that sales of regular soft drinks fell by 34.6% between 2010 and 2014, while low-calorie drinks purchases increased by 35.8%. Now just 38% of all soft drinks consumed are fully sugared, it said.

However, experts and health charities warned against reading too much into the findings reported in Stroke.

This research does not show that artificially sweetened drinks cause dementia. But it does highlight a worrying association that requires further investigation, said Dr James Pickett, head of research at Alzheimers Society.

Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine at Glasgow University, said: This is an interesting paper, but I would strongly caution against the conclusion that artificially sweetened drinks may increase the risk of stroke and Alzheimers. There is little other strong evidence to support a link between artificially sweetened drinks and adverse health outcomes.

The results could have been skewed by people who had already become ill before switching to low- or no-sugar drinks, Sattar added.

Dr Mary Hannon-Fletcher, head of health sciences at Ulster University, said: These data are sound as far as they go. However, it is important to note the associations between recent and higher cumulative intake of artificially sweetened soft drinks and dementia were no longer significant after additional adjustment for vascular risk factors and diabetes mellitus as the editor also pointed out. So are the conclusions sound? Perhaps not.

Gavin Partington, director general of the British Soft Drinks Association, said: Despite their claims, the authors of this observational study admit they found no cause and effect and provide no science-based evidence whatsoever to support their theories.

In fact, based on the evidence, Public Health England is actively encouraging food and drink companies to use low-calorie sweeteners as an alternative to sugar and help people manage their weight.

However, Tam Fry, a spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, warned consumers not to see low- or no-sugar drinks as healthy. Dont be fooled by the use of the word diet. Diet drinks were dreamed up as a description by an industry wanting to lull you into believing that it was a healthy thirst-quencher. Whether youre thin or fat and thirsty, and not near a good old-fashioned tap, buy yourself bottled water, Fry said.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/apr/20/stroke-and-dementia-risk-linked-to-low-sugar-drinks-study-finds