Internet chat ‘has a positive side’


Internet forums and chatrooms can have positive effects that should be more widely acknowledged, experts say.

The call comes after Oxford University researchers carried out an analysis of 14 different studies looking at how young people use the internet.

A young girl browses the internet

The review – published in the Plos One journal – said a number of studies had found a link between internet use and self-harm and suicide.

But it said others had found the internet could be a positive influence.

The dangers of internet use have received widespread coverage this year. In one case, in August, 14-year-old Hannah Smith from Leicestershire was found hanged after she had been sent abusive messages on a social networking site.

Since then research by the NSPCC has suggested a fifth of 11 to 16-year-olds have had negative experiences using the internet.

‘Socially isolated’

The Oxford University research highlighted a number of dangers from internet use, including the normalising of self-harm and the risk of bullying.

It also said there was a “strong link” between internet forums and an increased risk of suicide in particular.

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Rather than concentrating primarily on ways of blocking and censoring such sites, we should think about online opportunities to reach out to people in emotional distress”

Joe Ferns Samaritans

But the researchers said some studies had shown that internet forums could support and connect socially isolated people.

There were also examples where forum users encouraged positive behaviour, advised others to seek help and congratulated each other for not harming themselves.

Report author Prof Keith Hawton said: “Communication via the internet and other electronic means has potential roles in both contributing to and preventing suicidal behaviour in young people.

“The next step is going to be development of therapeutic interventions using these channels of communication, especially to access those who do not seek help from clinical services.”

Joe Ferns of the Samaritans added: “We should acknowledge that many people are using suicide forums and chatrooms to anonymously discuss their feelings of distress and despair, including suicidal thoughts, which may have a positive impact on the individual. They may be expressing feelings that they have never disclosed to anyone in their offline lives.

“Rather than concentrating primarily on ways of blocking and censoring such sites, we should think about online opportunities to reach out to people in emotional distress.”

Researchers Say Breath Test Could Help Identify Stress.


stess

According to a new pilot study conducted by scientists at Loughborough University, Leicestershire, UK, a deep breath could become stress-detector.

“If we can measure stress objectively in a non-invasive way, then it may benefit patients and vulnerable people in long-term care who find it difficult to disclose stress responses to their carers, such as those suffering from Alzheimer’s,” said Prof Paul Thomas.

The study, reported in the Journal of Breath Research, involved 22 young adults (10 male and 12 female) who each took part in two sessions. In the first, they were asked to sit comfortably and listen to non-stressful music. In the second, they were asked to perform a common mental arithmetic test that has been designed to induce stress.

A breath test was taken before and after each session, whilst heart-rates and blood pressures were recorded throughout.

The breath samples were examined using a technique known as gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, and then statistically analyzed and compared to a library of compounds.

Two compounds in the breath – 2-methylpentadecane and indole – increased following the stress exercise which, if confirmed, the researchers believe could form the basis of a rapid test.

A further four compounds were shown to decrease with stress, which could be due to changes in breathing patterns.

“What is clear from this study is that we were not able to discount stress. It seems sensible and prudent to test this work with more people over a range of ages in more normal settings,” Prof Thomas said.

“We will need to think carefully about experimental design in order to explore this potential relationship further as there are ethical issues to consider when deliberately placing volunteers under stress. Any follow up study would need to be led by experts in stress.”

Breath profiling has become an attractive diagnostic method for clinicians and most recently researchers have found biomarkers associated with tuberculosis, multiple cancers, pulmonary disease and asthma. It is still unclear how to best manage external factors, such as diet, environment and exercise, which can affect a person’s breath sample.

“It is possible that stress markers in the breath could mask or confound other key compounds that are used to diagnose a certain disease or condition, so it is important that these are accounted for.”

The researchers hope that the findings could lead to a quick, simple and non-invasive test for measuring stress; however, the study, which involved just 22 subjects, would need to be scaled-up to include more people, over a wider range of ages and in more ‘normal’ settings, before any concrete conclusions can be made.

Source: /www.sci-news.com