About francesothomas

I am an author and editor.

Think twice before you take that job

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Here is another example to go in the “life isn’t fair” file. Swedish researchers found that women facing high demands in their jobs gained weight while men didn’t.

Scientists from the University of Gothenburg studied more than 3800 people. They assessed them three times over a twenty year period, either from age 30 to 50 or 40 to 60 using variables of how much control they had in their work situation and how demanding their job was.

The researchers defined amount of control as  how often they learned something new; whether the job called for imagination or advanced skills; and whether the respondent was personally able to choose what to do and how to do it.

To measure how demanding a job was, they asked questions about work pace, psychological pressures, whether there was enough time for their duties and how often the demands made were contradictory.

Both men and women were equally likely to gain wait when they had little control, a gain of about 10%. On the other hand, half the women who had demanding jobs gained 20%.

The researchers speculate that women in demanding jobs faced more demands at home than men did. Duh. This becomes a public health issue since weight gain is associated with heart disease and diabetes.

Ladies, if you have a high stress job, make an effort to exercise self-care.

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Maybe it’s not who you know but how many

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A recent study about women in leadership positions caught my eye. According to researchers at Notre Dame and Northwestern, women who communicate regularly with a small circle of other women are two and a half times more likely to hold such position.

For men, the larger the social network, regardless of gender, the better the chances for a high ranking job. And women who have a network similar to this are likely to be in a lower level job.

Reading between the lines, this seems to imply that women who are introverted are more likely to be leaders. Conversely, men who are extroverted, those with lots of contacts, are the ones who rise to high levels.

As an introvert, I find this study encouraging. Where do you fall on the introvert/extrovert continuum? How do these results apply to you?

 

Are you an innie or an outie?

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Now that unemployment is so low, have you thought about looking for an encore career? Or maybe just a part time job or volunteer position?

As you explore your options, take into consideration whether you are an introvert or an extravert.

Do you think first before you jump into a situation? Have a very few, very good friends? Need to be alone to refocus after being in a crowd? These are strong indications you are an introvert.

You’ll be happier doing something that puts you in the back office. If you have a flair for numbers, for example, you’d probably enjoy keeping the books. If you are artistic or crafty, selling your wares on Etsy will probably work better for you than selling at face-to-face craft shows.

If you love parties and have a slew of acquaintances, you are likely an extravert. Crowds energize you.

You are probably a natural salesperson. If you’re a fashionista, a job in retail with an employee discount might be a dream come true. If you are athletic, maybe you can recruit people to form a pickleball league.

Have you found a second career? Does it draw on your innate qualities of introversion or extraversion?

 

Be you

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“Our work is the presentation of our capabilities.” ~Edward Gibbon

Are you in a job that allows you to use your capabilities?

I spent much of my adult life working in the insurance industry, a field that rarely gave me the opportunity to use my strengths. I had not chosen this career, merely stumbled into it. An insurance company offered me a job, and I took it. I tried and tried to make the proverbial silk purse of it and failed.

In my forties, I decided to go to graduate school to pursue something that might actually suit me. Although I loved my educational psychology classes and did extremely well, my problem wasn’t solved.

It took almost another twenty years of interim jobs until I finally found a position in my new field. Not surprisingly, it wasn’t all I had hoped for, but it was an environment in which I felt comfortable.

Now that I am officially retired, I have begun writing fiction, something that is a near-perfect match for my introverted personality and artistic interests.

If you are still in the workforce, are you using your capabilities? If you are retired, have you found a job or hobby that lets you be you?

 

A cautionary tale

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I rcently talked to a friend of mine who had been hospitalized earlier this year. She lives alone and had nobody there to advocate for her. She was at the mercy of the staff. “I just did whatever they told me. If they had told me to jump off the roof I would have,” she related to me. I can think of few situations more frightening.

Two years ago, my husband was admitted to the hospital 5 times over a six month period. To say it was a stressful experience is a massive understatement. So when I was offered the opportunity to review Elizabeth Orr’s book, I was hesitant. Did I want to relive that stress? I didn’t, but in the end my curiosity about how medicine is handled in the UK and about Elizabeth’s own story won out.

When Elizabeth’s beloved older brother suffered a health crisis, she went to bat for him. He wasn’t married, so as next of kin, it all fell on her. What she had to deal with from bureaucracy was heart-breaking and very familiar. Waiting endlessly to see or speak with someone in charge. Hearing conflicting advice. Being subjected to unnecessary or at least unexplained procedures. Not learning about resources until it was too late to use them.

I will confess that her situation was far worse than ours. I think the US system still beats the UK. Her poor brother did not survive. I commend her for having the courage to write all of what happnd to her and to him. Her book should be required reading in medical schools.

Now what’ll I do?

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I’ve been doing some reading on encore careers, the ones you undertake after you have retired from your original type of work. These second careers can be paid or unpaid, part time or full time. If you are at loose ends and looking for something meaningful to do, where do you start?

A psychologist named John Holland devised a system to aid in career choice. He divided people and careers into six groups, realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising, and conventional. The idea is to match what you are most interested in with a job in which that strength will be most useful.

Realistic people like nature, athletics, tools, and machinery. If that is you, maybe your encore career could involve gardening, working at a golf course, or refinishing furniture.

Investigative people are curious and like to do research. Could you find a job doing surveys, either in person or via social media? How about a secret shopper position?

Artistic people not only like the visual arts, but also music, theater, and writing. Do you have a book inside you that you now have time to write?

Social people are helpers. You might deliver meals on wheels. You are probably a good teacher.

Enterprising people like to persuade. You are a natural salesperson. You might also start your own business.

Those who are conventional like details and organizing things. You would probably enjoy helping people de-clutter their homes. Or maybe you have bookkeeping skills.

Has this given you some food for thought? I’d love to hear about other potential encore careers based on this idea.

An apple a day helps your brain

 

 

red-3580560__340My husband and I watch Jeopardy almost every night. Lately, I’m noticing my response time has slowed down. I know the answer, or rather the question, but I can’t come up with it as fast as I used to.

A study from the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences suggests a way I can regain my competitive edge. Fiber. What?

As mammals age, immune cells in the brain known as microglia become chronically inflamed. Then they produce chemicals known to impair cognitive and motor function. That’s one explanation for why memory fades and other brain functions decline during old age.

The remedy appears to be eating more fiber. This causes good bacteria in the gut to grow. And that leads to a byproduct called butyrate. A drug called sodium butyrate has been shown to improve memory in mice, according to Professor Rodney Johnson.

His new study reveals, in old mice, that butyrate inhibits production of damaging chemicals by inflamed microglia. One of those chemicals is interleukin-1?, which has been associated with Alzheimer’s disease in humans.

It seems sodium butyrate has a bad smell, so people are not likely to want to take it. A diet high in soluble fiber is a more pleasant alternative.

Interestingly, a low fiber diet didn’t cause gut inflammation in young mice, only old mice.

The researchers did not examine the effects of the diet on cognition. That comes next courtesy of a new, almost-$2 million grant from the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Johnson feels his findings in mice should apply to humans too. “What you eat matters. We know that older adults consume 40 percent less dietary fiber than is recommended. Not getting enough fiber could have negative consequences for things you don’t even think about, such as connections to brain health and inflammation in general.”

According to WebMD, foods containing high levels of soluble fiber include dried beans, oats, oat bran, rice bran, barley, citrus fruits, apples, strawberries, peas, and potatoes.

That spple a day advice is right on.

 

The myth of upward mobility

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A new study by Michael Hout, a sociology professor at New York University, shows that the occupations of our parents affect our own social status more than we thought.

Hout looked at data from 1994 through 2016 that asked people what their parents did for a living. Their replies were coded to 539 occupational categories, following protocols established by the U.S. Census Bureau, and then given a socioeconomic score ranging from 9 (shoe shiner) to 53 (flight attendant) to 93 (surgeon).

Half the sons and daughters whose parents were in the top tier of occupations now work in occupations that score 76 or higher (on a 100-point scale) while half the sons and daughters of parents from the bottom tier now work in occupations that score 28 or less on that scale. Previous studies used averages instead of medians, so the results were underestimated.

In other words, our upward mobility in life is heavily influenced by our parents’ status. America is not yet the land of equal opportunity. We still have some work to do.

 

Mind the gap

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News flash! The glass ceiling is alive and well. A researcher at University of Chicago Booth School of Business studied why that is still the case.

Professor Marianne Bertrand says although women are now earning more college degrees than men, they tend to choose jobs in lower paying fields.

Higher paying fields offer less flexibility and require more time commitment. Since women disproportionately care for children and the home, those fields are less appealing. And if women do by some chance take a job that pays more than their husband’s, that often leads to marital strife and divorce.

Finally, women are psychologically more risk averse than men. Competing for higher paying jobs and negotiating higher salaries entails taking risks.

Family friendly policies help with the flexibility issue but fail to address the pay gap.

Bertrand sums it up like this: an economy that does not fully tap into the leadership skills offered by women is necessarily inefficient.

As the economy continues to boom, will the glass ceiling finally crack?

Falls not just a problem for the elderly

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It is common knowledge that falls are a problem among the elderly. They often lead to broken hips from which the person may never really recover. A recent study, however, indicates the problem with falls starts much earlier than we think.

Researchers in Trinity College Dublin have identified a sharp increase in falls after the age of 40, particularly in women.  They drew on data from TILDA (the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing) as well as data from similar studies in Australia, Great Britain and the Netherlands and found that for women the prevalence of falls increases from the age of 40 on — 9% in 40-44 year olds, 19% in 45-49 year olds, 21% in 50-54 year olds, 27% in 55-59 year olds and 30% in 60-64 year olds.

What this means is that preventative measures should be undertaken beginning around the age of menopause. Waiting until after a fall has occurred is not nearly effective enough.

Health consequences like fractures, head injuries, reduced social participation, increased risk of nursing home admittance, decline in independence and subsequently increased need for care are serious and costly. In addition, there are emotional costs. The researchers estimate one in four people over the age of 50 is afraid of further falls.

Midlife ladies, here is a slideshow of balance exercises to get you started in preventing a fall.