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The devastating potential of volcanic eruptions: An explainer

In recent weeks there have been lots of of stories in the news about volcanic eruptions that are currently occurring, most notable Kilauea, Hawaii and just last week Fuego, Guatemala. Both of these eruptions have been devastating in one way or another for the local populations who live in the shadow of these two volcanoes, but the risks at each volcano are different.

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Brain differences in children with ADHD

This post was written by Margarita Kanevski and Sinead Rhodes

A few weeks ago we spoke about the media coverage of Richard Bacon’s diagnosis of ADHD. A second ADHD related story was covered in the media within the same timeframe. The headline ADHD sufferers have smaller brains’ and Children with ADHD have smaller brain size, study says’  appeared in the news. These headlines relate to recent findings that 4-5-year-old pre-schoolers who showed ADHD symptoms had lower cortical volume than children without signs of ADHD.  So what is the evidence behind the headlines?

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The STEM gender equality paradox- from fallacies to facts

This post was written by Margarita Kanevski and Sinead Rhodes

During a recent school visit, Prince Harry and his fiancé Meghan Markle embarked on a journey to urge young girls to take up STEM subjects. STEM is an acronym that stands for the learning of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and royalty are not the only ones pushing to narrow the gender gap across these subject areas. With consistently growing technological innovations, the demand for STEM skills is rising, yet there is an alarming shortage of female students and employees in STEM fields, further fuelling the gender wage gap.

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Richard Bacon and his diagnosis of ADHD

This post was written by Margarita Kanevski and Sinead Rhodes

More and more celebrities are publically speaking out about their ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – diagnosis. ADHD is a common childhood disorder, figures vary across the U.K. but many reports converge on a figure of just under 1% of school-aged children diagnosed with the condition in the UK. Our previous blogs posts on this topic have included those about will.i.am – a famous American musician, and Rory Bremner – a Scottish comedian and impressionist. This week another public figure caught the eye of media headlines – Richard Bacon, an English TV and radio presenter, recently diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 42. Bacon is probably best known for his high profile role in the children’s show Blue Peter from which he was dismissed following revelations about illegal substance use. In a recent interview with The Sun the TV star opened up how having ADHD symptoms affected him: “I was going out too late and drinking too much…” he said “It was causing pain and chaos and I was tired all the time.” Bacon went on to talk about how his life has improved since his recent diagnosis “I’m so much better, I’m sleeping a lot better, only drinking a couple of times a week and a lot less… If I’d been diagnosed in my twenties the cocaine debacle wouldn’t have happened.”

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Autism and vitamin D in pregnancy

This post was written by Amanda Gillooly and Sinead Rhodes

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder associated with difficulties in social communication and social interactions and an engagement in restrictive and repetitive behaviours. Media coverage regarding childhood disorders and risk factors associated with their development has increased significantly in recent years. While this increased awareness can have clear advantages, this can also lead to heightened and at times unwarranted anxiety among parents. This week the media has reported on evidence of a link between vitamin D deficiency in pregnancy and the development of autistic behaviours in children. Headlines have included “children born to mothers with low vitamin D levels may develop autistic-like behaviours”), “low vitamin D linked to autism behaviours” and the more stronger assertion “vitamin D deficiency can put children at risk of autism”. These headlines suggest a link between vitamin D deficiency and the development of autism. The use of phrases such as “at risk”, potentially make these headlines alarming to pregnant mothers. Here, we will delve further into the actual research study behind the headlines, to clarify precisely what the study showed and the context of this research.

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California to declare COFFEE a cancer risk amid claims it contains toxic chemicals

There have been many reports recently describing the potential cancer-causing (carcinogenic) properties of various foodstuffs. The headline of this article in the Mail certainly gives the impression that coffee is about to be added to this list; indeed, it suggests that California is poised to enshrine the carcinogenic properties of coffee in law. However (and this is a common theme at Research the Headlines), in this case the substance of the headline does not quite match up with the text in the rest of the article.

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will.i.am and ADHD

will.i.am, the highly successful founding member of The Black Eyed Peas and judge on ITV’s ‘The Voice’, has recently spoken to the media about his diagnosis of ADHD. ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a developmental disorder characterised by pervasive inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. It is one of the most common childhood psychological disorders, affecting around 3-5% of all children worldwide. Diagnosis rates in the U.K. are lower than most European countries and the U.S., with around 1% of U.K. children diagnosed with the condition. Media awareness of the condition, particularly from successful individuals like will.i.am is very positive in highlighting issues surrounding the condition. Last year there was extensive media coverage of a programme about ADHD with Rory Bremner covering his diagnosis, which helped address significant misconceptions about the condition. So how has the coverage of will.i.am on this topic helped with awareness on this occasion?

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Looking Back on Research the Headlines in 2017

It has been another trying year for evidence-based journalism. Research the Headlines was set up in 2013 to examine how research was portrayed in the media, and to give the public helpful advice and tools when trying to get to the heart of a news story. This task seems positively leviathan in our current climate.

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Social media, depression and suicide

This article was co-authored by Sinead Rhodes and guest writer Tracy Stewart

A link between use of social media services, such as Facebook and Instagram, and mental health is frequently discussed in the media. Invariably, an association between the two is interpreted as time spent online causing mental health problems. The current discussion centers on a study which examined depression and social media engagement. So how did the media handle reporting of this study?

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Dyslexia, eyes, light and hype

This week a story on dyslexia, my main research interest, has dominated the media, and I could not ignore it. Dyslexia is a specific difficulty in learning to read experienced by about 5-10% children in the UK. The causes and mechanisms leading to dyslexia are yet to be made clear and an effective universal treatment is not available. Every now and then, as it is often the case for childhood disorders, a miraculous cure is proposed ranging from videogames, to  coloured lenses or even electric therapy.

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