One of my favourite things in life is music. There is nothing quite like making music en masse, and Glasgow City Chorus is performing the Missa Solemis on Sunday 3oth November in the City Halls. The second soprano section in particular is quite marvellous (not that I’m biased).
There have been various studies reporting the effect of singing on stress, and for improving mental health. I especially like a piece in the British Medical Journal from 1911 suggesting that choral singing prevents TB, and that sight singing could prevent “oral, throat, tracheal, and lung affections”. There is also a great letter just below it commenting on the “quackery” in the “great bulk” of the mainstream press as one of the “great scandals of the present day” – nothing much seems to have changed. More to the point, singing in a choir is a good excuse to get out of the house once a week and leave the ironing/general squalour behind.
Even if one claims no trainable voice, being in the audience seems associated with health. A study from the BMC Public Health from 2007 suggests that attending “cultural activities” is associated with health even when adjusted for socio-economic factors.
If any readers are in the area then and would like to come, I have a couple of spare tickets; drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hail the designer vagina. While I was busy thinking that cosmetic surgeons were still sucking fat from hips and erasing bags from under eyes, I have missed the latest money-making trend. Two professors of uro-gynaecology at King’s College London recently observed that women are seeking surgical procedures to improve their intimate aesthetic appearances. Writing in Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Reproductive Medicine, the professors attributed this trend to “aggressive marketing” in the US and UK, combined with media coverage.
Some types of vaginal surgery are reasonable. For example, it may be necessary to treat the symptoms or side effects of cancer. Such procedures have been developed over the years, and are backed by research. Vaginal aesthetic procedures, meanwhile, have been created to meet a demand, although the source of this enthusiasm is not exactly clear.
The hymenorraphy procedure recreates a hymen, which supposedly reconstitutes the appearance of virginity. Has the demand for this been created out of a desire to appear “virginal”, or has momentum been ensured by surgeons willing to perform it? Many women have had their hymen broken during sporting activities. Performing surgery only keeps the myth of the “intact hymen” alive. Then there is the offer of G-spot amplification, in which collagen is injected into the vaginal wall. This US invention comes with the proviso that it cannot “represent a promise, guarantee or warranty that any patient who undergoes the G-Spot Amplification/G-Shot will achieve a particular result. Individual results do vary, and no responsibility is assumed for failure to achieve a desired result.”
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It may be summer, but doctors are already ordering stocks of vaccine ready for the flu season.
The NHS pours a lot of money and effort into its annual drive to vaccinate as many people in the high-risk groups as possible, and it has a pretty decent record of doing so. So there’s a good chance that if you are over 65, live or work in a care home (or elsewhere in the health service), have a respiratory disease such as asthma or chronic bronchitis or a condition such as diabetes or heart disease, you will be offered a flu jab free of charge.
The question, however, is whether the NHS should be making such an effort to give you that jab. There have been several reports that vaccinating some of those groups classed as “high risk” does little to cut the risk of complications from flu, for example pneumonia. A paper published in The Lancet this month matched older, healthy people who had received the flu jab with others who hadn’t – and found no evidence that the vaccination reduced the risk of contracting pneumonia. Nor is this the first piece of research to sound a note of caution on the benefits of vaccinating some high risk groups.
The remainder of this column can be read here. Please post comments below.