Dominique Cappronnier via Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY-ND
Dominique Cappronnier via Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY-ND

Today’s Americans More Accepting Than Ever of Same-Sex Relationships

Dominique Cappronnier via Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY-ND
Dominique Cappronnier via Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY-ND

Good news for equality: A large survey of American adults found that tolerance is on the rise. Researchers published a summary of the survey findings in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.

Since 1973, the General Social Survey has been kind of like a thermometer for American attitudes and beliefs. Survey respondents are asked about their thoughts and feelings on a broad range of topics, from our criminal justice system and legalizing marijuana to racism and social equality. The survey’s most recent iteration, sent out in 2014, brought responses from more than 30,000 adults.

Those adults are not the adults of the '70s, or even the '90s—at least not when it comes to same-sex relationships. For years and years, American attitudes about same-sex relations didn’t really change. In 1973, just 11 percent of adults agreed that "sexual relations between two adults of the same sex [are] not wrong at all." In 1990, that number was only up to 13 percent. Yet something big has happened since then. As of 2014, 49 percent of all adults and 63 percent of Millennials were OK with same-sex relations.

And we’re not just more OK with same-sex experiences—we’re also having more of them, or at least we’re saying that we are. In 1990, 4.5 percent of men reported having sex with another man at least once. By 2014, that percentage had nearly doubled. Women’s self-reported same-sex experiences rose even faster, from 3.6 to 8.7 percent. Bisexual behavior is also on the rise, at 7.7 percent, up from 3.1.

Now, all these results are self-reported. Is it possible that it’s just become more acceptable to talk about having same-sex experiences? Absolutely. But that’s progress, too.

Lead author Jean Twenge is a psychologist at San Diego State University and the author of two controversial books about Millennials: Generation Me and The Narcissism Epidemic. "These large shifts in both attitudes and behavior occurred over just 25 years, suggesting rapid cultural change," Twenge said in a press statement. 

Those rapid cultural changes are the result of a number of factors, Twenge said, but she believes that it boils down to an increased interest in individuality and equality. "Without the strict social rules common in the past,” Twenge said, “Americans now feel more free to have sexual experiences they desire." 

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Feeling Down? Lifting Weights Can Lift Your Mood, Too
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There’s plenty of research that suggests that exercise can be an effective treatment for depression. In some cases of depression, in fact—particularly less-severe ones—scientists have found that exercise can be as effective as antidepressants, which don’t work for everyone and can come with some annoying side effects. Previous studies have largely concentrated on aerobic exercise, like running, but new research shows that weight lifting can be a useful depression treatment, too.

The study in JAMA Psychiatry, led by sports scientists at the University of Limerick in Ireland, examined the results of 33 previous clinical trials that analyzed a total of 1877 participants. It found that resistance training—lifting weights, using resistance bands, doing push ups, and any other exercises targeted at strengthening muscles rather than increasing heart rate—significantly reduced symptoms of depression.

This held true regardless of how healthy people were overall, how much of the exercises they were assigned to do, or how much stronger they got as a result. While the effect wasn’t as strong in blinded trials—where the assessors don’t know who is in the control group and who isn’t, as is the case in higher-quality studies—it was still notable. According to first author Brett Gordon, these trials showed a medium effect, while others showed a large effect, but both were statistically significant.

The studies in the paper all looked at the effects of these training regimes on people with mild to moderate depression, and the results might not translate to people with severe depression. Unfortunately, many of the studies analyzed didn’t include information on whether or not the patients were taking antidepressants, so the researchers weren’t able to determine what role medications might play in this. However, Gordon tells Mental Floss in an email that “the available evidence supports that [resistance training] may be an effective alternative and/or adjuvant therapy for depressive symptoms that could be prescribed on its own and/or in conjunction with other depression treatments,” like therapy or medication.

There haven’t been a lot of studies yet comparing whether aerobic exercise or resistance training might be better at alleviating depressive symptoms, and future research might tackle that question. Even if one does turn out to be better than the other, though, it seems that just getting to the gym can make a big difference.

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Uncombable Hair Syndrome Is a Real—and Very Rare—Genetic Condition
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Everyone has bad hair days from time to time, but for roughly 100 people around the world, unmanageable hair is an actual medical condition.

Uncombable hair syndrome, also known as spun glass hair syndrome, is a rare condition caused by a genetic mutation that affects the formation and shape of hair shafts, BuzzFeed reports. People with the condition tend to have dry, unruly hair that can't be combed flat. It grows slower than normal and is typically silver, blond, or straw-colored. For some people, the symptoms disappear with age.

A diagram of a hair follicle
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Although there have been only about 100 documented cases worldwide, one of the world's leading researchers on the condition, Regina Betz, of Germany's University of Bonn, believes there could be thousands of others who have it but have not been diagnosed. Some have speculated that Einstein had the condition, but without a genetic test, it's impossible to know for sure.

An 18-month-old American girl named Taylor McGowan is one of the few people with this syndrome. Her parents sent blood samples to Betz to see if they were carriers of the gene mutation, and the results came back positive for variations of PADI3, one of three genes responsible for the syndrome. According to IFL Science, the condition is recessive, meaning that it "only presents when individuals receive mutant gene copies from both parents." Hence it's so uncommon.

Taylor's parents have embraced their daughter's unique 'do, creating a Facebook page called Baby Einstein 2.0 to share Taylor's story and educate others about the condition.

"It's what makes her look ever so special, just like Albert Einstein," Taylor's mom, Cara, says in a video uploaded to YouTube by SWNS TV. "We wanted to share her story with the world in hopes of spreading awareness."

[h/t BuzzFeed]

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