Tagged / Gender

Autism screening tool may not pick up women with the condition

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By Rachel Moseley, Bournemouth University and Julie Kirkby, Bournemouth University

Diagnosing autism is expensive and time consuming, so a screening tool is used to filter out those people who are unlikely to be diagnosed as autistic. This is all well and good, but our latest research suggests that a widely used screening tool may be biased towards diagnosing more men than women.

Earlier studies have cast doubt on the ability of one of the leading screening tools, called Autism-Spectrum Quotient, to accurately identify people with autism. Our study decided to look at another screening tool that hasn’t yet been investigated: the Ritvo Autism Asperger Diagnostic Scale-Revised (RAADS-R), a widely used questionnaire for assessing autism in adults with average or above average intelligence.

We compiled the RAADS-R scores of over 200 people who had a formal diagnosis of autism. We compared scores between autistic men and autistic women on four different symptom areas: difficulties with social relationships, difficulties with language, unusual sensory experiences or motor problems, and “circumscribed interests” (a tendency to have very strong, fixed interests).

As there are known sex differences in these areas – for example, with women being better at hiding social and communicative difficulties, and men being more likely to show obvious, and hence easier to detect, circumscribed interests – we wanted to know whether RAADS-R was able to pick up these differences.




Read more:
Changing the face of autism: here come the girls


Our analysis showed that it didn’t: we found no sex differences in RAADS-R scores between autistic men and women in social relatedness, language and circumscribed interests.

A possible explanation for this result is that, since RAADS-R depends on people accurately judging and reporting their own symptoms, sex differences may only emerge when behaviour is diagnosed by an experienced clinician. Previous studies have shown that autistic people often lack insight into their own behaviour and find it difficult to report their own symptoms.

Another likely reason for finding no sex difference in autism traits is that this and most other studies only include autistic people who have received a formal diagnosis through assessment with the very tools and tests we are investigating. As diagnostic and screening tools (including RAADS-R) were developed with male samples, they are most likely to identify autistic women with the most male-like profiles.

This might explain why fewer women tend to be diagnosed. It could be, then, that the screening tests filter out all of the autistic women with more female-like autism traits, and the autistic women with more male-like traits go on to be diagnosed. Or it could be that the underlying sample is biased because the formal diagnostic tools select people with more male-like traits, and the screening tool merely reflects this underlying bias.

Our results could show that our sample didn’t represent a diverse range of autistic women, then. And this is a problem that affects all research on sex differences in autism.




Read more:
GPs urgently need training on autism


As more males than females have received a diagnosis of autism, many of the theories we have about autism are based on these diagnosed cases, and, as a result, may only apply to males. Likewise, as we base our screening tools and diagnostic tools on males who have been diagnosed, we may only pick up women who show male-like symptoms.

We could be missing the women who have very different, more female presentations of autism, but who still show the core features that are central to the diagnosis. These include problems with social interaction, communication and restricted behaviour and interests.

Because screening and diagnostic tests focus on the most common, male manifestations of these core symptoms, females tend to be overlooked. Circumscribed interests in males, for example, are more likely to be based on unusual topics, whereas girls and women may centre their interests on things like celebrities or fashion, only the intensity of the interest sets them apart from non-autistic females.

One clear difference

There was only one prominent sex difference that emerged in our study: autistic women reported more sensory differences and motor problems than autistic men. Sensory and motor symptoms are common in autism. People may be over or under sensitive to sights, sounds, touches, smells and tastes, and are often clumsy and poorly coordinated.

Some autistic people are sensitive to certain fabrics. Purino/Shutterstock.com

This self-reported finding, that women have more sensory and motor symptoms than men, needs to be investigated more thoroughly. However, it appears to be consistent with a few studies that have found that autistic women do have more sensory and motor symptoms than men.

If these types of symptoms are especially problematic for autistic women, they could be important for providing a diagnosis. Although RAADS-R measures sensory and motor symptoms, they play a very minor role in gold-standard diagnostic tests, such as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule.

The importance of a diagnosis?

Efforts are now underway to develop screening tools that are better at identifying autism in females.

Diagnosis is important for autistic people for many reasons. For example, it is the only way they can access support services, such as dedicated support workers to help them with activities at home or in daily life. They might also receive financial support if they need it. (Unemployment affects most of the autistic population and may in part be due to high levels of mental illness in this group.)

Other people have spoken about how having a diagnosis has helped them understand the struggles they’ve faced in their lives – that these things weren’t their fault. And it has helped them meet other people who accept them for who they are.


Rachel Moseley, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Bournemouth University and Julie Kirkby, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Bournemouth University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

“New” FHSS paper on obesity published July 2017


The American Journal of Men’s Health published our latest paper on obesity prevention in men.  The paper ‘Clinical Effectiveness of Weight Loss and Weight Maintenance Interventions for Men: A Systematic Review of Men-Only Randomized Controlled Trials (The ROMEO Project)’ originates from a collaboration between BU and various universities in Scotland, led by the University of Aberdeen [1].

This systematic review paper found that reducing diets produced better weight loss than physical activity alone. The most effective interventions combined reducing diets, exercise, and behaviour change techniques . Group interventions produced favourable weight loss results. The paper reports that once engaged, men remained committed to a weight loss intervention.

The paper concludes that weight loss for men is best achieved and maintained with the combination of a reducing diet, increased physical activity, and behaviour change techniques. Strategies to increase engagement of men with weight loss services to improve the reach of interventions are needed.  This paper is the thirteenth paper from a large NIHR grant [2-13].

The American Journal of Men’s Health is an open access, peer-reviewed resource for cutting-edge information regarding men’s health and illness. It is, however worth noting that although our paper is formally published in July 2017 it has been online for two years!  The journal’s website states clearly that the article was first published online on June 30, 2015 BUT the issue in which it appears is published is July 1, 2017!

 

Prof. Edwin van Teijlingen

CMMPH

 

Reference:

  1. Robertson, C., Avenell, A., Stewart, F., Archibald, D., Douglas, F., Hoddinott, P., van Teijlingen, E., Boyers, D. (2017) Clinical effectiveness of weight loss & weight maintenance interventions for men: a systematic review of men-only randomised controlled trials (ROMEO Project), American Journal of Men’s Health 11(4): 1096-1123.  http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1557988315587550
  2. Robertson, C, Archibald, D, Avenell, A, Douglas, F., Hoddinott, P., van Teijlingen E, Boyers, D., Stewart, F, Boachie, C, Fioratou E., Wilkins, D, Street, T., Carroll, P., Fowler, C. (2014) Systematic reviews of & integrated report on quantitative, qualitative & economic evidence base for the management of obesity in men. Health Technology Assessment 18(35): 1-424. http://www.journalslibrary.nihr.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/118180/FullReport-hta18350.pdf
  3. Stewart, F., Fraser, C., Robertson, C., Avenell, A., Archibald, D., Douglas, F., Hoddinott, P., van Teijlingen, E., Boyers, D. (2014) Are men difficult to find? Identifying male-specific studies in MEDLINE and Embase, Systematics Reviews 3,78.
  4. Archibald, D, Douglas, F, Hoddinott, P, van Teijlingen, E, Stewart, F., Robertson, C., Boyers, D., Avenell, A. (2015) A qualitative evidence synthesis on management of male obesity. BMJ Open 5: e008372. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2015-008372 http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/5/10/e008372.full.pdf+html
  5. Boyers, D, Stewart, F, Fraser, C, Robertson, C, Avenell, A, Archibald, D, Douglas, F, Hoddinott P, van Teijlingen E. (2015). A systematic review of the cost-effectiveness of non-surgical obesity interventions in men, Obesity Research & Clinical Practice 9(4), 310-327.
  6. Robertson, C, Avenell, A, Boachie, C., Stewart, F., Archibald D., Hoddinott, P, Douglas, F, van Teijlingen E, Boyers D. (2016) Should weight loss and maintenance programmes be designed differently for men? Systematic review of long-term RCTs presenting data for men & women: The ROMEO Project, Obesity Research & Clinical Practice 10: 70-84.
  7. Robertson, C., Avenell, A., Boachie, C., Stewart, F., Archibald, D., Douglas, F., Hoddinott, P., van Teijlingen, E., Boyers, D. (2015) Should weight loss programmes be designed differently for men and women? The ROMEO Project, Appetite 87: 374.
  8. Robertson, C., Avenell, A., Stewart, F., Archibald, D., Douglas, F., Hoddinott, P., van Teijlingen, E., Boyers, D. (2015) A systematic review of long-term weight management randomized controlled trials for obese men. The ROMEO Project, Appetite 87: 374.
  9. Robertson, C., Avenell, A., Stewart, F., Archibald, D., Douglas, F., Hoddinott, P., van Teijlingen, E., Boyers, D. (2015) A systematic review of weight loss interventions in the UK. The ROMEO Project, Appetite 87: 375.
  10. Boyers, D., Avenell, A., Stewart, F., Robertson, C., Archibald, D., Douglas, F., Hoddinott, P., van Teijlingen, E., (2015) A systematic review of the cost-effectiveness of non-surgical obesity interventions in men, Appetite 87: 375.
  11. Archibald, D., Douglas, F., Hoddinott, P., van Teijlingen, E., Boyers, D., Avenell, A., Stewart, F., Robertson, C., (2015) A qualitative evidence synthesis on the management of male obesity. The ROMEO Project, Appetite 87: 381.
  12. Avenell, A., Robertson, C., Boachie, C., Stewart, F Archibald, D., Douglas, F., Hoddinott, P., van Teijlingen, E. (2016) Sex based subgroup differences in randomized controlled trials: empirical evidence from Cochrane meta-analyses BMJ 355:i5826 http://www.bmj.com/content/355/bmj.i5826/rapid-responses
  13. Avenell, A., Robertson, C., Stewart, F., Boyers, D., Douglas, F., Archibald, D., van Teijlingen, E., Hoddinott, P., Boachie, C. (2016) Sex can affect participation, engagement, and adherence in trials, BMJ 355:i6754 http://www.bmj.com/content/bmj/355/bmj.i6754.full.pdf

Free Workshop: Sexuality & Gender in the 21st Century

 

 

 

FREE Workshop:
Gender & Sexuality in the 21st Century

Bournemouth University

31 May 2017, 10:00 – 15:00

Unimaginable a decade ago, the intensely personal subject of gender identity has entered the public square.’—National Geographic (Jan 2017)

This openness to discussion of sexuality, gender, and emotion begins to expose this latest generation’s ambivalence, even dissonance regarding these terms. The workshop will explore this, both historically and within the contemporary culture of the 21st Century.

The workshop will gather academics and community representatives from within BU and beyond, whose work may help us to understand more fully contemporary takes on sexuality, gender, and emotion. These may include:

  • Youth and Sexuality
  • Sex Tourism
  • Sex Trafficking
  • Disability and Sexual Well-being
  • Sexuality and Ageing
  • Gender and Sexuality in the Workplace
  • LGBTQ+ concepts of gender and sexuality
  • Other issues we haven’t even considered yet?

We will spend the day learning informally about each other’s interests and previous work around sexuality, gender, and emotion, thus creating the beginnings of new partnerships for further exploration, discovery, research, dissemination, and community action. NO lectures!

Workshop organised by Dr Kip Jones, Director, Centre for Qualitative Research, BU and Dr Lee-Ann Fenge, Deputy Director, National Centre for Post-Qualifying Social Work, BU.

Free lunch provided, places are limited.

Register here: https://gender-sexuality.eventbrite.co.uk

News from the European Parliamentary Research Service Blog – Gender, EU funding and EU Challenges

European Parliamentary Research Service BlogPlease follow the links below to read about current thinking. An awareness of EU thinking could prove useful in the development of a considered application….

Gender

Marcin Grajewski writes – Equality between women and men is one of the European Union’s founding values. Under the “Strategic engagement for gender equality 2016-2019” policy plan, the EU seeks to increase female labour-market participation, reduce the gender pay gap, promote equality between women and men in decision-making, fight gender-based violence, and promote gender equality across the world. However, despite all efforts, such as adopting legislation on equal treatment, gender inequality remains a serious problem in Europe.

The note offers links to commentaries, studies and reports from major international think tanks on issues relating to gender inequality in the EU and other related topics.

Challenges For The EU

Written by Marcin Grajewski – The European Union faces challenges, such as in relation to migration and stagnant economic growth, which test its ability to offer solutions to its citizens. Some politicians and analysts have called for a reform of the EU to shore up popular support for European integration 60 years after the signing of the Treaty of Rome, which led to the creation of what is now the Union.

This note offers links to recent commentaries, studies and reports from major international think tanks on the state of the EU and possible reforms. Earlier papers on the State of the Union can be found in a September edition of ‘What Think Tanks are Thinking’. Other issues in the series offer links to reports on euro area reform and the impact of Brexit on the EU. They  were published in September 2016 and in February 2017 respectively.

Guide To EU Funding 2014-2020

Vasilis Margaras writes – Finding the appropriate funding sources for a local authority, a public entity, a company or a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) can be a major problem. Information is scattered across many different sources and is often confusing and outdated. Read more…

The EPRS ‘Guide to EU Funding 2014-2020’ is a basic introduction to EU funding opportunities for regional and local authorities, NGOs, businesses, professionals and citizens. The objective is to provide an accessible list of the most important EU funds, and to provide potential beneficiaries with appropriate information on the opportunities the funding offers.


 

Why not register for updates from the European Parliamentary Research Service Blog so that they are delivered direct to your own inbox!

If you are considering applying for EU funding, please contact Emily Cieciura, RKEO’s Research Facilitator: EU & International.

 

Call for Gender Experts for Horizon 2020

We have received the following  invitation to join the Database of Gender Experts for European Research and Innovation.

Dr. Ineke Klinge, Chair H2020 Advisory Group on Gender, invites GenPORT members (free to register) to join the H2020 database as gender experts.

Horizon 2020 considers gender as a cross-cutting issue and it shall be adequately integrated in research and innovation content at the level of Work Programmes and projects. Applicants to Horizon 2020 calls are encouraged to include the gender dimension in their proposals. The European Commission is continuously looking for experts with gender expertise in all areas of Horizon 2020 calls to evaluate submitted research proposals.

To find experts with relevant expertise who are willing to evaluate research proposals, the Commission uses an online database. You can register your expertise for gender, and other areas in which you wish to be considered as an expert, in this database on the Participant Portal.

It is very important that you indicate your gender expertise next to your original / main area of training and this has now become much easier than in the past. The Commission therefore encourages you to signal your gender expertise, whether you register for the first time or would like to update your expertise. In the following links you will find:

1) Criteria for gender expertise, as established by the Horizon 2020 Advisory Group on Gender, and

2) Guidance on how to signal your gender expertise in the database prepared by the Gender Sector of DG Research and Innovation.

The European Commission will greatly appreciate your cooperation in increasing the number of experts with gender expertise in its expert database.

If you are keen to know more about gender in funding and participate in this group, please register on GenPORT.

Management of male obesity: The qualitative evidence (BMJ Open)

BMJ Open 2015Yesterday BMJ Open published our latest article on the weight management in obese men, under the title A qualitative evidence synthesis on the management of male obesity.[1]  To the best of our knowledge, this is the first synthesis of qualitative studies investigating men’s perceptions and experiences of weight management services.  The interdisciplinary study was conducted between the three research centres at the University of Aberdeen, namely the Health Services Research Unit (HSRU), the Health Economics Research Unit (HERU) and the Rowett Institute of Health & Nutrition, the University of Stirling’s NMAHP Research Unit, the University of Edinburgh’s Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research & Policy (SCPHRP) and Bournemouth University.

Studies published between 1990 and 2012 reporting qualitative research with obese men, or obese men in contrast to obese women and lifestyle or drug weight management were included. The studies included men aged 16 years or over, with no upper age limit, with a mean or median body mass index of 30 kg/m2 in all settings. In total 22 studies were identified.

Health concerns and the perception that certain programmes had ‘worked’ for other men were the key factors that motivated men to engage with weight management programmes. Barriers to engagement and adherence with programmes included: men not problematizing their weight until labelled ‘obese’; a lack of support for new food choices by friends and family, and reluctance to undertake extreme dieting. Retaining some autonomy over what is eaten; flexibility about treats and alcohol, and a focus on physical activity were attractive features of programmes. Group interventions, humour and social support facilitated attendance and adherence. Men were motivated to attend programmes in settings that were convenient, non-threatening and congruent with their masculine identities, but men were seldom involved in programme design.

The paper concluded that men’s perspectives and preferences within the wider context of family, work and pleasure should be sought when designing weight management services. Qualitative research is needed with men to inform all aspects of intervention design, including the setting, optimal recruitment processes and strategies to minimise attrition.  This paper grew out of the larger ROMEO study which was published in our full HTA (Health Technology Assessment) report, which is also freely available on line, click here! [2]

 

Prof. Edwin van Teijlingen

CMMPH

 

Reference:

  1. Archibald, D., Douglas, F., Hoddinott, P., van Teijlingen, E., Stewart, F., Robertson, C., Boyers, D., Avenell, A. (2015) A qualitative evidence synthesis on the management of male obesity. BMJ Open 5: e008372. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2015-008372 http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/5/10/e008372.full.pdf+html
  2. Robertson, C., Archibald, D., Avenell, A., Douglas, F., Hoddinott, P., van Teijlingen, E., Boyers, D., Stewart, F., Boachie, C., Fioratou, E., Wilkins, D., Street, T., Carroll, P., Fowler, C. (2014) Systematic reviews of & integrated report on the quantitative, qualitative & economic evidence base for the management of obesity in men. Health Technology Assessment 18(35): 1-424.  http://www.journalslibrary.nihr.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/118180/FullReport-hta18350.pdf

Changing diet and exercise, offering men-only groups, and humour may be the recipe for tackling male obesity

Fewer men join weight loss programmes but are more likely than women to stick with them, according to analysis of international obesity studies by researchers from the Universities of Aberdeen, Bournemouth and Stirling.

Men also prefer the use of simple ‘business-like’ language, welcome humour used sensitively, and benefit from the moral support of other men in strategies to tackle obesity. The researchers suggest that obese men might be helped better if weight loss programmes were specifically designed for men.

Researchers from the Universities of Aberdeen, Bournemouth and Stirling analysed evidence from around the world, gathered from weight loss trials and studies that have also taken men’s views. The team particularly investigated what would make services more appealing for men.

From their systematic review (see: http://www.journalslibrary.nihr.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/118180/FullReport-hta18350.pdf ) of the evidence on obesity management published by the NHS National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment Programme, researchers also found:

 

  • Cutting calories together with exercise and following advice on changing behaviour are the best way for obese men to shed pounds. This can also help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and can help improve erectile dysfunction for some men.
  • Obese men who eat less lose more weight than those who take more exercise but don’t eat less.
  • In the long term, one calorie-reducing diet has not yet been found to better than another for weight loss for men.
  • Middle-aged men are motivated to lose weight once they perceive they have a health problem they want to tackle.
  • A desire to improve personal appearance without looking too thin is also a motivator for weight loss in men.
  • Men are likely to prefer weight-loss programmes delivered by the NHS rather than those run commercially.
  • Group-based weight management programmes run only for men provide moral support.
  • Obesity interventions in sports clubs, such as football clubs, have been very effective, with low dropout rates and very positive responses from men.

 

Chief investigator Professor Alison Avenell, based at the University of Aberdeen, said: “More men than women are overweight or obese in the UK, but men are less likely to see their weight as a problem and engage with weight-loss services, even though obesity increases the risk of many serious illnesses such as coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and osteoarthritis. This could be because dieting and weight-loss programmes are perceived as being feminine activities.”

“We looked at the outcomes of obesity management trials and interventions as well as interviews with men in order to find out more about how to design services and inform health policy. While more research is needed into the effectiveness of new approaches to engage men with weight-loss, our findings suggest that men should be offered the opportunity to attend weight loss programmes that are different to programmes which are mainly attended by women.”

 

Dr Flora Douglas, from the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, said: “Men prefer more factual information on how to lose weight and more emphasis on physical activity in weight loss programmes. Interventions delivered in social settings were preferred to those delivered in health-care settings.   Group-based programmes showed benefits by facilitating support for men with similar health problems, and some individual tailoring of advice helped men.  Programmes which were situated in a sporting venue, where participants had a strong sense of affiliation, showed low drop-out rates and high satisfaction.”

University of Stirling Professor Pat Hoddinott said: “Men are much less likely to enrol in commercial weight loss schemes. Some men preferred weight loss programmes delivered in an NHS context. The difference between weight loss for men from NHS and commercial programmes is presently unclear”.

 

Professor Edwin van Teijlingen from Bournemouth University added: “This research project has benefited throughout from the input and insights offered by the Men’s Health Forum in Ireland, the Men’s Health Forum Scotland and the Men’s Health Forum England and Wales.”

This project was funded by the National Institute for Health Research, Health Technology Assessment Programme (NIHR HTA Project 09/127/01; Systematic reviews of and integrated report on the quantitative, qualitative and economic evidence base for the management of obesity in men http://www.nets.nihr.ac.uk/projects/hta/0912701).  The views and opinions expressed therein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Health.

 

Prof. Edwin van Teijlingen

CMMPH

 

Another Santander award…

Another recent beneficiary of the current round of BU Graduate School Santander Mobility Awards is Higher Education Academy (HEA) funded PhD student David Galley. His study has attracted funding of £1000 allowing him to travel on fieldwork to other universities around the UK, seeking the perceptions of male social work students on their journeys through qualifying programmes.
The PhD thesis research of David Galley is based on male student’s perceptions of the lack of male practitioners in social work practice in the UK, why those males who undertake qualifying degrees enter the profession, and what their experiences are of what has been described as ‘pedagogically feminised’ programmes. His mixed-methods study will examine current and established perceptions which may inform future social work curricula. His research is supervised by Prof Jonathan Parker and Dr Sara Ashencaen Crabtree who have both researched and published in this area.

EU Funding for Women in Media

The European Institute for Gender Equality invites proposals for a study on area J of the Beijing platform for action, which addresses women and media in the EU.

The tenderer will conduct a study on women’s participation and access to expression and decision-making in media, with an emphasis on women’s presence in the decision-making bodies within media companies, the extent to which media companies have developed codes of conduct and other forms of self-regulation to obviate discrimination on the grounds of sex, as well as the monitoring of women’s and men’s presence in media content, excluding films and commercials.

Funding is worth approximately €400,000 over 11 months and the deadline is April 24th.

New EU research finds video games can be good for you

It appears that blasting aliens to smithereens, rescuing the princess for the 256th time or pretending you’re Lara Croft  may not be so bad after all. New research led by scientists at the University of Essex  in cooperation with colleagues in Germany and the United States, looked at why people find video games fun.

The study investigated the idea that many people enjoy playing videogames because it gives them the chance to ‘try on’ characteristics which they would like to have as their ideal self. ‘A game can be more fun when you get the chance to act and be like your ideal self,’ explains Dr Andy Przybylski, who led the study. ‘The attraction to playing videogames and what makes them fun is that it gives people the chance to think about a role they would ideally like to take and then get a chance to play that role.’

The research found that giving players the chance to adopt a new identity during a game and acting through that new identity – be it a different gender, hero, villain – made them feel better about themselves and less negative. In fact, the enjoyment element of the videogames seemed to be greater when there was the least overlap between someone’s actual self and their ideal self. The study involved hundreds of casual game players in the laboratory and studied nearly a thousand dedicated gamers who played everything from ‘The Sims’ and ‘Call of Duty’ to ‘World of Warcraft’. Players were asked how they felt after playing in relation to the attributes or characteristics of the persona they would ideally like to be.