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What went right this week: the secrets to good health, plus more

Satisfying relationships were linked to good long-term health, the four-day week had a breakthrough, and Spain introduced menstrual leave, plus more good news

Satisfying relationships were linked to good long-term health, the four-day week had a breakthrough, and Spain introduced menstrual leave, plus more good news

This week’s good news roundup

Studies unraveled the secrets to good health

Having satisfying relationships boosts your health in old age, but you’ll still need to exercise regularly.

Those are the findings of two unrelated studies, published this week. The first found that having good relationships with people was linked to a lower risk of developing long-term conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

As ever, there are caveats. The decades-long study of 8,000 Australians focussed exclusively on women, though it seems likely the advice would apply to men. Researchers from the University of Queensland, which led the study, said “social connections should be considered a public health priority”. 

The second study, led by University College London, adds to a growing body of evidence linking regular exercise with better brain function in old age. 

Lead author Dr Sarah-Naomi James said: “The effect is accumulative, so the longer an individual is active, the more likely they are to have higher later-life cognitive function.” 

Image: Joel Muniz

Good news
Women in Spain got the right to menstrual leave

Spain has become the first European country to offer menstrual leave to women experiencing “incapacitating periods”.

The pioneering bill is part of a broader law that also includes the free provision of menstrual products in schools and prisons.

Last year, Scotland became the first country to guarantee the right to a free period. 

Image: Josefin

Four-day week
The four-day week had a ‘breakthrough’

It has often been dismissed as utopian thinking, but the four-day week has silenced critics, as the results of the world’s largest trial suggest it’s a win-win for employees and bosses.

Workers who adopted a shorter week with no loss of pay were found to be happier, more productive, took fewer sick days and generated more revenue for their employers, a landmark study found.

Read the full story here.

Image: Docusign

London pupils were promised free school meals

Every primary school pupil in London will be offered free school meals during the next academic year, mayor Sadiq Khan announced this week. 

Khan said the one-off scheme will ease the burden on families during the cost of living crisis. There are calls for the £130m initiative to be made permanent.

Some boroughs already offer free school meals. “In Southwark, we’ve benefited from free school meals for all our primary children since 2013 and it’s been a game-changer,” said Reema Reid, headteacher of Hollydale primary school in Nunhead.

Last year, California became the first US state to guarantee free school meals for all pupils.

Image: CDC

Good news
Australia announced a Germany-sized marine park

A week after it sunk plans for a coal mine near the Great Barrier Reef, the Australian government has announced that it will create a marine park the size of Germany in the Southern Ocean. 

Plans to triple the size of Macquarie Island marine park were announced this week. The region is a critical habitat for millions of seabirds, seals and penguins.

“This announcement is an important contribution to conservation in the oceans of the southern hemisphere – a region where dramatic climate change impacts may threaten unique wildlife,” said Emily Grilly of WWF-Australia.

A consultation on the plans will begin in the coming weeks.

Image: Paul Carroll

Good news
Seoul recognised the rights of same-sex couples

For the first time, a South Korean court has recognised the rights of a same-sex couple. The Seoul high court ruled that a government health insurer unlawfully withdrew coverage for the spouse of a customer when it discovered the pair were gay.

South Korea does not recognise same-sex marriage. Ryu Min-hee, the couple’s lawyer, told Reuters that the decision was the “first recognition of the legal status of a same-sex couple.” The National Health Insurance Service said it would appeal.

The couple, So Sung-wook and Kim Yong-min, said: “It is not only our victory but also a victory for many same-sex couples and LGBTQ families in Korea.”

Image: Tim Bieler

Good news
The Mediterranean diet offered yet another benefit

It is considered the healthiest diet going, with studies suggesting it improves heart health, slows ageing and boosts longevity. Now, researchers reckon the Mediterranean diet can improve outcomes for patients with melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer.

A study by King’s College London and University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands suggests that the Mediterranean diet improves people’s response to immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) drugs.

A relatively new treatment, ICB drugs cause the immune system to seek and destroy cancer cells, and have shown great promise. 

“The connection between the diet, gut microbes and helping the immune system fight cancer is one of the most exciting areas of medical research,” said study co-lead Prof Tim Spector from King’s. “[Our research] clearly shows the importance of a gut friendly diet on improving your chances of surviving a cancer.”

Further research is planned to confirm the findings.

Image: Edgar Castrejon

Good news
A date was set for the England to France sail ferry

SailLink, the company behind a new carbon-free ferry between England and France (which Positive News tested out last year), has announced plans to launch trips between Dover and Boulogne-sur-Mer from June, writes Daniel Fahey.

Passengers will travel aboard a fully-recyclable sailing catamaran powered only by wind, solar energy and hydro-generation. The vessel will be fitted with a passenger shelter and bike storage, and can carry up to 10 people, plus crew.

“We are a company that intends to operate profitably but which does not put higher profits above positive actions,” said founder Andrew Simons. “Business-as-usual is over. It is time to initiate a new normality.”

Image: SailLink

Britain made two historic appointments

It’s a role that has been held exclusively by men — until now. This week Dame Angela McLean, a professor of mathematical biology at the University of Oxford, was appointed as the UK’s chief scientific advisor. 

McLean said she was “delighted to take on this role at such an important time in our country for science, innovation and technology.” 

Meanwhile, Oxford’s friendly rival, the University of Cambridge, appointed its youngest ever black professor. Jason Arday, 37, is a scholar of race, inequality and education. He could not read or write until he was 18. 

“My work focuses primarily on how we can open doors to more people from disadvantaged backgrounds and truly democratise higher education,” he said. “Hopefully being in a place like Cambridge will provide me with the leverage to lead that agenda nationally and globally.”

Image: The University of Oxford/The University of Cambridge 

An Octogenarian sang to save the ‘Amazon of Europe’

Proving it’s never too late to release your debut album, a Romanian folk singer has created a record that will fund habitat restoration. 

Eighty-year-old Silvia Dan learnt her folk songs at her grandmother’s knee. Having spent her life caring for livestock on her smallholding in the Carpathian Mountains, she’s now starring on an album released in the UK. 

Read the full story here. 

Image: Marius Sumlea
Main image: Hans Isaacson

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