These 10 countries are closest to achieving gender equality
Iceland has closed almost 88% of its gender gap and increased its lead over second-ranked Norway.
For 11 consecutive years the Nordic nation, with a population of just over 360,000, has been the frontrunner in the index, which benchmarks countries according to how close they are to reaching gender equality.
Iceland has closed almost 88% of its gender gap and increased its lead over second-ranked Norway.Iceland leads the way at gender parity. Image: World Economic Forum
A century away
The latest figures indicate an overall positive direction of travel.
The global gender gap – which is measured across four key areas, or subindexes: health, education, work and politics – has narrowed slightly to 68.6%. The average gap left to close is now 31.4%, compared to 32% last year.
But there is still an excruciatingly long wait for gender equality: it will take 99.5 years to achieve full parity between men and women at the current rate of change.
The gender gap is on course to close.... in 99 years https://t.co/nkB1ddNNvy
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) December 17, 2019
The majority of countries made strides towards parity in the last 12 months – some moving faster than others. The 16 countries that make up the index's top 10% recorded an improvement of more than 3.3% year-on-year.
Since the report began in 2006, Nordic countries have frequently monopolized the top spots in the ranking, and 2020 is no exception. Just below second-placed Norway are Finland and Sweden.
In fifth place is Nicaragua, followed by New Zealand, Ireland, Spain, Rwanda and Germany.
The most-improved countries are Albania, Ethiopia, Mali, Mexico and Spain.
The United States is 53rd this year, a fall of two places. The world's second-largest economy, China, is down three to 106th.
Looking at the data by region, Western Europe has made the most progress in closing the gender gap, followed by North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and the Middle East and North Africa.
Progress in politics
85 of the 153 countries covered in the latest edition have never had a female head of government. Perhaps no coincidence then that five of the top 10 most gender-equal countries have women in charge.
It's official: Finland's Sanna Marin was just appointed prime minister, making her the world's youngest sitting head of government at age 34.
The Social Democrat will lead a coalition of 5 parties all headed by women. Four of those women are under the age of 35. pic.twitter.com/9LWBUw7cLF
— AJ+ (@ajplus) December 10, 2019
This year's overall improvement was mostly the result of progress in politics, as the number of women in parliaments around the world increased. Even so, only 24.7% of the gap in the Political Empowerment subindex has been bridged so far.
There were also marginal gains in Educational Attainment and Health and Survival, both of which are nearing parity at 96.1% and 95.7%, respectively.
However, the Economic Participation and Opportunity gap widened slightly, meaning it will now take even longer to close – 257 years, compared to the previous estimate of 202 years.
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Philosophers like to present their works as if everything before it was wrong. Sometimes, they even say they have ended the need for more philosophy. So, what happens when somebody realizes they were mistaken?
Sometimes philosophers are wrong and admitting that you could be wrong is a big part of being a real philosopher. While most philosophers make minor adjustments to their arguments to correct for mistakes, others make large shifts in their thinking. Here, we have four philosophers who went back on what they said earlier in often radical ways.
New research establishes an unexpected connection.
- A study provides further confirmation that a prolonged lack of sleep can result in early mortality.
- Surprisingly, the direct cause seems to be a buildup of Reactive Oxygen Species in the gut produced by sleeplessness.
- When the buildup is neutralized, a normal lifespan is restored.
We don't have to tell you what it feels like when you don't get enough sleep. A night or two of that can be miserable; long-term sleeplessness is out-and-out debilitating. Though we know from personal experience that we need sleep — our cognitive, metabolic, cardiovascular, and immune functioning depend on it — a lack of it does more than just make you feel like you want to die. It can actually kill you, according to study of rats published in 1989. But why?
A new study answers that question, and in an unexpected way. It appears that the sleeplessness/death connection has nothing to do with the brain or nervous system as many have assumed — it happens in your gut. Equally amazing, the study's authors were able to reverse the ill effects with antioxidants.
The study, from researchers at Harvard Medical School (HMS), is published in the journal Cell.
An unexpected culprit
The new research examines the mechanisms at play in sleep-deprived fruit flies and in mice — long-term sleep-deprivation experiments with humans are considered ethically iffy.
What the scientists found is that death from sleep deprivation is always preceded by a buildup of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) in the gut. These are not, as their name implies, living organisms. ROS are reactive molecules that are part of the immune system's response to invading microbes, and recent research suggests they're paradoxically key players in normal cell signal transduction and cell cycling as well. However, having an excess of ROS leads to oxidative stress, which is linked to "macromolecular damage and is implicated in various disease states such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, cancer, neurodegeneration, and aging." To prevent this, cellular defenses typically maintain a balance between ROS production and removal.
"We took an unbiased approach and searched throughout the body for indicators of damage from sleep deprivation," says senior study author Dragana Rogulja, admitting, "We were surprised to find it was the gut that plays a key role in causing death." The accumulation occurred in both sleep-deprived fruit flies and mice.
"Even more surprising," Rogulja recalls, "we found that premature death could be prevented. Each morning, we would all gather around to look at the flies, with disbelief to be honest. What we saw is that every time we could neutralize ROS in the gut, we could rescue the flies." Fruit flies given any of 11 antioxidant compounds — including melatonin, lipoic acid and NAD — that neutralize ROS buildups remained active and lived a normal length of time in spite of sleep deprivation. (The researchers note that these antioxidants did not extend the lifespans of non-sleep deprived control subjects.)
Image source: Tomasz Klejdysz/Shutterstock/Big Think
The study's tests were managed by co-first authors Alexandra Vaccaro and Yosef Kaplan Dor, both research fellows at HMS.
You may wonder how you compel a fruit fly to sleep, or for that matter, how you keep one awake. The researchers ascertained that fruit flies doze off in response to being shaken, and thus were the control subjects induced to snooze in their individual, warmed tubes. Each subject occupied its own 29 °C (84F) tube.
For their sleepless cohort, fruit flies were genetically manipulated to express a heat-sensitive protein in specific neurons. These neurons are known to suppress sleep, and did so — the fruit flies' activity levels, or lack thereof, were tracked using infrared beams.
Starting at Day 10 of sleep deprivation, fruit flies began dying, with all of them dead by Day 20. Control flies lived up to 40 days.
The scientists sought out markers that would indicate cell damage in their sleepless subjects. They saw no difference in brain tissue and elsewhere between the well-rested and sleep-deprived fruit flies, with the exception of one fruit fly.
However, in the guts of sleep-deprived fruit flies was a massive accumulation of ROS, which peaked around Day 10. Says Vaccaro, "We found that sleep-deprived flies were dying at the same pace, every time, and when we looked at markers of cell damage and death, the one tissue that really stood out was the gut." She adds, "I remember when we did the first experiment, you could immediately tell under the microscope that there was a striking difference. That almost never happens in lab research."
The experiments were repeated with mice who were gently kept awake for five days. Again, ROS built up over time in their small and large intestines but nowhere else.
As noted above, the administering of antioxidants alleviated the effect of the ROS buildup. In addition, flies that were modified to overproduce gut antioxidant enzymes were found to be immune to the damaging effects of sleep deprivation.
The research leaves some important questions unanswered. Says Kaplan Dor, "We still don't know why sleep loss causes ROS accumulation in the gut, and why this is lethal." He hypothesizes, "Sleep deprivation could directly affect the gut, but the trigger may also originate in the brain. Similarly, death could be due to damage in the gut or because high levels of ROS have systemic effects, or some combination of these."
The HMS researchers are now investigating the chemical pathways by which sleep-deprivation triggers the ROS buildup, and the means by which the ROS wreak cell havoc.
"We need to understand the biology of how sleep deprivation damages the body so that we can find ways to prevent this harm," says Rogulja.
Referring to the value of this study to humans, she notes,"So many of us are chronically sleep deprived. Even if we know staying up late every night is bad, we still do it. We believe we've identified a central issue that, when eliminated, allows for survival without sleep, at least in fruit flies."
We must rethink the "chemical imbalance" theory of mental health.
- A new review found that withdrawal symptoms from antidepressants and antipsychotics can last for over a year.
- Side effects from SSRIs, SNRIs, and antipsychotics last longer than benzodiazepines like Valium or Prozac.
- The global antidepressant market is expected to reach $28.6 billion this year.