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What young people around the world want most in a partner

A new study finds an unexpected trait that young people want in a lifelong partner.

A couple in a cafe in Istanbul. September 10, 2019.

Credit: OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images.
  • A new study from the UK looked at dating preferences of 2,700 international students.
  • The study found that kindness was the top trait preferred by both men and women in a lifelong partner.
  • Looks, financial stability and a sense of humor were also important but with differences across cultures.


We often have unrealistic expectations of our partners, wanting them to fulfill us in a multitude of ways. But there's one quality that stands out above all when choosing a lifelong mate – kindness. So says a new study of college students from six countries. It beat out money and looks as the top trait young people find most desirable.

The study carried out by the UK's University of Swansea involved the dating preferences of 2,700 students in the "Eastern" countries of Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong, and the "Western" countries of UK, Norway and Australia. While some differences in behaviors were noticed across the world, there were also clear similarities.

For the study, participants had to "buy" characteristics they wanted in a partner from a fixed budget. They had eight attributes to choose from for spending their "mate dollars" - physical attractiveness, creativity, good financial prospects, kindness, humor, religiosity, chastity, and the desire to have children.

Responding to different budgetary scenarios, the students were asked to figure out which traits were necessary, indispensable, and which were luxuries.

On average, the young people spent 22-26% of the total budget on kindness, making it a necessity. Outside of that, men found looks most important, while women favored partners with financial stability. On the flip side, traits like chastity, creativity and the desire for children emerged as luxuries for both men and women, getting less than 10% of the budget.

Here's a chart of key findings:

BUDGET SPENT ON DIFFERENT TRAITS BY GENDER

Trait

Men

Women

Kindness

25%

24%

Physical attractiveness

23%

17%

Good financial prospects

12%

18%

Humor

15%

14%

Wants children

7%

9%

Creativity

8%

6%

Religiosity

5%

7%

Chastity

6%

5%

One interesting cultural difference that emerged from the study was that while humor was considered indispensable for men to people in all cultures, it was a "necessity" only for the Western men. It's less of a priority in Eastern cultures, suggests the research.

The desire to have children was also more of a priority for Western women. The principle researcher Dr. Andrew G. Thomas explained that this has to do with differences in family planning.

"In cultures where contraception is widespread, a partner's desire for children may predict the likelihood of starting a family," said Thomas. "In contrast, in cultures where contraception use is less widespread, having children may be a natural consequence of sex within a relationship, making actual desire for children less relevant."

Read the study here, published in the Journal of Personality.

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Technology & Innovation

Physicists have understood at least theoretically, that there may be higher dimensions, besides our normal three. The first clue came in 1905 when Einstein developed his theory of special relativity. Of course, by dimensions we’re talking about length, width, and height. Generally speaking, when we talk about a fourth dimension, it’s considered space-time. But here, physicists mean a spatial dimension beyond the normal three, not a parallel universe, as such dimensions are mistaken for in popular sci-fi shows.

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Predicting PTSD symptoms becomes possible with a new test

An algorithm may allow doctors to assess PTSD candidates for early intervention after traumatic ER visits.

Image source: camillo jimenez/Unsplash
Technology & Innovation
  • 10-15% of people visiting emergency rooms eventually develop symptoms of long-lasting PTSD.
  • Early treatment is available but there's been no way to tell who needs it.
  • Using clinical data already being collected, machine learning can identify who's at risk.

The psychological scars a traumatic experience can leave behind may have a more profound effect on a person than the original traumatic experience. Long after an acute emergency is resolved, victims of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) continue to suffer its consequences.

In the U.S. some 30 million patients are annually treated in emergency departments (EDs) for a range of traumatic injuries. Add to that urgent admissions to the ED with the onset of COVID-19 symptoms. Health experts predict that some 10 percent to 15 percent of these people will develop long-lasting PTSD within a year of the initial incident. While there are interventions that can help individuals avoid PTSD, there's been no reliable way to identify those most likely to need it.

That may now have changed. A multi-disciplinary team of researchers has developed a method for predicting who is most likely to develop PTSD after a traumatic emergency-room experience. Their study is published in the journal Nature Medicine.

70 data points and machine learning

nurse wrapping patient's arm

Image source: Creators Collective/Unsplash

Study lead author Katharina Schultebraucks of Columbia University's Department Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons says:

"For many trauma patients, the ED visit is often their sole contact with the health care system. The time immediately after a traumatic injury is a critical window for identifying people at risk for PTSD and arranging appropriate follow-up treatment. The earlier we can treat those at risk, the better the likely outcomes."

The new PTSD test uses machine learning and 70 clinical data points plus a clinical stress-level assessment to develop a PTSD score for an individual that identifies their risk of acquiring the condition.

Among the 70 data points are stress hormone levels, inflammatory signals, high blood pressure, and an anxiety-level assessment. Says Schultebraucks, "We selected measures that are routinely collected in the ED and logged in the electronic medical record, plus answers to a few short questions about the psychological stress response. The idea was to create a tool that would be universally available and would add little burden to ED personnel."

Researchers used data from adult trauma survivors in Atlanta, Georgia (377 individuals) and New York City (221 individuals) to test their system.

Of this cohort, 90 percent of those predicted to be at high risk developed long-lasting PTSD symptoms within a year of the initial traumatic event — just 5 percent of people who never developed PTSD symptoms had been erroneously identified as being at risk.

On the other side of the coin, 29 percent of individuals were 'false negatives," tagged by the algorithm as not being at risk of PTSD, but then developing symptoms.

Going forward

person leaning their head on another's shoulder

Image source: Külli Kittus/Unsplash

Schultebraucks looks forward to more testing as the researchers continue to refine their algorithm and to instill confidence in the approach among ED clinicians: "Because previous models for predicting PTSD risk have not been validated in independent samples like our model, they haven't been adopted in clinical practice." She expects that, "Testing and validation of our model in larger samples will be necessary for the algorithm to be ready-to-use in the general population."

"Currently only 7% of level-1 trauma centers routinely screen for PTSD," notes Schultebraucks. "We hope that the algorithm will provide ED clinicians with a rapid, automatic readout that they could use for discharge planning and the prevention of PTSD." She envisions the algorithm being implemented in the future as a feature of electronic medical records.

The researchers also plan to test their algorithm at predicting PTSD in people whose traumatic experiences come in the form of health events such as heart attacks and strokes, as opposed to visits to the emergency department.

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