Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

The case for universal paid family leave is extremely convincing

From child vaccination rates to economic prosperity, paid parental leave benefits us all.

Lauren Smith Brody: The United States ranks dead last in the world in terms of the support that it gives new parents after having a baby. It’s just fact. Of the top 18 economies in the world, the United States is the only country that does not allow for any paid leave at all.

So we do have unpaid leave, which is a little bit of a misnomer. People think, “Oh, well you can get parental leave. If you’re a dad or a mom you can take time.” Well, you can if you can afford it.

First of all, only 56 percent of American workers qualify for FMLA because of the stipulations. You have to be at a company that has 50 employees. You have to have worked full time for a year. You have to be working within a certain radius of your company’s home base. So that automatically disqualifies a lot of people.

But then when you look at who can actually afford to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave per child, the numbers go down even further. And what you end up with is that 25 percent of new American mothers go back to work less than two weeks after having had a baby, which is just so markedly different from how it is in the rest of the world.

And I think a lot of people think, erroneously, that it would be really costly for our country to have some sort of paid leave program, but when you look at the other top performing economies in the world, these other countries that have—first of all, they have parity between moms and dads. They have the same leave for adoptive parents. They have all kinds of things that just make this about actually helping produce the next generation in a way that will make that generation go on to also support the economy.

So in Norway—Norway is consistently ranked as the happiest country in the world. Wonderful. That makes sense. They have almost a year of paid leave. Moms and dads are allowed to share it. It sounds great. But when you look at the economy, they are also the top producing—their GDP is the highest per capita of any top economic country in the world. It’s kind of amazing.

And on top of that, they have more moms who work than any country in the world. They also have more moms who work full time, which is a really important distinction. It’s not just that they have, you know, mothers really involved in the workplace. They have mothers who are REALLY involved in the workplace, are also incredibly happy, have also taken this time away from their jobs. And somehow the economy is still moving forward at a good clip.

This is so far away from what we have in the United States, it’s almost—it’s sad, but it’s almost laughable

The women I interviewed told me that they felt better, kind of more back to normal physically at about the 5.5-month mark after having a baby. And I was careful to define that as not necessarily back in your pre-pregnancy jeans, that’s not what I meant. It’s really more about feeling comfortable in your skin. So that’s the 5.5 month mark on average for all these women.

And these were women who had all approaches to career and motherhood. There were single moms, adoptive moms, there were mothers who worked in hourly wage working jobs and more professional jobs, really as broad a spectrum of approaches as I could find. These women reported feeling back to normal physically after 5.5 months. Emotionally, it was actually a little longer, it was 5.8 months, which is really interesting because when you look at the science of what a good parental leave looks like, it is six months of paid leave because, according to the research that's been done, six months is the point at which a mother is much less likely to suffer from a postpartum mood disorder or anxiety disorder. That is also: six months of paid leave is the protective amount for baby’s health. And babies who have had mothers who have been able to take that amount of leave paid are much more likely to be vaccinated on time, are actually less likely to have ear infections and respiratory infections, it’s been shown—which sounds really specific, but it is actually due to their mother’s ability to breastfeed longer which—and I’m very much of a “fed is best” kind of person, however you feed your baby, great, I just want you to be able to make the choices that are best for you.

So basically all of the science shows that it takes at least six months to start really feeling normal again. And that’s because you are hormonal. Your body has been through the most enormous change any body could go through, and yet you are expected to be back on the job just the way you were before.

So yes, unfortunately, we—the ‘we’ is not me, the ‘we’ is our greater society and culture—undervalues parents in the workplace, particularly moms.

Three not-so-trivial reasons America needs paid parental leave? Happiness, health, and productivity, says Lauren Smith Brody, founder of The Fifth Trimester. Of the 18 top-performing economies in the world, the United States is the only country that does not allow guaranteed paid leave, and it's ranked in the bottom 10 of 193 UN member states. "When you look at the science of what a good parental leave looks like, it is six months of paid leave," says Smith Brody. Research shows that six months is the point at which a mother is much less likely to suffer from a postpartum mood disorder or anxiety disorder, that children are more likely to be vaccinated on time and suffer from less ear and respiratory infections. It's also a boon to the economy, as nations like Norway show by giving 12 months of paid parental leave while maintaining the highest per capita GDP of any top economic country in the world. Paid parental leave is not the drain on resources people erroneously assume, says Smith Brody. The United States could and should have a policy that helps support the economy, and creates a healthier and happier next generation that can contribute in turn. The Fifth Trimester: The Working Mom's Guide to Style, Sanity, and Success After Baby

Does conscious AI deserve rights?

If machines develop consciousness, or if we manage to give it to them, the human-robot dynamic will forever be different.

Videos
  • Does AI—and, more specifically, conscious AI—deserve moral rights? In this thought exploration, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, ethics and tech professor Joanna Bryson, philosopher and cognitive scientist Susan Schneider, physicist Max Tegmark, philosopher Peter Singer, and bioethicist Glenn Cohen all weigh in on the question of AI rights.
  • Given the grave tragedy of slavery throughout human history, philosophers and technologists must answer this question ahead of technological development to avoid humanity creating a slave class of conscious beings.
  • One potential safeguard against that? Regulation. Once we define the context in which AI requires rights, the simplest solution may be to not build that thing.

A new hydrogel might be strong enough for knee replacements

Duke University researchers might have solved a half-century old problem.

Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images
Technology & Innovation
  • Duke University researchers created a hydrogel that appears to be as strong and flexible as human cartilage.
  • The blend of three polymers provides enough flexibility and durability to mimic the knee.
  • The next step is to test this hydrogel in sheep; human use can take at least three years.
Keep reading Show less

Hints of the 4th dimension have been detected by physicists

What would it be like to experience the 4th dimension?

Two different experiments show hints of a 4th spatial dimension. Credit: Zilberberg Group / ETH Zürich
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.

Keep reading Show less

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.

Quantcast