Why L.G.B.T.Q. Adults Are More Vulnerable to Heart Disease

Experts say that a leading cause of death often goes overlooked.

By Dani Blum

As lots of U.S. residents have been celebrating Pride this month, many in the medical community have highlighted the devastating disparities in health outcomes for L.G.B.T.Q. adults — disproportionate cases of monkeypox in men who have sex with men, high reported rates of alcohol abuse, obstacles to accessing screening and treatments for cancer.

But according to some health experts, one of the most critical health inequities among L.G.B.T.Q. adults often goes overlooked.

A mounting body of research shows that L.G.B.T.Q. adults are more likely to have worse heart health than their heterosexual peers. Lesbian, gay and bisexual adults were 36 percent less likely than heterosexual adults to have ideal cardiovascular health, the American Heart Association concluded in 2018, based on surveys of risk factors like smoking and blood glucose levels. In 2021, the organization released a statement on the high rates of heart disease among transgender and gender diverse individuals, linking these elevated rates in part with the stress that comes from discrimination and transphobia.

The data supports what clinicians, and those who research L.G.B.T.Q. health, have observed for decades — that the community faces particular, pervasive obstacles that take a toll on the brain and body.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 80 percent of premature heart disease and strokes are preventable. But there are disparities in where this burden falls among the general population. We spoke to doctors and health researchers about why these inequities persist, and what steps L.G.B.T.Q. adults can take to bolster their heart health.

The strain of stress

Experts said L.G.B.T.Q. adults face unique stressors — stigma, discrimination, the fear of violence — which can both indirectly and directly lead to disease.

Stress directly impacts certain hormones that regulate your blood pressure and heart rate, said Billy Caceres, an assistant professor at the School of Nursing and the Center for Sexual and Gender Minority Health Research at Columbia University.

Hypervigilance — the sense of always being on edge, constantly scanning for the next threat — causes cortisol levels to surge, which can lead to long-term cardiovascular issues, said Dr. Carl Streed, an assistant professor at Boston University School of Medicine.

Plus, stress can lead to chronic inflammation, said Dr. Erin Michos, associate director of preventive cardiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and it can raise your blood pressure and heart rate.

Researchers sometimes refer to the allostatic load, the cumulative toll that chronic stress takes on the brain and body, said Scott Bertani, the director of advocacy at HealthHIV, a nonprofit focused on advancing prevention and care for people at risk for H.I.V. “It only stands to reason that our bodies respond to these really complex and challenging life events and demands,” he said. For instance, he added, the act of coming out, and in some cases, coming out repeatedly, often comes with severe stress.

To cope with the constant threat of discrimination or harassment, many in the L.G.B.T.Q. community self-medicate with drugs like tobacco and alcohol, said Dr. Streed, who is also a researcher at the Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery at Boston Medical Center. These industries have targeted the L.G.B.T.Q. community through advertising, he said, especially during Pride month. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that around 25 percent of lesbian, gay or bisexual adults used a commercial tobacco product in 2020, compared with 18.8 percent of heterosexual adults, a disparity the agency partially attributes to the tobacco industry’s long history of aggressive marketing campaigns.

Research has also identified a link between sleep and heart health, Dr. Caceres said. Mounting evidence shows that L.G.B.T.Q. adults experience more sleep issues and interruptions than the general population, which may also be tied to chronic stress.

Obstacles to seeking care

A 2017 survey of nearly 500 L.G.B.T.Q. adults by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that more than one in six reported avoiding health care because they worried about discrimination. That hesitancy means that L.G.B.T.Q. adults are less likely to access potentially lifesaving preventive health care, said Dr. Michos. All adults should be screened at least once a year for cardiovascular risk factors, which is typically part of an annual physical, she said.

Finding medical providers that you feel comfortable and safe around can be key in preventing heart disease, experts said. Dr. Streed recommends that L.G.B.T.Q. adults seek out supportive medical practitioners. The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association offers a directory on its website that allows patients to find health professionals. The Human Rights Campaign creates an annual Healthcare Equality Index — a list of health care facilities that say they are inclusive of L.G.B.T.Q. patients.

What L.G.B.T.Q. adults should know about improving heart health

While gender-affirming hormones have been shown to positively impact mental health, Dr. Michos said, there is some evidence that high amounts of testosterone and estrogen can have cardiovascular risks. People who are taking these hormones should consult their doctors about how to maintain their heart health.

The American Heart Association recommends seven steps for optimal heart health: managing blood pressure, keeping cholesterol levels low, reducing blood sugar, exercising daily, eating a nutritious diet, maintaining a healthy body weight and not smoking. Dr. Michos also recommended minimizing consumption of processed foods, sugar-sweetened beverages and highly refined carbs, instead opting for whole grains, lean proteins, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Adults should also aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each day, like brisk walking, jogging or cycling.

These are critical facets of preventing heart disease, she added, “but we can’t just preach ‘You need to live a healthy lifestyle’ if individuals are under significant psychological distress and discrimination.”

Social support can help buffer against the physical and psychological strain of stress, she said, and seeking out community can be particularly crucial for L.G.B.T.Q. health outcomes. Several organizations can help L.G.B.T.Q. people connect with one another: SAGE, a nonprofit focused on aiding older adults, matches volunteers with L.G.B.T.Q. people over the age of 55 for weekly phone calls. The Trevor Project, which provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to L.G.B.T.Q. young people, also offers an online community for those between 13 and 24. The Bisexual Resource Center, a nonprofit focused on bisexual issues, maintains a list of online and in-person support groups for bisexual people.

“L.G.B.T. health isn’t just about H.I.V. prevention,” Dr. Caceres said. “A lot of the time, it ends up being focused on that. Sexual health is not the only dimension of health that we as queer people should be thinking of.”

Complete Article HERE!

End-of-life care considerations for LGBTQ older adults with Carey Candrian, PhD

AMA CXO Todd Unger discusses caring for LGBTQ seniors and addressing disparities during end-of-life care with Carey Candrian, PhD, an associate professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver.

0:00 AMA Moving Medicine for June 21, 2022
1:04 What disparities affect LGBTQ older adults, specifically?
2:04 What is driving these disparities in LGBTQ older adults?
4:06 How have previous stigmas taken a toll on LGBTQ seniors mental health?
5:35 Why are LGBT older adults at particular risk for receiving inequitable end-of-life care?
8:17 How is end-of-life care different from other areas of health care where we don’t see these huge gaps?
8:43 What are the drivers of this discrimination?
9:53 What kind of data would be helpful—and how can it best be collected by care providers?
11:46 What do you mean by “breaking the script” when it comes to communication with LGBTQ older adults?
13:30 How would you like to see end-of-life care evolve and what do we need to do to get there?

Why I’m planning my own funeral in my 20s

When ABC reporter Claudia Long began preparing her funeral, she realised she didn’t want a traditional burial.

By Claudia Long

As someone in their 20s, I try not to spend too much time thinking about my own death.

And when it comes to actually planning for the event, it’s somewhere on my priority list between becoming the eighth member of BTS and holidaying on Mars.

But when a friend — citing my love of gardening — sent me a link to a new funeral home that can compost your body after you die, it sent me down a rabbit hole of caskets, wills and burial fees.

There were so many options to choose from, which for an indecisive person like me is straight up more stressful than the idea of actually dying.

I figured, why not save myself some worry and plan my own funeral.

So you’re dead, now what?

There’s quite a few ways to deal with a dead body in Australia but unfortunately composting isn’t one of them just yet.

There isn’t yet a facility providing the service here, so I’d need to get my corpse sent to the US, and while I’m all for sustainability, a logistical nightmare doesn’t seem like the kindest gift to leave my family.

So what do my options look like?

A room including a mortician's slab and a clock.
Composting may not be an option in Australia but there are modern approaches to burial and cremation that are gaining in popularity.

For most Australians, cremation is the way to go, with 70 per cent of people taking the literal dust-to-dust route.

For the rest, burial is the other most popular choice.

But modern spins on these old traditions are becoming more common, according to Griffith University death studies expert Margaret Gibson.

“The possibilities are much greater than they’ve ever been before,” Dr Gibson said.

“It’s another way of marking the finality and transitioning the body into another form. Some people find it a cleaner kind of ritual and more, I guess, more finite in that sense.”

But down the body-composting clickhole I found another option: natural burial

Death, naturally

Essentially, natural burial involves placing your remains in the ground in biodegradable coverings — at a slightly shallower level than other burials to allow for better decomposition — and letting nature run its course.

There’s no embalming, headstone or fancy coffins, to minimise impact on the environment.

So minimal is that impact, that when I went to check out my potential final resting place at Gunghalin Cemetery in Canberra, I didn’t even realise we’d reached the natural burial ground until cemetery staff pointed it out.

The burial ground, with a large stone at the entrance.
Canberra’s first natural burial ground at Gungahlin Cemetery.

Dr Gibson said the natural burial ground’s ability to blend in could make it an appealing option for councils looking for more cemetery space.

“The difficulty for local governments getting approvals to have cemeteries is that there’s always that question of where are they going to be and are they going to be close to where people live,” she said.

“The thing about natural burial is that it creates kind of a multiple space environment.

“It’s much more about a green space than a death space.”

While the process isn’t quite as common as other types of burial and cremation yet, the idea itself isn’t new.

A number of religious and cultural traditions around burial call for shrouding the deceased, as is often done in natural burials, and burying the body without embalming treatments.

Putting all your eggs in one casket

Once I’d opted to be interred at the natural burial ground, it was time to rethink any plans for a big, classic coffin (what can I say, I love drama).

When it comes to what you’ll be buried in, there’s plenty to choose from: did I want a shroud? A cardboard coffin painted by my family and friends?

A cardboard funeral casket
A cardboard funeral casket

In the end, I decided to go with a simple wicker basket, with flowers on top if my family were ok with bringing some along from the garden.

I booked in for a formal planning session with a not-for-profit funeral home, thinking now that I’d decided where and how I wanted to be buried I was set! Ready to go! Totally, 100 per cent prepared!

Not. Even. Close.

Tender Funerals is currently based in the Illawarra, with plans to be operating in Canberra by the end of the year. So hopefully by the time I die they’ll have everything ready to go.

And when it comes to funerals, turns out there are details you need to have prepared.

The planning session went for almost an hour and there were plenty of questions that needed answering.

  • Indoors or outdoors? Outside.
  • Flowers? Yes, but nothing too fancy.
  • Music? Sure, I’ll prep a Spotify playlist.
  • Eyes open or shut? Eyes absolutely, 100 per cent shut (?!).

And that’s just the start.

It’s all a bit overwhelming and that’s before you chuck a sudden death into the mix rather than one that’s hopefully decades away — a good reason to write down some ideas, just in case.

While it’s not all that common to plan and handle a funeral yourself, there’s technically nothing stopping you.

“The funeral industry doesn’t want people to take control of it,” said Dr Gibson.

“You could actually authorise your family to be your own personal funeral directors if you wanted to, it’s just that no one thinks about that and it’s not part of the conversation.

“Part of what keeps the industry going is that people don’t really want to think about their own death, they don’t think ‘ooh how exciting’.”

Who needs to know?

A funeral plan isn’t very useful if discovered under a stack of papers years after you’ve died, so you should tell your nearest and dearest what you want them to do.

A coffin sits at a funeral.
A code of practice has been introduced to safeguard WA’s $170 million prepaid funeral sector.

That could be in the form of instructions in your will, putting together a plan with a funeral home like I did, or jotting down a plan for your loved ones to execute — just make sure to tell someone where you’ve left it.

Cost-wise, even choosing a natural burial, without many bells and whistles, dying is pretty expensive, particularly if you want to have a funeral.

That cost, combined with the pressure and complications of figuring out the logistics, is pushing some to ditch the funeral altogether.

As long as your remains are dealt with, there’s no legal requirement for any funeral or ceremony to mark your death.

“There’s probably a number of factors, but certainly it’s cheaper, I think the cost of funerals is a real factor for people,” said Dr Gibson.

“In some cases, it can be because the nature of the deceased person, maybe didn’t want that and was not particularly into any kind of forms of ceremony or celebration of their life.”

But Dr Gibson said people may want to think of those left behind before instructing there be no funeral.

“I’m not sure whether in the long term that is necessarily a good thing because, you know, funerals are about recognising in this communal way that someone has died,” she said.

“It’s a symbolic act of that recognition, but it’s also connected to the capacity to be able to grieve.”

Complete Article HERE!

Do Mexicans accept death better than other cultures?

Day of the Dead diffuses the grieving process for loved ones, but it’s still a difficult loss

Funeral procession with taxi in Tenango del Valle, México state. More common in towns and rural areas, processions are rare in Mexico City.

By

Oddly, we’d had a casual conversation about Licha’s condition a few weeks ago, when my husband Alejandro assured me that things were OK with his sister-in-law’s cancer treatment.

Then, a few days ago, I hear him talking on the phone with that tone of voice that transcends all linguistic barriers. You know the one — half hushed and 150% serious.

Licha’s death on June 19 was my second experience with a death in Alejandro’s family; the first was 12 years ago. My experiences with these events contrast somewhat with a lot of what is written in English about death in Mexico. The idea that death is dealt with differently here, more easily and readily, might be a little simplistic.

Such writings focus on Day of the Dead and its festive skeletons. It is true that Mexicans have their own way of relating to the general concept of death, but it is not a devil-may-care attitude, especially when it hits home.

As a United States-raised Protestant, both deaths I experienced caught me a bit by surprise because there had been no frank talk beforehand about the serious medical issues both women had.

Funeral at a church in San Francisco Tlaltenco, in Mexico City. The requirement to dress up or wear black seems to vary by region and social status.

In the case of Alejandro’s sister, Lupita, this was kind of understandable as she was only 45 years old. I do not know to this day how much Alex knew of her condition before she went into the hospital for the last time; I think Lupe herself kept most of it secret from the rest of the family.

Licha was in her early 70s — still too young though not quite so tragic — but a similar scenario played out. Everything was OK, or not so bad, until it wasn’t.

Like everywhere else, once death comes in Mexico, ritual and tradition take over. They seem to vary greatly in the details depending on a family’s socioeconomic status.

To get it out of the way, I’ll say that my husband, Alejandro, comes from a lower-working-class urban family — Catholic, but not overwhelmingly so. My husband believes in God but not so much in the church.

In Alex’s family, death is immediately followed by a flurry of phone calls among distant family members discussing decisions whether or not to travel. Mexican families don’t tend to scatter like U.S. ones do, and the need to travel long distances is still rare enough the families might not take this into consideration when making funeral arrangements.

Alex’s family is somewhat scattered in central Mexico, so the decision was made for him to travel to Guadalajara while I would stay in Mexico City.

Like many other cultures, Mexican funeral rites have a wake, or viewing period (although this can be optional), and some kind of ceremony related to the disposal of the body. The details of how these are done vary by local and family traditions along with the economic situation of the family.

There is also a novena, or period of prayer, unless the family is not Catholic.

The wake can last anywhere from 24 to 72 hours, depending on whether the body is embalmed. If not, the body must be buried or cremated within 24 hours.

Aside from this, regulations are not as strict or as pervasive as in other countries, and there is some flexibility in how and where a body is set for viewing. Family members can participate in the preparation of the body, such as applying makeup to the face, with viewings happening in funeral parlors or in people’s homes.

The body is laid out in a coffin and usually separated from viewers by a pane of glass or translucent shroud, though an open casket allowing mourners to touch the body is not unheard of.

Someone is usually with the body day and night at this time, often with one or more people praying. But there is often food and conversation going on as well, especially in the areas farther away from the deceased.

Final rites can be held in the same funeral parlor as the wake or at a church, with the latter being more common in more rural areas — as are processions. In the almost 15 years I have lived in Mexico City, I have never seen any sort of funeral procession, but I have seen them (motorized and on foot) in towns.

In the case of my husband’s sister, the final service was in the funeral home, with only immediate family accompanying the body to the crematorium. Burial is far more traditional, but the lack of space in places like Mexico City has made cremation more acceptable. Burial or the depositing of ashes is often done with a small ceremony.

If you are not from a Mexican Catholic family, the biggest difference for you will be the novena — a nine-day period after the burial when family and close friends gather at least once a day — often after work — to recite the rosary and other prayers for the deceased.

This is done in the deceased’s home or that of a close family member. It often means a crowded house, full of people eating tamales and drinking atole once the somber task of praying for the soul is completed.

Dress codes for public funeral rites vary quite a bit, and it seems mostly to have to do with socioeconomic status. People may wear anything from the most formal attire, preferably in black, or the clothes they wear every day. In my husband’s family, somewhat more formal attire in a darker color suffices.

Although the rites observed in the hours and days after a loved one dies are very important, they don’t seem to take on the sense of urgency that they have in my family. Probably because of Day of the Dead (when many funeral rites are repeated), it is not necessary to show all of your grief immediately.

So, yes, funerals in Mexico are about saying goodbye, but that goodbye is not as absolute as they are in Anglo-Protestant cultures. On Day of the Dead, you have a chance each year to relate to those who have gone before, a psychologically healthy way to deal with lingering grief.

Complete Article HERE!

Dying Differently

— Can Old Ways to Die Help Us Find New Ways to Live?

Changing grief rituals for a post-Covid world

By Brandy L Schillace

A procession makes its way along a high ridge in the mountains. Dressed in bright colors, a group of Buddhist mourners beat hand-held drums by turning them side to side in rhythm. The steady plok-plok is accompanied by the ringing of bells and the singing of chants that echo in the thin air of high altitude.

Above them, as if in expectation, soar a host of griffin-vultures. This slow-marching party and its feathered heralds head for a sacred cliff at the roof of the world; for this is Tibet, and this is a sky burial.

For most Westerners, the idea of leaving remains for hungry birds is unnerving. In the U.S., death tends to be clinical, tidy, followed by a viewing and funeral service at a place specially made for the purpose. Friends and relatives fly in, gathering together for grief, for remembrance, and often for a meal.

But the Covid-19 pandemic changed this. The pandemic and its virulence meant no gathering, no sharing. It meant attempting to process a funeral from afar, over Zoom. It meant being unable to perform those last basic rituals we’ve come to associate with saying goodbye.

What do these changes mean for us now and ongoing? I’ve been asked about this a lot in the past year — interviewed for Jodi Kantor’s piece on changing funerals for the New York Times, and speaking to NPR’s Tonya Mosley on Here and Now about how we can cope.

I think there is much to learn, in particular, from funeral traditions from other parts of the world. Funeral rites have been a part of human communities for a very long time —sky burial for around 11,000 years — but as a social practice, they can change as situations change. Looking at death and grief across cultures can provide a roadmap for coping with our strange new realities post-pandemic.

Sky Burial

I first encountered “sky burial” while writing Death’s Summer Coat. In Tibet, Buddhists have a tradition of ritually dissecting the dead into small pieces and giving the remains to waiting vultures and other carrion birds. The practice agrees with fundamental Tibetan Buddhists beliefs: the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, and living in harmony with nature.

The mourners began this particular day by washing and preparing the body, then wrapping it in colorful cloth. They sing and chant up to the ledges, where a special technician will dissect it for the waiting vultures. The body will, by these means, be broken down for easier consumption by the birds, whose lives will be enriched by the man’s flesh and blood. Scarcely anything will be left, and nothing wasted.

Dho-Tarap, Tibet is one of the most remote inhabited villages on earth at 12,000 feet. So this burial is also practical. Not all Buddhists practice sky burial. But you can understand why it is popular in the cold, tree-less mountains (with its frozen ground). You cannot burn a body with no fuel. You cannot bury it in hardened earth. At some point in their long history, the Tibetan Buddhists chose this method as the best means of disposing of the dead. Social traditions can be altered to meet the needs of the time, the place, and the circumstances of the people they serve.

The Dead at Home

During the Covid-19 lockdown, many of our traditions were interrupted. Weddings didn’t happen. Travel ceased. Lives were cocooned, as though wrapped in wool and put away for winter. But amid the seeming halt of everything else, death moved relentlessly forward. We lost loved ones, but often were unable to mourn them the way we wanted to. A wedding might be postponed; what if we could postpone a funeral?

One of the most unusual traditions I encountered during my research (apart, that is, from necrophagy), belongs to the Torajan people of South Sulawesi, Indonesia. They bury their dead in a variety of ways, sometimes hanging coffins from cliff-sides or interring remains inside of growing trees, or — occasionally — keeping them in the home, mummified.

Life among the Torajans actually revolves around death, and wealth is amassed throughout life in order to ensure a properly auspicious send-off at death. Raising money can be a lengthy process, and so a family embalms and stores the body in the home until the funeral can be properly paid for. Until the ceremonies are complete, a Torajan is not considered truly “dead,” even if the process takes years.

When the Torajan people lose a family member, perhaps a matriarch, there is grief; there is loss. But in order to mourn her properly (and celebrate her life and legacy), they must delay the funeral. The family will tell others that she is “sick,” and even symbolically feed and nourish her by setting a place at the table.

But when they at last have sufficient funds, an enormous celebration ensues — akin to the kind of work and cost that goes into some Western weddings. They also practice Ma’Nene, a ritual in which dead (now mostly mummified) relatives are disinterred, cleaned, and dressed in new fabric to be celebrated a second time.

Such practices may seem alien to Westerners, but I suggest that they offer reassurance and hope as well. If something has intervened to make the funeral of a loved one impossible in the moment, there is no reason it cannot be delayed to a later time — and no reason why it can’t be celebrated more than once. We may not have the remains among us, unless the person was cremated, but we still have the tangible memory of them that lives in each of us. Perhaps there may be new paths for our grief in the post-pandemic period.

Mementos to Grief

Some may be familiar with the concept of memento mori popular during the Victorian period as mourning jewelry made from the hair of a loved one. But a momento can be many things; a letter, a photo, an article of clothing, an heirloom. I remember walking through my grandmother’s house after her passing, feeling her presence as I touched even the most mundane objects: her favorite jelly spoon, her cast iron skillet. These pieces stand in for the body, and evoke memory through sight, smell, and touch. They can be important parts of grief ritual, too.

During dictator Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge reign in Cambodia (1975–1979) more than a million people perished from bloodshed and refugee conditions. Family members disappeared without a trace, children never returned home, and no one knew where the bodies were buried. This was particularly hard upon the Cambodian people, whose beliefs required that certain burial and post-burial rituals must be performed over the body. Otherwise, they feared the soul would wander and be lost, unable to reach the next spiritual level. How could this be possible among the burial pits of executed, unnamed victims? At a time of greatest tragedy, they had been denied their death rituals.

So, culture adapted. The Cambodian people created a new ritual, called chaa bangsegoul, explicitly to deal with genocide. Instead of chanting, in the moment of death, over the deceased loved one, the living may choose a photograph or something owned by the dead as a momento stand-in. With this connection to the departed, ritual chants are performed to help the wandering soul on its way, even years after the event. The Cambodian culture changed to make room for grief and death in a new way, incorporating a new ritual to heal over devastating losses.

Many during the Covid-19 pandemic also suffered devastating losses. Whole families have been plunged into grief, and some of us are mourning for those funerals we could never attend. Perhaps we can look at these at-first unfamiliar practices and think about how our own rituals can change to meet new circumstances.

What rituals might we evolve even now to find closure after the losses of the past year — and how might we re-celebrate life, and re-approach death, in the months and years to come?

Complete Article HERE!

Guns have become the leading cause of death for American kids

By Caitlin Owens

Firearms were the leading cause of death for kids one and older for the first time in 2020, the most recent year for which CDC data is available.

Why it matters: The firearm death rate among children is steadily rising, as more kids are involved in gun-related homicides like Tuesday’s mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, as well as suicides and accidents.

By the numbers: Nearly two-thirds of the 4,368 U.S. children up to age 19 who were killed by guns in 2020 were homicide victims, per the CDC. Motor vehicle crashes, formerly the leading cause of death for kids one and older, killed nearly 4,000 children.

  • Another 30% of firearm-related child fatalities were suicides, 3% were accidental and 2% were of undetermined intent.
  • Male youths were significantly more likely to be killed by guns, while vehicle crashes claimed more females.
  • There were also stark racial disparities. The firearm death rate for Black children was more than four times that of white children, and white children were still more likely to be killed by motor vehicles than guns.
  • D.C. had the highest firearm death rate, followed by Louisiana, Alaska and Mississippi.

Of note: Among children younger than 1, congenital anomalies — or birth defects — were the leading cause of death in 2020, resulting in 4,043 fatalities, per the CDC.

What they’re saying: “As the progress made in reducing deaths from motor vehicle crashes shows, we don’t have to accept the high rate of firearm-related deaths among U.S. children and adolescents,” researchers recently wrote in a New England Journal of Medicine article that highlighted the trend.

  • The study noted that while the National Highway Safety Administration could take the lead addressing road-traffic fatalities, firearms are one of the few products whose safety isn’t regulated by a designated federal agency.
  • It has taken 20 years to build a database of firearm-related deaths that includes data from all 50 states, the researchers wrote.

The bottom line: School shootings have become tragically common in the U.S., but constitute only a small fraction of gun deaths among children.

Complete Article HERE!

How ‘I’m Dead’ Became a Good Thing

Dying of laughter is an exaggeration, but something about it has rung true over the centuries.

By Caleb Madison

On a literal level, it should be impossible to make sense of someone saying “I’m dead” unless you’re attending a successful séance. Yet here we are in 2022, not only proclaiming our own expiration but reveling in it. Far from speech beyond the grave, “I’m dead” has come to communicate one of the highest pleasures of life: the giddy throes of uncontrollable laughter. When someone says “I’m dead” or even just “dead” in 2022, they’re telling you that they couldn’t be more tickled by what just happened. So how did being dead become a good thing?

Death and laughter have been strange bedfellows since ancient Greece, where, legend has it, the fifth-century-B.C. painter Zeuxis died from laughing at the portrait he was painting of a supposedly ugly old woman—a hilarious anecdote later immortalized in an equally hilarious painting by the Dutch master Arent De Gelder. And Zeuxis’s isn’t the only classically depicted death by laughter. The Stoic philosopher Chrysippus, by several accounts, kicked the bucket because he couldn’t stop laughing after witnessing a donkey eating his figs. Bizarrely, King Martin I of Aragon is said to have died laughing at a joke also concerning an animal eating figs. Legends of giggly demises litter history; as recently as 1989, a Danish audiologist is said to have passed away guffawing during a screening of A Fish Called Wanda. Apparently, the best medicine is also sometimes the sweetest poison. Although I admit it would be a great way to go, I myself will be avoiding all zoo-adjacent fig farms in the near future out of an abundance of caution.

The connection between death and laughter was consummated in English by—who else?—Shakespeare. In his comedy The Taming of the Shrew, after the exit of the vivacious and eccentric couple Petruchio and Katharine, Petruchio’s servant, Grumio, says, “Went they not quickly, I should die with laughing.” From then on, the phrase to die laughing was part of the language as a hyperbolic idiom—we all know it’s an exaggeration, but something within the fiction rings true to our relationship with laughter and death. The fatal violence of hilarity proliferated in English over the following centuries. From the 1930s slang to bust a gut to the idea of being “in stitches” to the ironic Catcher in the Rye Holden Caulfield–ism “That killed me,” there’s something about the experience of uncontrollable laughing that seems to put us into close contact with our inevitable nonexistence.

And it makes sense. Intense laughter expresses itself in violent convulsions and temporary loss of bodily control. Who among us hasn’t been part of a tickle-fest that verged on sadomasochistic brutality? Times when I laugh so hard that I cry can feel like an out-of-body experience—a sublime mania that temporarily relieves me of the burden of consciousness. Perhaps we say “I’m dead” because we’ve intuited that deep and frenzied laughter gives us a taste of the eternal unknown toward which we’re all always hurdling. This sense of comatose comicality yielded our Friday-level clue “That’s so funny I can’t even function.”

Complete Article HERE!