Suicide risk for the jobless: Unemployment makes people up to three times more likely to commit suicide, according to researchers in New Zealand.

The findings hold true even after taking account of other risk factors, such as household income, education and marital status. The study found that unemployed 25- to 44-year-old men and women and 45- to 64-year-old men were two to three times as likely to commit suicide as their employed peers. For 18- to 24-year-old men, fewer qualifications and lower household income also increased the risk of suicide. But there were few suicides among women of this age group. And suicide risk was still higher among the unemployed.

Loosen up

Wearing a tie tight might look smart, but it could increase the risk of developing the serious eye disease glaucoma. Sixty per cent of men with glaucoma and 70 per cent of healthy men tested experienced an increase in blood pressure in their eyes after wearing a tight tie for three minutes. Raised internal eye blood pressure is the most important known risk factor for the development and progression of glaucoma. The authors speculate that a tight tie constricts the jugular vein, which raises venous pressure, in turn raising intra-ocular pressure.

Brain drain

People suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder may be anatomically programmed to suffer, according to research in Japan. Scientists who scanned the brains of 25 survivors of the sarin gas attacks in Tokyo in 1996 found that nine with post-traumatic stress symptoms had significantly smaller left cortexes (frontal brains) than non-sufferers. The severity of the disorder was directly linked to the reduction in size.

Weighty issue

Overweight women may have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Almost 400 men and women were followed from the age of 70 to 88 years. Those women without dementia weighed slightly more than average at the age of 70, 75 and 79.

The women who had developed Alzheimer's between the age of 79 and

88 were much more overweight at the same ages.

Eat yourself healthy

Researchers in Canada have shown that a vegetarian diet of nuts, soya proteins, high-fibre foods and plant-sterol-enriched spreads can lower cholesterol as effectively as drug treatment. The study compared a diet rich in cholesterol- lowering vegetarian foods with statin, a drug commonly prescribed for cholesterol reduction. The special diet lowered

LDL cholesterol, the "bad" cholesterol that can block coronary arteries, by

almost 29 per cent, compared with a 31 per cent decrease in the statin


  •  Lifelines is compiled by Dr Muiris Houston and Sylvia Thompson