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10 Simple Life Hacks You Can Start Today That Will Make You Happier, Backed By Science

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It seems everyone is seeking happiness. For me, I prefer to look at it as the search for peace and joy in life, as I find happiness can be too conditional, and anytime we have to look for or chase something, we are looking outside of us. Surely some of this is just semantics, but happiness is, in my view, a state of being that comes from within and doesn’t shift with circumstance.

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I came across this great article about the science of happiness and how researchers have been able to discover that we can adjust various things in our daily lives to bring more happiness to our state of being. Though, again, I believe happiness happens over the longterm. It’s not short spurts of emotion that we chase, but something that is born within and sustained naturally in our being.

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1. Exercise more – 7 minutes might be enough

You might have seen some talk recently about the scientific 7 minute workout mentioned in The New York Times. So if you thought exercise was something you didn’t have time for, maybe you can fit it in after all.

Exercise has such a profound effect on our happiness and well-being that it’s actually been proven to be an effective strategy for overcoming depression. In a study cited in Shawn Achor’s book, The Happiness Advantage, three groups of patients treated their depression with either medication, exercise, or a combination of the two. The results of this study really surprised me. Although all three groups experienced similar improvements in their happiness levels to begin with, the follow-up assessments proved to be radically different:

The groups were then tested six months later to assess their relapse rate. Of those who had taken the medication alone, 38 percent had slipped back into depression. Those in the combination group were doing only slightly better, with a 31 percent relapse rate. The biggest shock, though, came from the exercise group: Their relapse rate was only 9 percent!

 You don’t have to be depressed to gain benefit from exercise, though. It can help you to relax, increase your brain power and even improve your body image, even if you don’t lose any weight.

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study in the Journal of Health Psychology found that people who exercised felt better about their bodies, even when they saw no physical changes:

Body weight, shape and body image were assessed in 16 males and 18 females before and after both 6 × 40 mins exercise and 6 × 40 mins reading. Over both conditions, body weight and shape did not change. Various aspects of body image, however, improved after exercise compared to before.

We’ve explored exercise in depth before, and looked at what it does to our brains, such as releasing proteins and endorphins that make us feel happier, as you can see in the image below.

brain_walk

 

2. Sleep more – you’ll be less sensitive to negative emotions

We know that sleep helps our bodies to recover from the day and repair themselves, and that it helps us focus and be more productive. It turns out, it’s also important for our happiness.

In NutureShock, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman explain how sleep affects our positivity:

Negative stimuli get processed by the amygdala; positive or neutral memories gets processed by the hippocampus. Sleep deprivation hits the hippocampus harder than the amygdala. The result is that sleep-deprived people fail to recall pleasant memories, yet recall gloomy memories just fine.

In one experiment by Walker, sleep-deprived college students tried to memorize a list of words. They could remember 81% of the words with a negative connotation, like “cancer.” But they could remember only 31% of the words with a positive or neutral connotation, like “sunshine” or “basket.”

The BPS Research Digest explores another study that proves sleep affects our sensitivity to negative emotions. Using a facial recognition task over the course of a day, the researchers studied how sensitive participants were to positive and negative emotions. Those who worked through the afternoon without taking a nap became more sensitive late in the day to negative emotions like fear and anger.

Using a face recognition task, here we demonstrate an amplified reactivity to anger and fear emotions across the day, without sleep. However, an intervening nap blocked and even reversed this negative emotional reactivity to anger and fear while conversely enhancing ratings of positive (happy) expressions.

Of course, how well (and how long) you sleep will probably affect how you feel when you wake up, which can make a difference to your whole day. Especially this graph showing how your brain activity decreases is a great insight about how important enough sleep is for productivity and happiness:

sleep

Another study tested how employees’ moods when they started work in the morning affected their work day.

Researchers found that employees’ moods when they clocked in tended to affect how they felt the rest of the day. Early mood was linked to their perceptions of customers and to how they reacted to customers’ moods.

And most importantly to managers, employee mood had a clear impact on performance, including both how much work employees did and how well they did it.

Sleep is another topic we’ve looked into before, exploring how much sleep we really need to be productive.

3. Move closer to work – a short commute is worth more than a big house

Our commute to the office can have a surprisingly powerful impact on our happiness. The fact that we tend to do this twice a day, five days a week, makes it unsurprising that its effect would build up over time and make us less and less happy.

According to The Art of Manliness, having a long commute is something we often fail to realize will affect us so dramatically:

… while many voluntary conditions don’t affect our happiness in the long-term because we acclimate to them, people never get accustomed to their daily slog to work because sometimes the traffic is awful and sometimes it’s not. Or as Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert put it, “Driving in traffic is a different kind of hell every day.”

We tend to try to compensate for this by having a bigger house or a better job, but these compensations just don’t work:

Two Swiss economists who studied the effect of commuting on happiness found that such factors could not make up for the misery created by a long commute.

4. Spend time with friends and family – don’t regret it on your deathbed

Staying in touch with friends and family is one of the top five regrets of the dying. If you want more evidence that it’s beneficial for you, I’ve found some research that proves it can make you happier right now.

Social time is highly valuable when it comes to improving our happiness, even for introverts. Several studies have found that time spent with friends and family makes a big difference to how happy we feel, generally.

I love the way Harvard happiness expert Daniel Gilbert explains it:

We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.

George Vaillant is the director of a 72-year study of the lives of 268 men.

In an interview in the March 2008 newsletter to the Grant Study subjects, Vaillant was asked, “What have you learned from the Grant Study men?” Vaillant’s response: “That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”

He shared insights of the study with Joshua Wolf Shenk at The Atlantic on how the men’s social connections made a difference to their overall happiness:

The men’s relationships at age 47, he found, predicted late-life adjustment better than any other variable, except defenses. Good sibling relationships seem especially powerful: 93 percent of the men who were thriving at age 65 had been close to a brother or sister when younger.

In fact, a study published in the Journal of Socio-Economics states than your relationships are worth more than $100,000:

Using the British Household Panel Survey, I find that an increase in the level of social involvements is worth up to an extra £85,000 a year in terms of life satisfaction. Actual changes in income, on the other hand, buy very little happiness.

I think that last line is especially fascinating: Actual changes in income, on the other hand, buy very little happiness. So we could increase our annual income by hundreds of thousands of dollars and still not be as happy as if we increased the strength of our social relationships.

The Terman study, which is covered in The Longevity Project, found that relationships and how we help others were important factors in living long, happy lives:

We figured that if a Terman participant sincerely felt that he or she had friends and relatives to count on when having a hard time then that person would be healthier. Those who felt very loved and cared for, we predicted, would live the longest.

Surprise: our prediction was wrong… Beyond social network size, the clearest benefit of social relationships came from helping others. Those who helped their friends and neighbors, advising and caring for others, tended to live to old age.

5. Go outside – happiness is maximized at 13.9°C

In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor recommends spending time in the fresh air to improve your happiness:

Making time to go outside on a nice day also delivers a huge advantage; one study found that spending 20 minutes outside in good weather not only boosted positive mood, but broadened thinking and improved working memory…

This is pretty good news for those of us who are worried about fitting new habits into our already-busy schedules. Twenty minutes are a short enough time to spend outside that you could fit it into your commute or even your lunch break.

A UK study from the University of Sussex also found that being outdoors made people happier:

Being outdoors, near the sea, on a warm, sunny weekend afternoon is the perfect spot for most. In fact, participants were found to be substantially happier outdoors in all natural environments than they were in urban environments.

The American Meteorological Society published research in 2011 that found current temperature has a bigger effect on our happiness than variables like wind speed and humidity, or even the average temperature over the course of a day. It also found that happiness is maximized at 13.9°C, so keep an eye on the weather forecast before heading outside for your 20 minutes of fresh air.

The connection between productivity and temperature is another topic we’ve talked about more here. It’s fascinating what a small change in temperature can do.

6. Help others – 100 hours a year is the magical number

One of the most counterintuitive pieces of advice I found is that to make yourself feel happier, you should help others. In fact, 100 hours per year (or two hours per week) is the optimal time we should dedicate to helping others in order to enrich our lives.

If we go back to Shawn Achor’s book again, he says this about helping others:

…when researchers interviewed more than 150 people about their recent purchases, they found that money spent on activities—such as concerts and group dinners out—brought far more pleasure than material purchases like shoes, televisions, or expensive watches. Spending money on other people, called “prosocial spending,” also boosts happiness.

The Journal of Happiness Studies published a study that explored this very topic:

Participants recalled a previous purchase made for either themselves or someone else and then reported their happiness. Afterward, participants chose whether to spend a monetary windfall on themselves or someone else. Participants assigned to recall a purchase made for someone else reported feeling significantly happier immediately after this recollection; most importantly, the happier participants felt, the more likely they were to choose to spend a windfall on someone else in the near future.

So spending money on other people makes us happier than buying stuff for ourselves. What about spending our time on other people? A study of volunteering in Germany explored how volunteers were affected when their opportunities to help others were taken away:

 Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall but before the German reunion, the first wave of data of the GSOEP was collected in East Germany. Volunteering was still widespread. Due to the shock of the reunion, a large portion of the infrastructure of volunteering (e.g. sports clubs associated with firms) collapsed and people randomly lost their opportunities for volunteering. Based on a comparison of the change in subjective well-being of these people and of people from the control group who had no change in their volunteer status, the hypothesis is supported that volunteering is rewarding in terms of higher life satisfaction.

In his book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman explains that helping others can improve our own lives:

…we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested.

7. Practice smiling – it can alleviate pain

Smiling itself can make us feel better, but it’s more effective when we back it up with positive thoughts, according to this study:

A new study led by a Michigan State University business scholar suggests customer-service workers who fake smile throughout the day worsen their mood and withdraw from work, affecting productivity. But workers who smile as a result of cultivating positive thoughts – such as a tropical vacation or a child’s recital – improve their mood and withdraw less.

Of course it’s important to practice “real smiles” where you use your eye sockets. It’s very easy to spot the difference:

Smiling

According to PsyBlogsmiling can improve our attention and help us perform better on cognitive tasks:

Smiling makes us feel good which also increases our attentional flexibility and our ability to think holistically. When this idea was tested by Johnson et al. (2010), the results showed that participants who smiled performed better on attentional tasks which required seeing the whole forest rather than just the trees.

A smile is also a good way to alleviate some of the pain we feel in troubling circumstances:

Smiling is one way to reduce the distress caused by an upsetting situation. Psychologists call this the facial feedback hypothesis. Even forcing a smile when we don’t feel like it is enough to lift our mood slightly (this is one example of embodied cognition).

One of our previous posts goes into even more detail about the science of smiling.

8. Plan a trip – but don’t take one

As opposed to actually taking a holiday, it seems that planning a vacation or just a break from work can improve our happiness. A study published in the journal, Applied Research in Quality of Life showed that the highest spike in happiness came during the planning stage of a vacation as employees enjoyed the sense of anticipation:

In the study, the effect of vacation anticipation boosted happiness for eight weeks.

After the vacation, happiness quickly dropped back to baseline levels for most people.

Shawn Achor has some info for us on this point, as well:

One study found that people who just thought about watching their favorite movie actually raised their endorphin levels by 27 percent.

If you can’t take the time for a vacation right now, or even a night out with friends, put something on the calendar—even if it’s a month or a year down the road. Then whenever you need a boost of happiness, remind yourself about it.

9. Meditate – rewire your brain for happiness

Meditation is often touted as an important habit for improving focus, clarity and attention span, as well as helping to keep you calm. It turns out it’s also useful for improving your happiness:

In one study, a research team from Massachusetts General Hospital looked at the brain scans of 16 people before and after they participated in an eight-week course in mindfulness meditation. The study, published in the January issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, concluded that after completing the course, parts of the participants’ brains associated with compassion and self-awareness grew, and parts associated with stress shrank.

Meditation literally clears your mind and calms you down, it’s been often proven to be the single most effective way to live a happier life. I believe that this graphic explains it the best:

Before and After Meditation

According to Shawn Achor, meditation can actually make you happier long-term:

Studies show that in the minutes right after meditating, we experience feelings of calm and contentment, as well as heightened awareness and empathy. And, research even shows that regular meditation can permanently rewire the brain to raise levels of happiness.

The fact that we can actually alter our brain structure through mediation is most surprising to me and somewhat reassuring that however we feel and think today isn’t permanent.

We’ve explored the topic of meditation and it’s effects on the brain in-depth before. It’s definitely mind-blowing what this can do to us.

10. Practice gratitude – increase both happiness and life satisfaction

This is a seemingly simple strategy, but I’ve personally found it to make a huge difference to my outlook. There are lots of ways to practice gratitude, from keeping a journal of things you’re grateful for, sharing three good things that happen each day with a friend or your partner, and going out of your way to show gratitude when others help you.

In an experiment where some participants took note of things they were grateful for each day, their moods were improved just from this simple practice:

The gratitude-outlook groups exhibited heightened well-being across several, though not all, of the outcome measures across the 3 studies, relative to the comparison groups. The effect on positive affect appeared to be the most robust finding. Results suggest that a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.

The Journal of Happiness studies published a study that used letters of gratitude to test how being grateful can affect our levels of happiness:

Participants included 219 men and women who wrote three letters of gratitude over a 3 week period.

Results indicated that writing letters of gratitude increased participants’ happiness and life satisfaction, while decreasing depressive symptoms.

Quick last fact: Getting older will make yourself happier

As a final point, it’s interesting to note that as we get older, particularly past middle age, we tend togrow happier naturally. There’s still some debate over why this happens, but scientists have got a few ideas:

Researchers, including the authors, have found that older people shown pictures of faces or situations tend to focus on and remember the happier ones more and the negative ones less.

Other studies have discovered that as people age, they seek out situations that will lift their moods — for instance, pruning social circles of friends or acquaintances who might bring them down. Still other work finds that older adults learn to let go of loss and disappointment over un-achieved goals, and hew their goals toward greater wellbeing.

So if you thought being old would make you miserable, rest assured that it’s likely you’ll develop a more positive outlook than you probably have now.

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Source

http://blog.bufferapp.com/10-scientifically-proven-ways-to-make-yourself-happier

http://www.social-consciousness.com/2013/10/ten-simple-things-you-can-do-today-that-will-make-you-happier-backed-by-science.html

Dive Deeper

These days, it’s not just knowing information and facts that will create change, it’s changing ourselves, how we go about communicating, and re-assessing the underlying stories, ideas and beliefs that form our world. We have to practice these things if we truly want to change. At Collective Evolution and CETV, this is a big part of our mission.

Amongst 100's of hours of exclusive content, we have recently completed two short courses to help you become an effective changemaker, one called Profound Realization and the other called How To Do An Effective Media Detox.

Join CETV, engage with these courses and more here!

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Study: Weekly Use of Disinfectants Greatly Increases Your Risk of Fatal Lung Disease

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A 30-year study conducted by Harvard researchers and the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research found that people who use disinfectants once a week have a 22-32% increased chance of developing lung disease.

  • Reflect On:

    How reliable are regulatory agencies when it comes determining how safe the products we use for cleaning are for our health and environment? Did you know that there are a number of effective alternatives and products available out there?

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What Happened: A 30-year study conducted by researchers at Harvard University alongside researchers at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm) found that regular use of bleach and other commonly used disinfectants can increase your chances of developing fatal lung disease. The study found that those who used these types of products just once a week had up to a 32% increased chance of developing the condition.

It’s called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Researchers looked at the incidence of the disease for the study in more than 55,000 nurses in the United States. Nurses were used for the study because they use disinfectants to clean surfaces on a regular basis. In this study population, 37 percent of nurses used disinfectants to clean surfaces on a weekly basis and 19 percent used them to clean medical instruments on a weekly basis.

In the UK alone, COPD is present approximately 1.2 million people. It includes various lung conditions like chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Obviously there are multiple factors that play a role, but according to this study, disinfectants are definitely one of them or at the very least, can’t be ruled out. Correlation may not mean causation but it’s safe to assume that breathing in these substances is not really safe, in my opinion, and can be detrimental to our health.

As far as deaths go, 25,000 people a year die from COPD in England. This number represents the third highest death rate from the disease. This study is thought to be the very first to identify such a link between COPD and specific cleaning products/chemicals known as “quaternary ammonium compounds (quats).”

To the best of our knowledge we are the first to report a link between disinfectants and COPD among healthcare workers, and to investigate specific chemicals that may underlie this association…Some of these disinfectants, such as bleach and quats, are frequently used in ordinary households, and the potential impact of domestic use of disinfectants on COPD development is unknown…Earlier studies have found a link between asthma and exposure to cleaning products and disinfectants at home, such as bleach and sprays, so it is important to investigate this further.- Inserm researcher Orianne Dumas (source)

The researchers analysed data from a mass study on female US nurses commenced by Harvard in 1989. In 2009, they looked at those who were still working as nurses who had no history of COPD and tracked them until May this year. During that period, 663 were diagnosed with the condition.

A follow up study published in 2019 examining more than 70,000 nurses came to the same conclusions.

We found that use of several specific disinfectants was associated with higher risk of COPD development; these included hypochlorite bleach (chlorine), hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, and quaternary ammonium compounds (commonly used for low-level disinfection of noncritical items, such as environmental surfaces) and glutaraldehyde (used for high-level disinfection). Several of these exposures often occurred concurrently, and disentangling the role of each product was challenging. When studying combinations of exposure to specific disinfectants, we found the highest risks of COPD incidence among nurses exposed to hypochlorite bleach or hydrogen peroxide and in those combining these exposures with exposure to aldehydes. Both the chemical properties of specific products and the greater number of products used could explain these elevated risks. Moreover, all of the agents that were associated with COPD incidence when evaluated separately have been described as airway irritants.

Why This Is Important: 

The everyday use of bleach currently has no specific health guidelines, and that’s very true with many other products as well. Cosmetics is a great example, that particular industry is not quite regulated as it should be, and products that do pass through federal health regulatory regulation and inspection are not always safe. Glyphosate is a great example, and there is a growing concern today among academics, journalists and everyday people regarding the close relationship between these regulatory agencies and the companies that manufacture these products. Sure they may work, but the case with many of these products is that there are alternatives that are just as effective and much more safer.

Whether it’s banking soda and vinegar, tea tree oil and lemons, or something else, the market and natural health stores are now filled with cleaning products that do not pose the same threat as mainstream conventional cleaning products. They’re not hard to find, all it takes is a simple internet search, or a trip to your local natural health food store. Many regular chains are also starting to carry more health and environmentally sound cleaning/disinfectant products as well. If you’re truly concerned and put effort into searching, you’ll have no problem finding these products.

Dive Deeper

These days, it’s not just knowing information and facts that will create change, it’s changing ourselves, how we go about communicating, and re-assessing the underlying stories, ideas and beliefs that form our world. We have to practice these things if we truly want to change. At Collective Evolution and CETV, this is a big part of our mission.

Amongst 100's of hours of exclusive content, we have recently completed two short courses to help you become an effective changemaker, one called Profound Realization and the other called How To Do An Effective Media Detox.

Join CETV, engage with these courses and more here!

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How Effective is The Covid-19 Vaccine?

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    The 95% efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine is widely touted by the media and the medical establishment, but there are important questions to be asked about this claim.

  • Reflect On:

    Are we being given all information available from covid vaccine study to make informed decisions? Are the studies even being done in a way that represents what effects the vaccine may have on the whole population?

Are you going to decline the Covid-19 vaccine if it is offered to you? Why or why not? No matter how certain you are in your reasoning there will no doubt be someone else who feels exactly the opposite to you and will be just as certain of their position. We trust different sources of information, we have had different experiences with vaccines and we have different impressions of the threat of SARS-COV2 to us and our species.

I would suggest that those in the “vaccine cautionary” community would decline the vaccine based on their ideas around its potential risks. On the other hand, supporters of the vaccine are more likely to focus on its potential benefits. The debate has largely been centered around the disagreement people have about the risks. In this essay I will consider the uncertainty I and others have about its benefits.

Is the Medical Community biased about the Vaccine?

As a contributor to Collective Evolution I am well aware of the “cautionary” perspective on vaccinations and CDC directives. As a physician, I have a reasonable understanding of how those in the medical community regard the “best of what modern science has to offer”. I am part of a Physician group on social media where doctors can seek advice from each other around all matters Covid-19, from interesting cases to rare side effects to how to address special concerns raised by patients. It has been alarming to realize how unilateral the support of vaccination is in this community. 

I mean no disrespect to my medical colleagues. Many of those in this community have seen their patients die from this very real virus. They have had to struggle with the divergent directives coming from the CDC. They have had to work through many weeks where Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was in short supply as their hospital wards rapidly reached capacity and overflowed. Now that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have met minimum requirements for efficacy under the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), they are faced with yet another impediment to getting themselves and their patients through this pandemic: growing skepticism around the vaccine coming from the very same people they are endeavoring to help. Their frustration around the situation is understandable, but is it biasing them?

Before consenting to any intervention it is important to understand its relative risks and benefits. As I mentioned earlier, there has been much concern in the “vaccine cautionary” sphere about side-effects and deaths. Here I will take a closer look at what we know about the benefits of the vaccine based on Pfizer-Biontech’s  briefing document to the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee. How confident can we be in the efficacy of the vaccine? Has the manufacturer done its due diligence in its analysis and in being transparent? These are the central questions that need to be answered.

Understanding False Positives and Negatives

There has been a lot of discussion about the rate of “false-positives” with regard to the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test for confirming infection with SARS-COV2. The PCR test can return a positive result even if only trace fragments of the virus are present. Fragments of the virus on a nasal swab is not necessarily representative of an active infection or transmissibility. Moreover the sensitivity of this test is dependent on the number of amplification cycles, or the cycle threshold (Ct), used.  The Ct is not standardized. It is not unreasonable to say that there will be a percentage of people who test positive that do not have the disease. Nevertheless, without a better test we as the public must treat all positive PCR tests as an indication of an infection. We must assume the test is right. The rate of false positives, whatever it is, is directly proportional to the overestimation of the prevalence of the disease. 

Here I would like to discuss the significance of “false-negatives”. These are people who get a negative PCR result but may still be infected. The rate of false negatives is directly proportional to the underestimation of disease prevalence. This aspect of the inaccuracy of our primary diagnostic test gets relatively little attention for practical reasons. If you are suffering symptoms consistent with Covid-19 but have a negative PCR test we assume that you have Covid-19 anyway. In other words, if someone is symptomatic we assume that the test is wrong, i.e. that it is a false-negative, and necessary measures are taken. We quarantine and isolate until we feel healthy again whether we have Covid-19 or not. 

Because we are in the midst of a pandemic we have no choice but to make these assumptions. We are responding appropriately given the limitations of the test. Because of the assumptions we are forced to make, we are exaggerating the prevalence of the disease and our response to it to some extent. It is the nature of the situation we are in.

How do we know that the Vaccine is 95% effective?

With this in mind I would like to discuss a post in the opinion blog of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) that appeared earlier this month. The author, Peter Doshi (PhD and Associate Editor at the BMJ), takes a rigorous look at the results reported by Pfizer regarding the efficacy of their mRNA vaccine. The success of their vaccine has been widely publicized to be 95%. Where exactly does this figure come from?

During the four weeks of observation (three weeks between 1st and 2nd dose followed by 7 days), 162 participants who received the placebo expressed symptoms of Covid-19 and tested positive by PCR. Compare that with only 8 in the group that received their experimental vaccine. The chance of getting Covid 19 after receiving the vaccine was about 20 times lower than if you got the placebo. This is the basis of the claim that their vaccine was 95% effective, well over the 50% threshold required for Emergency Use Authorization that allows their product to be deployed despite the fact that the two-year Phase III trial is still 20 months from completion.

How did Pfizer handle study participants in the “Suspected Covid-19” group?

It is less commonly known that of the nearly 38,000 participants in the Pfizer study, 3,410 fell into a group labeled “suspected Covid-19”. These are people who developed symptoms consistent with disease but tested negative by PCR. 1,594 of those in this group received the vaccine and 1,816 received the placebo. It should be quite clear that how we regard this much bigger group of symptomatic participants will have an enormous impact on the true efficacy of the vaccine. In other words, if we assume that the PCR test was accurate in all of these people and that they didn’t have Covid-19 and developed symptoms from another virus, the flu for example, then the vaccine would in fact be 95% effective as reported. On the other hand, if the PCR test was wrong every time and they all in fact had Covid-19, the efficacy of the vaccine would be much different: 1602 (1594 + 8) in the vaccine wing vs. 1978 (1816 + 162) in the placebo wing results in a vaccine efficacy of only 19%. 

The PCR test (like any test) can be wrong some of the time and right some of the time. No test is 100% accurate, however in this situation the accuracy of the PCR test has a very large impact on how we interpret the results of the vaccine trial. The true efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine can be known only if we know how many symptomatic people in each wing had Covid-19 despite testing negative by PCR.

It is likely that the percentage of false negatives are different in each arm. As the FDA briefing document on the Pfizer study and the BMJ piece correctly note, there should be fewer false negatives in the vaccine group. Why? It is because there is a greater chance of developing Covid-19 symptoms after receiving the vaccine compared to getting a placebo. Reactogenicity, or the acute response of the body to the vaccine, is common. Most of the acute inflammatory reaction to the vaccine occurs in the first seven days after receiving the vaccine. Looking more closely at the data, 409 patients in the vaccine group developed symptoms in the first seven days after inoculation. Compare this to 287 in the placebo group. If we assume that any participant who expressed symptoms in the first seven days must be suffering from the side effects of the vaccine or the placebo and not a new Covid-19 infection, the efficacy of the vaccine would still only be 29% if everyone else in that group was a false negative. This is admittedly a very large assumption but it is not outside the realm of possibility.

There are other more extreme possibilities. If all of the vaccinated participants who were suspected of Covid-19 truly did not have the disease and all of the unvaccinated (placebo) participants who were suspect did have the disease we would have a true miracle vaccine. Why? It would mean that only 8 people got the disease in the vaccinated group compared to 1978 in the placebo group. This would mean that the vaccine was approximately 99.6% effective. On the other hand, if all those who got vaccinated in the suspected group got Covid-19 and those who got the placebo didn’t, the vaccine would be not just ineffective, it would be dangerous.

Putting aside extreme and unlikely possibilities, the matter of the 3,412 “suspected Covid-19” participants and our assumptions about them still has very large implications. Let us say hypothetically that we as a nation decide to vaccinate our entire population with the Pfizer vaccine assuming that it has a 95% efficacy in preventing the disease. In other words, we are assuming that none of those “suspected” of having Covid-19 actually have the disease. This is in fact the assumption that the FDA is making when approving the use of the vaccine under the EUA. We can predict that within a month about 6.3% people will develop Covid-like symptoms from something other than vaccine reactogenicity or the disease itself. This is based on the number of participants who became symptomatic (from something other than reactogenicity) despite getting the vaccine and testing negative (1,185) divided by the total number who got the vaccine (18,801) = 0.063. That’s what happened in the study.

In a population of 300 million, we would expect roughly 19 million people to develop symptoms of Covid from something other than SARS-COV2 within a month. We can agree that we must be extremely confident about whether these 19 million people have the disease or not. Why would we assume they all don’t have Covid-19 when the vaccine trial itself considered them to be “suspected” of having it? We won’t. We shouldn’t, and practically speaking, we will be in the same situation we are in right now.

Pfizer either did not do or report additional testing that would have helped

The real issue here is that we shouldn’t be guessing about such important numbers. What do you suppose Pfizer did, knowing that this larger pool of symptomatic participants could have an enormous impact on the estimation of their vaccine’s efficacy? In my opinion, they should have tested everyone who developed symptoms for antibodies to help quantify the percentage of false negative PCR tests. If a participant felt like they were coming down with Covid-19 but had a negative PCR test, it seems clear that performing an antibody test would have offered additional clarity. This was either not done or not reported.

We must be careful when interpreting the power of a vaccine study. Although tens of thousands of people were enrolled, the only meaningful numbers with regard to efficacy have to do with those who contracted the disease during the period of observation. This is the only way to assess the efficacy of the vaccine. When Pfizer only considers participants that became symptomatic and tested positive we only have a group of 170 cases to cross compare.

The 3,410 people who became symptomatic but tested negative during the four weeks of observation would represent a much larger set of cohorts and would amplify the power of the study 20 fold if infection could be confirmed or ruled out through additional testing. In other words, the 3,410 symptomatic people should be the ones that Pfizer were hoping would emerge when they enrolled 37,000+ individuals in their study. I find this lapse in diligence suspicious and at the very least inexplicable, especially in light of the latitude they are granted under the EUA. The fact of the matter is that we do not know if this was done. Pfizer, per their own protocol, will not make this data available until the trial is completed 20 months from now. 

Why didn’t Pfizer look harder?

This forces us to ask some sobering questions. If Pfizer is required (or has agreed) to make all data available in two years, would they have conducted antibody tests on the “suspected Covid” group? If those results told a different story it would be quite damning, if not now, eventually. Their product would not be permitted for use under the EUA if a 50% efficacy requirement could not be met. On the other hand, if antibody tests were conducted and the results confirmed the impressive efficacy of the vaccine, why wouldn’t they have made the data available right now?

It should be clear that if Pfizer’s primary goal was to obtain approval under the EUA they would have had little incentive to do further testing to confirm their product’s efficacy. Why would they take the risk of seeking more information on 3,400 participants that could potentially overturn their results that were based on only 170 outcomes? This is where we must be very careful in our assessment of the situation. If you believe Pfizer and vaccine manufacturers are only out for profit, it would be easy to conclude that they are being manipulative. If you believe that these corporations are seeking to improve public health and safety you may grant them a lot of latitude here. To be truly objective we must ask if they have been scientific in their approach.

At the very least I feel that they have not been diligent, and their position hints at disingenuousness: Pfizer didn’t mention this group of participants in their 92 page report or in their publication in the New England Journal of Medicine. This group was only mentioned in two paragraphs of a 53 page briefing to the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) of the FDA submitted December 10, 2020. The FDA, an agency of the department of Health and Human Services that ostensibly serves to protect the public by ensuring the safety of drugs, biological products and medical devices, continues to remain silent around this issue.

The Take Away

The 95% efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine is widely touted by the media and the medical establishment. Why didn’t Pfizer test or report the testing of an enormously important group of participants in their trial? We can predict that without these additional tests deploying the vaccine will not change our behavior nor our attitude to this pandemic.

Dive Deeper

These days, it’s not just knowing information and facts that will create change, it’s changing ourselves, how we go about communicating, and re-assessing the underlying stories, ideas and beliefs that form our world. We have to practice these things if we truly want to change. At Collective Evolution and CETV, this is a big part of our mission.

Amongst 100's of hours of exclusive content, we have recently completed two short courses to help you become an effective changemaker, one called Profound Realization and the other called How To Do An Effective Media Detox.

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Alternative News

Norway Investigates 29 Deaths in Elderly Patients After Pfizer Covid-19 Vaccination

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Norway has registered a total of 29 deaths among people over the age of 75 who’ve had their first Covid-19 vaccination shot, raising questions over which groups to target in national inoculation programs.

  • Reflect On:

    Should freedom of choice always remain here? Should governments and private institutions not be allowed to mandate this vaccine in order to have access to certain rights and freedoms?

What Happened: 29 patients who were quite old and frail have died following their first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination. As a result, Norwegian officials have since adjusted their advice on who should get the COVID-19 vaccine.

This doesn’t come as a surprise to many given the fact that the clinical trials were conducted with people who are healthy. Older and sick people with co-morbidities were not used in the trials, and people with severe allergies and other diseases that can make one more susceptible to vaccine injury were not used either. It can be confusing given the fact that vaccination is being encouraged for the elderly in nursing homes and those who are more vulnerable to COVID-19.

Steinar Madsen, medical director of the Norwegian Medicines Agency (NOMA), told the British Medical Journal (BMJ) that “There is no certain connection between these deaths and the vaccine.”

On the 15th of January it was 23 deaths, Bloomberg is now reporting that a total of 29 deaths among people over the age of 75 who’ve had their first COVID-19 shot. They point out that “Until Friday, Pfizer/BioNTech was the only vaccine available in Norway”, stating that the Norwegian Medicines Agency told them that as a result “all deaths are thus linked to this vaccine.”

“There are 13 deaths that have been assessed, and we are aware of another 16 deaths that are currently being assessed,” the agency said. All the reported deaths related to “elderly people with serious basic disorders,” it said. “Most people have experienced the expected side effects of the vaccine, such as nausea and vomiting, fever, local reactions at the injection site, and worsening of their underlying condition.”

Madsen also told the BMJ that,

There is a possibility that these common adverse reactions, that are not dangerous in fitter, younger patients and are not unusual with vaccines, may aggravate underlying disease in the elderly. We are not alarmed or worried about this, because these are very rare occurrences and they occurred in very frail patients with very serious disease. We are not asking for doctors to continue with vaccination, but to carry out extra evaluation of very sick people whose underlying condition might be aggravated by it. This evaluation includes discussing the risks and benefits of vaccination with the patient and their families to decide whether or not vaccination is the best course.

The BMJ article goes on to point out that the Paul Ehrlich Institute in Germany is also investigating 10 deaths shortly after COVID-19 vaccination, and closes with the following information:

In a statement, Pfizer said, “Pfizer and BioNTech are aware of reported deaths following administration of BNT162b2. We are working with NOMA to gather all the relevant information.

“Norwegian authorities have prioritised the immunisation of residents in nursing homes, most of whom are very elderly with underlying medical conditions and some of whom are terminally ill. NOMA confirm the number of incidents so far is not alarming, and in line with expectations. All reported deaths will be thoroughly evaluated by NOMA to determine if these incidents are related to the vaccine. The Norwegian government will also consider adjusting their vaccination instructions to take the patients’ health into more consideration.

“Our immediate thoughts are with the bereaved families.”

Vaccine Hesitancy is Growing Among Healthcare Workers: Vaccine hesitancy is growing all over the globe, one of the latest examples comes from Riverside County, California. It has a population of approximately 2.4 million, and about 50 percent of healthcare workers in the county are refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine despite the fact that they have top priority and access to it.  At Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, one in five frontline nurses and doctors have declined the shot. Roughly 20% to 40% of L.A. County’s frontline workers who were offered the vaccine did the same, according to county public health officials. You can read more about that story here.

Vaccine hesitancy among physicians and academics is nothing new. To illustrate this I often point to a conference held at the end of 2019 put on by the World Health Organization (WHO). At the conference, Dr. Heidi Larson a Professor of Anthropology and the Risk and Decision Scientist Director at the Vaccine Confidence Project Emphasized this point, having  stated,

The other thing that’s a trend, and an issue, is not just confidence in providers but confidence of health care providers. We have a very wobbly health professional frontline that is starting to question vaccines and the safety of vaccines. That’s a huge problem, because to this day any study I’ve seen…still, the most trusted person on any study I’ve seen globally is the health care provider.

A study published in the journal EbioMedicine  as far back as 2013 outlines this point, among many others.

Pfizer’s Questionable History:  Losing faith in “big pharma” does not come without good reason. For example, in 2010 Robert G. Evans, PhD, Centre for Health Services and Policy Research Emeritus Professor, Vancouver School of Economics, UBC, published a paper that’s accessible in PubMed titled “Tough on Crime? Pfizer and the CIHR.”

In it, he outlines the fact that,

Pfizer has been a “habitual offender,” persistently engaging in illegal and corrupt marketing practices, bribing physicians and suppressing adverse trial results. Since 2002 the company and its subsidiaries have been assessed $3 billion in criminal convictions, civil penalties and jury awards. The 2.3-billion settlement…set a new record for both criminal fines and total penalties. A link with Pfizer might well advance the commercialization of Canadian research.

Suppressing clinical trial results is something I’ve come across multiple times with several different medicines. Five years ago I wrote about how big pharma did not share adverse reactions people had and harmful results from their clinical trials for commonly used antidepressant drugs.

Even scientists from within federal these health regulatory agencies have been sounding the alarm. For example, a few years ago more than a dozen scientists from within the CDC put out an anonymous public statement detailing the influence corporations have on government policies. They were referred to as the  Spider Papers.

The Takeaway: Given the fact that everything is not black and white, especially when it comes to vaccine safety, do we really want to give government health agencies and/or private institutions the right to enforce mandatory vaccination requirements when their efficacy have been called into question? Should people have the freedom of choice? It’s a subject that has many people polarized in their beliefs, but at the end of the day the sharing of information, opinion and evidence should not be shut down, discouraged, ridiculed or censored.

In a day and age where more people are starting to see our planet in a completely different light, one which has more and more questioning the human experience and why we live the way we do it seems the ‘crack down’ on free thought gets tighter and tighter. Do we really want to live in a world where we lose the right to choose what we do with our own body, or one where certain rights and freedoms are taken away if we don’t comply? The next question is, what do we do about it? Those who are in a position to enforce these measures must, it seems, have a shift in consciousness and refuse to implement them. There doesn’t seem to be a clear cut answer, but there is no doubt that we are currently going through that possible process, we are living in it.

Dive Deeper

These days, it’s not just knowing information and facts that will create change, it’s changing ourselves, how we go about communicating, and re-assessing the underlying stories, ideas and beliefs that form our world. We have to practice these things if we truly want to change. At Collective Evolution and CETV, this is a big part of our mission.

Amongst 100's of hours of exclusive content, we have recently completed two short courses to help you become an effective changemaker, one called Profound Realization and the other called How To Do An Effective Media Detox.

Join CETV, engage with these courses and more here!

Continue Reading
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