Health: NOTEBOOK

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The Independent Culture
Sex for beginners

A NEW survey reveals that 73 per cent of young people admit to having unprotected sex, despite the risks from chlamydia, HIV and other diseases. The survey also shows that youngsters take a dim view of sex education at school and prefer to get their information from friends or online. The excellent website thesite.org, run by the charity Youthnet UK, provides free advice and information to the 16-24s, in the form of factsheets and discussion boards. They've now launched a new service called "askthesite", in which users can confidentially put their questions and problems on issues including sex, emotional health, money and mental health, and receive answers from an expert within three days. They'll even text users to tell them that the answer has arrived.

Hope for young men

SUICIDE AMONG young males has fallen to the lowest rate for nearly 20 years. The suicide rate among this group has caused much concern since it began to escalate 25 years ago, and this is the first sustained downward trend since that time. The figures may reflect increased awareness and intervention from professionals working with vulnerable young men, particularly those with mental health problems. The health minister Rosie Winterton also attributes the improvement to legislation ordering pharmaceutical companies to limit the size of aspirin and paracetamol packs - suicide from overdoses of these drugs dropped by nearly a quarter following this legislation in 1998.

Breast screening results

A NEW study, published in the BMJ, shows that breast screening can reduce mortality from breast cancer by 25 per cent. There has been intense debate about screening, ever since mammograms were introduced routinely for women aged 50 and over. Some studies have appeared to show that screening saves few lives, and subjects women to invasive surgery when their pre-cancerous tumours might never have caused them any trouble. The study is from Denmark, where screening was introduced 10 years ago only in some areas, providing a natural control group. Deaths from breast cancer were 25 per cent lower during that period in the areas with screening, and 37 per cent lower for women who actually took part in screening.

The bottom line

THE SEXIEST part of the body, according to another survey, is the bum. Despite this, Fitness First, which commissioned the research, notes that gym-goers focus less on this area than on honing the abs and pecs. Their website (www.fitnessfirst. com) provides a variety of techniques for tightening up your rear end - without setting foot in a gym. Here is the easiest one: simply squeeze the muscles in the bottom and hold for five seconds. Repeat 10 times. No one will even know you're doing it.

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