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Be Well

For shy toddlers, language more about confidence

Shy children who talk very little don’t lack the ability to process language, they’re just reluctant to respond, according to a new study that counters the commonly held belief that shy children may have language deficits.

Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Connecticut followed the language development of 816 toddlers living in Boulder. At ages 14, 20, and 24 months, the researchers looked at their ability to sound out basic words, verbally answer questions, and follow spoken commands.

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The shy toddlers understood what was being said to them just as much as the non-shy children, as shown by their ability to follow commands, but were unwilling to speak up. Girls were more likely to be shy than the boys, but both sexes had the same level of language development.

For some shy children, it may be more beneficial to work on developing their confidence and speaking abilities rather than focusing on their language development and comprehension, the researchers wrote.

BOTTOM LINE: Shy children don’t lack the ability to understand language, they’re just reluctant to respond.

CAUTIONS: The study did not look at the brain development of the children.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Child Development, Feb. 3

Vodka likely culprit for early death in Russian men

An unusually high number of Russian men die early and researchers have now confirmed the likely culprit suggested by earlier, less reliable studies: vodka.

A quarter of Russian men die before age 55, compared with only
7 percent of British men, according to the study. The extraordinary difference has largely to do with the amount of alcohol and tobacco consumed, say researchers.

British researchers surveyed 151,000 Russian men and women on their vodka drinking habits and followed them for up to a decade. The male smokers were also the heaviest drinkers, but the researchers found that men who said they drank three or more bottles of vodka a week were more likely to die earlier. Among the 57,000 smokers, those who were ages 35-54 and drank three or more bottles of vodka had an estimated 35 percent chance of dying within 20 years, compared with 16 percent chance among those who drank less than one bottle a week.

The cause of death among most of the heavier drinkers included alcohol poisoning, accidents, suicide, and alcohol-related diseases such as liver cancer.

BOTTOM LINE: Vodka consumption appears to increase risk for earlier death among Russian men.

CAUTIONS: The participants self-reported their drinking habits, which may have changed over the study period, so the study may not accurately reflect the result of heavy drinking over time.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Lancet, Jan. 31

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