5 Ways To Reduce Your Dementia Risk

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Here are some top tips written by our neuroscientist partner Savonix, experts in cognitive performance and creators of a mobile neurocognitive assessment and brain health platform.

There are many factors that determine whether or not you will experience severe cognitive decline. Dementia is a complex set of diseases not completely understood by physicians and scientists. Risk factors are variables that contribute to your likelihood of getting a disease. For example, smoking cigarettes is a well-known risk factor for lung cancer. If you quit smoking, you reduce your risk of developing this cancer. Because the human body is extremely complicated, there are lots of different risk factors that come from your genetics, your environment, and your behaviours.

It is estimated that nearly 500,000 new cases of Alzheimer’s disease will be diagnosed this year in the United States. Every 3 seconds, someone in the world develops dementia.

While it may not be possible to reduce your risk to zero, by taking steps to improve and maintain your brain health, you can significantly lower your likelihood of developing dementia. Lowering your risk can either slow the progression of cognitive decline or help stave it off completely.

1. Lower Your High Blood Pressure

Your cardiovascular system is responsible for pumping blood (and with it, nutrients like oxygen and glucose) to all regions of your body.  Your brain relies heavily on your cardiovascular system for the nutrients it needs to function. Despite making up only 2% of your body weight, your brain requires 20% of your daily consumption of oxygen and calories. (1) Because of this close relationship, when your cardiovascular health declines so do your brain health.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, damages and weakens the walls of your arteries and veins. These weakened blood vessels are less efficient at circulating blood and are more likely to narrow, rupture, or leak. As fewer nutrients are able to reach your brain because of the reduced blood supply, brain cells can begin to deteriorate and die. (2)

Therefore, it is important to reduce high blood pressure until it falls until a healthy range, between 120 over 80 and 140 over 90 mmHg. There are several ways to alleviate hypertension both lifestyle-related and pharmaceutical. It is important to consult your physician to decide what regime is best for your health. Regular aerobic exercise like walking, jogging, or swimming for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 to 7 days a week, helps to regulate blood pressure levels. Additionally, stress can be a significant contributor to hypertension. If possible, develop strategies to either avoid stress or to manage it appropriately. (3)

2. Avoid Excessively Loud Noises to Protect Your Hearing

Hearing loss has a strong link to dementia. Mild hearing loss doubles your risk of dementia, and severe hearing loss increases your risk of dementia by 5 times. (4) As you age, pay attention to whether your hearing is worse than it used to be. Around one-third of people over the age of 65 have hearing problems. (5) Hearing loss can be caused by age, repeated exposure to loud noises (e.g. loud, sustained music at full volume), blockages in the ear (e.g. a buildup of ear wax), injury, or a combination of these factors.

When your hearing starts to decline, your brain has to work harder to interpret the muffled sounds. By diverting more energy to listening, your brain spends less energy-storing information into memory. People with hearing loss may also start to avoid social interactions due to the frustrations that come with the extra effort needed to have a conversation. (4)

Hearing aids can reduce the risk of dementia associated with hearing loss. (6) However, they are only helpful once your hearing has started to go. In the meantime, it is vital to protect your hearing. Follow manufacturer advice when it comes to Q-tips: don’t put them in your ear. Rather than help clean out ear wax, cotton swabs often push it further into the ear. Their use can lead to tears in the eardrum as well as excessive ear wax buildup which can cause hearing loss. (7) Additionally, avoid sustained exposure to loud noises, such as standing next to a speaker at a concert or listening to music full-blast with headphones. This cannot be emphasized enough. About half of impaired hearing cases in America are due to damage from exposure to loud noise. (8)

3. Quit Smoking

There are many reasons to quit smoking, and here’s one more: smoking increases your risk for dementia. A report from the World Health Organization estimates that smokers are 45% more likely to develop dementia compared to those who don’t smoke. (9)

Smoking negatively impacts your cardiovascular system. Consistent smoking narrows blood vessels in the heart and brain that increase your chances of strokes. Additionally, the toxins in cigarettes have been linked with harmful inflammation of brain cells. (9) Both of these factors contribute to cognitive decline.

It is never too late to quit. The sooner you stop smoking, the lower your risk for developing dementia. In fact, quitting smoking may even lower your risk of dementia down to the level of nonsmokers. (10) For both your loved ones’ health and your own, it is important to emphasize quitting smoking. Secondhand smoke increases the likelihood of developing dementia. Even if you have never smoked, living with a smoker increases your risk of cognitive decline by as much as 29%. (11)

4. Eat a Mediterranean Diet

Food can be a form of medicine. It gives us the energy and minerals we need to do our best throughout the day. The Mediterranean Diet has received a lot of attention from the medical community due to its positive impact on brain health. One study concluded that older adults who followed the Mediterranean diet had a 30-35% lower risk of memory impairment. (12)

The Mediterranean diet is mostly plant-based, with a focus on limiting saturated fat. This diet suggests a high intake of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fish, and unsaturated fatty acids such as olive oil and avocado. It also encourages a moderate intake of dairy, wine, and poultry, with a low intake of red meats and sweets.

Due to its high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, this diet fights against the harmful oxidative processes that occur within the ageing brain. Oxidative damage is common in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. The main components of the Mediterranean diet (fruits, vegetables, wine, olive oil) provide high levels of antioxidants that slow and even prevent this damage. (13)

5. Treat Your Depression

Depression and dementia have an interesting relationship. The two disorders have several symptoms that overlap: social withdrawal, apathy, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, impaired thinking, and problems with concentration.

A history of depression doubles the risk of dementia. (14) In addition to a history of dementia, the age of onset of depression influences dementia risk. Depression in midlife increases the risk of dementia by 19%, and depression in late life increases the risk by 72%. (15) People with depression who later developed Alzheimer’s disease were more likely to have motivational symptoms of depression than mood symptoms. (14) Motivational symptoms refer to the loss of interest in hobbies, impaired concentration, and lack of energy.

Therefore, seek treatment for depression. Continued long-term use of antidepressant treatment reduces the risk of dementia by 17%. (16) One study found that long-term use of the antidepressant class SSRIs delayed the onset of dementia by three years, providing precious years of cognitive health. (17) Furthermore, depressive symptoms tend to worsen in the decade prior to a dementia diagnosis. (18)  This means that it’s important to monitor both your cognitive health and your mental health over time.

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For a full list of the references, you can view the original article here on Savonix’s website.

Who Is Savonix?

Savonix delivers a fully mobile assessment of cognitive function available on Android and iOS for phone and tablet. Savonix Mobile is an accurate, accessible and affordable tool for professional cognitive screening. It empowers healthcare providers, payers and researchers to evaluate and leverage results to improve health and treatment outcomes.

Led by clinical neuro-psychologists, neuroscientists and IT leaders, Savonix sets the global standard on cognition and its relationship to risk, health outcomes and the development of innovative therapies. Savonix evidence-based tests are digitally validated versions of the gold standard cognition tests, many of which neuropsychologists have used effectively since the 1930s.

Savonix believes cognition is the fifth vital sign. We provide our customers with the data and the insight to improve outcomes and drive innovation.

To learn more about the WellteQ/Savonix partnership you can read the press release here.

To discuss how our digital wellness solution can benefit your workforce, contact the WellteQ team.

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EAP: The Baby Boomer Of Corporate Wellness

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The strategy behind WellteQ’s mental health partnerships

Over the last few months WellteQ have orchestrated two new partners – Medibio and Lysn. But why and what does this mean for the user and our clients?  Is it a ‘me too’ capability or is it something different in the industry?

These are questions worth answering and to do so I want to share insight into the thinking behind our strategy. Our partnerships are the basis for what we will be building towards in the years ahead. Through introducing our improved system of personalised health management, we will provide what has historically been an unrealised value from EAP and corporate wellness programs.

In essence, the partners extend value to a WellteQ user in two ways;

  1. Objective mental health screening 
  2. 1:1 tele-psychology consultations.

Independently these are very powerful capabilities, and when added to our digital health platform, introduce a long overdue innovation to bring proactive risk-based interventions to health coaching.

Who Really Needs It?

Meet 46-year-old Dave. A father of two pre-teenage children who has been a loyal mid-level manager for the last twelve years at the same company. He’s guilty of some middle-aged spread (who isn’t?), he drinks but has three alcohol-free days per week, and his new year’s resolution of running around the block three times a week died over winter, again. Dave is also more stressed at work this year, in fact over the last few years found he’s not sleeping as well as he used to. School fees are not getting cheaper and neither are family holidays, Dave’s boss, unfortunately, has had to hold off the promotion again and his wife wants him to upgrade the bathroom. 

  • Is Dave stressed? Certainly. 
  • Does Dave have a mental illness? Unlikely, but unsure. 
  • Could Dave be helped with knowing a bit more about his mental health? Absolutely. 

Dave’s story isn’t unique to just Dave. He could be 26 or 56 years old. Dave could be a Melissa or Tony, May or Tom. He could be any one of us. Dave could be you.

Like most of us in today’s hectic world, Dave’s problem is not singular and there are a few factors at play. No one problem is urgent enough to do anything about immediately, but collectively they build up and over a period of time, Dave moves past quick fixes and easy solves that require days and weeks, and moves into needing ongoing help and support that can last for months and years.

Health today is not just about a run around the block and saying ‘no’ to the second helping of dessert. Mental health challenges, and most notably, the lack of fundamental education or regular screening, are central to some of the fastest rises in medical costs, accidents and comorbidities. The prevalence of mental illness is sky-rocketing and we’re not sure how to get ahead of it. 

“Mental health challenges, and most notably, the lack of fundamental education or regular screening, are central to some of the fastest rises in medical costs, accidents and comorbidities.”

The OECD cites “mental disorders account for one of the largest and fastest growing categories of the burden of disease worldwide.. with one in every two people experiencing a mental illness in their lifetime”. Statistics from workplace mental health studies are consistent with the global trends, and a recent study evaluating global case data over 3 years uncovered that combined, employee depression, stress and anxiety accounted for 82.6% of all emotional health cases.


The facts are clearly there, and when multi-billion dollar life insurers are trying to get ahead of the problem it’s time to take notice. Munich Re shares “Mental disorders have not only become the second most common cause of sick leave– they are now also the most common cause of early retirement due to illness” Historically, mental health disorders have been a relatively difficult set of illnesses to detect, assess and treat. The increasing burden is not just felt by healthcare budgets, and insurers and employers who are bearing the brunt of escalating costs look for new solutions on how to better deal with this global critical situation.

The Problem Is Growing, But What Resources Do Employers Have?

For decades employers have had access to a solution called Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). EAP stems from the 1930’s where it was originally introduced to assist people with the effects of too much drinking on the job. True story. It has, of course, evolved significantly to what it is today; a stand-alone service where employees have access to psychological counselling to help deal with both work and out-of-work demands. It’s a powerful solution for certain use cases, but as with any deep expertise, it has its limitations in broader usage.

In the current EAP model, the onus is on the individual to seek a counsellor of their own volition or wait for a critical incident response. There’s little to no individual risk profiling or personalised recommendations, leaving the individual to self-assess and evaluate what they might need and when they might need it. There is little proactivity and when a user does try to seek help, the experience is often difficult to navigate and time-consuming, utilisation rates are low and companies investing in EAP are increasingly unsatisfied.

For the HR department, organisational reporting is commonly static, retrospective and extremely light on valuable insights other than month-to-month utilization figures. Employee surveys frequently highlight difficulties in navigating EAP portals, confusion in asking permission when booking sessions and general reluctance to share confidential personal information. 

Let’s revisit Dave’s case again. 

Dave’s company offers EAP. He’s seen posters and heard that there’s a number he can call but not looked any further because he’s got more important work to do, and besides after quick self-evaluation, he’s not depressed, he’s just a bit overworked. Dave decides to soldier on until his next holiday in a few months. And so the pattern continues. Dave’s HR department keep EAP because it has been offered to staff since long before current management was there, and even though utilisation of EAP globally is between 2-4% on average, no one gets fired for buying IBM. Why rock the boat? 

” The World Health Organisation recognises mental health as a major concern estimating depression and anxiety alone to cost the global economy over US $1 Trillion per year in lost productivity.”

But a shift is happening, and thankfully with rapid developments in technology, today’s capabilities are fast improving. Mental health is becoming a boardroom topic with consistent media coverage in many countries. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognise mental health as a major concern, identifying the workplace as a ripe opportunity for mitigation. WHO established the Mental Health Action Plan (2013-2030) outlining relevant principles, objectives and implementation strategies to promote good mental health in the workplace. They calculate depression and anxiety alone to cost the global economy over US $1 Trillion per year in lost productivity. Let that sink in $1 Trillion, that’s about enough to buy Apple – the most valuable company on earth.

Encouragingly, attitudes towards mental wellness have turned a corner in the last few years with initiatives like Movember, Beyond Blue, RUOK and Mental Health Month. Generally, more people are open to talking and learning more about mental health, and with awareness comes support on a grander scale. In 2013, Canada established a national standard in workplace psychological wellbeing, led by Dr Joti Samra which in time will become an International Standard. Mental health, however, is not an annual event. With our busy lives absorbing new and different stresses we need something proactive, automated and convenient to stay on top of things.

The Rise Of Technology’s Role In Wellness

Technology is perpetually enhancing incumbent practices that were seen as the height of innovation at the time of their discovery. For example, Body Mass Index (BMI), invented as a best available weight indication of its time in the 1970s has now been superseded by better science and new technology to provide more accurate outcomes. EAP has a similar story, existing long before IoT, mobile living and digital interconnectedness. But just as body measurements have progressed from height and weight ratios to present-day bioimpedance and AI assessments, so too must workplace wellbeing programs advance in identification and support of employee mental health challenges. 

Corporate wellness, like almost all other industries, is undergoing continued digital transformation. Until early 2000s our industry was almost exclusively offering wellness programs in-person – on-site fitness classes, face-to-face health assessments, lunchtime seminars, workplace massages; the list goes on. 

“Early trends in the digital transformation of the wellness industry tended to overcorrect on-site solutions with purely digital solutions, which also weren’t as effective as a hybrid offering.”

The trend was to then overcorrect towards more pure digital solutions – online platforms offering questionnaires and mass sharing of health articles.  While technology can certainly be more economical, dispersing information easily and scaling quickly, something was missing when it came to connecting with lowly engaged or high-risk individuals. We knew that the best results were usually derived from both personalised experiences and contact with other people, whether that be virtually or face-to-face. We’re now seeing that a hybrid approach gives the scale offered by technology combined with the outcomes offered by rapport and expert consultation.

Retrospectively, it’s not surprising a hybrid model is the best course of action. Technology is greatly superior to humans at many things, and for the wellness industry it’s the ability to calculate and automate:

  1. Speed: By analysing high volumes of health risk profiling data points, blood tests, surveys, granular wearable data etc, algorithms are able to screen people against a global databank and share recommendations personalised to each user. This processing takes a human exponentially longer than an algorithm. 
  2. Follow up: All too often life gets in the way of following up on mental wellbeing. Immediately after receiving results from a health assessment the individual usually understands the importance of taking action, but often the urgency of today’s calendar quickly de-prioritises the next steps they should take. Machine-driven intelli-nudges ensures the individual is reminded until an action has been completed, whether that’s reading an article, setting a goal, or booking an appointment. 
  3. Personalisation: The integration of face-to-face care with a skilled professional that closely matches the needs and personality of the individual ensures personalised care is given at the right time without a templated response, and is scheduled accordingly.

This hybrid approach offers a significantly stronger probability for successful intervention.

Why Are Corporate Wellness Programs So Important?

Wellness empowers people. Typically a workplace wellness program is for the persona that could and should do something about their health but never really get around to committing. If we’re honest with ourselves, this actually incorporates most of us. Wellness is often linked with incentives like rewards or prizes, gamification and challenges. It helps people overcome inertia and get back on the health bandwagon. Wellness programs are able to take serious, often confronting topics like diabetes or depression and make it digestible and more relatable. 

Typically corporate wellness solutions around the globe see an average uptake of ~ 20-40% of employees within an organisation and help prevent some problems from happening, delay others from happening sooner and reduce the impact of those problems that do happen. Where corporate wellness solutions have come up short in some eyes is that they either don’t help those in a time of need like in consultation-based treatment, or its one-size-fits-all approach, which typically only work for the already healthy people within an organisation. 

Livongo Case Study

Livongo is a chronic illness management company based in the US and have recently listed on the NASDAQ. In October 2019 they announced a contract in the US to provide their diabetes solution to 5 million eligible members covered by the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program under one health plan. Through a carefully planned strategic partnership with innovative telemedicine provider Teladoc, Livongo is able to offer telehealth services that give users access to behavioural health, dermatology care, minor acute care and counselling for substance abuse disorders all from their mobile phone. Livongo is a unicorn twice over whose expertise is amplified by partnering with complementary capabilities. 

Wellteq’s strategy to extend functionality with expert partners is not dissimilar. 

The Partnership Equation: 1+1=11

As an exercise physiologist, my peers and I have often been described as a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. Ingrained in our training is that while in general, we are valuable for many people, it’s imperative that we refer patients for specialist areas for optimum care. This concept has been central to our partnership strategy at WellteQ. We’ve identified mental health as an area that while we introduce some material value, we know that to really make a difference, we needed to partner with experts in the respective fields. 

We’ve sought out and partnered with two very complementary companies that can help us better detect and support mental health risks in our users.

Medibio analyses responses to a combination of globally validated psychological questionnaires and correlates passively collected sleep patterns via Garmin and Fitbit wearables. The algorithm indicates risks within major pillars of mental health. The power in this is two-fold; past subjective responses are now able to be assessed objectively; data can now be passively collected for ongoing monitoring presenting opportunities to educate the user on when risk increases and decreases. Armed with these invaluable insights, intervention is automated to provide personalised support and round-the-clock care. That’s a lot more powerful than waiting for someone in an overwhelmed state to take action for themselves. 

Lysn can match a person with a psychologist based on key need and personality traits. Offering face-to-face services and virtual consultation through telephone and video conferencing users can be paired with over 500 psychologists consulting in 11 languages in most countries around the world. Having a wide-reaching network ensures users have an enriched access to appointment times and locations that suit them rather than one that suits the physician.  Virtual consultations allows the call to be taken whenever and wherever is most convenient, improving the likelihood of utilisation, and proving especially helpful for remote and mobile workforces.


WellteQ seamlessly glues it all together by offering personalised employee wellness via a smartphone. A connected health coach in your pocket integrates wearables, behaviour prompts, team and individual programs, social content, rewards and now objective mental health screening that refers to telepsychology for the complete end-to-end solution. Intelli-nudges and smart monitors ensure an individual can be alerted in real-time during peak periods of high-risk, and telepsychology enabled for smartphones allows consultation with a health professional at a time that’s convenient for you, me and Dave.

Summary

WellteQ are a digital wellness company with a specialist offering in employee mental health.  For now, our immediate focus is to quickly deploy this fundamental wellbeing offering before we extend our coaching capabilities into nutrition, exercise and sleep.

We believe the majority of healthcare (or is ‘sickcare’ a more accurate term nowadays?) spend can be prevented, or at the very least reduced by improving lifestyle habits. We’re much more likely to achieve sustained healthy behaviour change if we first address our own mental wellbeing back to, or closer to an equilibrium. 

It’s an exciting time for our industry, come and join us.

Written by Scott Montgomery, CEO and Founder of WellteQ

Learn More

Press release for Wellteq and Medibio

Press release for Wellteq and Lysn 

www.wellteq.co 

www.medibio.com.au

www.welysn.com 

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Fatigue, Burnout and Exhaustion – What’s The Difference?

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These terms are popping up regularly and sometimes interchangeably. However, they don’t all mean the same thing. We’d thought to take the opportunity to define each one in relation to the workplace as they impact our mental health in different ways.

Totally Tired

Feeling tired is the state in which one desires to sleep or rest. You can feel this after having a big lunch, too much time in the sun or a restless sleep from the night before. However, the condition isn’t chronic, pushing the body into a state of extreme weariness which impairs one’s ability to function. Understanding the difference between exhaustion, fatigue and burnout in the workplace is important as they are brought on by different issues and need to be given attention.

Feeling Fatigued

It’s more than just feeling a bit tired or drowsy. It’s when an individuals’ mental or physical tiredness inhibits the ability to perform effectively and safely.  It can be brought on by a constant feeling of sleepiness or weakness which can be physical, mental or a combination of both. Fatigue is a symptom usually from a combination of factoring including:

  • Lifestyle: staying up late, excessive alcohol or caffeine consumption, poor nutrition and exercise habits
  • Work: shift length, number of working days in a row, the monotony of the job, boredom, physical labour
  • Psychological: Stress, anxiety and depression can play a part in energy levels plus the ability to get adequate quality sleep.
  • General wellbeing: Health, illness and an overall sense of life satisfaction and purpose.

Recently, the conversation in the workplace and various industries has steadily increased. Organisations are trying to understand their impact on a worker’s risk of fatigue and how they can help create a culture which supports quality sleep and energised people. 

Being Burnt Out

Burnout is brought on from prolonged periods of stress and frustration, hence why it’s commonly discussed in the workplace. In fact, only in May this year the World Health Organisation (WHO) changed its definition to be:

 “…a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed,”

Unfortunately in today’s more connected society, unplugging from the workplace has become more challenging and people can easily feel obliged to answer emails, calls or texts outside of regular working hours. This can result in feelings of energy depletion, mental distance from one’s job or negativity towards their job.

Professor Michael Leiter from Deakin University, Australia uncovered that a common feature of burnout is an overwhelming sense that one’s career is out of their control. The build-up of more administrative tasks and compliance-based training on top of the role’s expectations can build cynicism towards one’s job. 

Extremely Exhausted

So what about exhaustion? In simple terms, it’s a shorter-lived form of fatigue that can be experienced emotionally, mentally and physically. Usually, periods of exhaustion build up to form longer-experienced fatigue or can contribute to burnout.

How To Tell The Difference

It can be hard to differentiate between exhaustion, fatigue and burnout, but a good indicator is how quickly it takes for recovery. 

A good night’s rest, nutritious meal and hot shower usually relieve tiredness. A one to two-week holiday or leave of absence from work focussed on unplugging, de-stressing and recharging can alleviate exhaustion. Fatigue requires a more consistent effort to address the underlying lifestyle and wellbeing factors and may take several months to overcome. 

Burnout is more difficult to address as it depends on the intensity and length of the burnout, quality of the recovery and the overall situation of the person experiencing it. For some, a joint plan devised between them and their manager may be enough to start feeling on top of things again. Others may need to change company or career completely and start afresh. Some may need additional counselling or to develop new coping mechanisms like a regular meditation practice, a relaxation routine, even new hobbies. 

Tune In To You

Both fatigue and burnout conditions can end in a feeling of mental and physical exhaustion, fatigue can be caused by a variety of factors from lifestyle to environmental whereas burnout is from prolonged periods of emotional stress and frustration. 

Look at ways you can help manage your own stress levels at work and protect your sleep time. Remember sleep is a biological need and it shouldn’t be considered as optional. Encourage your colleagues to create an environment where people can feel there is a healthy work-life balance and opportunities to unwind. 

Focus on what’s going into your body in the way of whole foods, balanced meals and lots of water. Drinking copious cups of coffee during the day to stave away sleep can be harmful in resetting your body’s balance to a restful night. Recent studies by the Sleep Disorders & Research Center at Henry Ford Hospital and Wayne State College of Medicine found that coffee still disturbed sleep when drunk 6 hours before, even though you may not perceive its effect.

Be aware of your emotions and uncharacteristic reactions to situations at work. While you may not be physically tired, emotional or psychological strain may present itself in the form of erratic behaviour, exaggerated reactions and disassociation. Check-in with friends and family members to ensure you have a social network of supportive people that may identify behaviours you’ve missed.

Most of all – look out for yourself. A recent post by @workplaceptsd told a story of someone who had quit 5 jobs giving 2 week’s notice each time. In all 5 cases, they were let go earlier which got them thinking how replaceable we all are in the workplace. This is actually an empowering statement that can help workaholics detach from work – go home and spend time with your family, use your vacation time, take a mental health day, hit the gym at lunch, make time for your hobbies, passions and interests. Live your life, not your work!

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Why Work-Related Mental Health Could Be The Biggest Cost In Your Business

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Work-related mental health issues affect everyone in their working lives at one point or another across the globe. In Australia, 58% of women and 42% of men in Australia made serious claims on average per year amounting to approximately USD372 million.

In the UK for the first time, work-related stress anxiety or depression accounted for over half of all working days lost due to ill health, resulting in a loss of approximately USD86 billion in 2017/18.

Work-related mental health conditions are estimated to cost the global economy USD1 trillion per year.

Annual costs associated with work-related mental health conditions in the USA are increasing twice as fast as all other medical expenses in recent years, according to data from Aetna Behavioral Health, costing US businesses up to USD193.2 billion in 2018.

Work-related mental health conditions take a huge toll on worker health and productivity, with the negative impact felt by individuals themselves, their families, and colleagues. Depression and anxiety have a significant economic impact; the estimated cost to the global economy is USD1 trillion per year in lost productivity.

This infographic from Safe Work Australia looks at the rate, type and causes of work-related mental health conditions in the workplace, to help us focus on how to reduce these statistics.

Work-related mental health conditions (also known as psychological injuries) have become a major concern in Australian workplaces due to the negative impact on individual employees, and the costs associated with the long periods away from work that are typical of these claims. It’s reported that 60% of mental disorder claims are awarded to workers aged 40 and over.

But the situation is likely more grave than reported, as employees frequently call in sick with colds or upset stomachs to hide the fact they may be suffering from a workplace-related psychological issue. According to MIND in the UK, 95% of employees who took time off previously for stress named a physical illness at some stage to avoid difficult conversations with supervisors and managers they felt didn’t support them.

In the US, 71% of adults reported at least one symptom of stress, such as a headache or feeling overwhelmed or anxious, with nearly 1 in 5 working adults reporting mental illness in 2016.

Over the five-year period reviewed by SWA in Australia, the occupations with the highest rate of claims for mental health conditions were defence, transport drivers, support workers, prison and security officers and social and welfare professionals.

In the UK, the fastest-growing rates of work-related stress, anxiety or depression by industry were education, healthcare and social workers, defence, finance and insurance, with notable increases also found in science, technology, arts and entertainment, administration and automotive.

The picture is very different in the US, with manufacturing, retail and food & beverage industries ranking worst for workplace mental health, citing stress, lack of physical exercise, the potential for conflict and feelings of irrelevance as top reasons for poor mental health.

While no two cases are the same, there are some mechanisms that when present within a work environment increases the likelihood of employees developing work-related mental health issues. In Australia between 2010-2015 91% of workers’ compensation claims involving a mental health condition were linked to stress, with the majority of cases relating directly to increase work pressure (31% on average per year).

Increased work pressure is the most reported reason in the UK with 38% of cases, followed by 17.9% reported on financial concerns and 9.5% reported on workplace bullying. More than half (55.3%) of employees interviewed said that their job had become more stressful in the last five years.

Excessive workplace stress causes on average 120,000 deaths a year in the US and results in nearly USD190 billion in health care costs each year. This represents 5% to 8% of national health care spending, derived primarily from high demands at work (USD48 billion), lack of insurance (USD40 billion), and work-family conflict (USD24 billion).

Depression, anxiety and stress-related disorders are consistently reported in Australia, UK and the USA with regards to work-related mental health conditions.

This trend is seen on a global scale, with major depression ranking second (after low back pain) worldwide of work-related reported conditions, and anxiety disorders ranking ninth. Using more inclusive criteria to embrace other conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, insomnia and major depression, it is estimated that 164.8 million people of all ages in the European Union (38.2% of the population) suffer from a form of mental disorder each year; the commonest being anxiety (14.0%), insomnia (7.0%) and major depression (6.9%).

Employers must look to address mental health in the workplace as part of their physical health check-ups, due to numerous studies proving the relationship between mental and physical conditions. Depressed persons are twice as likely to develop coronary artery disease or stroke and more than four times as likely to die within 6 months from a heart attack. There is a strong linkage between depression and obesity, where those with depression had a 58% greater risk of developing obesity than non-depressed individuals, and people with obesity had a 55% increased risk of being depressed than non-obese individuals. An added concern is that people with depression also exhibit poor adherence with medication or other prescribed treatments.

“Depressed people are up to 4 times more likely to develop physical conditions such as heart attacks, strokes and obesity.”

Research also shows that there are more workers absent from work because of stress and anxiety than because of physical illness or injury. Furthermore, more days of work loss and work impairment are caused by mental illness than other chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and arthritis. Employees with depression report their productivity at 70% of their peak performance, and approximately 32 incremental workdays are lost to presenteeism for individuals with major depressive disorders.

With such compelling research and staggering statistics, what are you doing to address these issues within your organisation?

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The Silent Truth: It’s Time To Act

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With a life lost every 40 seconds, the prevalence of suicide is increasing at alarming rates around the world. Despite numerous programs and national campaigns aiming to raise awareness of the warning signs, there is sometimes little indication of the tortuous thought and mental turmoil that brings some to breaking point.

Mental health around the world is declining. The World Health Organisation defines depression as the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide. More than 300 million people are now living with depression, an increase of more than 18% between 2005 and 2015. Sadly the symptoms of the illnesses most common to result in suicide are comparatively invisible alongside other global mortality and morbidity causes such as diabetes, coronary heart disease and cancers. Medical technology is not yet advanced enough to detect suicide like we can malignant cancer, nor is treatment as immediately effective to offer a life-saving procedure like a coronary bypass. Mental health conditions and suicide are comparatively deceptive and silent, yet far less exclusive on who it grips.

Diagnoses of stress, anxiety and depression disorders are escalating, a good sign that people are seeking assistance and accessing treatment before reaching the point of no return. Physicians globally are prescribing counselling sessions and medications like never before, but we’re still losing ground against suicide with the global suicide rate predicted to double to one every 20 seconds by 2020.

The burden of suicide is harsh, heavy and long-lasting. It’s a haunting thought that the loved ones left behind relentlessly castigate themselves with reflections of “I should have known”, and “I could have done something if I knew”. Worst still is the resounding narrative of regret from survivors of a self-selected death, with frequent cases of jumpers in particular who speak of wishing they could change their mind mid-fall. There’s no doubt death is soul shifting, but the hurt on those left behind from death by suicide is often felt more solemnly.

“Global suicide rate predicted to double to one in every 20 seconds by 2020.”

Suicide is now the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year olds around the world. Lithuania has the highest rate in Europe at 32.7 suicides per 100,000, three times that of the mean rate of suicide at 11.6 cases per 100,000 people, and the second-highest suicide rate in the world in 2018, behind South Korea.

Popular sociological opinion points to the decline of the family unit, the rise of atheism, alcoholism and easier access to drugs, increases in loneliness, financial pressure, career stress, and social media as contributing factors to the suicide pandemic. Despite the increase in stressors, we are still relying on the same resilience education and support as 100 years ago – which is largely nothing – and it’s clear traditional treatment methods are not coping with increased demands of modern society.

Mental health-related issues are not restricted to the poor, the untalented, or the homeless. Everyone is vulnerable, even the world’s financially elite – multi-billionaire James Packer, a major shareholder of Crown Resorts and Casinos stepped down from the board due to mental health reasons. 

“Suicidal behaviour does not discriminate between race, age, gender, colour or status.”

Olympic stars Michael Phelps and Ian Thorpe as well as Premier League footballer Aaron Lennon have all publically announced their battles with mental health. Entertainers Ellen Degeneres, Lady Gaga, and Prince Harry have publicized their battles with dark mental periods; none more famous than the timeless actor Robin Williams who eventually lost his battle with depression to suicide in 2014. 

Suicide contagion is studied and recognised phenomena, and there have been documented spikes in cases following a celebrity suicide announcement in the media. Emmy-award winner and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain was found just days after renowned fashion designer Kate Spade tragically chose the same self-determined death. In the month following Marilyn Monroe’s death by barbiturates overdose in 1962, there was a jump in suicide deaths by as much as 12%, according to the Center for Suicide Prevention. Unfortunately, with the increase of digital news outlets and the speed at which social media can spread a story, copycat suicides, also known as suicide clusters are on the rise, with adolescents being the most affected. 

Suicidal behaviour does not discriminate between race, age, gender, colour or status. It has the potential to affect us all. No one is immune and people across the globe are struggling right now. While it is possible to improve our own mental resilience through wellbeing programs and self-education, the issues surrounding and leading up to suicide are becoming increasingly supported by governments, NGOs, startups and employers. Canada was the first country to legislate a standard of workplace psychological well being, spearheaded by Dr Joti Samra. Other forward-thinking governments include Australia, Sweden and the UK. Encouragingly, after seeing the reported self-selected death figures, the Lithuanian government have tasked suicide as a priority for change in their next term. 

It’s not just government’s opening up about this issue, with NGO’s like beyond blue, the World Health Organisation, Movember, the International Association of Suicide Prevention and many others raising awareness. The British Royal family are behind Heads Together – a super-charity consolidating 8 established charities charged with changing the conversation on mental health. New Zealand’s government recently pledged the world’s first wellbeing budget of $1.2 billion towards mental health services. Two international days have been set – World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD), on 10th September and World Mental Health Day on 10th October and most countries hold a national day such as Australia’s RUOK day on 12th September. 

There is a long list of guidelines by some of the above mentioned NGO’s that support an integrated approach towards healthy lifestyle habits, earlier intervention technologies and more advanced treatment and support. Confidence in finding newer, more innovative solutions is being further fuelled by a study in Europe proving that new technologies can be useful resources and should be incorporated into suicide prevention programs. The solution must be multidisciplinary, evidence-based and most importantly translated from difficult to understand psycho-babble to relatable easy-to-digest soundbites.

“New Zealand’s government has pledged $1.2 billion towards mental health services in their new budget.”

Mental Health First Aid courses are now being rolled out in 26 countries, a training course that teaches members of the public how to offer initial support until appropriate professional help is received or until the crisis resolves. There are solutions out there for less than the price of a coffee per person per year, and new technology can now educate and coach people towards mental resiliency from their mobile phone. Being so accessible means anyone with a smartphone can gain a proactive communication gateway for early intervention through tele-support and virtual counselling.

Modern-day suicide prevention solutions are integrating a range of wellness and medical technologies including gamification, telemedicine, wearables, education, incentives, community connections, charitable causes, data analytics and machine learning. Although the velocity of suicide statistics is heading in the wrong direction now, the tragic facts are demanding attention, and innovators across the world are finding new solutions faster than ever.

We’ve overcome our complacency inertia and as a result momentum for positive change is now growing. There is an opportunity at hand for prominent global figureheads in government and corporate business to lead from the front and plan ahead to engage with experts and make headway on the largest illness of our time. Awareness has been raised, and now is the time to act, follow-up and create meaningful change that will improve the lives of generations to come.

Interested to find out more? Contact the team now to book a confidential discussion about how to support your workforce with an integrated wellbeing program.

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Top 5 Tips: How To Integrate Your Corporate Mental Health Initiatives

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Over 90% of employees surveyed by Heads Up (2014) believed that supporting mental health is important, but only 52% of people believe it’s being addressed. Here are five ways you can help integrate mental health initiatives into your workplace to raise awareness and increase overall participation in a holistic health program.

1. Discuss What’s Happening In Morning Or Weekly Meetings

It’s one thing to run a program, but for good participation rates, you need to promote it and show managerial support. Tell employees what’s going on and potentially share a ‘people win of the week’.

2. Get Active During Lunch Breaks Or Go For Walking Meetings

Time and time again, exercise has been proven to help with depression and poor mental health. Exercise also helps with problem-solving. Get out into the fresh air either on your lunch breaks or organise walking meetings with others.

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3. Hold Healthy BBQs Or Friday Lunch

Organise an event based on a healthy meal. Use this opportunity to discuss food and mood. Too much processed food has been linked to poor mental health and ‘slumps’ in energy levels. Having foods with omega 3’s such as salmon and walnuts can help boost good mental health as well as regular fresh fruit and vegetables. 

4. Host Mindfulness Moments

Organise a 2-minute slot either on the back of a regular meeting or on a Monday morning after lunch where you and your team can pop on a meditation app or a timer and give just a couple of minutes to focusing on your breath.

5. Organise More Work Social Events

Socialising and feeling included is a critical part of good health. Creating different events at work like mini-challenges or group lunches or activities outside of office hours like lawn bowls or a family day is a great idea to create a supportive and inclusive culture.

It’s important to have a robust strategy with a series of different initiatives for a successful health and wellbeing program. Taking on some of the tips we’ve suggested here can help boost awareness and participation as well as showing the connection between mental and physical health.

Interested to find out more? Contact the team now to book a confidential discussion about how to support your workforce with an integrated wellbeing program.

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The Negative Impact of Stress

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Did you know that between 75%-90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints? For this reason, it is important to understand the many different ways in which stress impacts our health and wellbeing.

This infographic guide provided by Aris Grigoriou of Study Medicine Europe shows how stress affects the body and also offers some practical pointers on stress management.

The reality is that stress itself isn’t bad. No, you read that right, stress really isn’t. Humans have evolved to recognise a stressful situation that might put their survival in danger, thus producing the fight-or-flight response and releasing hormones to either fight off the threat or flee to safety.

Good stress, called eustress, can actually be beneficial to you. Unlike bad stress, or distress, good stress can help with motivation, focus, energy, and performance. For some people, it can even feel exciting.

Encountering one or two stressors can usually be dealt with easily by most people in a typical day, but when the stressors build-up and there’s not sufficient time to rest and recover, the repeated activation of our natural physiological response starts to take their toll on the body and mind.

Research suggests that chronic stress contributes to high blood pressure, promotes the formation of artery-clogging deposits, and causes brain changes that may contribute to anxiety, depression, and addiction. More preliminary research suggests that chronic stress may also contribute to obesity, both through direct mechanisms (causing people to eat more) or indirectly (decreasing sleep and exercise). Harvard Health

Chronic stress (the constant over-activation of the stress response) can be difficult to identify. Some of the more common signs include:

  • rapid heart rate
  • elevated blood pressure
  • feeling overwhelmed
  • fatigue
  • difficulty sleeping
  • poor problem-solving
  • persistent thoughts about one or more stressors
  • changes in behaviour, including social withdrawal, feelings of sadness, frustration, loss of emotional control, inability to rest, self-medication and increased alcohol usage

There are a number of techniques that can be used to combat stress including

Relaxation Response

Dr. Herbert Benson, director emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, has devoted much of his career to learning how people can counter the stress response by using a combination of approaches that elicit the relaxation response. These include deep abdominal breathing, focus on a soothing word (such as peace or calm), visualization of tranquil scenes, repetitive prayer, yoga, and tai chi.

Physical Activity

People can use exercise to stifle the buildup of stress in several ways. Exercise, such as taking a brisk walk shortly after feeling stressed, not only deepens breathing but also helps relieve muscle tension. Movement therapies such as yoga, tai chi, and qi gong combine fluid movements with deep breathing and mental focus, all of which can induce calm.

Social Support

Confidants, friends, acquaintances, co-workers, relatives, spouses, and companions all provide a life-enhancing social net — and may increase longevity. It’s not clear why, but the buffering theory holds that people who enjoy close relationships with family and friends receive emotional support that indirectly helps to sustain them at times of chronic stress and crisis.

How are you managing stress within your workforce?

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The Rise of Mental Health Recognition in the Workplace

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WellteQ was recently asked to write an article for the United Nations on how we support mental health initiatives in the workplace. Zoe Cole explains how we deliver on Sustainable Development Goal #3 – Ensuring healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages.

Current State of Affairs

  • 1 out of 5 Australians take time off work every year due to poor mental health (ABS, 2018)
  • Average cost of mental health claim is $24k, 266% higher than all other claims. (SWA, 2018)
  • Workplace health programs have proven to reduce stress at home up to 37% (WellteQ, 2019)
  • Workplace health programs have increased perceived job performance by 54% (WellteQ, 2019)

The Global Rise of Depression

Understanding and investing in the health of employees is rapidly accelerating around the world. Companies are aware of the impact poor physical and mental health in their workplace and the influence they may have, good or bad, on the overall health and wellbeing of their staff. Globally, around 264 million people suffer from depression which is the leading cause of disability and many of these people also experience symptoms of anxiety (WHO, 2019).

All 17 sustainable development goals created by the UN


Poor mental health is costing Australian businesses approximately $11 billion annually (PwC, 2014). Within a 12 month period, one in every five Australians will experience a mental health condition requiring them to take time off work (ABS, 2018). The major mental health concerns vary across industries from substance abuse in FIFO industries to anxiety in IT, media and financial institutions. Mental health claims are approximately $24,000 each compared the average of $9,000 for all other claim types (Safe Work Australia, 2018). Australia isn’t the only country suffering, the World Health Organisation (2019) believes working environments unsupportive to mental health is costing the world economy $1 trillion annually.

It seems that long hours and unpaid overtime are becoming more common in a range of industries. 91% of workers’ compensation claims for a mental health condition were linked to work-related stress or mental stress (Safe Work Australia, 2018). Burnout is a major factor for turn over of staff as they feel overworked and unrelenting pressures at work.

How Do We Fix This?

It’s important to approach health holistically. The most successful programs include physical health (exercise and nutrition), mental health, social health and financial health. More than 9 out of 10 employees believe that mental health in the workplace is important, yet only 52% of people feel like it’s being addressed (Heads Up, 2014).

Programs need to be fun, engaging and meaningful to the employee in order to see long term, sustainable behaviour change. The services involved should be strategic with specific KPI’s to achieve goals, however, leave these pieces of information in the boardroom and outwardly promote the personal benefits of being involved in a health program. Research has proven mentally healthy workplaces not only improve the mental condition of the employees but their families as well.

There are some great success stories and organisations already tackling mental health. In the blue-collar space, Mates in Mining play a huge role in reducing the stigma surrounding mental health and normalise the ability to recognise and talk about it. In fact, just last year a study was published by the University of Newcastle assessing Mates in Mining’s impact.

Integrated Wellbeing Programs Have Better Success

Eight Australian mines engaged in the research with 1,275 miners participating in the program. It offered both general awareness and connector training to employees and a more in-depth training for supervisors to help them recognise and support someone experiencing poor mental health.  The findings supported peer-based programs tailored to the male-dominated workforce with participants feeling a lot more confident to talk and support their peers. Beyond Blue (non-profit organisation supporting mental health) has a workplace branch to their organisation, Head Ups, who are also spearheading support and research for mental health alongside the federal and state governments and RUOK.

WellteQ understands that good mental health is vital in the workplace.  It goes beyond providing an ROI, it generates a positive work culture through creating support systems, trust, staff retention and good morale. As companies mature in their understanding of health at work,  WellteQ provides digital health support focusing on team challenges, personal health journeys, increasing physical activity and understanding the mind and body connection. Results from WellteQ’s multifaceted programs have included

  • Overall health: 44% improvement
  • Energy levels: 29% improvement
  • Resilience: 15% improvement
  • Perceived job performance: 54% improvement
  • Stress at home: 37% reduction
  • Stress at work:  10% reduction

Nutrition And Exercise Play An Important Part In Mental Health

Research has proven that good nutrition and regular exercise improves mental health. Therefore encouraging employees to make better food decisions and move more significantly improves mood as well as approaching mental health head-on. Arming employees with tools to manage stress and increasing their health literacy is key to caring more for their health, recognising the signs and symptoms of stress or behaviour change and may become more resilient to certain situations.

Variety Is The Key To Success

Although there is still a long way to go to improve the wellbeing of workers, there is some fantastic research and current programs showing successful intervention. Remember that variety is key. Consider the demographics of your workforce and peers: gender, age, industry and cultural background to name a few. Tailor your program and ensure you capture data and track changes to best understand your workforce to provide the support they need.

What are you looking at for next year’s programs?

How does your company currently initiate mental health programs?

How have wellbeing programs worked for you?

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WellteQ Partners With Brain Health Platform, Savonix

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APAC’s leading wellness engagement and analytics platform partners with cognitive assessment and monitoring technology.

Pushing Frontiers in Mental Wellbeing

WellteQ is proud to announce a partnership with neuropsychology innovator Savonix, whose cognitive assessment tests digitally assess brain health from your smartphone or tablet. The tests are digital versions of a series of globally accepted gold standard neuroscience tests, most of which have been in broad clinical and research use since the early 20th century.


Demonstrating the Savonix app

The Brain Gets Sick Before The Body

By integrating Savonix’s assessment capabilities into WellteQ’s digital wellness platform, WellteQ furthers its suite of digital health assessment and wellbeing tools offering a broader and deeper service for its corporate clients The  Savonix brain health data offers unique insights into risk factors for lifestyle-related conditions such as dementia, cardiovascular disease, diabetes – and of particular importance within the workplace is stress and fatigue.

WellteQ’s dynamic user reports provide extensive knowledge of isolated mental and physical health elements, and also the relationship between body and mind that has previously thought to be immeasurable.


What Does This Mean For Employees?

For employers this collaboration brings a new approach to employee wellness programs leveraged by technology:

  • New insights into employee stress and fatigue that can help with shift rostering, workforce planning and more targeted workplace wellness interventions.
  • More accurate risk profiling for reduced incidents at work leading to reduced sick leave and medical claims.
  • A new suite of executive performance programs specifically designed to coach senior leaders to peak performance avoiding burnout

Scott Montgomery, CEO of WellteQ, said:

“We’re thrilled to be announcing this partnership with such an innovative leader in the niche field of neuropsychology. The expansion of WellteQ’s capabilities thanks to the cognitive performance data provided by Savonix is quite unique as we close the loop between body, brain and mind.

What I’m most excited about is the new suite of executive performance programs. Senior leaders are typically overlooked when it comes to ongoing training and support as it’s widely believed these employees are at the top of their game. However these overachievers are also overexposed to stress, fatigue and corporate burnout. These high-pressure, high-visibility roles require a modern understanding of one’s resilience to stress and capability to manage fatigue while still performing at peak level. Having identified this as an under-represented population in any business, we’ve designed a set of premium wellbeing solutions, now incorporating Savonix’s capabilities alongside blood pathology, body imagery and health coaching (tele-medicine), that are aimed specifically at tackling these problems.”


Who Are Savonix?

Savonix delivers a fully mobile assessment of cognitive function available on Android and iOS for phone and tablet. Savonix Mobile is an accurate, accessible and affordable tool for professional cognitive screening. It empowers healthcare providers, payers and researchers to evaluate and leverage results to improve health and treatment outcomes.

Led by clinical neuro-psychologists, neuroscientists and IT leaders, Savonix sets the global standard on cognition and its relationship to risk, health outcomes and the development of innovative therapies. Savonix evidence-based tests are digitally validated versions of the gold standard cognition tests, many of which neuropsychologists have used effectively since the 1930s.

Savonix believes cognition is the fifth vital sign. We provide our customers the data and the insight to improve outcomes and drive innovation.

For more information please contact stacey@wellteq.co

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Time to Level Up… Top 10 Skills of the Future!

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Awesome infographic is by Guthrie-Jensen

Credit to Guthrie-Jensen for this awesome infographic!

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