Top Post Series of 2020: Leading in Context Blog

By Linda Fisher Thornton

The Top Post Series for last year on the Leading in Context Blog reflected the ethical challenges of dealing with misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Truth and Misinformation: How To Spot False Narratives

This series addressed the fine points of how to tell the difference between a false narrative and a message that is true. Here’s a highlight quote from each post in the series that provides an overview.

Truth and Misinformation: How To Spot False Narratives (Part 1)

“Creators of misinformation and false narrative will not want you to look beyond the statements made. Their power lies in the reader’s blind trust. In contrast, sources advocating objective truth will encourage you to learn about an issue so that you can see the situation and the value of the proposed solution for yourself.”

Truth and Misinformation: How to Spot False Narratives (Part 2)

“Misinformation and false narrative rely on raw intimidation power (and not truth power). Look for truth power that stands on its own merits and doesn’t need to attack to deflect attention.”

Truth and Misinformation: How to Spot False Narratives (Part 3)

Misinformation relies on people having an emotional reaction and immediately sharing information with others without taking the time to evaluate its credibility.

It is clearly our job to stay literate as misinformation becomes more sophisticated and harder to spot. Use these insights to improve your awareness and your ability to spot false narratives.

Note: The second most popular Leading in Context Blog series of 2020 was: 5 Ethical Dimensions of IoT Leadership .

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Grateful For You

By Linda Fisher Thornton

During COVID-19, I have had to make sacrifices, but I have also had much to be grateful for. Here are some of the many people I’m grateful for this year:

  • the front-line workers who made sure we had food and supplies
  • the many health care professionals who managed our testing, treatments and care
  • the students who adapted to distanced learning and made the best of it under challenging circumstance
  • the educators who stayed committed to providing an inspiring education during a time when all the rules changed and everything had to be reimagined from the ground up
  • the parents who were overwhelmed with the responsibility for home learning and yet helped their children and teens move forward in their education
  • the family and friends who found new ways to stay connected and support one another safely during the pandemic

This message is for them:

‘Thank you for your commitment to helping us all move forward during this difficult time. I appreciate all you have done to make things better, in big and small ways. You made many sacrifices so that others could succeed. You inspire me to do more and be more by your example.”

Take a moment, in this season of giving thanks, to share a message of gratitude with someone who has inspired you during this challenging year.

Ethics is Actionable

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Some people think about ethics as a theoretical concept that lives in procedures and regulations, but they’re missing the point. Ethics is not just an esoteric concept. It’s an actionable responsibility.

Ethics requires moving beyond convenience and concern for self to concern for others.

Our ethics doesn’t live in the codes and manuals… Ethics is in the decisions we make. It’s in the way we resolve the tension between gaining personal benefit and creating value for others… Ethical guidelines are there to help us, but they do not become our ethics unless we choose to follow them every day.

Linda Fisher Thornton, Ethics Isn’t “Out There”: It’s Us And Our Choices

Leaders bear an even greater responsibility for ethical action because they must lead others to ethical performance through their guidance and example.

When an action is convenient and not appropriate, don’t call it leadership. Leadership is about moving beyond concern for self to also consider the well-being and success of others.

Linda Fisher Thornton, Leaders: What’s Missing in Convenient Actions? Values, Leading in Context Blog

As leaders, our ethical values show up when we take action that is grounded in ethical values:

  • Make important decisions
  • Choose employees to recognize, reward and promote
  • Model expected ethics for others to emulate
  • Treat others with respect and care

It’s in the time we take to teach employees about ethics and values, and the care we take to model ethical behavior so that everyone can see what it looks like in action.

Linda Fisher Thornton, Ethics Isn’t “Out There”: It’s Us And Our Choices

Now is a great time to move well beyond the ethics manual on the shelf and offering ethics training to “check off the box.” It’s time to move from insight to action – from what we know is important to what we actually do every day.

Clarify, Don’t Oversimplify

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Many of us are on a quest to simplify our lives, reduce our clutter and improve our focus. This is a positive step that can improve our lives, but unfortunately it doesn’t work at all when applied to our decision making.

When situations are complex, it is tempting to oversimplify them so we can move on and make a quick decision. This practice, though, sets us up for poor decision making and ethical mistakes.

“‘Satisficing’ leads the managerial leader to alternatives that tend to be easy to formulate, familiar, and close to the status quo. When one grapples with complex ethical considerations, this approach to decision making may not produce the best solutions.”

Charles D. Kerns, Graziadio Business Review, Pepperdine University

Kern’s term ‘satisficing’ makes me think of sacrificing the complexity of an issue to satisfy our need to move forward. It reminds me of our tendency to want things to be simpler than they really are, because digging into complex issues takes some effort.

This week, take a moment to consider where you might be ‘satisficing’ when you should be clarifying.

Good Leadership Serves, Respects and Uplifts

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This is an updated version of a post that has been a long-time reader favorite.

What is the ultimate goal of leadership? This question seems simple enough at first, and then begins to get tricky because it can’t be answered in one simple statement.

  • Is the goal of leadership to provide direction and model the performance we expect from others?
  • Is it to respect and serve?
  • Is it to support others and remove obstacles?
  • Is it to teach and mentor?
  • Is it to help bring out the best in those we lead as we work toward a common purpose?

Of course, leadership is about all of those things and more. So what is its ultimate goal? Here are four very different ways of thinking about the ultimate goal of leadership. Each one is shared with a suggested theme song. As you read, think about how many of these theme songs describe your leadership.

Profit

Using the Profit perspective, the goal of leadership is to ensure that the organization makes a profit so that it can continue its work. A theme song for this perspective might be “For the Love of Money” by the O’Jays (theme song for the U.S. version of The Apprentice).

People

Using the People perspective, the goal of leadership is to bring out the best in people through respect and care, and continual support for their success.  A theme song for this perspective might be R.E.S.P.E.C.T” by Otis Redding, sung by Aretha Franklin.

Service

Using the Service perspective, the goal of leadership is to serve others in ways that uplift lives and communities. A theme song for this perspective might be Lean on Me” by Bill Withers.

Greater Good

Using the Greater Good perspective, the goal of leadership is making choices that ensure a good life for future generations. The theme song for this perspective might be We Are the World” by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie.

The question is not “Which one of these perspectives is right?” because they are all important ways of thinking about the goal of leadership. They are part of a bigger view that incorporates many dimensions of leadership responsibility. The question is “How can we honor all of them?” 

In my book, 7 Lenses, I explore all of these concepts in a framework of 7 important perspectives on what responsible leadership includes.  A 7 Lenses Book Club Discussion Guide is available to help groups discuss what they have learned and how they can apply it for individual and organizational improvement.

Here is an introduction to all 7 Lenses.

Leadership is multidimensional. We need to learn how to see it in multiple dimensions. If anyone tries to tell you that the ultimate goal of leadership is “one thing,” they’re missing the big picture.

Beliefs Are Complicated

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Part 1 in the Truth and Misinformation: How to Spot False Narratives series explored truth and narrative, and Part 2 examined how data and motives relate to the truth. Part 3 addressed the importance of media literacy. In this follow up, we take a deeper look at truth and belief.

It turns out that beliefs are complicated. How do we know if our beliefs are actually true?

“Many people don’t realize that every thought that pops into their heads isn’t true, and they are unable to decipher authentic beliefs from false ones.”

— Mike Oppland, How Psychology Combats False and Self-Limiting Beliefs

But if we learn to manage the automatic messages popping into our heads all day long, we’ll be able to tell the difference, right? Not necessarily.

As July Beck says in This Article Won’t Change Your Mind, in The Atlantic, “There are facts, and there are beliefs, and there are things you want so badly to believe that they become as facts to you.”

At least we change our minds when presented with the facts, don’t we? If we’re presented with facts that contradict our beliefs don’t we automatically change them? Not necessarily.

“Unfortunately, we still form beliefs without vetting most of them, and maintain them even after receiving clear, corrective information.”

Annie Duke, Why Your Brain Clings To False Beliefs (Even When It Knows Better), Fast Company

Daniel DeNicola writes in his Psyche article You Don’t Have a Right To Believe Whatever You Want To that “Beliefs aspire to truth – but they do not entail it. Beliefs can be false, unwarranted by evidence or reasoned consideration. They can also be morally repugnant.

Trendwatching.com says in The Fight For Facts that “consumers’ ramped- up search for news prompted a misinformation avalanche, what the World Health Organization (WHO) calls an infodemic’.

People often share a new piece of information they believe to be true in haste without considering the repercussions. Is it unethical to share a false belief that could cause harm to others? Yes. It violates many ethical principles including truthfulness, trustworthiness, respect, care, and “do no harm.”

“Information on Twitter (and other social platforms that use short and fast messages) is particularly likely to be evaluated based on emotional responses with little input from higher cognitive functions.”

—Tali Sharot, Why People Can’t Agree on Basic Facts, Time

We’ve been focusing on whether or not we can trust other people, but it turns out the problem is much closer than we realized. It turns out that we can’t always trust ourselves. Annie Duke suggests in her Fast Company article Why Your Brain Clings To False Beliefs (Even When It Knows Better): that “the next time you argue with someone over something you believe to be true, step back and ask yourself how you came to this conclusion.”

17 Leadership Paradoxes

By Linda Fisher Thornton

COVID-19 has brought us many challenges including balancing economic and human factors, moving quickly but taking time to show compassion and so on. This Center for Creative Leadership video succinctly introduces 6 paradoxes in the essential leadership skills required in a post-COVID world. You can visit their website to download the related white paper.

The PWC publication “Six paradoxes of leadership: Addressing the crisis of leadership” shares 6 more paradoxes of leadership and notes that “learning how to comfortably inhabit both elements of each paradox will be critical to your success.” The paradoxes are expanded on in this COVID-19 related article “The urgent need for sophisticated leadership.”

And I’ll add these 5 paradoxes from my post Building Trust: Paradoxical Qualities to Cultivate

Cultivating these qualities in ourselves and our organizations helps us build a high trust workplace where people can do their best work:

Be Dependable and Open to Change

Be Fully Present Right Now and Think Ahead

Be Crystal Clear About What’s Expected and Open to Hearing Input From Others

Be Confident and Humble

Be Decisive and Flexible

Great leaders possess seemingly paradoxical qualities. They know when to use each end of the spectrum, depending on what is most needed to move individuals and groups forward.

Building Trust: Paradoxical Qualities to Cultivate, Leading in Context Blog

Leaders need to be be adaptable good thinkers to work their way through all of these paradoxes at the same time. The pandemic simply raises the stakes on us to get it right.

5 Ways to Avoid Opinions That Lack Insight and Understanding

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Lately we’ve been seeing too much content that is not grounded in understanding. Some of it is intentionally misleading and some of it is well-intentioned but misinformed.

What this means is that we have to learn how to recognize misinformation, but also, and even more importantly, carefully tend how we convey our own opinions.

“A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding.”

― Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man

Before sharing your opinion, use the questions in this Self-Check; make sure you are on track to sharing your opinion in a way that leads to insight and understanding.

Opinion Self-Check

  1. Do I get angry when I think about this?
    • Anger clouds our judgment and bypasses our moral checks
    • If it makes you angry, slow down
  2. Have I researched the issue using multiple reputable sources?
    • Spreading misinformation is ethically problematic
    • Do your research first
  3. Have I thought it through before expressing an opinion?
    • Speaking without thinking is a recipe for disaster
    • Think about the issue and how your opinion could be perceived by others
  4. Have I listened to what a diverse group of voices is saying on the subject?
    • Our social media feed will share content that agrees with what we already believe, entrenching us in a narrow perspective
    • Seek out differing opinions from people and groups before you make up your mind on the issue
  5. Have I stayed open to changing my mind?
    • A closed mind isn’t going to change as the world changes
    • Stay open to changing your opinion as you learn more and reflect on the issue

As Clara Barton famously said, we “cannot afford the luxury of a closed mind.”

“Ethical Thinking Isn’t Automatic”

By Linda Fisher Thornton

“For ethical leadership to stick, the culture needs an infrastructure that consistently supports acting on stated values…Ethical cultures treat ethical thinking as something that must be cultivated, demonstrated, and practiced over time.”

My article, “Ethical Thinking Isn’t Automatic,” featured in the August issue of the Talent Development Journal, describes five culture gaps that inhibit ethical leadership. These culture gaps are common problems that organizations should watch for and avoid.

You won’t want to miss this article. It includes advice to organizations wanting to build ethical cultures, and is grounded in decades of experience and observations about where cultures often fall short.

“Companies fall into five common traps on the way to building an ethics-rich culture: no active focus on values, oversimplification of complex issues, lack of behavior boundaries, lack of integration, and ignoring the learning curve.”

Linda Fisher Thornton, Ethical Thinking Isn’t Automatic, Talent Development Journal

Ethical thinking doesn’t happen without the infrastructure to support it. Does your organization have it in place or is it burdened with one of the five culture gaps? Read the full article to learn how to identify and resolve five common culture gaps that erode ethical leadership.

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COVID-19 Response: 12 Resources for Business

By Linda Fisher Thornton

It’s important to weigh both the business and human impacts of the Coronavirus when making critical business decisions. A sound understanding of the situation combined with ethical values will help us make leadership decisions that will be good for our customers and the long-term viability of our businesses.

These 9 resources are filled with insights that will help businesses of all sizes make good decisions in challenging times.

9 Resources For Helping Businesses Deal With the Coronavirus:

  1. COVID-19 Implications For Business, March 2020 Executive Briefing, McKinsey.com
  2. Coronavirus (COVID-19): Leadership Resources for Times of Crisis, Center for Creative Leadership
  3. COVID-19 Human Resources Policy Survey Report, Gallagher
  4. Implementation of Mitigation Strategies For Communities With Local COVID-19 Transmission, CDC.gov
  5. Coronavirus Small Business Guide, US Chamber of Commerce
  6. Three Elements of Value® For Consumers Take Precendence During a Pandemic, Eric Almquist, Bain.com
  7. COVID-19 Business Resources, Gallagher
  8. For B2B Companies, Six Elements of Value® Matter Most in the Coronavirus Pandemic, Jamie Cleghorn and Eric Almquist, Bain.com
  9. 4 Strategies to Help Your Business Recover From Coronavirus, Greg Schwartz, Entrepreneur.com

And 3 More Resources For Applying 7 Lenses of Ethical Leadership

Making decisions based on values requires long term thinking and carefully balancing the best interests of our constituents with concerns for our own future. Looking through any one lens won’t help us achieve that balance. We need a kaleidoscopic perspective to get a clear view of the ethical implications.

Here are 3 more resources based on my book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership that will help as you make difficult decisions in challenging times.

Learn how to use the 7 Lenses Model to evaluate your choices.

Seeing the Nuances of Ethical Leadership: A Developmental Model

Linda Fisher Thornton’s Leadership Podcast Interviews On How to Use the 7 Lenses of Ethical Leadership

5 Insights For the Class of 2020

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I have a special message for our 2020 graduates. This year has not turned out as we had hoped or planned that it would. You are probably feeling a great sense of loss from missing out on milestone events and celebrations related to graduation. You are also entering the next chapter of your lives at a time of great divisiveness, instability and unrest.

You are likely wondering what will happen now that the entire landscape has changed, and so little is certain about your future. Take heart and learn from the stories of those who have dealt with great hardship and overcome it.

“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” — Arnold Schwarzenegger

As you try to rebuild your image of your future plans in these difficult times, I have 5 pieces of advice to share that may be useful. I wish someone had shared these life insights with me when I was a new graduate beginning the next chapter of my life.

5 Insights For the Class of 2020 

  1. Find Ethical Role Models – While many others around you will stray from the path and make bad choices, your ethical role models will keep you looking forward toward becoming your best.
  2. Manage Your Information Consumption – It is easy to become overwhelmed or fearful when we are constantly exposed to the worst of what’s out there or comparing ourselves to others. Intentionally follow good news and manage your media time so it doesn’t take time away from relationships or building your own good life.
  3. Become a Truth Beacon  Become the one others can count on to evaluate information and determine whether it is “fake news” or an important truth. You will ground yourself, and become a person that others can count on to cut through the chatter to find what matters.
  4. Take One Step At a Time, One Day at a Time – A wise person once said to me at a difficult time in my life “All you have to do is get through this for one day.” I realized I had been taking on the stress of challenges I would face in the future that were not directly before me. Using a “one day at a time” focus, we can overcome our challenges without becoming disheartened.
  5. Find Meaning Through Service – There are many different approaches to life. Some of them are self-serving and others are deeply focused on serving others. I believe that it is through service to others that we find our true happiness. As we shift our focus away from our own troubles and toward serving others, we find a sense of meaning in our lives.

While the world will pull you in many different compelling directions, it is your values that will keep you anchored. Become aware of them. Nurture them. Know what you believe in. Live it. Set an example for others by building a good, ethical life in a chaotic world.

We are counting on you.

Are Best Practices Really Best?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Organizations are facing multiple connected challenges. First, they need to prevent ethical mistakes in a high speed, highly transparent business environment. Second, they need to engage leaders in relevant ethical learning so that the principles “stick” and are used to handle real problems. Third, they need to help leaders apply ethical thinking so they don’t just take “best practices” at face value.

“The ‘supply side’ of ethics — i.e., organizations’ ability to avoid ethical lapses — has never been more challenging.”

Ghassan Khoury and Maria Semykoz, The New Frontier of Business Ethics, Gallup

The important thing to remember is that we are helping people learn HOW to think, not WHAT to think. Paul Thagard, PhD, a Canadian philisopher and cognitive scientist says that “ethical judgments are often highly emotional, when people express their strong approval or disapproval of various acts.   Whether they are also rational depends on whether the cognitive appraisal that is part of emotion is done well or badly.” (Paul Thagard, PhD, Ethical Thinking Should be Rational AND Emotional, Psychology Today)

Teaching ethical reasoning is not about teaching what one should do in particular circumstances, it is about teaching students how wisely to make very difficult decisions involving ethical considerations where the answers are anything but clear cut.

Robert J. Sternberg, Cornell University, Developing ethical reasoning and/or ethical decision making

If we want to implement ethical decisions, we will need to do our own ethical thinking and not borrow the thinking of others. Approaches considered “best practices” are often used as blueprints by organizations, but that is not always an effective approach when the goal is ethical thinking.

Tony Schwartz, in his HBR article What it Takes to Think Deeply About Complex Problems, reminds us that “managing complexity requires courage ­— the willingness to sit in the discomfort of uncertainty and let its rivers run through us.” He explains that “the best practice is to not overrely on best practices, which typically emerge from our current assumptions and worldview.

Replicating best practices is common since it seems to save organizations quite a bit of time and money. The problem is that the “best practice” that earned one organization a desired result may or may not have been derived using ethical thinking. It can be efficient, cost effective and impactful AND look like an amazing shortcut, but that “best practice” may not honor all of our organization’s values.

We need to do the work to apply ethical values to avoid replicating flawed thinking in our organizations. We can’t skip carefully ethical consideration just because an action is described as a “best practice.” To drive this point home, ask leader groups to run some “industry best practices” through your organization’s values to see how well they hold up.

Truth and Misinformation: How to Spot False Narratives (Part 3)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

This is Part 3 in a Leading in Context series sharing information on how to spot misinformation and false narratives. In case you missed them, Part 1 explored truth and narrative, and Part 2 examined how data and motives relate to the truth. Part 3 will address the importance of media literacy.

What Role Does Media Literacy Play in Discovering the Truth?

Misinformation relies on people having an emotional reaction and immediately sharing information with others without taking the time to evaluate its credibility.

“Ask yourself: Is this a complicated subject, something that’s hitting an emotional trigger? Or is it a breaking news story where the facts aren’t yet able to be assembled? If the answer is yes, then you need to be ultra-skeptical.”

Miles Parks, Fake News: How to Spot Misinformation, NPR

To avoid being misled, when you have a strong emotional reaction to a story, look for the source of the information and look for corroborating information from other sources. (Miles Parks, Fake News: How to Spot Misinformation, NPR)

How can you spot a source of misinformation and false narrative?

One way to avoid misinformation is to check out whether or not the story is real before buying into it, sharing it and telling other people about it.

Sources of misinformation and false narrative may not share sources backing up the story OR the sources they share are not reliable. Media literacy is how we avoid being tricked.

Misinformation and false narratives may come from a dishonest leader or organization, or from a source who is motivated by CLICKS and ad revenue. These sources have a self-interested motive (and do not care about us or our well being). Whatever the source, our job is to stay literate as misinformation becomes more sophisticated and harder to spot.

Healthy Media Consumption

How You Can Stop the Fake News Madness

What is Duality?

polarization-1201698_1920

By Linda Fisher Thornton

What is Duality?

What is duality? This is a tricky question, because the answer depends on your perspective and why you’re asking. Each discipline answers the question from a different angle. This post samples the varying disciplinary perspectives on duality.

Two Parts in Perpetual Opposition 

“Dualism (from the Latin word duo meaning “two”) denotes a state of two parts… Dualism can refer to moral dualism, (e.g. the conflict between good and evil), mind-body or mind-matter dualism (e.g. Cartesian Dualism) or physical dualism (e.g. the Chinese Yin and Yang).”

http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/duality?region=us dual nature

Duality in Human Nature   

“Stevenson describes how there is a good and an evil side to everyone’s personality, but what is important is how you behave and the decisions you make. The choices people make determine whether a person is good or not.”

Themes, Duality of Human Nature, BBC (On Stephenson, the Author of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde)

Duality in Language

“I take the term ‘duality’ to stand for an opposition or dichotomy between, or of, two entities.Some examples of dualities are: Day and Night, Left and Right (i.e., polarities of direction,and chirality, ‘handedness’), Positive and Negative (e.g., electromagnetic poles, values), Lifeand Death, Male and Female, Up and Down (i.e., polarities of spatial dimensions), True andFalse, Right and Wrong, etc.”

Begley, The Concept of Duality and its Representation in Language as Antonymy

Duality in Neuroscience and Cognition

“The idea that we have ‘two minds’, only one of which corresponds to personal, volitional cognition, has also wide implications beyond cognitive science.”

Frankish, The Duality of Mind

Duality in Leadership

In terms of ethical leadership, duality can refer to good and evil. But good and evil are not mutually exclusive. Someone is not “all good” or “all evil.”  We each have the capacity for both. So in ethical leadership, duality is an oversimplification. 

At the highest levels of leadership, thinking is more complex and duality is transcended.

Level 5 leaders are a study in duality: modest and willful, humble and fearless.” 

Jim Collins, Good to Great

We must stretch to see the complexity of ethical leadership, looking beyond the “all or nothing” “one or the other” thinking that duality represents. 

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Systems Thinking: Untangling Increasing Pollen Allergies

allergy-1738191_1920

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Large-scale problems usually have more than one cause. When we look for solutions, we need to investigate many different possible variables. Today, I’ll look at multiple causes of increasing allergies to pollen. This issue is of particular concern to me since I live in one of the Top 10 Most Challenging Places to Live With Spring Allergies (Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America). 

Why is pollen worse in and near cities?

Why are allergies worse in urban areas? One of the causes is a result of our choices when planning urban areas and may surprise you. It is an unintended consequence of the preponderance of male shrubs and trees in cities. Tom Ogren says that that 99.9 times out of 100 it will be a male tree, and male trees emit pollen (Tom Ogren, NPR, Too Much Pollen? Blame the Males). It seems that the male trees are preferred because they don’t drop seeds or fruit. But what we get instead of dropped seeds or fruit negatively impacts the health of millions of people.

“If you plant trees, look for species that do not aggravate allergies such as crape myrtle, dogwood, fig, fir, palm, pear, plum, redbud and redwood or the female cultivars of ash, box elder, cottonwood, maple, palm, poplar or willow” (Tammie Smith, For Those With Allergies, Here is a Pollen Primer, Richmond Times Dispatch)

How does pollen affect our brains?

One study, published at NCBI, finds that “allergies strain the brain, these results suggest, and key functions from attention to memory diminish the longer the battle rages.” 

Another study found that subjects with a history of allergies were more likely to be diagnosed with major depression. (Eric L. Hurwitz, Hal Morgenstern, Oxford, American Journal of Edpidemiology). WebMD also reports that “In one such study, adults with allergic rhinitis (hay fever) were twice as likely to have been diagnosed with major depression in the previous 12 months. In another study, kids who had hay fever at age 5 or 6 were twice as likely to experience major depression over the ensuing 17 years.”

Why is pollen worse each year?

According to ECARF. “The term (seasonal) is no longer used, since many people react to the pollen of more than one flowering plant species and suffer from symptoms not only in the spring, but also in the summer or virtually all year round.”

This Vox video explains another reason why pollen levels are increasing, and what that increase does to human health.

 

“Seasonal allergies and asthma impose significant health burdens, with an estimated 10–30% of the global population afflicted by allergic rhinitis (or hay fever) and 300 million people worldwide affected by asthma.” (Charles W. Schmidt, Pollen Overload: Seasonal Allergies in a Changing Climate, NCBI, U.S. National Library of Medicine)

Linked Issues

There are many other issues linked to the pollen problem including these: 

The Immune System

Allergies are the result of your immune system’s response to a substance… A person becomes allergic when their body develops antigens against a substance. Upon repeated exposure the severity of the reaction may increase.

Allergies and The Immune System, John Hopkins Medicine

Genetics

The allergic diseases are complex phenotypes for which a strong genetic basis has been firmly established.

Romina A. Ortiz and Kathleen C. Barnes, Genetics of Allergic Diseases, National Institute of Health

Pollution

Pollutants and climate change act as plant stressors, modifying the expression of plant molecules endowed with immunogenic properties, such as those present in pollens.”

Giovanna Schiavoni, Gennaro D’Amato, MD, and Claudia Afferni, The dangerous liaison between pollens and pollution in respiratory allergy, Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. 

Increasing pollen allergies have multiple connected causes that should all be addressed in a broader context. It is easy to see that when we are dealing with systems, no one source or academic discipline can adequately unravel the complete picture.  

 

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