Five questions answered on the latest inflation figures

Fruit, bread and cereals up.

The office of National Statistics today released its most recent inflation data. We answer five questions on the current state of inflation.

What is the current rate of consumer price inflation?

For November inflation remains unchanged from the previous month at 2.7 per cent.

How does this compare to wages?

Over the past year inflation has risen faster than wages with the average monthly income £22 lower than last year, according to a Bank of England survey by NMG Consulting.

What’s risen and what’s fallen in price?

Petrol prices have fallen by 3 per cent a litre on the month to £1.35 while diesel prices dropped 1.5p to £1.42 a litre.

Retail prices index (RPI) inflation, which includes housing costs, fell to 3 per cent last month, from 3.2 per cent in October.

The main rises came from food and non-alcoholic beverages prices which rose by 1.1 per cent between October and November. This covers fruit and, to a lesser extent, bread and cereals were the main contributors.

Housing and household services, such as gas and electric, rose overall by 0.6 per cent between October and November,

What’s the outlook for the future?

According to economists inflation could rise again next year to over 3 per cent as the full effect of the fuel price hikes and rising cost of fuel are factored into the figures.

UK economist at IHS Global Insight, Howard Archer, told The Telegraph: “It still looks very possible that increased energy tariffs and higher food prices could push consumer price inflation up to 3pc early in 2013 and keep it there for a while. Further utility price hikes will kick in during December and January.”

What is the government doing about inflation prices?

A Treasury spokesman told The Telegraph:

“At the Autumn Statement, the Government took more action to help households with the cost of living including a further increase in the tax-free personal allowance and cancelling the fuel duty increase that was planned for January.”

Fruit prices are a major riser. Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for

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Tetris and sleep deprivation: how we can help emergency workers cope with trauma

First responders are at serious risk of developing PTSD during events like the Paris attacks. 

Some people seem able to deal with anything. They save a stranger from bleeding out in a bombed restaurant, protect passers-by from heavily armed gunmen, pull dead and dying people out of collapsed buildings, and they keep going because it is their job. These people are first responders.

When trauma goes on for days, as it has recently in Paris, however, the odds of them bouncing back from the violence, death and injury they are witnessing rapidly diminishes. They are at greater risk of developing a severe stress reaction known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One study found that the worldwide rate of PTSD among first responders is 10 per cent, much higher than the 3.5 per cent rate among those not involved in rescue work.

Tetris to the rescue

So how best to address the problem? Research is in its infancy, but there are some promising studies. Emily Holmes’ group at the University of Cambridge has been looking at the benefits of playing Tetris, a video game, after a traumatic experience. The idea is that this could block the consolidation of traumatic memories so they don’t “flash back” later on.

For the study, her team first traumatised people by showing them distressing footage from public safety videos. The next day they invited them back into the lab to reactivate the memories with still images taken from the videos. One group then played Tetris for 12 minutes while the other sat quietly. Over the following week, the group who played Tetris had about 50 per cent fewer unwanted memories from the films compared to the group who didn’t.

The team concluded that playing Tetris helped individuals because it soaks up their visual processing capacity, making it harder for the brain to consolidate the visual parts of a traumatic memory.

Since it takes about six hours for the brain to cement a memory, the key is to play the game soon after trauma or within six hours of re-activating the traumatic memory. How long the helpful effects of playing Tetris will last and whether it will translate into helping people after real-life trauma is still unknown.

Talking it through

Other techniques, such as “updating”, taken from a highly-effective talking treatment for PTSD, may be more practical and easier to implement.

Like a detective, updating is a technique that focuses on finding new information and linking it to the case, the past memory. This is necessary because when the brain and body are in survival mode during trauma, the mind finds it difficult to encode all the relevant facts. Often key pieces of information that could make the memory less traumatic are lost. Updating links new information to someone’s memory of their trauma to make it less upsetting.

But can updating help to reduce unwanted memories after trauma?

We carried out a study, published in PLOS ONE, in which we traumatised people by showing them terrifying films of humans and animals in distress. We then divided our participants into three groups. One group watched the films again but were given new information about how long people suffered and whether or not they lived or died – essentially, they were updated. The second group watched the same films again but without the new information. And the third group watched films of humans and animals who were not in distress. The updated group had fewer traumatic memories and PTSD symptoms than the other two groups.

Updating is now being used by some UK emergency services. First responders will gather after critical incidents and update their memories of what happened before they go home.

Sleep deprivation

There are other techniques that may be helpful. One study found that depriving people of sleep may be useful in the aftermath of trauma.

But the same study found that a week after the trauma, people who had been deprived of sleep had the same number of unwanted memories as people who had slept well afterwards. Consequently, it remains unclear whether there would be any long-lasting benefits using this method. There are, however, certainly health risks linked to lack of sleep.

Still looking for a solution

To develop preventative interventions, we need to study newly-recruited emergency workers who haven’t yet suffered on-the-job trauma and follow them over time, spotting which “coping styles”, present before trauma, may predict their reactions afterwards.

For example, some people naturally react to stressful life events by dwelling on them, thinking about why they happened for hours on end. This strategy, called rumination, has been linked to PTSD in people who survived car crashes.

If rumination predicts PTSD in first responders, then preventative interventions could train people to spot when they are dwelling on an event and refocus their attention to the task at hand.

When we have identified which factors heighten emergency workers’ risk of developing PTSD, programmes can be developed to target those vulnerabilities. Only then can an intervention, directed at first responders most at risk of developing PTSD, properly protect them in their line of work.

The Conversation

Jennifer Wild is a Senior Research Fellow in Clinical Psychology at the University of Oxford

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.