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Confusion over smog health advice, ketamine promise in depression and why it’s not all bad news for Britain’s health

The Government has caused confusion by sending out conflicting messages about how people should protect themselves from the harmful effects of smog, according to The Telegraph’s front page this morning.

Apparently Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) has said schoolchildren should stay indoors because of the smog cloud that is currently affecting the south east, whereas Public Health England has said the vast majority of people would feel no effects, although some people may notice sore throats and coughs if they take part in activities outdoors.

The paper says the smog is due to head north and west today and directs people with asthma who may be concerned to Asthma UK’s helpline.

Elsewhere, The Guardian has news of more evidence supporting use of ketamine for the treatment of severe depression. Researchers at Oxford’s Warneford hospital found the drug led to depression scores halving in some patients who had previously been resistant to treatments.

They hope ketamine could offer an alternative to electroconvulsive therapy for treatment-resistant depression, but warn against self-medication with the drug, which is used at much higher doses by recreational users.

Lead research Dr Rupert McShane said: ‘It’s a controversial area but there’s no doubt that it’s got potential.’

Finally, some positive news about the nation’s health for once, as The Independent reports that Britain ranks as one of the best countries in the world for its population’s quality of life.

The Social Progress Index put the UK in 13th place out of 132 countries ahead of the United States, France, Italy and Japan, but just behind Germany. Growing levels of obesity was one of its few negative points.

However, despite Britain and Germany having similar scores, Michael Green from the Social Progress Imperative, which publishes the index, said there were ‘striking differences’ between the two, with Britain doing well for individualism while Germany had a better social safety net.