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Research news: financial well-being, dialect training for computers, vitamin D, and parasitic helminths 

Social Sciences

People’s evaluation of their financial well-being is influenced by both age and the global consumer culture  

Data collected in sixteen countries showed that it is wrong to assume that people in wealthier countries have greater financial well-being. The study analysed how age, gender, income and education are associated with current money management stress and expected future financial security. People’s evaluation of their ability to maintain current living standards or reach a desired lifestyle in the future is influenced by both individual and contextual factors.  

As expected, the size of income plays a significant role in financial well-being. Comparisons between countries show that differences between age groups can be more significant than between countries. Comparisons with people of similar lifestyles can have at least as much impact on the evaluations of financial well-being as comparisons with peers living in the same city. Thus, global consumer culture may better explain the differences in financial well-being evaluations than national borders and economic indicators.  

However, access to financial services and trust in the government affect the level of stress arising from people’s financial management. The respondents’ stress level is lower when trust in the government is high and services are accessible. Cultural background is the factor that best explains the future financial well-being estimates. Individualistic people are more pessimistic about their future than representatives of more collectivistic cultures. For example, the study showed that the score of future financial security is the highest in the Philippines.

Read more in the article published in the Journal of International Marketing.
Further information: Leonore Riitsalu, Research Fellow in Behavioural Policy, leonore.riitsalu@ut.ee

 

Arts and Humanities

Finnish dialect generator helps computers also learn Estonian dialect  

The digital resources of standard Estonian are quite good: we have a relatively rich language corpus to train machine learning models and develop digital translation and language learning programs. However, the situation with Estonian dialects is different due to the shortage of materials suitable for training machine learning models. To overcome this problem, researchers used the dialect generator created for the Finnish language to synthetically “dialectalise” the texts in the Estonian corpus. The experiment aimed to create dialectal resources that could be used to train a machine learning model that understands the Estonian dialect. 

The experiment results showed that, although the word error rate of the program was somewhat higher than with standard Estonian, the synthetic dialectal sentences created on the basis of Finnish dialect can help develop machine learning for Estonian dialects. 

The study conducted by researchers of École Normale Superieure of Paris and the University of Tartu was presented at the international conference DeepLo 2022. An article introducing the study was published in the Proceedings of the DeepLo Workshop.

Further information: Tuuli Tuisk, Research Fellow in Phonetics of Finnic Languages, University of Tartu, tuuli.tuisk@ut.ee

 

Medicine

The daily intake needs to increase to maintain the required level of vitamin D

University of Tartu researchers conducted a study in the Estonian Defence Forces to monitor changes in the vitamin D levels in conscripts’ bodies at recommended daily doses. The sample was divided into an intervention group of 27 conscripts and a placebo group of 26 conscripts. From October 2016 to April 2017, i.e. for seven consecutive months, once a day, the intervention group received vitamin D3 capsules of 1200 units (IU) and the placebo group received olive oil capsules.  

At the end of the experiment, the conscripts’ vitamin D level was measured again. According to scientific literature, if vitamin D content in blood is below 75 nmol/l, it is defined as vitamin D deficiency. By March, the vitamin D level of 65% of the placebo group members and 15% of the intervention group members was critically low, i.e. below 25 nmol/l. No other blood tests revealed any significant differences at any point of time. According to the researchers, the study confirms that in order to avoid vitamin D deficiency and keep healthy, it is necessary to increase the daily dose of vitamin D to more than 1200 units.

Read further from the article published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
Further information: Leho Rips, doctoral student of Medicine, leho.rips@ut.ee

 

Science and Technology

Widespread transmission of parasitic helminths from wild animals to dogs could pose a significant health risk to humans

University of Tartu scientists investigated the prevalence of parasitic helminths in West-Estonian predators and their transmission to domestic dogs roaming freely in the area. To this end, they collected scat samples of predators from the area and applied genetic methodology to identify the exact predator species from the scat. The data were compared with those collected from dogs in the same area in a previous study. Almost 90% of red foxes and golden jackals were found to have helminths. Parasites of the same type were also predominant in domestic dogs in the area. Comparing the data with the parasitological studies among humans in Estonia, it appears that the transmission of pathogens from predators to dogs and from dogs to humans can make the parasitic infections of wild animals a critical human health problem.

Read more in the article published in the journal Parasitology.
Further information: Ants Tull, Junior Research Fellow of Parasitology, ants.tull@ut.ee  

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