Flinders University research pleasure, pain and understanding addictions

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ADELAIDE would become the world’s pleasure research capital under a plan being spruiked by a South Australian researcher.

The fine line between pleasure and pain, and better understanding addictions to food, alcohol, smoking, gambling and sex, will be the focus of a symposium in Adelaide next week.

The conference will look at a range of topics involving pleasure, including why older women love a drink, older people have higher levels of pet ownership, and why we seek to eat a meal outside of work instead of going “al desko” – eating lunch in the office.

How pleasure is derived from gambling, pornography and social media will also be discussed.

Event organiser John Coveney, Professor of Global Food, Culture and Health at Flinders University, said it was the first time in the world there had ever been a conference looking specifically at pleasure and public health.

“We are asking people to reduce or not take part in a range of things that give people pleasure including eating too much food, drinking too much or having unsafe sex,” Prof Coveney told the Sunday Mail.

“But there has been no research looking into what those behaviours really mean to people. So how easy is it for people to drink less, or stopping eating foods that are pleasurable?

“There is a great gap in the research in this space. Even from a neurological point of view we cannot be that confident about the research.”

Mr Coveney said understanding pleasure could better guide public health policies.

“When we understand the drivers of pleasure, and what people are prepared to do to forego that, we will be in a much better position to understand the drivers of many of the behaviours that we are asking people to forego.

“Urging people to ‘just say no’, is really quiet naive.”

Mr Coveney said he hoped Friday’s symposium, Pleasure and Health: A Colloquium,will become an annual event.

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