The figure of the cruel, authoritarian nun has become almost a caricature in popular culture. But the author of our latest Insights long read spoke to a group of former nuns who took their vows in the early 1950s, when the rules governing convent life were at their strictest. The women’s stories offer a glimpse into a way of life that no longer exists.

Some were as young as 13 when they entered the convent, with hopes of making a better life for themselves. Instead, they were manipulated, brainwashed and abused – their cries for help met with threats of eternal damnation. As one former nun says: “The idea of being unfaithful to your vocation was a step on the way to hell. It would be a mortal sin.”

Elsewhere, we look into new evidence linking higher pain tolerance to exercise. It turns out there are many physiological and psychological reasons why exercise may boost our pain tolerance, and it may help chronic pain too.

And when Liz Truss announced her disastrous budget last year, it prompted a meltdown in government bonds that threatened the UK’s pension funds. So how concerned should we be now that bond prices are back to similar near-crisis levels? An expert offers his view.

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Paul Keaveny

Investigations Editor


‘They just ignored my tears, they ignored my unhappiness’: former Irish nuns reveal accounts of brainwashing and abuse

Karen Hanrahan, University of Brighton

Brainwashed, fearful and abused: convent life worked to erase a sense of individual identity through adherence to strict rules.

The most active participants had the highest pain tolerance overall. Maridav/ Shutterstock

Exercise linked to higher pain tolerance – new study

Nils Niederstrasser, University of Portsmouth

There are many physiological and psychological reasons why exercise may boost our pain tolerance.

Heading for the buffers? Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey. UPI

UK bonds are in meltdown again – what does that mean for pensions? Expert Q&A

David McMillan, University of Stirling

UK bonds are again close to the levels that caused a pensions crisis in autumn 2022.

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