Psych Central News Psychology, psychiatry and mental health news and research findings, every weekday. 2016-06-25T15:02:28Z Traci Pedersen <![CDATA[Why is Hot Weather Linked to More Violent Crime?]]> 2016-06-25T15:02:28Z 2016-06-25T14:00:40Z Why is Hot Weather Linked to More Violent Crime?A team of researchers has developed a new model to better explain why violent crime rates are consistently higher near the equator compared to other parts of the world. The […]]]> Why is Hot Weather Linked to More Violent Crime?

A team of researchers has developed a new model to better explain why violent crime rates are consistently higher near the equator compared to other parts of the world.

The new model, called CLASH (CLimate Aggression, and Self-control in Humans), moves well beyond the simple fact that heat is linked to aggressive behavior. It suggests that a hot climate combined with less variation in seasonal temperatures can lead to a faster life strategy, less focus on the future, and less self-control, all of which contribute to aggression and violence.

The new model is described in an online article in the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences.

“If there is less variation, you’re freer to do what you want now, because you’re not preparing foods or chopping firewood or making winter clothes to get you through the winter. You also may be more concerned with the immediate stress that comes along with parasites and other risks of hot climates, such as venomous animals,” said lead author Dr. Paul van Lange, a professor of psychology at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU).

People living in these climates are oriented to the present rather than the future and tend to have a faster life strategy — they do things now. This can lead people to react more quickly with aggression and sometimes violence.

“We see evidence of a faster life strategy in hotter climates with less temperature variation — they are less strict about time, they have less use of birth control, they have children earlier and more often,” said Dr. Brad Bushman, co-author of the study and professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University.

Although many previous studies have shown that levels of violence and aggression are higher in hot climates, the two leading explanatory models — the General Aggression Model and the Routine Activity Theory — aren’t quite satisfactory, said Bushman.

The General Aggression Model (which Bushman helped develop) suggests that hot temperatures make people uncomfortable and irritated, which makes them more aggressive. “But that doesn’t explain more extreme acts, such as murder,” Bushman said.

The Routine Activity Theory suggests that since people are outdoors and interacting more with others in warm weather, they naturally run into more opportunities for conflict. But this still doesn’t explain why there’s more violence when the temperature is 95 degrees F than when it is 75 degrees F, even though people might be outside under both circumstances.

It is believed that the CLASH model offers a more solid explanation regarding the impact of climate on rates of violence in different parts of the world, said van Lange.

“Strong seasonal variation in temperature affects culture in powerful ways. Planning in agriculture, hoarding, or simply preparing for cold winters shapes the culture in many ways, often with people not even noticing it. But it does shape how much a culture values time and self-control,” said van Lange.

The theory is not deterministic and isn’t meant to suggest that people in hotter, consistent climates can’t help themselves when it comes to violence and aggression.

“How people approach life is a part of culture and culture is strongly affected by climate,” said Van Lange. “Climate doesn’t make a person, but it is one part of what influences each of us. We believe it shapes the culture in important ways.”

Since CLASH is a new theory, more research is needed to confirm its validity. But Bushman said a lot of evidence already suggests that the theory may be on to something.

“We believe CLASH can help account for differences in aggression and violence both within and between countries around the world,” he said. “We think it provides a strong framework for understanding the violence differences we see around the world.”

Source: Ohio State University

Image Credit: Robert A. Rohde.

Janice Wood <![CDATA[Nature Visits Linked to Less Anxiety & Depression]]> 2016-06-25T14:53:28Z 2016-06-25T13:00:31Z Nature Visits Linked to Less Anxiety & DepressionPeople who visit parks for 30 minutes or more each week are much less likely to have poor mental health than those who don’t, according to a new study. In […]]]> Nature Visits Linked to Less Anxiety & Depression

People who visit parks for 30 minutes or more each week are much less likely to have poor mental health than those who don’t, according to a new study.

In fact, researchers at the University of Queensland (UQ) and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED) suggests people might need a minimum “dose of nature.”

According to Dr. Danielle Shanahan, parks offer health benefits, including reduced risks of developing heart disease, stress, anxiety, and depression.

“If everyone visited their local parks for half an hour each week there would be seven percent fewer cases of depression and nine percent fewer cases of high blood pressure,” she said. “Given that the societal costs of depression alone in Australia are estimated at $A12.6 billion a year, savings to public health budgets across all health outcomes could be immense.”

Associate Professor Richard Fuller added that the new study could transform the way people view urban parks.

“We’ve known for a long time that visiting parks is good for our health, but we are now beginning to establish exactly how much time we need to spend in parks to gain these benefits,” he said. “We have specific evidence that we need regular visits of at least half an hour to ensure we get these benefits.”

Children, especially, benefit from spending more time outdoors, Shanahan said.

“Kids who grow up experiencing natural environments may benefit developmentally and have a heightened environmental awareness as adults than those who don’t,” she noted.

The study was published in Nature Scientific Reports.

Source: The University of Queensland
Image: Enjoying nature. Credit: The University of Queensland.

Janice Wood <![CDATA[Why Some Don’t Get Out of a Hurricane’s Way]]> 2016-06-25T15:00:05Z 2016-06-25T12:00:05Z Why Some Don’t Get Out of Hurricane's WayAs hurricane season begins in earnest, new research is looking into why some people remain in harm’s way when a storm threatens. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts there […]]]> Why Some Don’t Get Out of Hurricane's Way

As hurricane season begins in earnest, new research is looking into why some people remain in harm’s way when a storm threatens.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts there will be up to eight hurricanes in the 2016 season, and as many as four major storms with winds of 111 miles per hour or more.

Evacuation plans and emergency response preparedness work best when based on reliable predictions, according to researchers.

Having a good idea of what people are likely to do, when they’re likely to do it, and how they are likely to go about it helps authorities choose the best evacuation strategy, according to researchers. It gives them useful information about what kind of traffic patterns to expect and how best to handle it.

Researchers at the University of Delaware’s Disaster Research Center (DRC), who have been studying evacuation data and predictors for years, recently published two new papers that may help improve prediction models used by emergency planners, leading to more efficient evacuations and possibly saving lives.

The work was a collaboration with researchers from Cornell University, as well as sociologists, psychologists, engineers, meteorologists, and officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, North Carolina State Emergency Management and the American Red Cross.

“It is an interdisciplinary project,” said Dr. Rachel Davidson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and co-primary investigator with DRC Director Tricia Wachtendorf on two National Science Foundation grants that have supported the study. “And we’re working closely with practitioners to make a link from research to practice.”

The goal is to sharpen planners’ insight on how many people may leave from a given area, when they are most likely to make their move and where they are likely to go.

It’s not easy to guess what a human being will do, the researchers acknowledge. The brain processes many factors as it moves toward a decision — past experience, perception of risk, and how it interprets present conditions, to name just a few.

Those factors are hard to pin down in the best, most stable of times, let alone when the winds start to howl and the rain starts to pound, according to the researchers.

Hurricanes, too, can be quite unpredictable, as evidenced by the ever-changing “cone of uncertainty” included in forecasts as storm systems approach.

But a review of data gathered in prior evacuations reveals patterns that can be analyzed and incorporated in regional models, based on mathematical predictions and controls, to strengthen the reliability of predictions in future storms, according to the researchers.

That’s what the two new papers show, they say. Both draw on data from the eastern part of North Carolina, where the Outer Banks and other coastal areas have seen more than their share of evacuation orders.

One of the papers, published by Environmental Hazards, looks at demographic data to see which factors influence the decisions of various groups and their likelihood of evacuating when mandatory orders are issued versus voluntary orders.

“Social and environmental cues influence behavior,” said Dr. Sarah DeYoung, a postdoctoral researcher at DRC who was the lead author of that paper and has just accepted a tenure-track position at the University of Georgia.

“But we understand, too, the temporal nature of that,” Davidson said. “It’s not like people make a decision on Day One and follow through with that. They see what happens and change their minds, too.”

The study, based on survey data collected in 2011 through phone interviews with North Carolina residents in Wilmington, Raleigh, Jacksonville, and the Outer Banks, looked at respondents’ “threshold for evacuation” — whether they had a high threshold and were less likely to evacuate or a low threshold and more likely to evacuate.

Those lines moved a bit, depending on whether the storm discussed was a higher or lower category of strength and whether the evacuation order was mandatory or voluntary.

But in general, DeYoung said, white respondents had a higher threshold than non-white respondents, a finding that was particularly interesting given that other studies in the United States suggest that non-whites evacuated later.

“This was really notable for us,” said Wachtendorf, an associate professor of sociology and the lead social scientist on the research.

“Is it that minority segments of the community are willing to leave but don’t always have sufficient resources to do so? Is it because, as other research suggests, they have less trust in officials and, particularly after what happened after Hurricane Katrina, they believe they can’t rely on officials if they stay? It really points to an area where more research is needed.”

Respondents who ignored previous evacuation warnings were also more likely to ignore an order in the future, the study found.

DeYoung noted that most people saw wind as more dangerous than water, but in reality it is the storm surge and flooding that causes more deaths.

Most hurricane-related deaths occur in areas where people decided not to evacuate. Wachtendorf said this could lead people to dismiss the threat of lower category storms, with relatively lower wind speeds, despite the threat flooding can pose.

One recommendation is to increase public awareness of the risk associated with drowning and flooding versus the probability of death caused by wind damage.

Research in progress points to other important factors in the decision-making process, including concern about traffic jams, caring for pets and livestock, and fear of crime in public shelters.

“It’s a moving target,” Davidson said. “There are challenges in science and challenges in engineering. But understanding people’s behavior is one of the most challenging parts.”

“That’s one reason why the interdisciplinary approach is so valuable,” added Wachtendorf.

The second paper, authored by Kecheng Xu, a graduate student in Cornell University’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Cornell professor Dr. Linda Nozick, describes new models that estimate the number of evacuees in specific evacuation zones and predicted accurately what individual households would do about 70 percent of the time. Accuracy improves as data are aggregated regionally, the researchers noted.

The work by the civil engineers used data collected by the social scientists to inform many of the assumptions for their models, the researchers add.

Having reliable models helps planned shape effective, efficient evacuation plans that could save lives in the future, the researchers conclude. The paper was published in the journal Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice.

Source: University of Delaware
Evacuation route photo by shutterstock.

Traci Pedersen <![CDATA[For Young Adults, Good Relationships Tend to Mean Better Health]]> 2016-06-25T14:58:43Z 2016-06-25T11:00:54Z For Young Adults, Good Relationships Tend to Mean Better HealthYoung adults in high-quality relationships tend to be in better physical and mental health, according to a new study study led by the University at Buffalo. In fact, the longer […]]]> For Young Adults, Good Relationships Tend to Mean Better Health

Young adults in high-quality relationships tend to be in better physical and mental health, according to a new study study led by the University at Buffalo.

In fact, the longer people are in high-quality relationships, or the faster they get out of low-quality relationships, the better their health.

“It’s not being in a relationship that matters; it’s being in a long-term, high-quality relationship that’s beneficial. Low-quality relationships are detrimental to health. The findings suggest that it’s better for health to be single than to be in a low-quality relationship,” said Dr. Ashley Barr, assistant professor in University at Buffalo’s Department of Sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Over the last few decades, our idea of youth and the transition into adulthood has been extended, according to Barr. Compared to previous generations, young people today are waiting longer to finish school and are postponing marriage as well. During this period, they’re moving in and out of relationships.

“Much of the research literature focuses on relationships and health in the context of marriage,” says Barr. “The majority of our respondents were not married, but these relationships are still impactful to health, for better or for worse.”

This is Barr’s second study to analyze how relationship quality during the transition into adulthood affects health. Her first study, conducted with an all-African-American sample, suggested that patterns of instability in relationships mattered when it came to depressive symptoms, alcohol problems, and how people reported their general health.

For the new study, the researchers wanted to see if the same patterns held true in a very different sample.

This time Barr pulled data from the Iowa Youth and Families Project, a sample of all-white youth coming from two-parent, married families in rural Iowa. She says that about one-third of the sample experienced relatively large changes in their relationships over a two-year period.

“We took into account satisfaction, partner hostility, questions about criticism, support, kindness, affection, and commitment,” says Barr. “We also asked about how partners behave outside of the relationship. Do they engage in deviant behaviors? Is there general anti-sociality?”

The findings show that the longer people are in positive relationships, or the sooner they leave negative relationships, the better their health.

“Health benefits begin to accrue relatively quickly with high-quality relationships and supportive contexts. And then we see detrimental effects from low-quality relationships — particularly, those low-quality relationships that last a long time,” Barr said.

Barr says the attention to changes in these relationships is important, particularly in the context of the extended transition to adulthood.

“It’s rare today for young adults to enter a romantic relationship and stay in that relationship without ever changing partners or relationship characteristics,” she said. “We now have two studies that found similar patterns and similar implications for those changes.”

The findings are published in the Journal of Family Psychology.

Source: University at Buffalo
Happy young couple photo by shutterstock.

Traci Pedersen <![CDATA[Tele-Psychiatry Helps Reach Rural Kids with Mental Health Issues]]> 2016-06-24T13:31:45Z 2016-06-24T13:30:25Z Tele-Psychiatry Helps Reach Rural Kids with Mental Health IssuesVideo-based mental health therapy plays a vital role by bridging the treatment gap for children who have little access to psychiatric care, according to a new study at the University […]]]> Tele-Psychiatry Helps Reach Rural Kids with Mental Health Issues

Video-based mental health therapy plays a vital role by bridging the treatment gap for children who have little access to psychiatric care, according to a new study at the University of Missouri School of Medicine. The researchers found that most patients who choose this form of “tele-psychiatry” come from rural counties and other underserved areas.

Only 20 percent of children in the U.S. with behavioral issues will receive any mental health care, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Of those who do receive care, approximately half drop out of therapy early due to hardship issues such as lack of access, lack of transportation, and financial constraints.

In rural states such as Missouri where almost 40 percent of the population lives outside urban areas, children usually have even less access to timely psychiatric care.

“One of the biggest health care issues we as a nation face is a physician shortage in pediatric and adolescent behavioral health,” said lead author Mirna Becevic, Ph.D., an assistant research professor of telemedicine at the University of Missouri School of Medicine.

Becevic goes on to explain that, in 1990, the Council on Graduate Medical Education, a committee of the Department of Health and Human Services, advised that by the year 2000, there would be a need for 30,000 child and adolescent psychiatrists.

However, today only about 8,300 physicians specialize in child and adolescent psychiatry. This shortage not only affects youth in rural locations, but children in all underserved areas, she says.

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from July 2013 to May 2014 and calculated the distance between each patient and the nearest child and adolescent psychiatrist. They wanted to better understand which patients choose long-distance psychiatric services through University of Missouri ‘s Missouri Telehealth Network.

The findings show that 179 patients from 19 ZIP codes, mostly in rural areas, made 662 appointments for psychiatric services using the Missouri Telehealth Network. The average patient age was 16.

“Not surprisingly, the majority of Missouri physicians are located in urban areas along Interstate 70,” Becevic said. “Although there are child and adolescent psychiatrists in other areas of the state, many rural counties have none.”

Researchers identified 13 physicians specializing in child and adolescent psychiatry in Kansas City, 24 in Columbia and 42 in St. Louis. Another 42 child and adolescent psychiatry physicians were based in other parts of the state. Without the option of tele-psychiatry, the average distance a patient would have had to travel for care was 22.2 miles. The furthest distance would have been more than 300 miles.

The study of access to psychiatric services was limited to the extent that researchers only analyzed appointments made through the Missouri Telehealth Network.

“Our findings indicate that there is limited access to child and adolescent psychiatric services in our state,” Becevic said. “More important, our study illustrates how remote populations have severe barriers to access. The mental health shortage, especially in rural areas, is not a new discovery. However, this study highlights the severity of the need for mental health services in our state, especially for children and adolescents.”

Becevic said that future studies will include specific diagnoses by location, as well as the extent of psychiatry use from other telemedicine sources.

The study is published in The Journal of Health Management.

Source: University of Missouri-Columbia


Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Wearables Can Monitor Opioid Use, Aid Rehab]]> 2016-06-24T13:29:04Z 2016-06-24T12:45:00Z Wearables Can Monitor Opioid Use, Aid RehabA preliminary study suggests the use of wearable biosensors may be a partial solution to combating the epidemic of opioid abuse raging across America. University of Massachusetts Medical School researchers […]]]> Wearables Can Monitor Opioid Use, Aid Rehab

A preliminary study suggests the use of wearable biosensors may be a partial solution to combating the epidemic of opioid abuse raging across America.

University of Massachusetts Medical School researchers lead by Stephanie Carreiro investigated if wearable biosensors could detect the use of opioids. The biosensors are capable of detecting movement patterns and body temperature changes that occur after an opioid is injected or consumed.

Specifically, researchers tested the use of wristband sensors worn by a group of patients in an emergency room setting who received IV opioids for severe pain relief.

The study appears in the Journal of Medical Toxicology.

Non-invasive devices worn close to the body are becoming popular among other uses as health tracking tools. These small and user-friendly biosensors provide continuous data that can be stored and reviewed later, or be transmitted wirelessly to allow for real time review and analysis.

Researchers admit, however, that more data on physical changes and activity are needed before such devices can be put into use as part of substance abuse treatment programs. To that end, numerous studies are underway to determine the biometric profiles of people who are using opioids. In the current study, Carreiro’s team conducted preliminary research involving 30 emergency room patients.

The patients were prescribed intravenous opioid analgesics to treat their acute pain. The particular medication and dose administered to each patient was decided on by the attending physician. The patients agreed to wear a wristband biosensor, which allowed the researchers to detect how the patients’ bodies reacted to the dosages.

The patients were asked how often in the past they had used opioids, and their medical records were also investigated. Heavy users were classified as those who chronically used opioids daily, were part of an opioid maintenance therapy program (involving for instance the drugs methadone and buprenorphine), or abused the drug.

Researchers determined, it was possible to detect when an opioid was administered, based on the readings of the biosensor. The wearable detected that patients moved less after they received the drug, and that their skin temperature also rose. These are among the ways in which the body is known to react to an opioid.

Distinguishable features were also found between heavy and non-heavy opioid users, and between different age groups. In particular, there was a greater decrease in the so-called short amplitude movements of heavy users and older patients, which means that they became less fidgety.

“The patterns may be useful to detect episodes of opioid use in real time,” says Carreiro, who says that more work is needed before wearable biosensors can become part of treatment programs.

“The ability to identify instances of opioid use and opioid tolerance in real time could for instance be helpful to manage pain or during substance abuse treatment.”

Investigators believe the use of biosensors have numerous applications toward managing opioid use and potential addiction. The wrist ban sensors could help monitor developing opioid tolerance and identify people who are at risk for substance abuse or addiction.

The sensors could also be applied to opioid addicts in rehabilitation to detect whether they are relapsing. Such relapse data can either be reviewed retrospectively or transmitted wirelessly to trigger an intervention (for example to alert a family member or a community support system).

Source: Springer/EurekAlert

Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Interactive Rehab Improves Overall Health]]> 2016-06-24T13:24:26Z 2016-06-24T12:00:34Z Interactive Rehab Improves Overall HealthA new rehabilitation program for drug and alcohol abusers levers online information technology to enhance recovery from addiction and improve the overall health of an individual. The approach is centered […]]]> Interactive Rehab Improves Overall Health

A new rehabilitation program for drug and alcohol abusers levers online information technology to enhance recovery from addiction and improve the overall health of an individual.

The approach is centered on teaching individuals receiving alcohol or drug treatment to go online to engage or interact with their health care provider. Kaiser Permanente researchers found that patients receiving care in this format had greater involvement in managing their health and health care.

The study appears in JAMA Psychiatry.

The program, termed LINKAGE is innovative in its use of electronic health records and online patient portals to engage patients in health education and prevention and facilitate communication with their medical providers.

“Patients with alcohol and other drug use disorders have high rates of medical and psychiatric conditions requiring complex treatment, but often rely on emergency services and seldom use preventive services, even when they have health insurance,” said lead author Constance M. Weisner, DrPH.

“We know that patients who are more engaged with their health care tend to manage their condition better and our study found that alcohol and drug treatment patients are no different.”

The study, conducted at the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco outpatient addiction treatment clinic, enrolled 503 participants and assigned them to either standard care, including medical exams, detoxification, therapy groups, individual counseling and 12-step programs, or standard care plus the LINKAGE intervention.

Patients in the standard care group received medical education sessions focused on alcohol- and drug-associated medical and psychological problems. LINKAGE participants joined group sessions focused on how health care is related to overall health, accessing and engaging with health care, and improving communication with physicians.

In addition, LINKAGE participants were taught how to use an online patient portal in order to send secure emails, view lab tests and medical information, as well as access preventive services.

They also practiced skills necessary for collaborative communication with health providers and were offered a psychologist-facilitated telephone appointment, assistance with secure email, or help in preparing for an in-person visit with their primary care physician to discuss their addiction and treatment, health concerns and ongoing care.

LINKAGE participants had significantly more patient portal use during both the intervention period and through the six month follow-up period.

Compared to those in standard care, LINKAGE participants also:

  • showed more than a 50 percent increase in average log-in days to the patient portal and across types of portal use;
  • had twice the odds of having talked to their physician about alcohol and drug problems outside of the treatment program.

Participants with psychiatric conditions had findings similar to the full sample, indicating that the intervention was also beneficial in engaging patients with complex needs.

Among LINKAGE participants, those who received all six intervention sessions had higher patient portal use than those receiving fewer sessions. They also had higher rates of abstinence from alcohol (83.7 percent vs. 71.7 percent) as well as from drugs and alcohol (77.6 percent vs. 65.4 percent), and they had longer stays in treatment (103.8 vs. 60.4 days).

“Alcohol and drug treatment patients often suffer from other medical conditions, and their care needs to be integrated with mainstream health care,” said senior author Stacy A. Sterling, DrPH, MSW, of the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research.

“Teaching addiction treatment patients how to access and use health care may empower them to better engage in managing their health and well-being. It will be instructive to see whether this approach is helpful in avoiding relapse and in improving their overall health when we conduct additional follow-up.”

Source: Kaiser Permanente

Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Perception of Probabilities Influenced by Direction of Trends]]> 2016-06-24T13:18:56Z 2016-06-24T11:15:11Z Perception of Probabilities Influenced by Direction of TrendsA natural consequence of probability estimates is that they are constantly changing. New research investigates our response to the changing estimates. For example, when a 20 percent chance of rain […]]]> Perception of Probabilities Influenced by Direction of Trends

A natural consequence of probability estimates is that they are constantly changing. New research investigates our response to the changing estimates.

For example, when a 20 percent chance of rain suddenly goes to 30 percent, we may start thinking about packing an umbrella. However, we often think differently when a forecast goes from a 40 percent chance of rain down to 30.

According to a new University of Toronto study, the probability of something happening can feel more or less likely to happen depending on an upward or downward change in an estimate.

“We wanted to know if the likelihood of a future event being revised up to 30 percent would feel more likely to happen than it being revised down to 30 percent,” says Sam Maglio, an assistant professor of marketing.

“If the latest estimate is 30 percent, then it’s equally likely to go up or down or stay flat, but we have a tendency to perceive momentum — if things have gone up, we assume the trend will continue.”

The research falls under the realm of subjective probability, also known as likelihood or risk. While past research has looked at how people interpret single estimates of the probability for a future event, the focus of Maglio’s research was on how estimates change over time.

In the past Maglio has explored the psychology of distance including how certain sounds can be associated with nearness and others with distance, and also how the direction people are heading can influence how they think about an object or event.

For the current study, which will be published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Maglio and his co-author used a series of 10 studies involving uncertain events to test how people perceive changes in probability. Events included such events as the weather, climate change, sex, sports, and wine quality.

Investigators found that upward changes in probability (i.e.: 20 percent up to 30 percent) cause events to feel closer and more likely than downward changes.

“It all stems from a common belief that a revision in probability signals a trend, reflecting what is known as psychological momentum,” says Maglio. “It simply means that people often conclude that trends will continue in a given direction.”

What’s more, Maglio notes, is that people’s behavior regarding those events changed despite the revised probability being the same. In one study, people at a farmers’ market were asked to choose between two free bottles of wine. One bottle was less expensive but was said to have no risk of contamination, while the other was more expensive but had a 15 percent chance of being corked.

People were more willing to take a risk on a bottle that went from a 20 percent risk down to 15 than one that went from 10 percent up to 15.

“This reflects that changes in probability shape people’s willingness to think, spend, choose, and take action regarding those events,” says Maglio.

Maglio says the lesson here for marketers or brand managers is they may want, where possible, to focus on the message that a product or an event is on an upward trend.

But if you’re in the not-so-desirable position of talking about something in decline, the best approach may be to focus on only the most recent estimate and not its downward trend or to assure consumers that the trend is not meaningful.

It also sheds light on how revising the probability for a future event changes how people manage those events.

“It’s human nature to think and wonder about the future, and that bleeds into decisions being made in the present,” he says.

“It’s important to know that there’s more to an event feeling riskier or more likely to happen than that event actually being riskier or more likely to happen.”

Source: University of Toronto

Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[New App Counts “Bites,” Helps Weight Control]]> 2016-06-24T13:12:34Z 2016-06-24T10:30:28Z New App Counts "Bites,” Helps Weight ControlIn confirmation of the notion that there is an app for everything, a new wearable technology allows users to keep track of the number of bites during a meal. The […]]]> New App Counts "Bites,” Helps Weight Control

In confirmation of the notion that there is an app for everything, a new wearable technology allows users to keep track of the number of bites during a meal. The feedback provides a good proxy for calories consumed thereby helping individuals monitor energy intake.

In the new study, researchers at Clemson University analyzed if providing bite count feedback might influence eaters in different situations. Specifically, they sought to determine the wearables benefit in the presence of environmental cues linked to overeating.

Investigators found that people who received bite count feedback ate less and reduced their overall intake during a meal.

The complete study appears in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Researchers recruited young adults to consume a meal in the laboratory. In the first round, some subjects were outfitted with bite count feedback devices and given either a small or large plate. The group that received bite count feedback significantly reduced their intake regardless of plate size, although, those given larger plates still consumed more than those given smaller plates.

Investigators explain that larger plate sizes have been positively linked to overconsumption. They discovered that while providing bite count feedback helped reduce the known influence of plate size, it was not enough to overcome it completely.

“It was found that the presence of bite count feedback led to a reduction in overall consumption. This finding is consistent with current literature that shows feedback on consumption leads people to consume less,” explained Phillip W. Jasper, a Ph.D. candidate.

“It was found that this type of feedback does not eliminate the effect of environment cues such as plate size. Individuals may eat less when they receive bite count feedback, but feedback alone may not be sufficient in terms of helping them to take an ‘appropriate’ or ‘normal’ number of bites, particularly in the presence of large plates.”

In the second round, subjects were given either a low-bite goal (12 bites) or a high-bite goal (22 bites) for their meal. Interestingly, both groups met their goals, but the low-bite group took bigger bites, which resulted in both groups having comparable levels of consumption.

This revealed a complex relationship between bite count goals and energy intake.

“It is possible that this compensatory behavior is intentional, a reaction to a perceived limitation such that participants believed 12 bites to be too restricting of a goal,” noted Mr. Jasper.

“In other words, in an effort to reach satiety while not surpassing the given goal, participants felt as though they needed to take larger bites than they typically would.”

Using this information, researchers sought to determine a realistic bite goal without making people feel like they need to overcompensate with bigger bites. They did this by helping patients establish a baseline level of bites across all meals plus snacks before setting any bite number goals.

Investigators believe practitioners should perform a thorough evaluation of typical behavior, and then work with patients to set personalized bite goals that are just slightly under their average. This way they can help participants to reduce intake through fewer bites without feeling like they have to overcompensate.

“It is possible to reduce the number of bites and in an appropriate way so that individuals don’t even know they’re reducing their bites and their caloric intake. Over the timespan of an effective diet, that delta in energy intake really has a strong impact on overall weight gain and weight change,” added Mr. Jasper.

Bite count feedback is an excellent weapon against the so-called “mindless margin,” or the amount people eat without really thinking about it. By providing live insight into the number of bites, people will be more likely to stop eating when appropriately full and be more aware of what they’re eating.

“We want people to be mindful of what they’re doing. That’s what’s really important. We want them to be mindful of their eating, and bite count feedback is a way to keep people mindful of their eating behaviors,” explained Mr. Jasper.

New approaches such as providing bite count feedback can help people concerned with overweight and obesity eat less by providing them with external indicators of their energy intake. Knowing the number of bites is much less abstract than knowing the number of calories.

“Self-monitoring is one of the cornerstones of successful weight loss,” concluded Mr. Jasper.

“By giving people bite count feedback, which is a good indicator for energy intake, they know how much they’ve had to eat or drink, they know their intake so they can better adjust their energy expenditure behaviors.”

Source: Elsevier Health Sciences/EurekAlert
Image: A subject is outfitted with a wearable bite count feedback device. Credit: Clemson University.

Traci Pedersen <![CDATA[Harsh Parenting, Food Insecurity Tied to Obesity in Young Women]]> 2016-06-23T14:06:43Z 2016-06-23T13:30:57Z Harsh Parenting, Food Insecurity Tied to Obesity in Young WomenGirls who experience prolonged periods of food insecurity as well as harsh parenting practices are at greater risk for obesity in early adulthood, according to a new study by Iowa […]]]> Harsh Parenting, Food Insecurity Tied to Obesity in Young Women

Girls who experience prolonged periods of food insecurity as well as harsh parenting practices are at greater risk for obesity in early adulthood, according to a new study by Iowa State University researchers.

“When females who are normal weight in their early adolescence experience food insecurity, something is happening in their bodies,” said Dr. Brenda Lohman, a professor in human development and family studies and the study’s lead author. “This sets them on a path toward increased weight gain, so by the time they are 23, they are more likely to be overweight or obese.”

Lohman co-lead the study with lecturer Meghan Gillette and Assistant Professor Dr. Tricia Neppl, all from the department of human development and family studies at Iowa State University. Their findings were published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Data for the study came from the Iowa Youth and Families Project, a longitudinal study of 451 adolescent youth and their family members beginning in 1989 in the rural Midwest.

Adolescents were 13 years old at initial assessment and were studied in four waves, through age 16. Parents reported their food insecurity, and family interactions were observed through in-home experiences recorded on videotape.

The study shows that food deprivation, when combined with other stressors such as harsh parenting, can impact a teen’s development. The researchers describe harsh parenting as hostile or aversive physical contact; punishment in response to misbehavior; or angry, critical, or disapproving behavior.

“Hardships impact how a youth’s parent feels, which then impacts family processes and family dynamics,” said Nepple, also a co-director at the Family Transitions Project. “Ultimately, it impacts the adolescent.”

While the impact of hardships on a child is undisputed, the reason why differences appear between males and females is still unclear.

“We can’t explain why the males are heavier to start in this study,” Lohman said. “But more importantly, we can’t explain why females are more likely to be overweight and obese when they experience food insecurity, when males aren’t.”

Research has shown that when a person is deprived of nutrients or proper food in combination with experiencing stressors like harsh parenting, that levels of the stress hormone cortisol may increase. In turn, these changes in the endocrine system, essential to hormone function, can lead to greater weight gain.

More research is needed, however, to determine why different pathways are being set for males and females.

“In particular, for the females, there’s something between the stressful reaction of harsh parenting and not having the nutritional food,” Lohman said. “We can only hypothesize right now that there’s something going on metabolically in their bodies, that the stress hormones are increasing — which is then changing their metabolic rate, their behaviors, or both over time.”

Lohman, who serves as the chair of the Family Policy Section for the National Council on Family Relations, stresses the need to expand current views of childhood wellness to incorporate the adolescent years.

“Right now, within the policy field, a lot of the focus is on wellness and education during early childhood and the infant years,” she said. “The policies that are in place don’t focus on the developmental years surrounding puberty, like in early adolescence. So we really need, from a policy perspective, to develop that long-term.”

Some of the initiatives she suggests include the following: providing educational classes in 21st century skills, partnering with doctors and pediatricians to share information with families regarding the impacts of harsh parenting and food insecurity, and launching public relations campaigns such as posting literature at food banks about harsh parenting’s psychological effects.

In addition, progress can be achieved by helping schools provide healthy food for teens both in and outside of the school year, and growing teen’s access and availability to food stamp programming and food banks.

Source: Iowa State University

Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Study Probes West Nile Impact on Memory & Mood]]> 2016-06-23T14:03:34Z 2016-06-23T12:45:45Z Study Probes West Nile Impact on Memory & MoodNew research solves the mystery of how a severe case of West Nile infection can cause memory loss and mood disorders. Investigators at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus […]]]> Study Probes West Nile Impact on Memory & Mood

New research solves the mystery of how a severe case of West Nile infection can cause memory loss and mood disorders.

Investigators at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus believe the discovery can lead to a variety of new treatment options for mosquito-borne illnesses.

Experts explain that 50 percent of patients who survive the most damaging kind of West Nile infection often go on to develop memory loss, learning difficulties, a lack of concentration, and irritability.

As published in the journal Nature, researchers discovered that the virus doesn’t kill off neurons but sparks inflammation that damages synapses, the connections that carry messages between nerve cells.

“What we found in mice, and later confirmed in humans, is that it’s not the death of cells that causes memory loss, it’s the loss of nerve cell connections,” said study co-author Kenneth Tyler, M.D., chairman of the department of neurology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

“The viral infection activates microglial cells and complement pathways which are helping to fight the infection but in turn end up destroying synapses.”

Bette K. DeMasters, M.D., professor and head of neuropathology at University of Colorado Anschutz, also co-authored the study.

The researchers found that mice infected with West Nile had a difficult time negotiating their way out of a maze that healthy mice figured out much faster. They later discovered that the infected mice suffered significant damage to their synapses.

The scientists then examined brain tissue from humans who had died from West Nile and found the same phenomenon.

Tyler said West Nile is the leading cause of acute viral encephalitis in the U.S. though still relatively rare. Only about one in 100 people infected with the disease develop the most severe form, he said.

West Nile appeared in the U.S. during the late 1990s and has remained a persistent threat. Last year, California had 730 cases, Texas 252 cases, and Colorado 101 cases.

In Colorado, that number included 57 neuro-invasive cases, the most serious kind, and two deaths.

“This discovery opens up the opportunity to test therapies and medications on mice as a precursor to humans,” Tyler said. “We already have some drugs that might be good candidates for treating this condition.”

The best way to avoid West Nile is to wear long sleeves, use mosquito repellent and steer clear of standing water. The mosquito that carries the virus is most active at dusk and dawn.

Source: University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus/EurekAlert

Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Undiagnosed Dementia = Safety Concerns]]> 2016-06-23T13:59:41Z 2016-06-23T12:00:35Z Undiagnosed Dementia = Safety ConcernsIn a new study, researchers examined how often older adults who have diagnosed and undiagnosed dementia engage in potentially unsafe activities. The researchers examined 7,609 Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 to […]]]> Undiagnosed Dementia = Safety Concerns

In a new study, researchers examined how often older adults who have diagnosed and undiagnosed dementia engage in potentially unsafe activities.

The researchers examined 7,609 Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 to more than 90 years old. Based on various cognitive tests, the researchers determined that 1,038 of the people they observed had probable dementia.

Of that group, 457 had been diagnosed with dementia and 581 had not been diagnosed with dementia. Nearly 1,000 participants tested as having “possible” dementia and 5,575 did not have dementia.

Therefore, 56 percent of individuals with dementia were unaware of their condition and approx. 27 percent of the overall population either had dementia or were possible for dementia.

Of the older adults with probable dementia, the researchers learned that:

  • 23 percent were still driving;
  • 31 percent prepared hot meals;
  • 22 percent managed their own finances;
  • 37 percent managed their own medications;
  • 21 percent attended doctors’ appointments alone.

The researchers said that people with probable dementia who had not been diagnosed were more likely to engage in potentially dangerous activities than people who had been diagnosed with dementia.

They also suggest that health care practitioners could better address safety concerns for people with dementia if they ask older adults about the kinds of potentially unsafe activities they perform.

“Families of older adults with dementia are the best people to recognize when an activity is becoming unsafe, and should bring any concerns to their health care providers,” said Halima Amjad, M.D., M.P.H., study co-author and postdoctoral fellow, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

“Families can also help recognize undiagnosed dementia by reporting any changes in memory or thinking abilities in their loved one, or if they’re having more difficulty performing their activities,” added Amjad.

The study appears online ahead of print in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Source: American Geriatrics Society

Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Blacks’ Notions of Depression May Conflict with Standard Criteria]]> 2016-06-23T13:56:44Z 2016-06-23T11:15:32Z Blacks' Notions of Depression May Conflict with Standard CriteriaA new study questions the way depression is diagnosed among African-Americans. Investigators say blacks have a different perspective of depression than do other ethnic classes thereby complicating diagnosis. Researcher Sirry […]]]> Blacks' Notions of Depression May Conflict with Standard Criteria

A new study questions the way depression is diagnosed among African-Americans. Investigators say blacks have a different perspective of depression than do other ethnic classes thereby complicating diagnosis.

Researcher Sirry Alang, an assistant professor of sociology and anthropology at Lehigh University, believes depression in blacks is expressed in ways that are inconsistent with symptoms of depression laid out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V).

The DSM-V is the primary source of diagnostic information, relied upon by not only clinicians and researchers, but also psychiatric drug regulation agencies, health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, the legal system, and policy makers.

After spending 12 months in a disadvantaged, predominantly black neighborhood in the Midwest to understand how African-Americans perceive depression, Alang suggests that clinicians and researchers should be asking if the instruments they use to diagnose and assess depression are really valid among African-Americans.

She believes African Americans perceive depression as a weakness inconsistent with notions of strength in the community, rather than as a health condition.

As such, study findings have significant implications for the clinical assessment of depression and for the measurement of depression in community surveys.

“It is impossible to effectively diagnose and treat depression among African Americans if their perspectives about depression are not taken into account,” she explains.

According to Alang, the population she studied expressed depression through classic depressive symptoms — such as feeling hopeless, loss of sleep, and losing interests in activities. However, symptoms like anger, agitation, and the frantic need for human interaction were also considered by the studied population to be indicative of depression.

This is significant as these symptoms are inconsistent with symptoms outlined in the DSM-V.

“For example, clinicians might ‘miss’ symptoms like anger if they are focused on depression as defined by the DSM-V,” says Alang.

“But they won’t miss these symptoms altogether if they are open to the possibility that some African-Americans have their own beliefs about depression, and that they might express symptoms consistent with those beliefs but inconsistent with how the DSM-V classifies depression.”

In the study, Alang participated in and shadowed activities with residents of the neighborhood. She conducted informal interviews with key contacts in their homes, at church, during community events and in other public places including streets, barber shops, hair salons, and bus stops.

Although this population experienced disproportionate exposure to social and economic disadvantage, they perceive themselves to be resilient, noted Alang.

“Depression does not exist in a vacuum, but is linked to racial discrimination that is insidious and persistent within the context in which African Americans live,” she said.

Alang’s study appears in the Social Science & Medicine Journal.

Source: Lehigh University

Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Healthy Diet Can Help Women Maintain Mobility]]> 2016-06-23T13:51:59Z 2016-06-23T10:30:23Z Healthy Diet Can Help Women Maintain MobilityA large research study discovered that for women, maintaining a healthy diet helps to reduce future risk of functional limitations. Investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), examined the association […]]]> Healthy Diet Can Help Women Maintain Mobility

A large research study discovered that for women, maintaining a healthy diet helps to reduce future risk of functional limitations.

Investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), examined the association between the Alternative Healthy Eating Index and reports of impairment in physical function or mobility among 54,762 women involved in the Nurses’ Health Study.

The Alternative Healthy Eating Index provides a measure of diet quality. Physical function and mobility refer to the ability to walk, dress, and perform activities of daily living essential for independent living.

Study findings are published online in the Journal of Nutrition and will follow in hard copy.

“Little research has been done on how diet impacts physical function later in life. We study the connection between diet and many other aspects of health, but we don’t know much about diet and mobility,” said Francine Grodstein, Sc.D., senior author of the study.

“We wanted to look at diet patterns and try to learn how our overall diet impacts our physical function as we get older. ”

For the study, physical function was measured by a commonly used standard instrument every four years from 1992 to 2008. Diet was measured by food frequency questionnaires, which were administered approximately every four years beginning in 1980.

The data indicate that women who maintained a healthier diet were less likely to develop physical impairments compared to women whose diets were not as healthy.

They also found a higher intake of vegetables and fruits, a lower intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, trans-fats, and sodium, and a moderate alcohol intake, were each significantly associated with reduced rates of physical impairment.

Among individual foods, the strongest relations were found for increased intakes of oranges, orange juice, apples and pears, romaine or leaf lettuce, and walnuts.

Researchers note, however, that specific foods generally had weaker associations than the overall score. This indicates that overall diet quality is more important than individual foods.

“We think a lot about chronic diseases, cancer, heart disease, and tend not to think of physical function. Physical function is crucial as you age; it includes being able to get yourself dressed, walk around the block, and could impact your ability to live independently,” said Kaitlin Hagan, Sc.D., M.P.H., first author and a postdoctoral fellow at BWH.

Future research is needed to better understand dietary and lifestyle factors that influence physical function.

Source: Brigham and Women’s Hospital/EurekAlert

Traci Pedersen <![CDATA[Low Maternal Thyroid Hormone Ups Risk of Child’s Schizophrenia]]> 2016-06-22T14:34:08Z 2016-06-22T12:45:28Z Low Maternal Thyroid Hormone Ups Risk of Child's SchizophreniaPregnant women with hypothyroxinemia — low levels of the thyroid hormone thyroxine — are at greater risk of having babies who later develop cognitive abnormalities similar to those seen in schizophrenia, according […]]]> Low Maternal Thyroid Hormone Ups Risk of Child's Schizophrenia

Pregnant women with hypothyroxinemia — low levels of the thyroid hormone thyroxine — are at greater risk of having babies who later develop cognitive abnormalities similar to those seen in schizophrenia, according to a new study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

Hypothyroxinemia is also associated with preterm birth, another risk factor for schizophrenia.

For the study, researchers examined thyroxine levels in archived serum samples from 1,010 mothers of children with schizophrenia and 1,010 matched control mothers.

The serum samples were collected during the first and early second trimesters of pregnancy as part of the Finnish Maternity Cohort. The findings show that 11.8 percent of people with schizophrenia had a mother with hypothyroxinemia, compared with 8.6 percent of people without schizophrenia. The finding was statistically significant.

This suggests that children of mothers with hypothyroxinemia during pregnancy have increased odds of developing schizophrenia. The association remained even after adjusting for variables strongly related to schizophrenia such as maternal psychiatric history and smoking.

First author Dr. David Gyllenberg of the University of Turku, Finland, thinks the importance of this paper is that it “links the finding to an extensive literature on maternal hypothyroxinemia during gestation altering offspring brain development.”

Senior author Dr. Alan Brown, professor of psychiatry epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center, emphasized that “this work adds to a body of literature suggesting that maternal influences, both environmental and genetic, contribute to the risk of schizophrenia.”

“Although replication in independent studies is required before firm conclusions can be drawn, the study was based on a national birth cohort with a large sample size, increasing the plausibility of the findings,” said Brown.

While the study did not address a cause for the association, it did find that adjusting for preterm birth lowered the association between hypothyroxinemia and schizophrenia, suggesting that preterm birth may play a role in the increased risk.

And while the study focused on patients with schizophrenia, the researchers caution that the finding may not be solely specific to schizophrenia. They say that hypothyroxinemia should be studied as a risk factor for other neurodevelopmental disorders as well, such as bipolar disorder and autism.

Their findings are expected to encourage further research examining how hypothyroxinemia causes neurodevelopmental abnormalities and ultimately contributes to risk of mental illnesses that arise during development.

“As rodent models of maternal hypothyroxinemia have been developed and schizophrenia is largely considered a disorder of brain development, I hope this paper can inform future animal studies examining molecular and cellular deviations that are relevant to schizophrenia,” said Gyllenberg.

Source: Elsevier