Psych Central News Psychology, psychiatry and mental health news and research findings, every weekday. 2016-10-01T13:47:03Z Traci Pedersen <![CDATA[How We Handle Objects Depends on Who Owns Them]]> 2016-10-01T13:47:03Z 2016-10-01T13:45:43Z How We Handle Objects Depends on Who Owns ThemWithout thinking much about it, we pass objects to other people every day, whether it’s car keys, a sandwich, or scissors. And although we often try to make it easier […]]]> How We Handle Objects Depends on Who Owns Them

Without thinking much about it, we pass objects to other people every day, whether it’s car keys, a sandwich, or scissors. And although we often try to make it easier for the other person to grab the object — such as turning a handle toward him or her — a new study shows that we are a bit less accommodating when handing over our own belongings.

The findings are published in the journal Psychological Science.

“The associations or attachments that we have with an object leak into our movements in unintended ways when we interact with them,” said psychology researcher and lead study author Merryn Constable, Ph.D., of the University of Toronto.

“The act of facilitating another person’s action is somewhat inhibited when the object that we’re passing is something that we own, but the effects are so subtle that they are likely to go unnoticed.”

Constable and a research team, including Dr. Andrew Bayliss at the University of East Anglia (UEA) School of Psychology, wanted to investigate whether specific social factors, such as ownership, might influence this behavior. In other words, are we potentially more or less helpful when passing our own mug compared to passing someone else’s?

The researchers conducted two experiments in which they observed passing behavior among 42 pairs of friends. A few weeks before the actual experiment, each participant was given a mug to keep; the mugs varied only in their background color.

The participants were told to use their mug every day, at home or at work, and to make sure that no one else used it. These instructions were given to ensure that the participants felt a strong degree of ownership over the mug.

During the experiment, the friends sat across from each other at a table and the experimenter placed a mug in a specific location on the table. The researcher asked one of the participants, designated the “passer,” to pick up the mug and place it in front of his or her friend. In some cases, the friend receiving the mug was told to pick it up by the handle; in other cases, the friend was instructed to remain still.

The person doing the passing, as well as the mug being passed, both varied randomly from trial to trial. The researchers tracked the location of each participant’s hand and the location of the mug using a motion-capture system.

In line with prior research, participants passed the mug slightly differently depending on whether the friend was going to pick it up afterward. For example, passers turned the mug handle closer to the friend’s hand when they expected him or her to grab it.

Surprisingly, the researchers found that passers rotated the handle slightly less when handing over their own mug compared to when they were passing someone else’s mug. The findings from these two studies indicate that passers seemed to help less when passing their own mug to their friend rather than helping more when passing the friend’s own mug.

“We were expecting that the effect would be related to helping more if the object that is being passed is owned by the receiver,” Constable said. “It’s possible the prosocial behavior demonstrated by this group of participants was influenced by their self-interest concerning possessions.”

Overall, the two experiments underscore the importance of paying attention to the social context of our physical interactions.

“These findings reveals how the subtleties of our social world can play out in how we interact physically with objects and people,” said Constable.

Source: University of East Anglia


Traci Pedersen <![CDATA[Hypertension in Kids Tied to Doing Worse on Cognitive Tests]]> 2016-10-01T13:34:52Z 2016-10-01T13:00:14Z Hypertension in Kids Tied to Doing Worse on Cognitive TestsAs childhood obesity skyrockets, the secondary effect of high blood pressure (hypertension) is also on the increase among children. While hypertension can negatively affect the adult brain, very little research […]]]> Hypertension in Kids Tied to Doing Worse on Cognitive Tests

As childhood obesity skyrockets, the secondary effect of high blood pressure (hypertension) is also on the increase among children. While hypertension can negatively affect the adult brain, very little research has been done on the cognitive effects of childhood hypertension.

In a new multi-university study, researchers found that hypertension in children and teens is linked to slightly poorer performance on tests of cognition, particularly in areas of visual and verbal memory, processing speed, and verbal skills, compared to kids without hypertension. Furthermore, dysfunctional sleep — another strong risk factor for hypertension — exacerbated these negative effects.

For the study, the researchers tested the cognitive skills of 75 adolescents aged 10-18 years with newly-diagnosed hypertension and compared the results to a control group of 75 adolescents without hypertension. Children who had other factors that are known to affect cognitive skills were not included in the study (e.g., ADHD, learning disabilities).

“We wanted to make sure that if we found differences between children with and without hypertension, it was likely associated with the hypertension itself, not any of these other factors,” said Marc B. Lande, M.D., M.P.H., at the University of Rochester.

The findings revealed that the children with hypertension performed worse on the cognitive tests measuring visual and verbal memory, processing speed, and verbal skills. Additionally, more children with sleep issues had hypertension, which intensified the effect of poor sleep on cognition and executive function.

It is important to note, however, that the differences between groups were small and that the average cognitive test scores of both groups were within normal ranges. The children with hypertension were not cognitively impaired, but rather performed less well than children without hypertension.

Overall, the new findings provide evidence that hypertension in children is tied to a subtle pattern of decreased performance on cognitive testing.

“In the future, we want to better understand if there are physical changes to the brain in children who have hypertension that could explain these cognitive test results,” said Lande.

Knowing how these physical changes might affect cognition could be important in future studies that investigate whether antihypertensive treatments could help improve cognitive performance in children with hypertension and reverse or prevent future adult hypertension-related problems.

The study involved researchers from several institutions, including the University of Rochester, Emory University, Maimonides Medical Center, University of Texas at Houston, University of North Carolina, Thomas Jefferson University, University of Maryland, and the University of California at Los Angeles.

The findings are published in The Journal of Pediatrics.

Source: Elsevier

Traci Pedersen <![CDATA[Young Adults’ Odds of Prescription Opioid Abuse Doubled in a Decade]]> 2016-10-01T13:33:22Z 2016-10-01T12:15:40Z Young Adults' Odds of Prescription Opioid Abuse Doubled in a DecadeYoung adults are twice as likely to have a prescription opioid use disorder compared to a decade ago, according to researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. The […]]]> Young Adults' Odds of Prescription Opioid Abuse Doubled in a Decade

Young adults are twice as likely to have a prescription opioid use disorder compared to a decade ago, according to researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

The study, published online in the journal Addictive Behaviors, is the first to investigate time trends and increases over the last decade (2002 to 2014) in prescription opioid use disorder, defined as meeting the criteria for DSM (clinical) abuse and dependence and needing treatment.

Study participants included adolescents (12 to 17 years), emerging adults (18 to 25 years), and young adults (26 to 34 years) who used prescription opioids for nonmedical purposes.

Emerging adults had a 37 percent increase in the odds of having prescription opioid use disorder, and young adults doubled their odds from 11 percent to 24 percent. Among adolescents, the prevalence of prescription opioid use disorder remained relatively stable during the same period.

Data originated from the 2002 to 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

“While increases in prescription opioid use disorder might be rooted in health policy, medical practice, pharmaceutical industry interests, and patient behavior, it is critical that the general public, particularly youth, are informed about the related harms and disorders that can occur when prescription opioids are used without regular medical supervision,” said first author Silvia Martins, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of epidemiology.

The researchers also found a four-fold and nine-fold increase over time in the odds of heroin use among emerging adults and young adults who had used opioids without a medical prescription, respectively.

“We see an increasing trend from 2002 to 2014 among both groups,” said Martins.

The odds of past-year heroin use among emerging adults rose from two percent to seven percent, and from two percent to 12 percent among young adults. Nearly 80 percent of 12- to 21-year-olds who reported initiation of heroin use had previously started using prescription opioids between the ages of 13 and 18.

“Given this and the high probability of nonmedical use among adolescents and young adults in general, the potential development of prescription opioid use disorder among youth and young adults represents an important and growing public health concern,” said Martins.

“Our analyses present the evidence to raise awareness and urgency to address these rising and problematic trends among young adults,” said Martins.

Source: Columbia University Medical Center


Traci Pedersen <![CDATA[Cops’ Body Cams Can Cut Public Complaints by 93 Percent]]> 2016-10-01T13:46:49Z 2016-10-01T11:30:02Z Cops' Body Cams Can Cut Public Complaints By 93%Police body cameras have led to a 93 percent drop in public complaints against police, according to a year-long study of almost 2,000 officers across the United States and the […]]]> Cops' Body Cams Can Cut Public Complaints By 93%

Police body cameras have led to a 93 percent drop in public complaints against police, according to a year-long study of almost 2,000 officers across the United States and the U.K.

The findings suggest that the cameras contribute to behavioral changes that “cool down” potentially volatile encounters.

Body-worn cameras are becoming increasingly standard for law enforcement officers, hailed as a technological fix for what has been viewed as a crisis of police legitimacy. Up until now, however, there has been little confirmed evidence that the cameras are improving police-public relations.

Now, new findings from one of the largest randomized-controlled studies in the history of criminal justice research, led by the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology, show that the use of body-worn cameras on police officers is tied to a startling 93 percent drop in citizen complaints against police.

Researchers believe these cameras may be modifying behavior through an “observer effect:” the awareness that encounters are recorded improves both suspect demeanor and police procedural compliance. Essentially, the “digital witness” of the camera encourages cooler heads to prevail.

“The cameras create an equilibrium between the account of the officer and the account of the suspect about the same event, increasing accountability on both sides,” said Cambridge criminologist and lead author Dr. Barak Ariel.

The study involved seven locations during 2014 and early 2015, including the UK Midlands and the Californian coast, and encompassed 1,429,868 officer hours across 4,264 shifts in jurisdictions that cover a total population of two million citizens.

Every week for a year, the researchers randomly assigned each officer shift as either with cameras (treatment) or without (control), with all officers experiencing both conditions.

The researchers write that, if levels of complaints offer at least some guide to standards of police conduct — and misconduct — these findings suggest that use of body-worn cameras are a “profound sea change in modern policing.”

“Cooling down potentially volatile police-public interactions to the point where official grievances against the police have virtually vanished may well lead to the conclusion that the use of body-worn cameras represents a turning point in policing,” said Ariel.

“There can be no doubt that body-worn cameras increase the transparency of frontline policing. Anything that has been recorded can be subsequently reviewed, scrutinized, and submitted as evidence.

“Individual officers become more accountable, and modify their behavior accordingly, while the more disingenuous complaints from the public fall by the wayside once footage is likely to reveal them as frivolous.”

However, Ariel cautions that one innovation, no matter how positive, is unlikely to provide a panacea for a deeply rooted issue such as police legitimacy.

Overall, across all seven trial sites during the 12 months preceding the study, a total of 1,539 complaints were lodged against police, amounting to 1.2 complaints per officer. By the end of the experiment, complaints had dropped to 113 for the year across all sites just 0.08 complaints per officer — marking a total reduction of 93 percent.

One surprising finding was that the difference between the treatment and control groups once the experiment began was not statistically significant; nor were the variations between the different sites.

However, the before/after difference caused by the overall experimental conditions across all forces was enormous. While only around half the officers were wearing cameras at any one time, complaints against police right across all shifts in all participating forces dwindled to almost nothing.

Researchers say this may be an example of “contagious accountability”: with large scale behavioral change — in officers but also perhaps in the public — seeping into almost all interactions, even during camera-less control shifts, once the experiment had introduced camera protocols to participating forces.

“It may be that, by repeated exposure to the surveillance of the cameras, officers changed their reactive behavior on the streets — changes that proved more effective and so stuck,” said co-author Dr. Alex Sutherland of RAND Europe.

The findings are published in the journal Criminal Justice and Behaviour.

Source: University of Cambridge


Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Mental Health Support Aids Those with Breast Cancer]]> 2016-09-30T14:27:03Z 2016-09-30T12:45:59Z Mental Health Support Aids Those with Breast CancerSadly, close to 300,000 American women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. For many, initial reactions to learning that they have the illness include fear, anger, and denial. Unfortunately, […]]]> Mental Health Support Aids Those with Breast Cancer

Sadly, close to 300,000 American women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. For many, initial reactions to learning that they have the illness include fear, anger, and denial.

Unfortunately, the feelings may escalate. Dealing with the psychological fallout of such a diagnosis can be crucial to patients’ physical recovery. As they weigh their medical options, patients also should consider their emotional and mental options.

“Breast cancer is more than skin deep. It’s not just about your external body image. It’s not just about secondary sexual characteristics. It’s not just about breasts. It’s more than that.

“The psyche and the physical body are interconnected, so you really can’t address one and not the other,” said Dr. Georita Frierson, director of Clinical Training for the Clinical Psychology Ph.D. Program at Rowan University, Glassboro, New Jersey.

Frierson believes breast cancer patients should consider the following, based on research she and others have conducted, as they fight their illness:

  1. Severe and acute stress may occur at the time of cancer diagnosis.

  3. Physical activity can improve mood and other outcomes in breast cancer patients following diagnosis.
  4. The acute distress accompanying diagnosis can lead to lower quality of life for cancer patients.

  6. Patients with poorer coping at time of diagnosis may report lower meaning in life in the year following the end of cancer treatments.
  7. Cancer treatments have the potential to impact intimate relationships.
  8. Patients may have body image distress following breast cancer surgeries.
  9. Treatment or recovery can disrupt one’s employment, including job loss for some.
  10. Distressed individuals can have appetite disturbances and/or dietary changes.

  12. The taste of foods may change with stress.

  14. Disturbances of taste or eating habits (e.g., food restriction or taste aversions from chemotherapy) can occur in breast cancer patients.

  16. Disturbed sleep can occur in breast cancer patients, too.

Frierson has conducted a range of research related to breast cancer and other medical topics including a pilot study of the psychosocial and behavioral outcomes in triple negative breast cancer patients during the first year of treatment.

She has been published in peer-reviewed journals on topics that include evidence-based treatment for cancer patients, emotional and psychosocial consequences of cancer, and physical activity among women treated for breast cancer. She has also contributed chapters to books on racial/ethnic minority health.

Source: Rowan University/Newswise

Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Attractiveness Judged by Group Composition]]> 2016-09-30T14:20:25Z 2016-09-30T12:00:37Z Attractiveness Judged by Group CompositionNew research from the UK suggests that if you want to be considered as good-looking, then it is best to hang out with a group of relatively unattractive individuals. In […]]]> Attractiveness Judged by Group Composition

New research from the UK suggests that if you want to be considered as good-looking, then it is best to hang out with a group of relatively unattractive individuals.

In the study, Royal Holloway University of London investigators discovered judgements of attractiveness vary depending on who is nearby, and how good-looking they are in comparison.

A person will rank higher on a scale of attractiveness when compared alongside less attractive people, than they would when judged alone.

The finding runs counter to common opinion that a person’s perceived level of attractiveness is somewhat fixed. However, the new study shows that context is key to assessing attractiveness.

Dr Nicholas Furl, a psychology professor and author of the study explains, “Rightly or wrongly, the way people look has a profound impact on the way others perceive them. We live in a society obsessed with beauty and attractiveness, but how we measure and understand these concepts is still a grey area.”

He continued, “Until now, it’s been understood that a person’s level of attractiveness is generally steady. If you saw a picture of George Clooney today, you would rate him as good-looking as you would tomorrow. However, this work demonstrates that the company we keep has an effect on how attractive we appear to others.”

The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, demonstrates that how attractive we are is far from static, it can fluctuate. According to the paper, an averagely attractive face surrounded by undesirable faces will become more appealing than it would on its own.

Participants in the study were asked to rate pictures of different faces for attractiveness, one by one. They were then asked to assess the same faces, placed alongside ones perceived to be undesirable. When adding these “distractor faces”, the attractiveness of the same faces increased from the first round of ranking.

Participants were then shown two attractive faces, alongside a “distractor” face and asked to judge between them. The presence of the less attractive face was found to make the viewers more critical between the attractive face, as Dr Furl explained:

“The presence of a less attractive face does not just increase the attractiveness of a single person, but in a crowd could actually make us even more choosey! We found that the presence of a ‘distractor’ face makes differences between attractive people more obvious and that observers start to pull apart these differences, making them even more particular in their judgement.”

Furl concluded, “It’s perhaps not too surprising that we are judged in relation to those around us. This is a trope often seen in teen movies and romantic comedies, where a character associates themselves with a less attractive friend to elevate their own dating stakes.

“Last year’s film The Duff, — an acronym for the rather unfortunate and unfair term ‘Designated Ugly Fat Friend’ explored how the main character felt being physically compared to her friendship group. As in life, this film showed that how we perceive beauty and attractiveness isn’t fixed.

There are many other ways in which we decide who we are attracted to. There will certainly be more research in years to come on this complicated area of human interaction, and I am excited to see where this research takes us.”

Source: Royal Holloway

Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Mouse Study Shows Alcohol Alters Molecular Path Like Rapid Antidepressants]]> 2016-09-30T14:15:00Z 2016-09-30T11:15:12Z Mouse Study Shows Alcohol Alters Molecular Path Like Rapid AntidepressantsNew research suggests having a few drinks when you are down may indeed help your mood. In the mouse study, investigators found that alcohol produces the same neural and molecular […]]]> Mouse Study Shows Alcohol Alters Molecular Path Like Rapid Antidepressants

New research suggests having a few drinks when you are down may indeed help your mood.

In the mouse study, investigators found that alcohol produces the same neural and molecular changes as drugs that have proven to be rapidly effective antidepressants.

Wake Forest investigators say the effects are explained by biochemistry.

“Because of the high comorbidity between major depressive disorder and alcoholism there is the widely recognized self-medication hypothesis, suggesting that depressed individuals may turn to drinking as a means to treat their depression,” said the study’s principal investigator, Kimberly Raab-Graham, Ph.D.

“We now have biochemical and behavioral data to support that hypothesis.” This, however, does not at all suggest that alcohol can be regarded as an effective treatment for depression.

“There’s definitely a danger in self-medicating with alcohol,” Raab-Graham said. “There’s a very fine line between it being helpful and harmful, and at some point during repeated use self-medication turns into addiction.”

In their study, Raab-Graham and her colleagues found that a single dose of an intoxicating level of alcohol worked in conjunction with the autism-related protein FMRP to transform an acid called GABA from an inhibitor to a stimulator of neural activity. This amount of alcohol has been shown to block NMDA receptors (proteins associated with learning and memory).

Investigators discovered that these biochemical changes resulted in non-depressive behavior of the mice lasting at least 24 hours.

This study demonstrated that alcohol followed the same biochemical pathway as rapid antidepressants in the animals, while producing behavioral effects comparable to those observed in people.

In recent years, single doses of rapid antidepressants such as ketamine have proven capable of relieving depressive symptoms within hours and lasting for up to two weeks, even in individuals who are resistant to traditional antidepressants.

“Additional research is needed in this area, but our findings do provide a biological basis for the natural human instinct to self-medicate,” Raab-Graham said.

“They also define a molecular mechanism that may be a critical contributor to the comorbidity that occurs with alcohol use disorder and major depressive disorder.”

The study was published in the journal Nature Communications. The research was supported by an National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism pilot grant along with additional grants from the National Science Foundation and other awards.

Source: Wake Forest University

Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[New Weight Loss Approach Helps People Keep It Off]]> 2016-09-30T14:09:33Z 2016-09-30T10:30:40Z New Weight Loss Approach Helps People Keep It OffLosing weight is often not as difficult as maintaining the weight loss over time. A new study suggest a new behavioral treatment method can help people lose more weight and […]]]> New Weight Loss Approach Helps People Keep It Off

Losing weight is often not as difficult as maintaining the weight loss over time. A new study suggest a new behavioral treatment method can help people lose more weight and keep it off longer than traditional methods.

The new approach is called Acceptance-Based Behavioral Treatment (ABT), a strategy that links the weight loss effort to a larger personal value beyond weight loss for its own sake. This approach was found to help people adhere to diet and physical activity goals better than a traditional approach in a randomized clinical trial.

Traditional weight loss strategies or Standard Behavioral Treatment (SBT) classically encourage reduced caloric intake and increased physical activity.

The study was part of the well regarded Mind Your Health trial, and is one of the first of its kind. Investigators found that participants who received ABT (which includes all behavioral skills taught in SBT) lost 13.3 percent of their initial weight at one year, compared to 9.8 percent weight loss at one year for participants who received SBT only.

This difference represents a clinically significant 36 percent increase in weight lost for those in the ABT group. In addition, the likelihood of maintaining a 10 percent weight loss at 12 months was one-third greater for ABT with a rate of 64 percent versus 49 percent for ABT alone.

As Thomas Wadden, Ph.D., FTOS, and Robert Berkowitz, M.D., FTOS point out in their accompanying commentary, weight loss with ABT is among the largest ever reported in the behavioral treatment literature without use of an aggressive diet or medication.

“We’re excited to share this new proven therapy with the weight-loss community, and in fact this is one of the first rigorous, randomized clinical trials to show that an alternative treatment results in greater weight loss than the gold standard, traditional form of behavioral treatment” continued Forman.

The ABT sessions emphasized the following principles with the participants to achieve adherence to diet and exercise goals in order to lose weight. Principles include:

  • Choose goals derived from freely-chosen personal life values, such as living a long and healthy life or being a present, active grandparent.
  • Recognize that weight-control behaviors will inevitably produce discomfort (such as urges to eat, hunger, cravings, feelings of deprivation, and fatigue) and a reduction of pleasure (such as choosing a walk over watching TV or choosing an apple over ice cream).
  • Increase awareness of how cues impact eating and activity-related decision making.

In the study, 190 participants with overweight or obesity were randomly assigned to SBT alone, or ABT (which fused both behavioral skills from SBT with acceptance-based skills). Participants attended 25 treatment groups over a one-year period, which consisted of brief individual check-ins, skill presentations and a skill-building exercise.

All interventionists were doctoral-level clinicians with experience delivering behavioral weight loss treatments.

“These findings are a boon to clinicians, dietitians, and psychologists as they add a new dimension to behavioral therapy that can potentially help improve long-term outcomes for people with obesity,” said Steven Heymsfield, M.D., FTOS, a spokesperson for The Obesity Society.

“This study is one of the first of its kind, and offers promise of a new tool to add to the toolbox of treatments for overweight and obesity.”

This is the second study of ABT as part of the Mind Your Health trial, and it found an even more pronounced advantage from ABT than the first study. Forman offers several potential explanations, including the use of experienced clinicians and a revised ABT protocol that focuses on general willingness and accepting a loss in pleasure and less on coping with emotional distress, cravings and hunger.

“These are exciting findings for which I congratulate the authors,” said Wadden in an accompanying commentary.

“Like all new findings, they need to be replicated by other researchers before ABT can be considered a reliable means of increasing weight loss with SBT,” he added. Wadden noted that treatment comparison studies of different psychotherapies have shown that when researchers feel strongly that their therapy will work best, it can influence outcomes.

Therefore, Wadden believes future research should be conducted by therapists who did not develop ABT. Additionally, he said, “Future studies of ABT would be enriched by reporting on changes in depression, susceptibility to food cues and motivation for change in both the ABT and SBT groups.

Long-term follow-up after treatment would also be beneficial to determine if ABT improves weight-loss maintenance compared with SBT.”

The study and its accompanying commentary appear in Obesity, the scientific journal of The Obesity Society (TOS).

Source: The Obese Society

Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Depression In Pregnancy Ups Risk of Emotional Problems in Kids]]> 2016-09-29T13:54:01Z 2016-09-29T12:45:37Z Depression In Pregnancy Ups Risk of Emotional Problems in KidsUK researchers have discovered that maternal depression in pregnancy increases the risk of behavioral and emotional problems in children. This association is especially pronounced in low and middle income countries […]]]> Depression In Pregnancy Ups Risk of Emotional Problems in Kids

UK researchers have discovered that maternal depression in pregnancy increases the risk of behavioral and emotional problems in children.

This association is especially pronounced in low and middle income countries where interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy, may not be available.

Depression in pregnancy is thought to affect up to one in five women globally in the late stages of pregnancy and shortly after birth. Depression often presents as a low mood and feelings of hopelessness.

Experts believe it can result from a number of factors including life events such as bereavement, and changes in brain chemistry.

Previous work from a team at Imperial College London suggests depression during pregnancy may affect the development of the baby while in the womb, as well as affecting bonding between mother and child after birth.

Now, the same team have shown that depression or anxiety can reduce the enzyme in the placenta that breaks down the “stress hormone” cortisol, possibly causing more fetal exposure to the hormone.

The fetus may also undergo epigenetic changes under stress, where underlying DNA stays the same but expression of that DNA is altered, perhaps affecting mental health during childhood. 

Investigators explain that much of the research into depression during pregnancy has focused on high income countries. They now argue that the problem is more common in low- and middle-income countries, and hence more resources are now needed in these areas to help expectant and new mothers.

Researchers believe that research is sorely needed in the less well-to-do countries. In addition to research, investigators believe the development of low cost interventions are urgently needed.

Professor Vivette Glover, co-author of the research from theDepartment of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial, said: “Our review of available literature suggests that treating the depression itself is crucial in reducing the risk to the child, as well as for helping the mother.

“It shows targeting specific symptoms of depression by using cognitive behavioral therapy, for example, can be useful in reducing depression and therefore its effect on the child. However, there is a substantial lack of research specific to women in poorer countries, where interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy may not be available.”

Professor Glover added that in severely deprived regions where there are wars, political violence, food insecurity, and little help after natural disasters, healthcare workers have little time or resources to meet basic physical needs, let alone mental health ones like maternal depression.

The new review, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, examined studies of mental health in children under five years old in low and middle income countries such as Bangladesh and Brazil.

The report highlights the specific mental health requirements of mothers and children in poorer countries that are not necessarily relevant to high-income countries.

Investigators discovered depression in mothers in low- and middle-income countries is common during and just after pregnancy. Moreover, women are more likely than in richer countries to experience intimate partner violence and have little social support.

Furthermore, unintended pregnancies are more common, as are malnourishment, infections, and crowded living conditions.

A mother’s risk for depression is much greater in less affluent countries as risk factors are often more intense. These factors also intensify one another — for example, a malnourished mother or child may have too weak an immune system to fight an infection, exacerbating the mother’s stress which then contributes to depression.

Maternal depression in these countries is also more likely to result in poor nutrition, increased substance use, inadequate antenatal care, pre-eclampsia, low birthweight, preterm delivery, and suicide. 

The authors argue that because of the varying risk factors between different income countries, interventions for poorer countries should focus on the issues that affect these countries specifically. 

They add that mitigating the global burden of maternal depression will require a multi-faceted approach that targets child development, poverty, education, health, and prevention of violence in low- and middle-income countries.

Last week in Melbourne, Professor Glover and colleagues launched a new organization, “The Global Alliance for Maternal Mental Health”, which aims to foster more knowledge about these issues, and to generate more resources to tackle them, around the world. 

Source: Imperial College London

Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Emotional Issues May Accompany Early Menopause]]> 2016-09-29T13:51:40Z 2016-09-29T12:00:09Z Emotional Issues May Accompany Early MenopauseFor many women, menopause is a welcomed stage of life as they are through with childbearing and are ready to end monthly periods and worries about pregnancy. New research from […]]]> Emotional Issues May Accompany Early Menopause

For many women, menopause is a welcomed stage of life as they are through with childbearing and are ready to end monthly periods and worries about pregnancy.

New research from the University of Michigan, however, finds that women should be careful what they wish for as menopause may be a time of unintended consequences. Specifically, investigators discovered menopause may be prolonged and accompanied by physical and mental health issues.

Researchers from the University of Michigan School of Public Health and Medical School found that women who are younger than 45 when they first notice changes in their monthly cycles and other symptoms can have a longer menopausal transition than those who begin it at age 51 or later.

The length of the transition can be nearly double for younger women than for those who enter the transition later, 8.57 versus 4.37 years.

“The duration of the menopausal transition — the time from when a woman notices a distinct change in the frequency or regularity of her menstrual cycles to the time of her last menstrual period — varies from just a couple of years up to eight to 10 years,” said Sioban Harlow, professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

“Understanding that age at onset of the menopausal transition influences how long the transition will last can help inform women’s health care decisions related to symptom management, contraception, and preventive care.”

Menopausal transition symptoms include irregular periods, mood swings, hot flashes, night sweats, and difficulty sleeping. Some women also suffer from emotional issues, vaginal dryness, and decreased sex drive. Some research suggests long-term health considerations include bone loss and changes in cardiovascular risk.

Researchers followed 1,145 ethnically diverse women participating in the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation. They tracked their monthly cycles and symptoms from 1996 to 2006. The women were recruited from Boston, southeastern Michigan, Los Angeles, and Oakland, California.

The study found the age-of-onset difference across four racial/ethnic groups: white, Chinese, Japanese, and African-American women. Interestingly, the only difference researchers found among the ethnic groups was that African-American women had a longer transition than white women.

“As the duration and amount of menstrual bleeding increases significantly during the menopausal transition, a longer transition may signify that women with fibroids or with abnormal uterine bleeding may have increased difficulty in coping effectively with their blood loss,” Harlow said.

“This issue may be particularly salient for African-American women who had longer transitions and are also at greater risk of having fibroids.”

The researchers say their findings can inform physicians and their patients about how best to manage the symptoms of menopausal transition. The decision regarding the use of hormones, for instance, is one that women and their doctors wrestle with because the treatments are not without side effects.

“Women with an earlier onset may opt for intervention in anticipation of a longer duration of concerns, whereas women with a later onset may forego therapy with the expectation of a shorter timeframe of change,” said Dr. John Randolph, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan Health System.

“The relative risks, benefits, and costs of medical therapy versus surgery can be discussed with greater confidence by knowing how long a treatment may be required.”

Also noteworthy in the research is that cigarette smoking was associated with an earlier onset of menopausal symptoms and shorter duration, and obesity was linked to a later start but no difference in duration.

Source: University of Michigan

Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[First Time on The Pill May Increase Risk of Depression]]> 2016-09-29T13:36:40Z 2016-09-29T11:15:18Z First Time on The Pill May Increase Risk of DepressionA new study may have implications across the globe as researchers determined first time users of birth control pills may have an increased risk of depression. As published in JAMA […]]]> First Time on The Pill May Increase Risk of Depression

A new study may have implications across the globe as researchers determined first time users of birth control pills may have an increased risk of depression.

As published in JAMA Psychiatry, researchers discovered the link between a first diagnosis of depression among women in Denmark when beginning hormonal contraception. The link was especially pronounced among adolescents.

Few studies have quantified the effect of low-dose hormonal contraception on the risk for depression. Mood symptoms are known reasons for cessation of hormonal contraceptive use.

Øjvind Lidegaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and coauthors used registry data in Denmark for a study population of more than one million women and adolescent girls (ages 15 to 34). They were followed up from 2000 through 2013 with an average follow-up of 6.4 years.

During the follow-up, 55 percent of the women and adolescents were current or recent users of hormonal contraception. There were 133,178 first prescriptions for antidepressants and 23,077 first diagnoses of depression during follow-up.

When compared to nonusers, women who used combined oral contraceptives had 1.23-times higher relative risk of a first use of an antidepressant and the risk for women taking progestin-only pills was 1.34-fold.

Estimated risks for depression diagnoses were similar or lower. The risk for women varied among different types of hormonal contraception.

Some of the highest risk rates were among adolescent girls, who had 1.8-times higher risk of first use of an antidepressant using combined oral contraceptives and 2.2-times higher risk with progestin-only pills.

Adolescent girls who used non-oral products had about 3-times higher risk for first use of an antidepressant. Estimated risks for first diagnoses of depression were similar or lower.

Despite the provocative findings, researchers note that the study has limitations.

“Use of hormonal contraceptives was associated with subsequent antidepressant use and first diagnosis of depression at a psychiatric hospital among women living in Denmark. Adolescents seemed more vulnerable to this risk than women 20 to 34 years old.

Further studies are warranted to examine depression as a potential adverse effect of hormonal contraceptive use,” the authors conclude.

Source: JAMA

Traci Pedersen <![CDATA[Exercise Can Still Increase Hunger Even in Sleep Deprivation]]> 2016-09-29T13:33:07Z 2016-09-29T10:30:39Z Exercise Can Still Increase Hunger Even in Sleep DeprivationIndividuals who experience chronic lack of sleep are at greater risk of becoming overweight and obese, in part because sleep deprivation leads to eating more, making unhealthy food choices and […]]]> Exercise Can Still Increase Hunger Even in Sleep Deprivation

Individuals who experience chronic lack of sleep are at greater risk of becoming overweight and obese, in part because sleep deprivation leads to eating more, making unhealthy food choices and craving high-calorie foods.

In a new study, researchers at Uppsala University investigated how levels of endocannabinoids — which target the same receptors as cannabis — are affected by lack of sleep, and whether acute exercise can modulate this effect. They found instead that exercise tends to increase hunger, even in sleep deprivation, potentially due to its ability to reduce stress.

“Previous studies have shown alterations in the levels of some hunger hormones after sleep loss, but the results have been mixed and hormones that drive hedonic food intake have been less investigated,” says lead author of the new study Jonathan Cedernaes, M.D., Ph.D, at Uppsala University.

“Furthermore, whereas exercise has many beneficial effects, whether exercise can modulate the effects of sleep loss on various hormonal pathways is currently unknown.”

For the study, healthy normal-weight participants stayed in a sleep laboratory on two separate occasions. They were studied after three consecutive nights of normal sleep and after three nights of only sleeping four hours each night. Meals and activity patterns were kept standardized while participants were in the lab, and blood was drawn several times to measure endocannabinoid levels in blood. This was also done on the last day both before and after a short bout of intensive exercise.

The researchers found that the levels of 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2AG) — the most abundant endocannabinoid in the brain — was about 80 percent higher after the nights of short sleep compared with after the normal sleep session. When the participants exercised, the levels of 2AG still went up almost by half, regardless of whether participants had gotten three nights of plenty of sleep or only four hours of sleep each night.

“As previously shown by us and others, sleep loss increased subjective hunger compared with the well-rested state,” said senior author associate professor Christian Benedict. “Given the role of endocannabinoids for promoting hunger and hedonic eating, this could offer an explanation as to why.”

“Meanwhile, we instead saw lower stress ratings after exercise in the sleep deprivation condition, which could also possibly be attributed to the observed endocannabinoid levels following our exercise intervention.”

So even when sleep-deprived, the participants experienced the same amount of increase in endocannabinoid levels just after exercising.

“Endocannabinoids are thought to confer both the “runner’s high” as well as at least some of the neuroprotective effects of exercise. Therefore, this may suggest that even under conditions of chronic sleep loss, exercise may exert similar centrally active, and possibly neuroprotective, properties as under conditions of sufficient sleep,” said Cedernaes.

“This is an important area for future research as we and others have found that short sleep duration by itself may be harmful to the brain, and in the long run increase the risk of e.g. Alzheimer’s disease.”

The findings are published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

Source: Uppsala University

Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Elderly Willing to Take Medical Risks if Benefits Support]]> 2016-09-28T15:12:37Z 2016-09-28T13:30:21Z Elderly Willing to Take Medical Risks if Benefits SupportNew research finds that older people are even more willing that young adults to take medical risks if they perceive the benefits to be high enough. The discovery was surprising […]]]> Elderly Willing to Take Medical Risks if Benefits Support

New research finds that older people are even more willing that young adults to take medical risks if they perceive the benefits to be high enough.

The discovery was surprising as we tend to think that older people are likely to avoid taking risks, especially compared with younger people. Investigators discovered, however, that when confronted with decision on risky medical treatments, such as vaccines and chemotherapy, older people are even more willing than younger adults to take medical risks if the benefits are aligned.

“Given the high financial and personal costs associated with medical-related risk behavior, gaining better insights into adult lifespan changes in medical risk-taking tendencies and perceptions is paramount,” the study authors note.

In the United States, the average 85-year-old spends about $17,000 per year on his or her health, while adults in their 20s spend less than one tenth of that sum, or $1,448.

Despite the growing importance of medical decision-making by the elderly, surprisingly little data exists on how age affects risk attitudes and perceptions in the medical domain.

The “Does Medical Risk-Perception and Risk-Taking Change with Age?” by Yaniv Hanoch of University of Plymouth, Jonathan J. Rolison of the University of Essex, and Alexandra M. Freund of the University of Zurich addresses this information void.

For the study, published in the online version of the journal Risk Analysis, investigators interviewed 317 adults, ages 20 to 77.

Beliefs about the elderly taking fewer risks are based mainly on financial risk-taking studies that do confirm elderly people’s financial risk aversion, say the investigators. However, “Older adults do not seem to be as generally averse to taking risks as that literature on financial risk-taking suggests,” says Dr. Hanoch.

“Instead, when it comes to the essential domain of health or medical decision making, older adults also focus strongly on the benefits of a given procedure.” The findings have important implications for medical decisions by the elderly, Hanoch adds.

When giving such patients medical and health information, “then, of course the potential risks need to be communicated to older patients, but also the potential benefits.”

In their study of age-related differences in risk-taking behavior, the authors gave the participants four different scenarios to read. In the first two scenarios, the authors explain, participants were asked to imagine that their local area had been sealed off due to a highly contagious and deadly flu.

They were then told that either they (Scenario 1) or their child (Scenario 2) had a 10 percent chance (10 of 100 people) of dying from the flu. Next, they were informed that a vaccine had been developed and tested that would prevent them (Scenario 1) or their child (Scenario 2) from contracting the flu with absolute certainty. However, there was a five percent (five of 100 people/children) risk of dying from the vaccine.

After reading the scenarios, participants indicated whether they would accept the vaccine for themselves (Scenario 1) or have the vaccine administered to their child (Scenario 2). A similar design was followed for Scenarios 3 and 4, but the participants were asked to imagine that either they (Scenario 3) or their child (Scenario 4) had been diagnosed with a deadly, slow-growing cancer.

The study also used a psychological measurement instrument, the Domain-Specific Risk-Taking Scale — Medical (DOSPERT-M) to gauge whether a participant would “Immediately go to the doctor’s when something in my body is aching or bothering me.”

The DOSPERT-M recorded responses on a seven point scale ranging from one (very unlikely) to seven (very likely). Results showed that if a participant expected greater benefits they would be more willing to take a risk. Conversely, if they perceived higher risks, they would be less likely to take the risk.

“Our data revealed no age-related differences in medical risk-taking tendencies,” the authors conclude. “This result stands in contrast to the prevailing notion that older adults are more risk averse than younger ones.”

Among other findings, overall, participants were more likely to accept medication (vaccine or chemotherapy) for their child than for themselves. Also, increasing age was associated with a higher likelihood of passive risk taking, whereby older adults avoided options, such as accepting a treatment or vaccine that could lower their chance of dying.

“Taken together, our study provides important insights about changes in medical risk taking across adulthood when people face an increasing number of complex and risky medical decisions,” according to the authors.

Source: Society for Risk Analysis/Newswise

Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Children of Suicide Victims Need Support]]> 2016-09-28T15:06:54Z 2016-09-28T12:45:23Z Children of Suicide Victims Need SupportA new doctoral dissertation finds that talking about suicide is associated with such strong stigma that young people whose parents have taken their own life often must turn to the […]]]> Children of Suicide Victims Need Support

A new doctoral dissertation finds that talking about suicide is associated with such strong stigma that young people whose parents have taken their own life often must turn to the internet to express their grief and receive support.

The thesis represents the view of Anneli Silvén Hagström from Linköping University in Sweden. Given that Sweden has a socialist health care system, Hagström laments that the healthcare system is not providing support for young people in the difficult life situation.

However, she admits the root problem is cultural. The topic is relevant as around 1,500 people take their own life in Sweden each year, five times as many as deaths in road accidents in the country. They leave behind relatives, who in many cases are left to cope with their grief on their own.

“If your house is burgled, several organizations whose task is to support the victims of crime may contact you and ask how you’re feeling. But not many people ask how you’re feeling when a parent has taken his or her own life. Nor does the healthcare system, which really should take this up. It’s clear that the system often does not know what young people need,” says Hagström, a social worker who recently received her doctoral degree.

In the paper, Hagström examines how young people in Sweden cope with the suicide of a parent. Hagström takes a unique focus with an analysis of young people’s narratives of the suicide. She did this by performing research interviews, two different chat forums on the internet, and a theatre performance put on by a young woman that deals with her mother’s suicide.

As may be expected, the central element in a person’s grief is the question as to why? The thesis shows that young people become extremely concerned with the question of why their parent died, which is unusual following other causes of death. They wonder about the true identity of the parent and, as an extension of this, their own true identity, as a child of someone who could take their own life.

The study also shows that the stigma associated with suicide is very strong, and this contributes to the difficulty of dealing with the loss. The stigma is reinforced by, for example, people around the young people avoiding them, or by the idea that may reach their ears that the parent who took his or her own life was selfish, leaving the child behind.

These are preconceived ideas that the young people absorb, and adopt as their own. This means that the image of the parent — who has in most cases been a good figure before death — becomes colored by the suicide. The consequence may be, in addition to feelings of shame, guilt, and abandonment, powerful anger targeted against the dead parent.

The young people describe also how they avoid talking about the suicide with people close to them — even in some cases with their family. In order to free themselves and the dead parent from the stigma, they seek actively a space outside of their everyday relationships, which may be on the internet, for example.

“Our refusal to talk about suicide is a cultural problem. What I noticed in the interviews was that the young people eventually reach the conclusion that their parent had not actively chosen to commit suicide, nor had they had the ability to predict the long-term consequences.

“The young people were able to start to reach an alternative understanding of the suicide through their conversations with others, in non-judgmental contexts. It was possible for them in this way to become reconciled with the dead parent,” says Anneli Silvén Hagström.

Hagström believes several proactive strategies could be implemented to both reduce suicide risk and improve survivor mental health. She explains that previous research has shown that children of people who commit suicide run a higher risk of experiencing social and psychological problems, and even committing suicide themselves. Therefore, starting to work actively with this group would thus be a measure to reduce the rate of suicide.

Hagström believes that the professional groups that come into contact with these young people, such as teachers, social workers, and psychologists, must acquire deeper knowledge about how to deal with people affected. It is important to create space for the question of why the parent took his or her own life, and to break the stigma.

The thesis shows also that death does not mean the end of a young person’s relationship with the parent. The continued relationship can provide healing in grief, and professionals should for this reason encourage it.

“The grief here is a complicated grief. The last thing that the young people want is to be like the dead parent, to be in a bad way, and reactions to the loss can arouse the fear that they themselves will take their own life. But knowing how the young people think makes it possible to calm their fears and assure them: ‘This is normal for someone in your situation’.”

Source: Linköping University/AlphaGalileo

Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Put Kids Ahead of Parents in Divorced Homes]]> 2016-09-28T14:59:50Z 2016-09-28T12:00:53Z Put Kids Ahead of Parents in Divorced HomesA new book by a University of Virginia psychology professor has a simple message: divorcing parents should be parents so that kids can be kids. The advice is salient as […]]]> Put Kids Ahead of Parents in Divorced Homes

A new book by a University of Virginia psychology professor has a simple message: divorcing parents should be parents so that kids can be kids.

The advice is salient as divorce rates push near 50 percent in the United States with more than 40 percent of children being born outside of marriage. As a result, more and more children are at risk of losing their childhoods because their parents cannot, or will not, put their differences aside.

Behaviors like bickering and pitting one parent against the other endanger kids’ few precious years of childhood and can set them on the path to unhealthy relationships in their own lives, Emery said.

“Two Homes, One Childhood: A Parenting Plan to Last a Lifetime,” is Emery’s fifth book on divorce and his second aimed specifically at parents.

He says as hard as it can be, parents must rise above the sadness, anger, and heartache to focus on their parenting plan, one that takes into account a growing child’s evolving physical and emotional needs.

“Really, the only plan for raising kids in two homes that will last a lifetime is one that grows and changes along with kids’ and families’ changing needs,” Emery said in his office in Gilmer Hall.

“Sometimes in the legal system the feeling is, ‘We need to come up with a decision that is going to be a final decision.’ But how do you come up with a final decision for how you are going to raise a baby for 18 years? Or a toddler? Or even a school-aged kid?,” Emery asked.

Parents need to take charge of their own plans, not the courts, and Emery’s book offers practical advice on how to parent throughout the span of a child’s life, from infancy to emerging adulthood and beyond.

Emery understands that “Divorce Stinks,” no matter the circumstances, be they infidelity or incompatibility. Still, couples are bound together forever if they have children.

“You’re there at soccer games, you’re there at high school and college graduation, and you’re there when your grandkids are born,” he said.

So what happens if one parent is willing to do the hard work to provide a good childhood and the other is not?

“It’s all about keeping the kids out of the middle,” he said.

“I tell parents in a really bad situation that many people who think they cannot settle in mediation eventually find that they can. I tell people to keep trying, because maybe it’s horrible now, but maybe after a couple of years things will change.

“If nothing else, even if the parent is a complete jerk, I still really urge parents to do the right thing, partly because it takes two to keep a conflict going and if you don’t play your end, it’s hard for the other parent to keep fighting back.

“If they are jerks, the kids will know, they will discover it and the parent who puts his or her children first will benefit in the long run.”

Emery knows of what he speaks. In addition to directing University of Virgina’s Center for Children, Families and the Law, he is a divorce mediator and the father of five children from two marriages.

In the book, Emery based his original, evidence-based hierarchy on the needs of children growing up in two homes crafting a model similar to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

In his book, Emery stresses that he wants very much for children to have good relationships with both parents. But if that is not possible, his research finds “living in the middle of a war zone between two parents is more harmful to children than having a really involved relationship with only one of them.”

Emery believes parents need an evolving plan when children are young. While there is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution, Emery said for infants during the attachment phase, it’s usually best for the child to spend most nights in a “headquarters” home, usually with the mother.

“As that child becomes a toddler, more overnights with Dad get built into the equation. By the time they get to preschool, maybe parents are dividing the week and then go to a week-to-week arrangement by the time a child is school-aged,” he said.

Dealing with teens and their evolving maturity and desires becomes more nuanced. “I think when you decide to involve your teen in decisions on [where they would like to live] is really the same as when you decide to involve teens in all kinds of important decisions,” Emery said.

However, while teens get input, they don’t get to decide. Emery tells the story of his oldest child, Maggie. “She came to me and said she was tired of the back-and-forth. She wanted to live in one house. At that time, I had four more kids and her mother didn’t have any more children, so she said, ‘I want to live mostly with Mom.’”

But instead of agreeing to that immediately, Emery told her, “‘We’ve got to talk about it,’ and we did. We had long talks and we went on drives, which I always recommend for talking to teenagers because they can’t run away,” he said.

“Eventually, I agreed with her point of view. But I made it very clear to her that it was not her decision. It was my decision.”

That point, Emery said, is essential, because he didn’t want teenage Maggie to have the authority — or the weight of the responsibility — for making that decision. “It’s an adult decision,” he said.

In this regard, Emery said divorced parents and married parents are not so very different, yet society treats them very differently. One of his big goals is for parents, regardless of marital status, to act more the same and for practitioners in legal and mental health systems to treat them more the same.

“I’d like parents who live apart to think of my book as kind of a ‘Dr. Spock’ for raising kids in two homes,” he said. Spock’s influential book, “Baby and Child Care,” published in 1946, became a best-seller and remains popular today.

Source: University of Virginia