Psych Central News Psychology, psychiatry and mental health news and research findings, every weekday. 2017-05-25T14:11:39Z Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Mindfulness In Prenatal Education Can Reduce Risk of Depression]]> 2017-05-25T14:11:39Z 2017-05-25T12:45:37Z Mindfulness In Prenatal Education Can Reduce Risk of DepressionA new study shows mindfulness training that addresses fear and pain during childbirth can improve women’s childbirth experiences. Moreover, researchers from researchers at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and the […]]]> Mindfulness In Prenatal Education Can Reduce Risk of Depression

A new study shows mindfulness training that addresses fear and pain during childbirth can improve women’s childbirth experiences.

Moreover, researchers from researchers at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and the University of California, San Francisco discovered the training was associated with a reduction of depression symptoms during pregnancy and the early postpartum period.

“Fear of the unknown affects us all, and perhaps none more so than pregnant women,” says lead author Dr. Larissa Duncan, University of Wisconsin, Madison professor of human development and family studies.

“With mindfulness skills, women in our study reported feeling better able to cope with childbirth and they experienced improved mental well-being critical for healthy mother-infant adjustment in the first year of life.”

The study also suggests that pregnant women who practice mindfulness may use less medication for pain during labor.

This finding is especially relevant as many women and their healthcare providers are concerned about the use of medications during pregnancy, labor, and while breastfeeding because of the potential risks to infants.

Furthermore, if left untreated, maternal mental health problems also pose a significant risk to infants.

“A mindfulness approach offers the possibility of decreasing the need for these medications and can reach women who may not know they are at risk for perinatal depression or can’t access mental health services,” Duncan said.

The new study appears in the journal BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. The investigation is a randomized, controlled trial called Prenatal Education About Reducing Labor Stress (PEARLS). The research compares mainstream childbirth education with childbirth education that includes mindfulness skills focused on reducing fear among first-time mothers.

Fear of childbirth has been shown in previous studies to be linked to poorer labor-and-delivery outcomes and to depression.

Although many consider childbirth education classes a primary resource for pregnant women and their partners to learn information and strategies for the birthing process and remedies for coping with labor pain — there is limited data that demonstrates they achieve these goals for the more than two million pregnant women who attend them each year in the United States.

In fact, Duncan says, “sometimes women report that the information in childbirth education actually increases their fear of childbirth.”

In the current pilot study, 30 women and their partners, first-time mothers late in their third trimester of pregnancy were offered either a standard childbirth preparation course lacking a mind-body focus or an intensive weekend workshop called Mind in Labor: Working with Pain in Childbirth.

The workshop was based on the Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting education course developed by study co-author Nancy Bardacke, a certified nurse-midwife and senior mindfulness teacher at University of California, San Francisco.

The program focused on practices like mindful movement, walking meditation, and pain coping strategies. Previous research shows that mindfulness training can be an effective way to manage both chronic and acute pain.

Participants represented a diversity of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. They completed self-reported assessments before and after taking part in a childbirth education course and after giving birth.

The mindfulness group also received handouts and guided audio materials so they could practice mindfulness on their own. The study team collected medical record data from each woman.

The researchers found a reduction in depression symptoms in the mindfulness group, which continued through their post-birth follow up at approximately six weeks.

In contrast, depression symptoms worsened among women who participated in the standard childbirth education courses.

While mothers in the mindfulness group sought epidurals at similar rates to those in the control group and retrospectively reported similar levels of perceived pain during labor, the study did see a trend toward lower use of opioid-based pain medication during labor.

While these results were not statistically significant, the rate of narcotic use during labor was around 62 percent in the control group and just 31 percent in the mindfulness group. A larger study is needed to better understand this effect.

“The encouraging results of this small study point to the possibility that mindfulness skills can transform the way expectant parents prepare for this profound life change,” says Bardacke.

Source: University of Wisconsin, Madison

Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Parents’ Digital Distractions Linked to Kids’ Behavioral Issues]]> 2017-05-25T13:56:28Z 2017-05-25T12:00:00Z Parents' Digital Distractions Linked to Kids' Behavioral IssuesEmerging research suggests that even in low amounts, interruptions to parent-child time caused by digital technology are associated with child behavior problems. The study was a snapshot review of the […]]]> Parents' Digital Distractions Linked to Kids' Behavioral Issues

Emerging research suggests that even in low amounts, interruptions to parent-child time caused by digital technology are associated with child behavior problems.

The study was a snapshot review of the connection between parents’ technology use and child behavior. As such, a cause-and-effect relationship cannot be inferred although the results will fuel additional investigation.

Parents typically attribute child behavior — be it whining, tantrums, or acting out — to factors such as fatigue, hunger, or boredom. Researchers are now asking if such negative behaviors could be related to something else: parents spending too much time on their smartphones or tablets.

The small study from University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Illinois State University found that heavy digital technology use by parents could be associated with child behavior issues.

The findings appear in the online issue of the journal Child Development.

Researchers analyzed surveys completed separately by both mothers and fathers from 170 two-parent households.

Mothers and fathers were asked about their use of smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other technology — and how the devices disrupted family time.

Lead author Dr. Brandon T. McDaniel creatively describes the interruptions or disturbances as ‘’technoference,’ with disturbances being as simple as checking phone messages during mealtime, playtime, and routine activities or conversations with their children.

While more research is needed, the study suggests it might: Even low or seemingly normal amounts of tech-related interruption were associated with greater child behavior problems, such as oversensitivity, hot tempers, hyperactivity, and whining.

“This was a cross-sectional study, so we can’t assume a direct connection between parents’ technology use and child behavior but these findings help us better understand the relationship,” said senior author Jenny Radesky, M.D., a child behavior expert and pediatrician at Mott.

“It’s also possible that parents of children with behavioral difficulties are more likely to withdraw or de-stress with technology during times with their child.”

But, she added, “We know that parents’ responsiveness to their kids changes when they are using mobile technology and that their device use may be associated with less-than-ideal interactions with their children.

“It’s really difficult to toggle attention between all of the important and attention-grabbing information contained in these devices, with social and emotional information from our children, and process them both effectively at the same time.”

McDaniel, who designed and carried out the study, says researchers hope to learn more about the impact of increasing digital technology use on families and children.

“Research on the potential impact of this exposure lags far behind,” said McDaniel, assistant professor in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences at Illinois State University.

“It’s too early to draw implications that could be used in clinical practice but our findings contribute to growing literature showing an association between greater digital technology use and potential relationship dysfunction between parents and their children.”

Parents in the study were asked to rate how problematic their personal device use was based on how difficult it was for them to resist checking new messages, how frequently they worried about calls and texts, and if they thought they used their phones too much.

Participants also were asked how often phones, tablets, computers, and other devices diverted their attention when otherwise engaged with their children.

On average, mothers and fathers both perceived about two devices interfering in their interactions with their child at least once or more on a typical day. Mothers, however, seemed to perceive their phone use as more problematic than fathers did.

About half (48 percent) of parents reported technology interruptions three or more times on a typical day while 17 percent said it occurred once and 24 percent said it happened twice a day. Only 11 percent said no interruptions occurred.

Parents then rated child behavior issues within the past two months by answering questions about how often their children whined, sulked, easily got frustrated, had tantrums, or showed signs of hyperactivity or restlessness.

The researchers controlled for multiple factors, such as parenting stress, depressive symptoms, income, parent education as well as co-parenting quality (how supportive partners were of each other in parenting their child), which has been shown to predict child behavior.

The study joins other research and advocacy groups contributing to a larger debate about technology and its effect on child development.

Some professional societies, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and Zero to Three, recommend “unplugged” family time. But they haven’t tested whether lessening or changing digital technology use during parent-child activities is associated with improved child behavior.

McDaniel and Radesky advise parents to try to carve out designated times to put away the devices and focus all attention on their kids.

Reserving certain times of the day or locations as being technology-free — such as mealtime or playtime right after work — may help ease family tensions caused by the modern blurring of outside worlds with home life, they say.

“Parents may find great benefits from being connected to the outside world through mobile technology, whether that’s work, social lives or keeping up with the news. It may not be realistic, nor is it necessary, to ban technology use all together at home,” Radesky said.

“But setting boundaries can help parents keep smartphones and other mobile technology from interrupting quality time with their kids.”

Source: University of Michigan/EurekAlert

Traci Pedersen <![CDATA[Are Readers More Empathetic?]]> 2017-05-25T13:50:23Z 2017-05-25T11:15:30Z Are Readers More Empathetic?People who enjoy reading literature tend to exhibit higher levels of emotional intelligence and empathy compared to their TV-watching counterparts, according to a new thesis study examining the effects of […]]]> Are Readers More Empathetic?

People who enjoy reading literature tend to exhibit higher levels of emotional intelligence and empathy compared to their TV-watching counterparts, according to a new thesis study examining the effects of reading and watching television on social behavior.

Rose Turner, a postgraduate research student at Kingston University London, presented her findings to the British Psychological Society, and soon discovered that her research was appearing in headlines around the world as people were fascinated by the psychological dimensions of reading.

“The interest in the study has been a very pleasant surprise, and it has been great to see that it has generated such a buzz,” said Turner.

“Reading is a universal pastime and we regularly hear about parents being encouraged to read to their children from a young age to help introduce them to language and develop their vocabulary. This study demonstrates that the different ways that people engage with fiction can impact their emotional intelligence and empathic behaviors.”

The study involved 123 adults of various ages participating in an anonymous online survey. Participants were asked to select their preferences for books, television, and plays, alongside being tested on their interpersonal skills, which included how much they considered others’ feelings and their desire to help those around them.

The findings show that book readers had greater awareness and empathy for other people’s feelings, while those who preferred watching television came across as less friendly and less understanding of others’ views.

When asked why reading might be associated with having better social skills compared to other forms of fictional media such as television or films, Turner said that reading is an individual experience that makes people think more deeply about characters.

“When we read we go by what is simply written on the page and we have to fill in the gaps as we go along, giving us a chance to develop empathic skills as we try to understand what a character is going through. Whereas when we watch something, we are provided with a lot of that information already,” she said.

Turner, who also works in the field of occupational psychology, says that she runs group exercises in social care settings, schools, and prisons that involve people using role-play techniques to develop their skills.

“I have seen firsthand how stories and the notion of becoming another character can have a positive impact on a person’s well-being. It’s not just a source of escapism but also a chance to imagine how somebody else sees the world.”

Turner will present her research to the American Psychological Society this summer.

Source: Kingston University

Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Why People Make Others Feel Bad to Try to Make Them Feel Good]]> 2017-05-25T13:46:12Z 2017-05-25T10:30:43Z Can Making People Feel Bad Be Good for Them?New research suggests that people may try to make others feel negative emotions if they believe the experience will help the person in the long run. The findings expand on previous research by […]]]> Can Making People Feel Bad Be Good for Them?

New research suggests that people may try to make others feel negative emotions if they believe the experience will help the person in the long run.

The findings expand on previous research by revealing that people may sometimes seek to induce negative emotions in others for altruistic reasons, not simply for their own pleasure or benefit.

“We have shown that people can be ‘cruel to be kind’ — that is, they may decide to make someone feel worse if this emotion is beneficial for that other person, even if this does not entail any personal benefit for them,” said psychological scientist Dr. Belén López-Pérez, who conducted the research while at the University of Plymouth.

“These results expand our knowledge of the motivations underlying emotion regulation between people.”

The research is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

In other studies, researchers had shown that people may sometimes seek to worsen others’ mood for their own personal gain.

Based on their own work examining altruistic behavior, López-Pérez and colleagues Laura Howells and Dr. Michaela Gummerum wondered whether there might be circumstances under which people would try to worsen others’ mood for altruistic reasons.

“We identified several everyday examples where this might be the case — for instance, inducing fear of failure in a loved one who is procrastinating instead of studying for an exam,” López-Pérez said.

The researchers hypothesized that prompting participants to take another person’s perspective might make them more likely to choose a negative experience for that person if they thought the experience would help the individual reach a specific goal.

To test their hypothesis, they recruited 140 adults to participate in a lab-based study that involved playing a computer game with an anonymous partner, known as Player A. In reality, the participants were always assigned the role of Player B and there was no actual Player A.

After receiving a note supposedly written by Player A, some participants were asked to imagine how Player A felt, while others were told to remain detached. The note described Player A’s recent breakup and how upset and helpless Player A felt about it.

Then, participants were asked to play a video game so they could then make decisions for Player A on how the game would be presented. Depending on the experimental condition participants were assigned to, half were asked to play Soldier of Fortune, a first-person shooter game with an explicit goal of killing as many enemies as possible (i.e., confrontation goal).

The other half were asked to play Escape Dead Island, a first-person game with the explicit goal of escaping from a room of zombies (i.e., avoidance goal).

After playing the assigned game, the participants listened to some music clips and read short game descriptions that varied in their emotional content. The participants used scales to rate how much they wanted their partner to listen to each clip and read each description (from one = not at all to seven = extremely).

They also rated the extent to which they wanted their partner to feel angry, fearful, or neutral and how useful these emotions would be in playing the game.

The players were awarded raffle tickets for a chance at winning $50 based on their performance in the game — participants were reminded that their choices might impact the other participants’ performance and, therefore, their own chances of winning the $50.

The results showed that the participants who empathized with Player A focused on inducing specific emotions in their partner, depending on the ultimate goal of their computer game.

Compared with participants who had remained detached, those who empathized with Player A and who played the first-person shooter game seemed to focus specifically on inducing anger in Player A explicitly and implicitly.

That is, they would choose the anger-inducing music clips and game description, while those who had empathized with Player A and who played the zombie game focused specifically on inducing fear — for example, selecting the fear-inducing music clips and game description.

“What was surprising was that affect worsening was not random but emotion-specific,” López-Pérez said.

“In line with previous research, our results have shown that people hold very specific expectations about the effects that certain emotions may have and about which emotions may be better for achieving different goals.”

The study suggests that empathy led people to choose particular negative emotional experiences that they believed would ultimately help their partner be successful in the context of the game.

“These findings shed light on social dynamics, helping us to understand, for instance, why we sometimes may try to make our loved ones feel bad if we perceive this emotion to be useful to achieve a goal,” López-Pérez said.

Source: Association for Psychological Science

Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Dual Gait Analysis Can Aid Early Diagnosis of Dementia]]> 2017-05-24T15:09:57Z 2017-05-24T13:30:18Z Dual Gait Analysis Can Aid Early Diagnosis of DementiaA new approach that assesses ambulation while performing a cognitively demanding task is an effective predictor of progression to dementia. In a new study, researchers at Canada’s Lawson Health Research […]]]> Dual Gait Analysis Can Aid Early Diagnosis of Dementia

A new approach that assesses ambulation while performing a cognitively demanding task is an effective predictor of progression to dementia.

In a new study, researchers at Canada’s Lawson Health Research Institute and Western University discovered gait analysis while simultaneously performing mental tasks is a new way to assess cognitive decline.

To date, there has been no definitive way for health care professionals to forecast the onset of dementia in a patient with memory complaints. Experts believe early detection of dementia can lead to halting its progression.

Dr. Manuel Montero-Odasso, a geriatrician and associate professor in the Division of Geriatric Medicine at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, is leading the “Gait and Brain Study.”

His team is assessing up to 150 seniors with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a slight decline of memory and other mental functions which is considered a pre-dementia syndrome, in order to detect an early predictor of cognitive and mobility decline and progression to dementia.

“Finding methods to detect dementia early is vital to our ability to slow or halt the progression of the disease,” said Montero-Odasso.

The study, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, followed participants for six years and included bi-annual visits.

Researchers asked participants to walk while simultaneously performing a cognitively demanding task, such as counting backwards or naming animals.

They have discovered that individuals with MCI that slow down more than 20 percent while performing a cognitively demanding task are at a higher risk of progressing to dementia.

“While walking has long been considered an automatic motor task, emerging evidence suggests cognitive function plays a key role in the control of walking, avoidance of obstacles, and maintenance of navigation,” Montero-Odasso said.

“We believe that gait, as a complex brain-motor task, provides a golden window of opportunity to see brain function.”

The “gait cost,” or speed at which participants completed a single task (walking) versus a dual-task, was higher in those MCI individuals with worse episodic memory and who struggle with executive functions such as attention keeping and time management.

“Our results reveal a ‘motor signature’ of cognitive impairment that can be used to predict dementia,” said Montero-Odasso.

“It is conceivable that we will be able to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias before people even have significant memory loss. Our hope is to combine these methods with promising new medications to slow or halt the progression of MCI to dementia.”

The study appears in the journal JAMA Neurology.

Source: Lawson Health Research Institute

Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Report: Alcohol Hikes Breast Cancer Risk, Exercise Lowers It]]> 2017-05-24T15:06:38Z 2017-05-24T12:45:38Z Report: Alcohol Hikes Breast Cancer Risk, Exercise Lowers ItA new report suggests drinking just one glass of wine or other alcoholic drink a day increases breast cancer risk. Conversely, vigorous exercise such as running or fast bicycling decreases […]]]> Report: Alcohol Hikes Breast Cancer Risk, Exercise Lowers It

A new report suggests drinking just one glass of wine or other alcoholic drink a day increases breast cancer risk.

Conversely, vigorous exercise such as running or fast bicycling decreases the risk of both pre- and post-menopausal breast cancers.

Moreover, strong evidence confirmed an earlier finding that moderate exercise decreases the risk of post-menopausal breast cancer, the most common type of breast cancer.

The findings were issued by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF).

“It can be confusing with single studies when the findings get swept back and forth,” said Anne McTiernan, M.D., Ph.D., a lead author of the report and cancer prevention expert at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

“With this comprehensive and up-to-date report the evidence is clear: Having a physically active lifestyle, maintaining a healthy weight throughout life, and limiting alcohol — these are all steps women can take to lower their risk.”

Researchers systematically collated and evaluated the scientific research worldwide on how diet, weight, and exercise affect breast cancer risk in the first such review since 2010.

The report analyzed 119 studies, including data on 12 million women and 260,000 cases of breast cancer.

Investigators found strong evidence that drinking the equivalent of a small glass of wine or beer a day (about 10 grams alcohol content) increases pre-menopausal breast cancer risk by five percent and post-menopausal breast cancer risk by nine percent. A standard drink is 14 grams of alcohol.

For vigorous exercise, pre-menopausal women who were the most active had a 17 percent lower risk and post-menopausal women had a 10 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer compared to those who were the least active.

Total moderate activity, such as walking and gardening, linked to a 13 percent lower risk when comparing the most versus least active women.

Additional findings include:

  • being overweight or obese increases the risk of post-menopausal breast cancer, the most common type of breast cancer;
  • mothers who breastfeed are at lower risk for breast cancer;
  • greater adult weight gain increases risk of post-menopausal breast cancer.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in U.S. women with over 252,000 new cases estimated this year.

AICR estimates that one in three breast cancer cases in the U.S. could be prevented if women did not drink alcohol, were physically active, and stayed a healthy weight.

The report also points to links between diet and breast cancer risk. There was some evidence — although limited — that non-starchy vegetables lowers risk for estrogen-receptor (ER) negative breast cancers, a less common but more challenging to treat type of tumor.

Limited evidence also links dairy, diets high in calcium and foods containing carotenoids to lowering risk of some breast cancers. Carrots, apricots, spinach, and kale are all foods high in carotenoids, a group of phytonutrients studied for their health benefits.

These links are intriguing but more research is needed, says McTiernan.

“The findings indicate that women may get some benefit from including more non-starchy vegetables with high variety, including foods that contain carotenoids,” she said.

“That can also help avoid the common one to two pounds women are gaining every year, which is key for lowering cancer risk.”

Aside from these lifestyle risk factors, other established causes of breast cancer include being older, early menstrual period, and having a family history of breast cancer.

Investigators believe women can actively lower their risk of breast cancer.

While there are many factors that women cannot control, says Alice Bender, M.S., R.D.N., AICR’s Head of Nutrition Programs, the good news from this report is that all women can take steps to lower their breast cancer risk.

“Wherever you are with physical activity, try to nudge it up a bit, either a little longer or a little harder.

Make simple food shifts to boost protection — substitute veggies like carrots, bell peppers, or green salad for chips and crackers and if you drink alcohol, stick to a single drink or less,” said Bender.

“There are no guarantees when it comes to cancer, but it’s empowering to know you can do something to lower your risk.”

Source: American Institute for Cancer Research

Traci Pedersen <![CDATA[Big City Teens in UK May Have Greater Risk for Psychotic Experiences]]> 2017-05-24T14:52:28Z 2017-05-24T12:00:22Z Teens living in major cities in England and Wales are more than 40 percent more likely to report psychotic experiences (hearing voices, paranoia, delusions) compared to teens living in rural […]]]>

Teens living in major cities in England and Wales are more than 40 percent more likely to report psychotic experiences (hearing voices, paranoia, delusions) compared to teens living in rural areas, according to a new study published in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin.

Researchers from King’s College London and Duke University found that neighborhood conditions and crime were strong contributing factors. Among adolescents who had grown up in the worst neighborhoods and had also been victims of violent crimes, 62 percent reported having some type of psychotic experience.

This high rate of psychotic experiences was almost three times greater than those living in more favorable neighborhood conditions who had not experienced violent crime (21 percent).

“As increasing numbers of young people around the world are living in cities, there is a growing need to improve our understanding of how both built and social features of urban settings are supporting and challenging young people’s mental health,” said Professor Candice Odgers, senior author from Duke University.

Adolescence is a particularly vulnerable time for mental health — around 70 percent of adults with mental health problems had their first episodes during adolescence.

In fact, up to one in three young people at some point have had a psychotic experience, and these individuals are at greater risk for other mental health disorders, schizophrenia, and suicide attempts. Yet little is known about the potential impact of social surroundings — such as living in a city — on adolescent expressions of psychosis.

In a previous study, the research team found higher rates of psychotic symptoms among children living in cities, but this new study is the first to examine the effects of city life on psychotic experiences during adolescence.

“Our study suggests that the effects of city life on psychotic experiences are not limited to childhood but continue into late adolescence, which is one of the peak ages at which clinical psychotic disorders are typically diagnosed,” said Jo Newbury, first author of the study, from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London.

For the new study, researchers interviewed more than 2,000 British 18-year-olds about psychotic experiences since the age of 12. The authors note that they were only looking for subclinical experiences of psychosis, rather than evidence of a diagnosable, clinical disorder.

Youth were considered to have psychotic experiences if they reported at least one out of thirteen potential experiences including, for example, that they heard voices that others could not, believed they were being spied on, or their food was being poisoned.

Levels of “urbanicity” were assigned to each participant based on their post code, using data from the Office of National Statistics. Neighborhood social factors, such as trust, support, and cooperation between neighbors, and signs of threat like muggings, assaults, and vandalism were measured through surveys of over 5,000 immediate neighbors of the participants.

Finally, personal victimization by violent crime was assessed through interviews with the participants themselves.

The findings show that young people raised in urban versus rural neighborhoods were significantly more likely to have psychotic experiences, and this association remained significant after considering a range of other factors, including family socioeconomic status, family psychiatric history, and cannabis use.

Among those who lived in the largest, most densely populated cities, 34 percent subsequently reported psychotic experiences between age 12 and 18, compared to 24 percent of adolescents in rural settings.

Almost half of the association between city life and psychotic experiences was explained by adverse and threatening social characteristics of urban neighborhoods, including lack of trust and support between neighbors, and high levels of threat in the neighborhood.

The researchers suggest a number of reasons why living in the city could increase the risk for psychotic experiences, including a heightened biological response to stress, which could in turn disrupt the activity of dopamine in the brain. Excess dopamine is the best biological explanation researchers currently have for psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia.

They also suggest that teens who grow up in threatening neighborhoods could develop maladaptive cognitive responses, such as hypervigilance (becoming excessively aware of potential threats) and attributing negative intentions to people, which might lead them to become paranoid about those around them.

“These findings highlight the importance of early, preventative strategies for reducing psychosis risk and suggests that adolescents living in threatening neighborhoods within cities should be made a priority,” said Dr. Helen Fisher, senior author from IoPPN at King’s College London.

“If we intervene early enough, for example by offering psychological therapies and support to help them cope better with stressful experiences, we could reduce young people’s risk for developing psychosis and other mental health problems further down the line.”

Source: King’s College London

Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Study Looks at Keys to Exercise Motivation for Women]]> 2017-05-24T14:38:41Z 2017-05-24T11:15:03Z Study Looks at Keys to Exercise Motivation for WomenMany women start fitness programs to lose weight, and when they don’t, they feel like failures and stop exercising. In a new study, researchers analyzed what women say makes them […]]]> Study Looks at Keys to Exercise Motivation for Women

Many women start fitness programs to lose weight, and when they don’t, they feel like failures and stop exercising. In a new study, researchers analyzed what women say makes them feel happy and successful, and how their expectations and beliefs about exercise foster or undermine those things.

Dr. Michelle Segar, director of the University of Michigan’s Sport, Health, and Activity Research and Policy Center, and co-investigators reviewed the factors that could help a woman regain enthusiasm for improving their health.

“A new understanding of what really motivates women might make an enormous difference in their ability to successfully incorporate physical activity into their daily routine and have fun doing it,” said Segar.

The findings, which will appear in the journal BMC Public Health, show that both active and inactive women report the same ingredients for feeling happy and successful:

  • connecting with and helping others be happy and successful;
  • being relaxed and free of pressures during their leisure time;
  • accomplishing goals of many sorts (from grocery shopping to career goals).

But the study also found that for inactive women, their beliefs and expectations about exercise actually thwarted the things that make them feel happy and successful:

  • they believe “valid” exercise must be intense, yet they want to feel relaxed during their leisure time;
  • they feel pressured to exercise for health or to lose weight, yet during their leisure time they want to be free of pressures.

Success comes from achieving goals, yet their expectations about how much, where, and how they should be exercising means they can’t achieve these goals.

“The direct conflict between what these low-active women believe they should be doing when they exercise, and their desire to decompress and renew themselves during leisure time, demotivates them,” Segar said.

“Their beliefs about what exercise should consist of and their past negative experiences about what it feels like actually prevents them from successfully adopting and sustaining physically active lives.”

Segar and co-investigators Jennifer Taber, Heather Patrick, Chan Thai, and April Oh conducted eight focus groups among white, black, and Hispanic women aged 22-49 who were either categorized as “high active” or “low active.”

While the findings about happiness and success seemed to hold true for both groups in the different demographics, low-active women held distinctly different views than high-active women about exercising.

“We’ve all been socialized to exercise and be physically active for the last 30 years,” said Segar.

“The traditional recommendation we’ve learned to believe is that we should exercise at a high intensity for at least 30 minutes, for the purpose of losing weight or improving our health. Even though there are newer recommendations that permit lower intensity activity in shorter durations most people don’t know or even believe it.”

This more traditional message has worked for a small minority of the population, but more generally it has failed to increase population physical activity, she says.

“This traditional approach to exercising might actually harm exercise motivation. Our study shows that this exercise message conflicts with and undermines the very experiences and goals most women have for themselves,” she said.

The exceptions found in the study were among the more active participants, who held more flexible views of exercise. They expressed that it “was not the end of the world” if they had to skip exercising once in awhile.

They made exercise more of a “middle priority,” which took the pressure off and left room for compromise when schedules and responsibilities did not permit planned exercise to occur.

The high-active women seemed to have more positive feelings from exercising, in contrast to most of the low-active women, who, in general, tended to dread the very idea of it.

“There are important implications from this study on how we can help women better prioritize exercise in their day-to-day life,” Segar said.

“We need to re-educate women they can move in ways that will renew instead of exhaust them, and more effectively get the message across that any movement is better than nothing. To increase motivation to be physically active, we need to help women to want to exercise instead of feeling like they should do it.”

This can be achieved by:

  • e-educating women that movement can and should feel good to do;
  • promoting physical activity as a way to connect with important others;
  • reframing physical activity as a vehicle that helps women renew and re-energize themselves to better succeed at their daily roles and goals;
  • explain physical activity as a broad continuum that counts all movement as valid and worth doing.

Source: University of Michigan/EurekAlert

Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Probiotics May Ease Depression Symptoms]]> 2017-05-24T14:29:09Z 2017-05-24T10:30:11Z Probiotics May Ease Depression SymptomsA new Canadian study finds that probiotics, used to reduce gastrointestinal distress, also appear to mitigate symptoms of depression. McMaster University researchers discovered twice as many adults with irritable bowel […]]]> Probiotics May Ease Depression Symptoms

A new Canadian study finds that probiotics, used to reduce gastrointestinal distress, also appear to mitigate symptoms of depression.

McMaster University researchers discovered twice as many adults with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) reported improvements from co-existing depression when they took a specific probiotic than adults with IBS who took a placebo.

The findings appear in the medical journal Gastroenterology.

The study provides further evidence that the microbiota environment in the intestines communicates with the brain, said senior author Dr. Premysl Bercik, an associate professor of medicine at McMaster and a gastroenterologist for Hamilton Health Sciences.

“This study shows that consumption of a specific probiotic can improve both gut symptoms and psychological issues in IBS. This opens new avenues not only for the treatment of patients with functional bowel disorders but also for patients with primary psychiatric diseases,” he said.

IBS is the most common gastrointestinal disorder in the world, and is highly prevalent in Canada. It affects the large intestine and patients suffer from abdominal pain and altered bowel habits like diarrhea and constipation. They are also frequently affected by chronic anxiety or depression.

The pilot study involved 44 adults with IBS and mild to moderate anxiety or depression. They were followed for 10 weeks, as half took a daily dose of the probiotic Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001, while the others had a placebo.

At six weeks, 14 of 22, or 64 percent, of the patients taking the probiotic had decreased depression scores, compared to seven of 22 (or 32 percent) of patients given placebo.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) showed that the improvement in depression scores was associated with changes in multiple brain areas involved in mood control.

“This is the result of a decade-long journey — from identifying the probiotic, testing it in preclinical models and investigating the pathways through which the signals from the gut reach the brain,” said Bercik.

“The results of this pilot study are very promising but they have to be confirmed in a future, larger scale trial,” said Dr. Maria Pinto Sanchez, the first author and a McMaster clinical research fellow.

The study was performed in collaboration with scientists from Nestlé.

Source: McMaster University/EurekAlert

Traci Pedersen <![CDATA[Childhood Obesity May Raise Risk of Later Depression]]> 2017-05-23T14:38:26Z 2017-05-23T12:45:22Z Childhood Obesity May Raise Risk of Later DepressionBeing overweight or obese in childhood may substantially increase one’s lifetime risk of major depression, according to a new study presented at the European Congress on Obesity. Researchers found that […]]]> Childhood Obesity May Raise Risk of Later Depression

Being overweight or obese in childhood may substantially increase one’s lifetime risk of major depression, according to a new study presented at the European Congress on Obesity.

Researchers found that children who were overweight at age eight or 13 had more than triple the risk of developing major depression later in life, while carrying excess weight over a lifetime (both as a child and as an adult) quadrupled the chance of developing depression compared to only being overweight as an adult.

More than one in three children in the U.S. are overweight and nearly one in five children aged between two and 19 years are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Previous research has shown that people who are obese are more likely to become depressed, but few have looked at the influence of early-life obesity over the long term, or the age-related effect of obesity on depression risk.

For the study, researcher Dr. Deborah Gibson-Smith from VU University Medical Center in the Netherlands and colleagues observed the relationship between being overweight in childhood and lifetime depression in 889 participants from the population-based AGES (Age, Gene/Environment Susceptibility) Reykjavik study (begun in 1967). They also studied whether the detrimental effect of obesity on mental health is due to lifelong obesity or the result of being overweight in adulthood.

A random sample of surviving participants (average age 75) from the Reykjavik study were assessed to see whether they had current depressive symptoms or had ever had a major depressive disorder in the past. Data on height and weight during childhood and midlife were obtained from school records and the Reykjavik study, respectively.

A BMI of between 25 and 29.9 was considered overweight. The data were adjusted for sex and the age at which the BMI measurements were taken. A total of 39 participants had been diagnosed with major depression at some point in their lifetime.

The analysis revealed that carrying excess weight in childhood was a stronger predictor of subsequent depression than being overweight in midlife only. The researchers estimate that being overweight or obese at age eight or 13 years is associated with a more than four times increased risk of lifetime major depressive disorder compared with children who were normal weight as a child but went on to become overweight as adults (a statistically significant result).

This is an observational study so no conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect. But the findings confirm earlier research showing an increased risk of depression in young people who are obese.

“Our findings suggest that some of the underlying mechanisms linking overweight or obesity to depression stem from childhood,” the authors stated. “A shared genetic risk or low self-esteem, which is frequently associated with those who do not conform to the ideal body type, could be responsible.”

“Given the rise in adolescents’ obesity and greater influence of social media on body image, understanding the associations between childhood obesity and depression is critical.”

Source: European Association for the Study of Obesity

Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Sleep Disorders May Hit Women Harder]]> 2017-05-23T14:34:51Z 2017-05-23T12:00:54Z Sleep Disorders May Hit Women HarderNew research suggests sleep disorders affect men and women differently. Investigators determined women are more likely than men to have more severe symptoms of depression, trouble sleeping at night, and […]]]> Sleep Disorders May Hit Women Harder

New research suggests sleep disorders affect men and women differently. Investigators determined women are more likely than men to have more severe symptoms of depression, trouble sleeping at night, and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Investigators also found that women have a higher degree of difficulty concentrating and remembering things due to sleepiness or tiredness. In contrast, male snoring was more likely than female snoring to force bed partners to sleep in different rooms.

“We found that females were more likely to have sleeping disorders associated with daytime sleepiness,” said co-author Dr. John Malouf, founder of SleepGP sleep clinic in Coolangatta, Queensland, Australia.

“Females were also likely to feel more affected by the burden of their symptoms.”

The main purpose of the study was to understand the differences in functional status between the sexes when they present to primary care providers with sleep problems.

“What was surprising about the results was that while men and women tended to present at a similar age, their symptoms and the effect on their lives differed markedly,” said lead author Allegra Boccabella, research associate at SleepGP clinic.

“We didn’t expect there to be differences across the board in terms of the different aspects of people’s lives.”

Study findings appear in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

For the study, Boccabella and Malouf conducted a retrospective clinical audit of 744 patients who received sleep-related health care from seven private general practices in Australia between April 2013 and January 2015.

Patients completed a variety of sleep-related questionnaires, including the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS), the Snoring Severity Scale (SSS), and the Functional Outcomes of Sleep Questionnaire 10.

According to the authors, understanding how the symptoms reported by women differ from those of men can help medical professionals manage sleep disorders more holistically.

“If we can identify the ways that their lives are affected, we can help produce better outcomes for the patient,” said Boccabella.

Source: American Academy of Sleep Medicine

Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Mindfulness Benefits from Home Practice]]> 2017-05-23T14:31:53Z 2017-05-23T11:15:04Z Mindfulness Benefits from Home PracticeA new study suggests that home practice is an important component of developing competency in mindfulness. Danish researchers discovered a typical student in a standard mindfulness course says they practice […]]]> Mindfulness Benefits from Home Practice

A new study suggests that home practice is an important component of developing competency in mindfulness.

Danish researchers discovered a typical student in a standard mindfulness course says they practice for 30 minutes at home every day — with the practice making a difference.

Traditionally, students taking part in a standard Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) or Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) courses are asked to practice mindfulness meditation practice for 45 minutes a day at home, as well as attend weekly group sessions with the teacher.

And the 45 minutes is every day, six days a week for the eight weeks that the course lasts.

Still, in the new study, investigators from Aarhus University in Denmark found practice of 30 minutes a day was effective even though teachers asked for more. Researchers discovered that although students practiced for less time than requested, positive benefits were derived including reduced stress, pain, and better well-being.

The review was an international collaboration between the Universities of Aarhus, Oxford, and Bristol and has recently been published in the journal Behavior Research and Therapy.

“This is the clearest evidence we have that mindfulness-home practice can make a difference. This is a big source of debate because there are many components at play in a MBSR or MBCT course. The support of a teacher might bring about benefit, practicing mindfulness on the actual course, or being in a group with similar other people,” said associate professor Dr. Christine Parsons.

According to the study, the effect of doing home practice is small, but statistically significant in the 28 scientific studies included in the analysis. In all studies, the MBCT or MBSR courses were eight weeks long, and the participants kept diaries of their practice at home.

The diaries were used by researchers to examine the benefits of practice. Unfortunately, there is always uncertainty linked to a self-report diary, which Parsons is trying to minimize.

Researchers wonder if they can rely on students to tell their own teacher about their home practice? Moreover, do student’s fill in their diaries faithfully? We know that people have difficulty reporting on their food or alcohol consumption or even physical activity. Should mindfulness practice be any different?

Similarly, Parsons is concerned about the difference between the quantity of mindfulness practice and the quality of the practice. Anyone who has tried to meditate knows that practice can be difficult.

For example, it is easy to spend time thinking about a conflict at work or writing a long mental shopping list. Mindfulness practice is about cultivating awareness of the present moment, without judging or evaluating, not just spending time on a yoga mat.

“We need to understand how people truly engage with their home practice. There are many problems with self-report as our only assessment method.”

To solve some of these problems, Parsons will develop a number of other measurement methods that will clarify how mindfulness students behave outside the classroom.

For example, she and a group of engineers from Aarhus University, led by associate professor Dr. Kasper Løvborg Jensen and the Danish Center for Mindfulness, are developing an app that records how long participants listen to the guided meditations, which are part of the home practice in MBCT or MBSR.

The information will be sent via the mobile phone app to a server that registers and compares the incoming data with information from a ‘fitness’ wristband. This enables the research team to see what happens to, for example, the student’s heartbeat when he or she is practicing mindfulness.

“It’s all little pieces of the big jigsaw puzzle — how students actually behave outside the classroom. How they practice, what it means, and what actually works,” said Parsons, without wanting to undermine the importance of the recently published result.

“This study forms the basis of our new work, and now we know, that practicing at home has an impact.”

Source: Aarhus University/EurekAlert

Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Study Finds ‘Sexting’ Fairly Benign, But Research Is Spotty]]> 2017-05-23T14:24:12Z 2017-05-23T10:30:50Z Study Finds ‘Sexting’ Fairly Benign, But Research Is SpottyA new review of existing research on “sexting” suggest the practice has little impact on sexual activity and sexual behavior. But it does highlight significant shortcomings in the research itself. “There’s […]]]> Study Finds ‘Sexting’ Fairly Benign, But Research Is Spotty

A new review of existing research on “sexting” suggest the practice has little impact on sexual activity and sexual behavior. But it does highlight significant shortcomings in the research itself.

“There’s a lot of work being done on the phenomenon of sexting and how it may influence sexual behavior, but the work is being done in a wide variety of populations by researchers from many different backgrounds,” said Dr. Kami Kosenko, associate professor of communication at North Carolina State University and lead author.

“We wanted to analyze this broad body of work to see what, if anything, can be gleaned from all of these studies.”

The researchers found 234 journal articles that looked at sexting, but then removed studies that didn’t look at the relationship between sexting and behavior, as well as any studies that didn’t include clearly defined quantitative measures of sexting or sexual behavior.

Ultimately, this process winnowed it down to 15 studies that looked at whether there was any link between sexting and: sexual activity; unprotected sex; and/or the number of sex partners one has.

The researchers found that there was a weak statistical relationship between sexting and all of those categories — and that was when looking solely at correlation. It was impossible to tell if sexting actually influenced behavior at all.

In fact, investigators discovered there’s not even an agreed-upon definition for sexting. Does sexting consist only of sexually-oriented text messages? Does it include photos? Video? Definitions varied widely from paper to paper.

“There are two take-home messages here,” said Dr. Andrew Binder, co-author of the review and an associate professor of communication at North Carolina State.

“First is that sexting does not appear to pose a public health threat to America’s youth, so don’t panic.

“Second, if this is something we want to study, we need to design better studies. For example, the field needs a common, clear definition of what we mean by sexting, as well as more robust survey questions and methods.”

The paper appears in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication.

Source: North Carolina State University

Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Sleep Quality Can Impact Loneliness in Young Adults]]> 2017-05-22T15:37:24Z 2017-05-22T12:45:10Z Sleep Quality Can Impact Loneliness in Young AdultsA new UK study finds a link between loneliness and poor sleep quality in a study of more than 2,000 British young adults. Researchers from King’s College London discovered lonelier […]]]> Sleep Quality Can Impact Loneliness in Young Adults

A new UK study finds a link between loneliness and poor sleep quality in a study of more than 2,000 British young adults.

Researchers from King’s College London discovered lonelier people were 24 percent more likely to feel tired and have difficulty concentrating during the day.

Loneliness is defined by researchers as a distressing feeling that people experience when they perceive their social relationships to be inadequate.

Investigators say that this is distinct from the concept of social isolation, as people can be socially isolated without feeling lonely, or feel lonely despite being surrounded by many people.

The research appears in the journal Psychological Medicine.

While the effect of being lonely is well documented among the elderly, it is a common problem for young people too. In fact, the Mental Health Foundation reports that loneliness is most frequent between the ages of 18-34.

Despite this, little is known about health problems that are associated with loneliness among young adults, or the impact on sleep.

The researchers from King’s College London sampled data from the Environmental Risk (E-Risk) Longitudinal Twin Study, a cohort of 2,232 18-19 year-old twins born in England and Wales.

They measured loneliness by scoring responses to four questions: ‘How often do you feel that you lack companionship?’, ’How often do you feel left out?’, ‘How often do you feel isolated from others?’, and ‘How often do you feel alone?’

They also measured sleep quality in the past month, including the time it takes to fall asleep, sleep duration, and sleep disturbances, as well as daytime dysfunction such as staying awake during the day.

Overall 25-30 percent of the sample reported feeling lonely sometimes, with an additional five percent reporting frequent feelings of loneliness.

The researchers found that the association between loneliness and sleep quality remained even after they accounted for symptoms of mental health problems such as depression and anxiety — conditions which are commonly associated with sleep problems and feeling lonely.

One of the proposed reasons for restless sleep in lonely individuals is the possibility they feel less safe, so the researchers examined the impact of past exposure to violence, including crime, sexual abuse, child maltreatment, and violent abuse by family members or peers.

And, they discovered the association between loneliness and poor sleep quality was almost 70 percent stronger among those exposed to the most severe forms of violence.

The study authors suggest a number of biological processes which may explain the association between loneliness and sleep quality, including a heightened biological stress response. Previous research suggests that loneliness is associated with changes in circulating cortisol, indicating elevated activation of the stress response system.

Physiological arousal resulting from this process may play a role in the disrupted sleep of lonely individuals.

Professor Louise Arseneault from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London, explains:

“Diminished sleep quality is one of the many ways in which loneliness gets under the skin, and our findings underscore the importance of early therapeutic approaches to target the negative thoughts and perceptions that can make loneliness a vicious cycle.

“Many of the young people in our study are currently at university, living away from home for the first time, which can compound feelings of loneliness. It is therefore important that they receive appropriate support to address these feelings before they turn into severe mental health problems.”

Timothy Matthews from the IoPPN at King’s College London, added: “We also found that past exposure to violence exacerbated the association between loneliness and poor sleep, which is consistent with the suggestion that sleep problems in lonely individuals are related to feeling unsafe.

“This makes sense as sleep is a state in which it is impossible to be vigilant for one’s safety, so feeling isolated from others could make it more difficult to sleep restfully, and even more so for individuals who have been exposed to violence in the past.

“It is therefore important to recognize that loneliness may interact with pre-existing vulnerabilities in some people, and that these individuals should receive tailored support.”

Source: Kings College — London

Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Explaining Narcissism as Personality Trait and Disorder]]> 2017-05-22T15:29:21Z 2017-05-22T12:00:29Z Explaining Narcissism as Personality Trait and DisorderNarcissists can be very charming and positive, but they’re just looking for people to feed into their narcissistic supply and help build their ego, said Patricia Watson, M.D., interim head […]]]> Explaining Narcissism as Personality Trait and Disorder

Narcissists can be very charming and positive, but they’re just looking for people to feed into their narcissistic supply and help build their ego, said Patricia Watson, M.D., interim head of the Department of Humanities in Medicine at the Texas A&M College of Medicine.

“Narcissists have the ability to cultivate relationships,” Watson said.

“People have narcissism as a trait, some more than others, but a smaller group of people have Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or NPD.”

Like the story of Narcissus, narcissism is characterized by a general grandiose belief about oneself. Those with more of a tendency toward narcissism will have an exaggerated sense of self-importance, a sense of entitlement, a lack of empathy, and often a tendency to be manipulative.

“Narcissism exists on a spectrum,” Watson said. “You have people who have low to moderate amounts of narcissism, where it’s still apparent, but not really a disorder; then you have the high end where it’s a full personality disorder.”

Narcissism can be seen as the evil twin of high self-esteem. Both are born of a person’s accomplishments and how they truly see themselves.

“Everyone has self-esteem and self-worth,” Watson said. “It’s when those become exaggerated and there is an unhealthy drive to keep their beliefs intact that it becomes a problem.”

The causes for NPD are not completely clear; while home life and upbringing can certainly play a role, there may be some genetic factors that can determine where someone stands on the narcissism spectrum, she said. If developing narcissism is a learned trait, then normal social activity at school or daycare can help break the mindset that may be normal early on.

“We are all born with a type of learned narcissism,” Watson said. “From birth, the world revolves around us. We cry, and food appears or we are held, but then we grow out of that mindset and start learning that it won’t always be the case.”

Studies have often shown that narcissists are more likely to step into positions of power. In the short-term, they can be perceived as confident and very skillful, which makes them a favorable candidate for a new promotion at work or a leader in the classroom.

However, they may use some dirty tactics to achieve this goal. Their line between confidence and arrogance is a lot thinner than others, and they may belittle someone if they perceive their own views are threatened. In contrast, a leader with very low levels of narcissism can be poor leaders too, just like someone with high levels, but in a different way.

In the workplace, bosses with low levels of narcissism can be viewed as insecure or unsure, while those with high levels can be viewed as aggressive or authoritarian.

While narcissists generally have an inflamed view of self-worth, they also enjoy surrounding themselves with people who can validate their belief.

Narcissists can also be very controlling, whether it’s overt or passively. They do this as a way to stay in control and keep affirming their beliefs. “If you thwart a narcissist, they may react with anger or a fit of rage.”

If someone has NPD, or high amounts of narcissism, getting the right treatment can possibly help improve their lives and the lives of those around them.

However, people with NPD typically won’t seek help for their condition — doing so wouldn’t fit with their self-image of perfection — but they may seek therapy if they are brought in by a loved one, or if they are depressed.

“People with narcissism may be protecting very fragile egos,” Watson said. “If they are criticized or rejected, they can take that very harshly and become depressed.”

Seeing a therapist may not always work for someone with NPD, but it can help a certain group set realistic boundaries and lead a more enjoyable and rewarding life.

Source: Texas A&M/Newswise