Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Press release] Religion or Spirituality Has Positive Impact on Romantic/Marital Relationships, Child Development, Research Shows

From the 8 December 2014 American Psychological Association press release

Praying for partners, spiritual intimacy, attending services with parents may improve quality of life

WASHINGTON — Adolescents who attend religious services with one or both of their parents are more likely to feel greater well-being while romantic partners who pray for their “significant others” experience greater relationship commitment, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

These were among the findings of studies published in two special sections of APA’s Journal of Family Psychology® looking at how spiritual beliefs or behaviors have appeared to strengthen generally happy marriages and how a person’s religious and/or spiritual functioning may influence that of his or her family members.

“These studies exemplify an emerging subfield called relational spirituality, which focuses on the ways that diverse couples and families can rely on specific spiritual beliefs and behaviors, for better or worse, to motivate them to create, maintain and transform their intimate relationships,” according to Annette Mahoney, PhD, of Bowling Green State University, and Annamarie Cano, PhD, of Wayne State University, who edited special sections in the December and October issues of the journal. “Hopefully, publishing these articles will spur more research on ways that religion and spirituality can help or harm couples’ and families’ relationships and encourage more interchange between family psychology and the psychology of religion and spirituality.”

The December issue features five studies that offer novel insights into how religiosity or spiritualism affect children’s development and influence the importance of religion in their own lives.

The October section comprises four studies that focus on the ways that couples can draw on religious/spiritual beliefs and behaviors to transform their unions and help them cope with adversity. “Each of the studies in the October special section moves beyond general measures of people’s involvement in organized religion or spirituality and investigates specific spiritual beliefs or behaviors that appear to influence marital adjustment and human development,” according to APA President Nadine J. Kaslow, PhD, editor of the Journal of Family Psychology. “All the studies present rigorous research into the roles that religion and spirituality can play in enhancing family well-being.”

Articles in the December issue

Religious Socialization in African American Families: The Relative Influence of Parents, Grandparents, and Siblings (PDF, 110KB) by Ian A. Gutierrez, MA, University of Connecticut; Lucas J. Goodwin, MA, New York University; Katherine Kirkinis, MA, Teachers College, Columbia University; and Jacqueline S. Mattis, PhD, New York University.

Looking at three generations, the researchers found that mothers have the most consistently positive influence on the religious lives of their children “because they are socialized to transmit critical values, beliefs and practices across generations, and because they embrace norms of femininity that reinforce such roles.” Additionally, grandparents — especially grandmothers — play a significant role in the religious socialization of grandchildren in African-American families, according to this research.

Contact:Ian Gutierrez

Neighborhood Disorder, Spiritual Well-Being, and Parenting Stress in African American Women (PDF, 98KB) by Dorian A. Lamis, PhD, and Christina K. Wilson, PhD, Emory University School of Medicine; Nicholas Tarantino, MA, Georgia State University; Jennifer E. Lansford, PhD, Duke University; and Nadine J. Kaslow, PhD, Emory University School of Medicine

Read the entire press release here

On a related note...Nearly half of U.S. kids exposed to traumatic social or family experiences during childhood.

A quote “Broken down by state, Utah had the lowest number of children experiencing two or more traumatic experiences (16.3 percent) while Oklahoma had the highest (32.8 percent).” Wondering if religion/spirituality is a factor?

December 9, 2014 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Psychology Resource] APA Center for Organizational Excellence

APA Center for Organizational Excellence

·http://www.apaexcellence.org

From the Scout Report

The science of psychology is often associated with either carefully controlled lab experiments or the soft-spoken tones of a therapist’s office. But psychologists actually study a huge range of behavioral phenomena. This site from the American Psychological Association (APA) focuses on work and work environments, asking questions such as: What makes work meaningful? How can companies help people love their jobs? And what’s in it for the companies if they invest in making the workplace healthier? There is a lot to discover here, including the Articles & Research section, which links readers to coverage of workplace research by such media outlets as USA Today and Market Watch. The Good Company section is another great find and features Podcasts as well as a Newsletter and Blog that provide focused, research-based content for both employers and workers. Company executives may also want to look into the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award, which has been “shining the spotlight on exemplary organizations” since 1999. [CNH]

November 25, 2014 Posted by | Psychology, Uncategorized, Workplace Health | , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Troubles in the Branding of Psychotherapies as “Evidence Supported”

From the 25 October 2013 blog item by James Coyne, PhD at PLoS Blogs (Public Library of Medicine)

Is advertising a psychotherapy as “evidence supported,”  any less vacuous than “Pepsi’s the one”? A lot of us would hope so, having campaigned for rigorous scientific evaluation of psychotherapies in randomized controlled trials (RCTs), just as is routinely done with drugs and medical devices in Evidence-based Medicine (EBM). We have also insisted on valid procedures for generating, integrating, and evaluating evidence and have exposed efforts that fall short. We have been fully expecting that some therapies would emerge as strongly supported by evidence, while others would be found less so, and some even harmful.

Some of us now despair about the value of this labeling or worry that the process of identifying therapies as evidence supported has been subverted into something very different than we envisioned.  Disappointments and embarrassments in the branding of psychotherapies as evidence supported are mounting. A pair of what could be construed as embarrassments will be discussed in this blog.

Websites such as those at American Psychological Association Division 12 Clinical Psychology and SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices offer labeling of specific psychotherapies as evidence supported. These websites are careful to indicate that a listing does not constitute an endorsement. For instance, the APA division 12 website declares

This website is for informational and educational purposes. It does not represent the official policy of Division 12 or the American Psychological Association, nor does it render individual professional advice or endorse any particular treatment.

Readers can be forgiven for thinking otherwise, particularly when such websites provide links to commercial sites that unabashedly promote the therapies with commercial products such as books, training videos, and workshops. There is lots of money to be made, and the appearance of an endorsement is coveted. Proponents of particular therapies are quick to send studies claiming positive findings to the committees deciding on listings with the intent of getting them acknowledged on these websites.

But now may be the time to begin some overdue reflection on how the label of evidence supported practice gets applied and whether there is something fundamentally wrong with the criteria.

Now you see it, now, you don’t: “Strong evidence” for the efficacy of acceptance and commitment therapy for psychosis

On September 3, 2012 the APA Division 12 website announced a rating of “strong evidence” for the efficacy of acceptance and commitment therapy for psychosis. I was quite skeptical. I posted links on Facebook and Twitter to a series of blog posts (1, 23) in which I had previously debunked the study claiming to demonstrate that a few sessions of ACT significantly reduced rehospitalization of psychotic patients.

 

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February 2, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , | Leave a comment

[Repost] Personality and social psychology highlights from the 2013 APA Convention

From the 2 August 2013 Medical News Today article

From how secrets influence our emails to personality traits that increase the risk ofobesity – a guide to some talks with new research in personality and social psychology at the APA Convention in Honolulu, July 31 – August 4, 2013 …

Linguistic Fingerprints of Secrets[1]

Keeping a secret not only burdens someone with the guilt of withholding information but also changes the way the person interacts with others, according to new research. In two studies, researchers looked at linguistic changes in the emails of people harboring secrets. They found that interactions with friends became more deceptive and detached, while interactions with acquaintances became more superficially positive and frequent.

Judging Health Based on Behavior, Personality[2]

Can you accurately size up someone’s health just by watching them? In a recent set of studies, researchers sought to answer this question by filming research participants and asking research assistants to assess their health or behavior. In one study, researchers judged participants on 15 health dimensions – including general health, tobacco use, alcohol use, physical activity, sleep quality, cholesterol, and blood pressure – based on just 5 minutes of film. They found that intuitive snap judgments of health can be surprisingly accurate.

Personalty Traits That Increase Risk of Obesity[3]

A complex mix of biological and social factors affects a person’s likelihood of becoming obese. Across four studies that looked at more than 8,900 people, researchers have found significant links between personality traits and obesity – showing that that high neuroticism and low conscientiousness, among other traits, are consistently associated with increased risk for obesity. These associations are similar across samples that vary in ethnicity, age, and socioeconomic status.

The Benefits of Confronting Bias[4]

Confronting discrimination may boost your well-being, according to new research. In three studies, researchers found that while experiencing discrimination is associated withdepression, confronting that bias gives people more autonomy, which helps to moderate the stressful situation. These results were true not only for minorities but also for Whites.

Being Grateful Trains Our Brains for the Good[5]

Feeling grateful can train us to feel better, finds a new study. Asking people daily for one week to write about three good things that made them grateful increased their well-being after the week, and even five weeks later. Researchers think that the gratitude exercise trains the brain for cognitive processes that support well-being, such as increasing attention so that individuals are more likely to notice benefits in their lives.

Two Hormones Together Explain Status-Seeking[6]

Looking at only testosterone as a hormonal measure of status-seeking behaviors is incomplete, argues new research. Testosterone’s influence on status-related behavior critically depends on levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Six studies suggest that researchers must consider the effects of testosterone and cortisol together. The studies show that a profile of high testosterone and low cortisol is associated with leadership, social dominance, risk-taking, emotional stability, and monetary reward maximization. On the other hand, a hormone profile of high testosterone and high cortisol is associated with subordinate behaviors, socioemotional sensitivity, anxiety, and monetary loss.

Positive Anticipation Helps Overcome Stress[7]

Past research has shown that eliciting positive emotions immediately to offset stress can ameliorate the negative effects of the stressor. Now researchers are testing the effects on stress of anticipating positive events – as that more realistically mirrors how people use emotion to regulate stress in daily life. In two studies, they found that anticipating a positive event leads to improved recovery after stress and is more effective in coping with stress than experiencing a positive event just prior to being stressed.

Recognizing that Life is Meaningful[8]

In our never-ending quest to understand the meaning of life, social psychologists are bringing a different perspective: urging us to think of meaning as an experience that involves seeing, recognizing, and noticing rather than something to search for or struggle to create. Simply maintaining a positive mood, for example, can facilitate meaning in our everyday lives and connect us more to the world.

The convention program is here

August 2, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , | Leave a comment

Stress in America 2011

From the 3 February Full Text Report summary

Source:  American Psychological Association
The American Psychological Association’s (APA) newly released report, Stress in America™: Our Health at Risk, paints a troubling picture of the impact stress has on the health of the country, especially caregivers and people living with a chronic illness such as obesity or depression.
The Stress in America survey, which was conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of APA among 1,226 U.S. residents in August and September, showed that many Americans consistently report high levels of stress (22 percent reported extreme stress, an 8, 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale where 1 is little or no stress and 10 is a great deal of stress). While reported average stress levels have dipped slightly since the last survey (5.2 on a 10-point scale vs. 5.4 in 2010) many Americans continue to report that their stress has actually increased over time (39 percent report their stress has increased over the past year and 44 percent say their stress has increased over the past 5 years). Yet stress levels exceed people’s own definition of what is healthy, with the mean rating for stress of 5.2 on a 10-point scale— 1.6 points higher than the stress level Americans reported as healthy.
While 9 in 10 adults believe that stress can contribute to the development of major illnesses, such as heart disease, depression and obesity, a sizeable minority still think that stress has only a slight or no impact on their own physical health (31 percent) and mental health (36 percent). When considered alongside the finding that only 29 percent of adults believe they are doing an excellent or very good job at managing or reducing stress, APA warns that this disconnect is cause for concern.
“America has a choice. We can continue down a well-worn path where stress significantly impacts our physical and mental health, causes undue suffering and drives up health care costs. Or we can get serious about this major public health issue and provide better access to behavioral health care services to help people more effectively manage their stress and  prevent and manage chronic disease,” says psychologist Norman B. Anderson, PhD, APA’s CEO and executive vice president. “Various studies have shown that chronic stress is a major driver of chronic illness, which in turn is a major driver of escalating health care costs in this country. It is critical that the entire health community and policymakers recognize the role of stress and unhealthy behaviors in causing and exacerbating chronic health conditions, and support models of care that help people make positive changes.”

February 8, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health, Psychology | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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