Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Unemployment and Depression Among Emerging Adults in 12 States, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2010 [Report]

Unemployment and Depression Among Emerging Adults in 12 States, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System,*** 2010 | Full Text Reports….

Introduction
The high rate of unemployment among emerging adults (aged 18 to 25 years) is a public health concern. The risk of depression is higher among the unemployed than among the employed, but little is known about the relationship between unemployment and mental health among emerging adults. This secondary data analysis assessed the relationship between unemployment and depression among emerging adults.

Methods
Data from the 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) were analyzed.

Results
Almost 12% of emerging adults were depressed (PHQ-8 ≥10) and about 23% were unemployed. Significantly more unemployed than employed emerging adults were classified with depression. In the final model, the odds of depression were about 3 times higher for unemployed than employed emerging adults.

Conclusion
The relationship between unemployment and depression is significant among emerging adults. With high rates of unemployment for this age group, this population may benefit from employment- and mental-health–focused interventions.

***

BRFSS logo imageThe Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) is the nation’s premier system of health-related telephone surveys that collect state data about U.S. residents regarding their health-related risk behaviors, chronic health conditions, and use of preventive services. Established in 1984 with 15 states, BRFSS now collects data in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia and three U.S. territories. BRFSS completes more than 400,000 adult interviews each year, making it the largest continuously conducted health survey system in the world.

By collecting behavioral health risk data at the state and local level, BRFSS has become a powerful tool for targeting and building health promotion activities. As a result, BRFSS users have increasingly demanded more data and asked for more questions on the survey.

July 28, 2015 Posted by | Health Statistics, Psychology | , , | Leave a comment

Recalling happier memories can reverse depression

Recalling happier memories can reverse depression 

From the 17 June 2015 MIT news release

MIT neuroscientists have shown that they can cure the symptoms of depression in mice by artificially reactivating happy memories that were formed before the onset of depression.

The findings, described in the June 18 issue of Nature, offer a possible explanation for the success of psychotherapies in which depression patients are encouraged to recall pleasant experiences. They also suggest new ways to treat depression by manipulating the brain cells where memories are stored. The researchers believe this kind of targeted approach could have fewer side effects than most existing antidepressant drugs, which bathe the entire brain.

“Once you identify specific sites in the memory circuit which are not functioning well, or whose boosting will bring a beneficial consequence, there is a possibility of inventing new medical technology where the improvement will be targeted to the specific part of the circuit, rather than administering a drug and letting that drug function everywhere in the brain,” says Susumu Tonegawa, the Picower Professor of Biology and Neuroscience, director of the RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, and senior author of the paper.

Memory control

In 2012, Tonegawa, former MIT postdoc Xu Liu, Ramirez, and colleagues first reported that they could label and reactivate clusters of brain cells that store specific memories, which they called engrams. More recently, they showed that they could plant false memories, and that they couldswitch the emotional associations of a particular memory from positive to negative, and vice versa.

In their new study, the researchers sought to discover if their ability to reactivate existing memories could be exploited to treat depression.

To do this, the researchers first exposed mice to a pleasurable experience. In this case, all of the mice were male and the pleasurable experience consisted of spending time with female mice. During this time, cells in the hippocampus that encode the memory engram were labeled with a light-sensitive protein that activates the neuron in response to blue light.

After the positive memory was formed, the researchers induced depression-like symptoms in the mice by exposing them to chronic stress. These mice show symptoms that mimic those of human sufferers of depression, such as giving up easily when faced with a difficult situation and failing to take pleasure in activities that are normally enjoyable.

However, when the mice were placed in situations designed to test for those symptoms, the researchers found that they could dramatically improve the symptoms by reactivating the neurons that stored the memory of a past enjoyable experience. Those mice began to behave just like mice that had never been depressed — but only for as long as the pleasant memory stayed activated.

July 17, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry, Psychology, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Anxiety increases the risk of gastrointestinal infection and long-term complications | EurekAlert! Science News

Anxiety increases the risk of gastrointestinal infection and long-term complications | EurekAlert! Science News.

Water_275

From the 2 July 2015 news release

A team comprised of scientists at VIB, KU Leuven and UZ Leuven has made significant progress in uncovering the connection between psychological factors and the immune system. Their findings are based on an investigation of a massive drinking water contamination incident in Belgium in 2010, and are now published in the leading international medical journal Gut.

In December 2010, the Belgian communities of Schelle and Hemiksem in the province of Antwerp faced an outbreak of gastroenteritis, with more than 18,000 people exposed to contaminated drinking water. During the outbreak, VIB and KU Leuven set up a scientific task force to study the incident’s long-term effects, led by Guy Boeckxstaens (UZ Leuven / KU Leuven) and Adrian Liston (VIB / KU Leuven).

Seizing an unexpected opportunity

Adrian Liston (VIB/KU Leuven): “The water contamination in Schelle and Hemiksem was an ‘accidental experiment’ on a scale rarely possible in medical research. By following the patients from the initial contamination to a year after the outbreak we were able to find out what factors altered the risk of long-term complications.”

Anxiety and depression affect immune system

The scientists found that individual with higher levels of anxiety or depression prior to the water contamination developed gastrointestinal infections of increased severity. The same individuals also had an increased risk of developing the long-term complication of irritable bowel syndrome, with intermittent abdominal cramps, diarrhea or constipation a year after the initial contamination.

Guy Boeckxstaens (UZ Leuven / KU Leuven): “Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a condition of chronic abdominal pain and altered bowel movements. This is a common condition with large socio-economic costs, yet there is so much that still remains to be discovered about the causes. Our investigation found that that anxiety or depression alters the immune response towards a gastrointestinal infection, which can result in more severe symptoms and the development of chronic irritable bowel syndrome.”

Psychological factors key in preventing long-term complications

The study’s results provide valuable new insight into the cause of irritable bowel syndrome, and underscoring the connection between psychological factors and the immune system.

Adrian Liston (VIB/KU Leuven): “These results once again emphasize the importance of mental health care and social support services. We need to understand that health, society and economics are not independent, and ignoring depression and anxiety results in higher long-term medical costs.”

July 17, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Safety, Medical and Health Research News, Psychology | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News item] Why Big Pharma is not addressing the failure of antidepressants

Why Big Pharma is not addressing the failure of antidepressants.

From the 14 May 2015 post at The Conversation

Around a quarter of people experience depression at some point in their lives, two-thirds of whom are women. Each year more than 11m working days are lost in the UK to stress, depression or anxiety and there are more than 6,000 suicides. The impact of depression on individuals, families, society and the economy is enormous.

Front-line therapies usually include medication. All the commonly prescribed antidepressants are based on “the monoamine hypothesis”. This holds that depression is caused by a shortage of serotonin and noradrenaline in the brain. Existing antidepressants are designed to increase the levels of these chemicals.

The first generation of antidepressants were developed in the 1950s and a second generation came in the 1980s. Products such as Prozac and Seroxat were hailed as “wonder drugs” when they first came onto the market.

In the roughly 30 years since, these kinds of drugs have come to look tired and jaded. Patents have expired and there are doubts about their efficacy. Some scientists even argue the drugs do more harm than good.

Broken model

There has been no third generation of antidepressants. This is despite there having been moon-landing levels of investment in research. The antidepressant discovery process that gave rise to the earlier drugs is clearly broken. It is also apparent that this process had never worked that well, since the only real improvements over the previous 60 years were a reduction of side-effects.

By the mid-2000s the major pharmaceutical companies started disinvesting in this area. Government funding for basic research into depression and charitable funding followed a similar pattern. In 2010 GSK, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Merck and Sanofi all announced that they had stopped looking for new antidepressants altogether. Professor David Nutt, the former government drug advisor, declared this to be the “annus horribilis” for psychiatric drug research. The likelihood now is that there will be no new antidepressants for decades.

However, there continues to be an urgent and pressing need for more effective treatments. The question the drug companies now need to ask themselves is, did they fail because the task was impossible, or did they fail simply because they got things wrong? Our view is that there was a systems failure.

…..

May 19, 2015 Posted by | Psychiatry | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release]Friends know how long you’ll live, study finds

Friends know how long you’ll live, study finds [University of Washington at St. Louis]

Peer estimates of your personality can predict longevity – January 20, 2015

By Gerry Everding

Young lovers walking down the aisle may dream of long and healthy lives together, but close friends in the wedding party may have a better sense of whether those wishes will come true, suggests new research on personality and longevity from Washington University in St. Louis.“You expect your friends to be inclined to see you in a positive manner, but they also are keen observers of the personality traits that could send you to an early grave,” said Joshua Jackson, PhD, assistant professor of psychology in Arts & Sciences.

Jackson

Published Jan. 12 in an advance online issue of the journal Psychological Science, the study demonstrates that your personality at an early age (20s) can predict how long you will live across 75 years and that close friends are usually better than you at recognizing these traits.Male participants seen by their friends as more open and conscientious ended up living longer. Female participants whose friends rated them as high on emotional stability and agreeableness also enjoyed longer lifespans, the study found.

“Our study shows that people are able to observe and rate a friend’s personality accurately enough to predict early mortality decades down the road,” Jackson said. “It suggests that people are able to see important characteristics related to health even when their friends were, for the most part, healthy and many years from death.”

It’s no secret that a person’s personality traits can have an impact on health. Traits such as depression and anger have been linked to an increased risk of various diseases and health concerns, including an early death.

Men who are conscientious are more likely to eat right, stick with an exercise routine and avoid risks, such as driving without a seat belt. Women who are emotionally stable may be better at fighting off anger, anxiety and depression, Jackson suggests.

While other studies have shown that a person’s view of his or her own personality can be helpful in gauging mortality risk, there has been little research on whether a close friend’s personality assessment might also predict the odds of a long life.

To explore this question, Jackson and colleagues analyzed data from a longitudinal study that in the 1930s began following a group of young people in their mid-20s, most of whom were engaged to be married.

The longitudinal study included extensive data on participant personality traits, both self-reported and as reported by close friends, including bridesmaids and groomsmen in the study participants’ wedding parties.

Using information from previous follow-up studies and searches of death certificates, Jackson and colleagues were able to document dates of death for all but a few study participants. Peer ratings of personality were stronger predictors of mortality risk than were self-ratings of personality.

“There are two potential reasons for the superiority of peer ratings over self ratings,” Jackson said.

“First, friends may see something that you miss; they may have some insight that you do not. Second, because people have multiple friends, we are able to average the idiosyncrasies of any one friend to obtain a more reliable assessment of personality. With self reports, people may be biased or miss certain aspects of themselves and we are not able to counteract that because there is only one you, only one self-report.”

The study also revealed some gender differences in self-assessment: Men’s self-ratings of personality traits were somewhat useful in predicting their lifespans, whereas the self-reports of women had little predictive value.

Jackson suggests this gender difference in self-reporting may be a function of the era in which the study began, since societal expectations were different then and fewer women worked outside the home.

Young women seen as highly agreeable and emotionally stable may have increased odds for a long and happy life since their personalities were well suited for the role of a supportive and easy-going wife, which would have been the norm in the 1930s. It is likely that fewer gender differences would arise in more modern samples if we were able to wait 75 years to replicate the study, he said.

“This is one of the longest studies in psychology,” Jackson said. “It shows how important personality is in influencing significant life outcomes like health and demonstrates that information from friends and other observers can play a critical role in understanding a person’s health issues. For example, it suggests that family members and even physician ratings could be used to personalize medical treatments or identify who is at risk for certain health ailments.”

The study is co-authored by James J. Connolly, PhD, and Madeleine M. Leveille, PhD, of Connolly Consulting, Waterford, Connecticut; S. Mason Garrison of the Department of Psychology and Human Development, Vanderbilt University; and Seamus L. Connolly of College of Medicine, Touro University, California.

January 26, 2015 Posted by | Health News Items | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Wealth, power or lack thereof at heart of many mental disorders

From the 8 December 2014 EurkAlert!

UC Berkeley study finds self-worth key to diagnoses of psychopathologies

Donald Trump’s ego may be the size of his financial empire, but that doesn’t mean he’s the picture of mental health. The same can be said about the self-esteem of people who are living from paycheck to paycheck, or unemployed. New research from the University of California, Berkeley, underscores this mind-wallet connection.

UC Berkeley researchers have linked inflated or deflated feelings of self-worth to such afflictions as bipolar disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, anxiety and depression, providing yet more evidence that the widening gulf between rich and poor can be bad for your health.

The social self.

The social self. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

“We found that it is important to consider the motivation to pursue power, beliefs about how much power one has attained, pro-social and aggressive strategies for attaining power, and emotions related to attaining power,” said Sheri Johnson, a UC Berkeley psychologist and senior author of the study published in the journal Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice.

In a study of more than 600 young men and women conducted at UC Berkeley, researchers concluded that one’s perceived social status – or lack thereof – is at the heart of a wide range of mental illnesses. The findings make a strong case for assessing such traits as “ruthless ambition,” “discomfort with leadership” and “hubristic pride” to understand psychopathologies.

“People prone to depression or anxiety reported feeling little sense of pride in their accomplishments and little sense of power,” Johnson said. “In contrast, people at risk for mania tended to report high levels of pride and an emphasis on the pursuit of power despite interpersonal costs.”

Specifically, Johnson and fellow researchers Eliot Tang-Smith of the University of Miami and Stephen Chen of Wellesley College looked at how study participants fit into the “dominance behavioral system,” a construct in which humans and other mammals assess their place in the social hierarchy and respond accordingly to promote cooperation and avoid conflict and aggression. The concept is rooted in the evolutionary principle that dominant mammals gain easier access to resources for the sake of reproductive success and the survival of the species.

Studies have long established that feelings of powerlessness and helplessness weaken the immune system, making one more vulnerable to physical and mental ailments. Conversely, an inflated sense of power is among the behaviors associated with bipolar disorder and narcissistic personality disorder, which can be both personally and socially corrosive.

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

[News article] Early depression, anger may taint love life even 20 years later, study shows

 

Emotions show

Emotions show (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the 7 May 2014 article at ScienceDaily

Negative emotions people may have suffered as young adults can have a lasting grip on their couple relationships, well into middle age, research demonstrates. The study followed 341 people for 25 years, and found that negative emotions they may have suffered as young adults can have a lasting grip on their couple relationships, well into middle age. The fact that depression and anger experienced during the teen years clung to people, even through major life events such as child-rearing, marriages and careers was surprising, researchers note.

Read the entire article here

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May 8, 2014 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Online Blues—Is There A Relationship Between Social Media And Mental Well-Being?

Anxious

Unsettled

Disheartened

Irritable

Stressed

Frustrated

Drained

We all experience the above states from time to time as a result of our work environments. I know I did, which prompted a midlife career shift from clinical to nonclinical medicine.

So imagine my surprise to feel these emotions resurface during my year of playing hooky to write.

WHAT GIVES?

Recently, after an irritable self-pity party summoned Mr. Nasty Pants, my dreaded personality imp, I tugged at the stripes on his pants and said, “What the crap? I’ve spent my day glued to a laptop yet have little product to show for my efforts.”

Mr. Nasty Pants

My personality imp, Mr. Nasty Pants

My impish nemesis danced his evil two-step and laughed. “Oh, what’s de matter. Is wittle, baby Carrie’s plan not going her way?”

I sighed, closed my laptop, and assumed a supine position on the floor, hoping to soothe the twisted knot in my back. Then I accessed my left brain for analysis. What exactly was going on here?

  • Was it the writing process itself? My neurons fired a quick no in response.
  • Was it guilt over playing hooky from medicine? Eh, maybe a little, but not completely.
  • Was it the fact that my writing progress did not match my timeline? Bingo.

Okay, so if that was the source of my angst, what was the root?

At this point, Mr. Nasty Pants leaped onto my stomach and resumed his jig. “Twiddle dee, twiddle dum, you spend too much time online, my stupid chum.”

Hmm, my fashion-challenged demon might have a point.

ENTER PUBMED

Naturally, my first impulse was research. Are there studies to suggest too much online media is associated with psychological distress?

The concept makes sense; it doesn’t take millions of funding dollars to see that. Plus, I’ve read reams of pediatric literature discussing social media’s harmful effects on kids. But what about adults?

Show me the studies, man.

Here’s some of what I found:

  1. Media Multitasking is Associated with Symptoms of Depression and Social Anxiety: Given the title says it all, I see no reason to elaborate.
  2. Internet-Related Psychosis−A Sign of the Times: Well, now, that doesn’t sound good. In this study, too much social media involving ‘hyperpersonal’ relationships with strangers resulted in negative feelings. And delusions. (That’s the psychosis part, folks). For more information on this pleasant thought, see the aptly named article Can Facebook Drive You Crazy – Literally?
  3. Study: People Who Are Constantly Online Can Develop Mental Disorders (Abstract here): Um, yeah…again, pretty self-explanatory. But in addition to depression, this study also found sleep disorders and poor ergonomics (improper body positioning). One of the main culprits is that in an online world that’s 24/7, people never feel free. Furthermore, if they neglect their social media, feelings of guilt surface.

Kind of like when you don’t get to everyone’s blog posts, right?

NOW WHAT?

So what’s a bloke to do? Especially if said bloke uses social media not only for interaction but also as a marketing tool.

One needn’t be a genius to answer that. As Mr. Nasty Pants would say, jumping off each of our heads in gleeful spitefulness, “Turn off the endless black holes.”

But we know it’s not that easy. We want and need to maintain the interaction. But we also need to get work done and meet our personal deadlines. Finding that balance is the ever-elusive golden goose, is it not?

For my own self, I know I need to cut back. I only post once a week, and as such, perhaps I’ll only be able to visit other blogs once a week. And less Twitter. And Facebook. And forums. And…

When I have the answers, I’ll let you know…

What about you? Do you ever get the online blues? Are you able to cut back without guilt? 

All images from Microsoft Clip Art

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March 22, 2013 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , | 1 Comment

Frontiers publishes systematic review on the effects of yoga on major psychiatric disorders

From the 25 January 2013 EurkAlert

Yoga on our minds: The 5,000-year-old Indian practice may have positive effects on major psychiatric disorders, including depression, schizophrenia, ADHD and sleep complaints

Yoga has positive effects on mild depression and sleep complaints, even in the absence of drug treatments, and improves symptoms associated with schizophrenia and ADHD in patients on medication, according to a systematic review of the exercise on major clinical psychiatric disorders.

Published in the open-access journal, Frontiers in Psychiatry, on January 25th, 2013, the review of more than one hundred studies focusing on 16 high-quality controlled studies looked at the effects of yoga on depression, schizophrenia, ADHD, sleep complaints, eating disorders and cognition problems.

Yoga in popular culture

Yoga is a popular exercise and is practiced by 15.8 million adults in the United States alone, according to a survey by the Harris Interactive Service Bureau, and its holistic goal of promoting psychical and mental health is widely held in popular belief.

“However, yoga has become such a cultural phenomenon that it has become difficult for physicians and patients to differentiate legitimate claims from hype,” wrote the authors in their study. “Our goal was to examine whether the evidence matched the promise.”

Read the entire article here

January 25, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Psychology | , , , , | Leave a comment

Patients Tell How Magnetic Therapy Lifted Their Depression

TMS

TMS (Photo credit: jeanbaptisteparis)

 

From the 15 October 2012 article at Science Daily

 

Three patients who have suffered periodic major depression throughout their adult lives told an audience attending a Loyola Grand Rounds presentation how their lives have been transformed by a new magnetic therapy.

The treatment, called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), sends short pulses of magnetic fields to the brain.

“I feel better now than I have in a very long time,” said patient Jannel Jump. “I’m living a life now, rather than hiding from it.”

Another patient said TMS brought him out of a depression so severe he couldn’t get out of bed.

And a third patient said TMS “has helped me to have a glass-is-half-full outlook. I’m in a much better spot today.”

The Food and Drug Administration approved TMS in 2009 for patients who have major depression and have tried and failed at least one antidepressant. The FDA has approved one TMS system, NeuroStar®, made by Neuronetics, said Dr. Murali Rao, MD, DFAPA, FAPM, Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine….

 

 

October 16, 2012 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Air Pollution Linked To Learning And Memory Problems, Depression

Pollution-icon

Image via Wikipedia

From the 5 July 2011 Medical News Today item

 Long-term exposure to air pollution can lead to physical changes in the brain, as well as learning and memory problems and even depression, new research in mice suggests.

While other studies have shown the damaging effects of polluted air on the heart and lungs, this is one of the first long-term studies to show the negative impact on the brain, said Laura Fonken, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in neuroscience at Ohio State University.

“The results suggest prolonged exposure to polluted air can have visible, negative effects on the brain, which can lead to a variety of health problems,” Fonken said.

“This could have important and troubling implications for people who live and work in polluted urban areas around the world.”

The study appears online this week in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

A link to the abstract of the research article may be found here.
Access to the full text of the article requires a subscription.
Click here for suggestions on how to get this article for free or at low cost. 

 

July 6, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Public Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

Expert on Mental Illness Reveals Her Own Fight

From the NY Times 23 June 2011 article (includes video)

The patient wanted to know, and her therapist — Marsha M. Linehan of theUniversity of Washington, creator of a treatment used worldwide for severely suicidal people — had a ready answer. It was the one she always used to cut the question short, whether a patient asked it hopefully, accusingly or knowingly, having glimpsed the macramé of faded burns, cuts andwelts on Dr. Linehan’s arms:

“You mean, have I suffered?”

“No, Marsha,” the patient replied, in an encounter last spring. “I mean one of us. Like us. Because if you were, it would give all of us so much hope.”

“That did it,” said Dr. Linehan, 68, who told her story in public for the first time last week before an audience of friends, family and doctors at the Institute of Living, the Hartford clinic where she was first treated for extreme social withdrawal at age 17. ….

The article goes on to tell Dr. Linehan’s journey to “radical acceptance” on how she uses this concept in therapy.

 

July 6, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Health News Items | , , | Leave a comment

That Anxiety May Be In Your Gut, Not In Your Head

From a 17 May 2011 Medical News Today article

For the first time, researchers at McMaster University have conclusive evidence that bacteria residing in the gut influence brain chemistry and behaviour.

The findings are important because several common types of gastrointestinal disease, including irritable bowel syndrome, are frequently associated withanxiety or depression. In addition there has been speculation that some psychiatric disorders, such as late onset autism, may be associated with an abnormal bacterial content in the gut.

“The exciting results provide stimulus for further investigating a microbial component to the causation of behavioural illnesses,” said Stephen Collins, professor of medicine and associate dean research, Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine. Collins and Premysl Bercik, assistant professor of medicine, undertook the research in the Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute.

The research appears in the online edition of the journal Gastroenterology. ….

May 17, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Most ‘locked-in syndrome’ patients say they are happy

Most ‘locked-in syndrome’ patients say they are happy
A survey on self-assessed well-being in a cohort of chronic locked-in syndrome patients: happy majority, miserable minority

BMJ Open

From the February 25, 2011 Eureka news alert

Most “locked-in syndrome” patients say they are happy, and many of the factors reported by those who say they are unhappy can be improved, suggest the results of the largest survey of its kind, published in the launch issue of the new online journal BMJ Open.***

The findings are likely to challenge the perception that these patients can no longer enjoy quality of life and are candidates for euthanasia or assisted suicide, say the authors.

The research team quizzed 168 members of the French Association for Locked in Syndrome on their medical history and emotional state, and their views on end of life issues, using validated questionnaires.

Locked-in syndrome describes a condition in which a person is fully conscious, but cannot move or communicate, save through eye movements or blinking. The syndrome is caused by brain stem injury, and those affected can survive for decades.

In all, 91 people replied, giving a response rate of 54%. Around two thirds had a partner and lived at home, and most (70%) had religious beliefs.

There were no obvious differences between those who expressed happiness or unhappiness, but not unexpectedly, depression, suicidal thoughts, and a desire not to be resuscitated, should the need arise, or for euthanasia were more common among those who said they were unhappy.

Over half the respondents acknowledged severe restrictions on their ability to reintegrate back into the community and lead a normal life. Only one in five were able to partake in everyday activities they considered important.

Nevertheless, most (72%) said they were happy.

Only four of the 59 people (7%) who responded to the question asking whether they wanted to opt for euthanasia, said they wished to do so.

Among the 28% who said they were unhappy, difficulties getting around, restrictions on recreational/social activities, and coping with life events were the sources of their unhappiness.

But a shorter period in the syndrome – under a year – feeling anxious, and not recovering speech were also associated with unhappiness.

A greater focus on rehabilitation and more aggressive treatment of anxiety could therefore make a big difference, say the authors, who emphasise that it can take these patients a year or more to adapt to this huge change in their circumstances.

“Our data show that, whatever the physical devastation and mental distress of [these] patients during the acute phase of the condition, optimal life sustaining care and revalidation can have major long term benefit,” they write. “We suggest that patients recently struck by [the syndrome] should be informed that, given proper care, they have a considerable chance of regaining a happy life,” they add.

And they conclude: “In our view, shortening of life requests … are valid only when the patients have been give a chance to attain a steady state of subjective wellbeing.”

***BMJ Open ” is an online-only, open access general medical journal, dedicated to publishing medical research from all disciplines and therapeutic areas. The journal publishes all research study types, from study protocols to phase I trials to meta-analyses, including small or potentially low-impact studies. Publishing procedures are built around fully open peer review and continuous publication, publishing research online as soon as the article is ready.

 

BMJ Open aims to promote transparency in the publication process by publishing reviewer reports and previous versions of manuscripts as pre-publication histories. Authors are asked to pay article-processing charges on acceptance; the ability to pay does not influence editorial decisions.”

 

 

 

 

February 25, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

MSU-led study identifies risks for quitting college

MSU-led study identifies risks for quitting college – Study identifies risks for quitting college

A study led by Michigan State University psychologist Tim Pleskac identifies the risk factors for quitting college

EAST LANSING, Mich. — College students who consider dropping out are particularly sensitive to a handful of critical events including depression and loss of financial aid, according to a study led by Michigan State University scholars.

Surprisingly, however, other events such as a death in the family and students’ failure to get their intended major did not have a significant influence on their intention to drop out, said Tim Pleskac, MSU assistant professor of psychology and lead researcher on the project.

By identifying which risks prompt students to consider quitting, the research could help in the effort to combat college withdrawal, Pleskac said. More than 40 percent of students in the United States fail to get a bachelor’s degree within six years at the college where they began, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

“Prior to this work, little was known about what factors in a student’s everyday life prompt them to think about withdrawing from college,” Pleskac said. “We now have a method to measure what events are ‘shocking’ students and prompting them to think about quitting.”

“From an institutional perspective,” he added, “we are now better suited to think about what students we should target in terms of counseling or other assistance to help them work through these issues.”

The study, funded by the College Board, will appear in an upcoming issue of the research journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.***

In the study, Pleskac and colleagues developed a mathematical model that describes how students decide to quit. They used the model to analyze surveys from 1,158 freshmen at 10 U.S. colleges and universities. The surveys listed 21 critical events (or “shocks) and asked students whether these events had happened to them during the previous semester; the students were later asked whether they planned to withdraw.

The critical event with the most influence was depression. Students also were sensitive to being recruited by an employer or another institution; losing financial aid or experiencing a large increase in tuition or living costs; unexpected bad grade; and roommate conflicts.

They were less sensitive to critical events such as death in the family; significant injury; inability to enter their intended major; becoming addicted to a substance; coming into a large sum of money; losing a job needed to pay tuition; and becoming engaged or married.

Previous research had studied the role critical events play in employee turnover decisions. However, this was the first study to examine the phenomenon with college withdrawal, the researchers said.

“Traditionally the problems of employee turnover and college student attrition have been viewed from different lenses,” said Jessica Keeney, a project researcher and doctoral student in psychology at MSU. “But we see a lot of similarities in how employees and students decide to quit. A ‘shocking’ event, such as a clash with a co-worker or roommate, could be the final factor that pushes someone to leave.”

 

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February 17, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , | Leave a comment

Broader psychological impact of 2010 BP oil spill

Broader psychological impact of 2010 BP oil spill
Spill caused significant psychological impact even to nearby communities not directly touched by oil

From the February 15, 2011 Eurkea news alert

Baltimore, MD – Feb. 17, 2011. The explosion and fire on a BP-licensed oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010 had huge environmental and economic effects, with millions of gallons of oil leaking into the water for more than five months. It also had significant psychological impact on people living in coastal communities, even in those areas that did not have direct oil exposure, according to researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine who worked in collaboration with the University of Florida, Gainesville. Study results will be published in the February 17 online edition of Environmental Health Perspectives, a publication of the National Institutes of Health.

“We found that people living in communities with and without direct oil exposure had similar levels of psychological distress. People in both groups showed clinically significant levels of depression and anxiety. Also, where compared to people whose income was unaffected by the disaster, people with spill-related income loss in both groups had higher rates of depression, were less resilient and were more likely to cope using ‘behavioral disengagement,’ which involves just ‘giving up’ trying to deal the problem,” explains Lynn Grattan, Ph.D., associate professor of neurology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

The Maryland investigators, who traveled to the region soon after the spill, worked with Gulf Coast community leaders to get “real-time” assessments of the acute impacts of the spill. Their goal was to measure the acute psychological distress, coping resilience and perceived risk (concerns about the environmental impact and potential health consequences) of people living along the Gulf Coast. By doing this, they could help identify the potential mental health needs of the Northwest Gulf Coast communities. They examined the psychological impact in two fishing communities: Baldwin County, Alabama, and Franklin County, Florida. Baldwin County had direct oil exposure; Franklin County did not. The researchers defined indirect impact as a place where oil did not physically reach the coastline, but where anticipation of the oil spread significantly affected the community’s recreation, tourism and fishing industries.

“The findings of these University of Maryland researchers may have important implications for planning public health response in similar situations, suggesting that a broader approach may needed,” adds E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland and dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

The people in Florida, where oil had not reached shore, showed similar elevated levels of anxiety and depression as those living in Alabama who had direct oil exposure. Both groups had similar high levels of worry about the impact of the spill on the environment, health and seafood safety.

However, the levels of psychological distress were higher in both communities among people who had suffered income loss because of the spill. They had significantly more tension, anger, fatigue and overall mood disturbance than those whose income was not adversely affected. These people also had lower scores on resilience and may have fewer psychological resources to bounce back from adversity.

“From a public health standpoint, we need to understand that when there is a significant environmental crisis, we need to extend public health outreach and education, psychological monitoring and mental health services beyond the immediately affected areas, paying particular attention to people at risk for income loss. There are things that can be done to help people manage their stress and anxiety, and cope in these situations, so these interventions need to be available immediately in the communities where the impacted individuals live,” adds Dr. Grattan, who is also a neuropsychologist at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

The study on psychological impact built on a research program by University of Florida investigators who were already in the area to study the acute environmental and health impact of the spill. Through contacts with local community and religious leaders, trade associations, the University of Florida extension office and other agencies, the Maryland researchers recruited 71 residents in Florida and 23 from Alabama for the psychological assessment.

The team evaluated the participants through interviews and standardized assessments of psychological distress, resilience and coping. The team also looked at whether the participants had cognitive symptoms of neurotoxicity as a result of exposure to oil and chemical dispersants. These included assessments of attention, memory, and dexterity and speed (through a pegboard puzzle task). The researchers also asked the participants about what they were doing to cope with the situation, which could range from prayer and meditation to increased use of alcohol and other drugs.

Related news item

Psychological effects of BP oil spill go beyond residents of impacted shorelines

February 17, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A deficiency of dietary omega-3 may explain depressive behaviors

Fish Oil May Prevent Brain Damage After Stroke

A deficiency of dietary omega-3 may explain depressive behaviors

Neuroscience of nutrition

 

How maternal essential fatty acid deficiency impact on its progeny is poorly understood. Dietary insufficiency in omega-3 fatty acid has been implicated in many disorders. Researchers from Inserm and INRA and their collaborators in Spain collaboration, have studied mice fed on a diet low in omega-3 fatty acid. They discovered that reduced levels of omega-3 had deleterious consequences on synaptic functions and emotional behaviours. Details of this work are available in the online version of the journal Nature neuroscience, which can be accessed at:http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nn.2736

In industrialized nations, diets have been impoverished in essential fatty acids since the beginning of the 20th century. The dietary ratio between omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid omega-3 increased continuously over the course of the 20th century. These fatty acids are “essential” lipids because the body cannot synthesize them from new. They must therefore be provided through food and their dietary balance is essential to maintain optimal brain functions.

Olivier Manzoni (Head of Research Inserm Unit 862, “Neurocentre Magendie”, in Bordeaux and Unit 901 “Institut de Neurobiologie de la Méditerranée” in Marseille), and Sophie Layé (Head of Research at INRA Unit 1286, “Nutrition et Neurobiologie Intégrative” in Bordeaux) and their co-workers hypothesized that chronic malnutrition during intra-uterine development, may later influence synaptic activity involved in emotional behaviour (e.g. depression, anxiety) in adulthood.

To verify their hypotheses, the researchers studied mice fed a life-long diet imbalanced in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They found that omega-3 deficiency disturbed neuronal communication specifically. The researchers observed that only the cannabinoid receptors, which play a strategic role in neurotransmission, suffer a complete loss of function. This neuronal dysfunction was accompanied by depressive behaviours among the malnourished mice.

Among omega-3 deficient mice, the usual effects produced by cannabinoid receptor activation, on both the synaptic and behavioural levels, no longer appear. Thus, the CB1R receptors lose their synaptic activity and the antioxidant effect of the cannabinoids disappears.

Consequently, the researchers discovered that among mice subjected to an omega-3 deficient dietary regime, synaptic plasticity, which is dependent on the CB1R cannabinoid receptors, is disturbed in at least two structures involved with reward, motivation and emotional regulation: the prefrontal cortex and the nucleus accumbens. These parts of the brain contain a large number of CB1R cannabinoid receptors and have important functional connections with each other.

“Our results can now corroborate clinical and epidemiological studies which have revealed associations between an omega-3/omega-6 imbalance and mood disorders“, explain Olivier Manzoni and Sophie Layé. “To determine if the omega-3 deficiency is responsible for these neuropsychiatric disorders additional studies are, of course, required”.

In conclusion, the authors estimate that their results provide the first biological components of an explanation for the observed correlation between omega-3 poor diets, which are very widespread in the industrialized world, and mood disorders such as depression.

 


 

 


February 1, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

Ancient body clock keeps all life on time: studies

Ancient body clock keeps all life on time: studies

24 hour rhythms may be protein, not be DNA based

From the January 26, 2011 Health Day news item by Kay Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) – Scientists have identified the mechanism that controls the internal 24-hour clock of all forms of life — a finding they say should shed light on some shift work-related problems like diabetes, depression and cancer.

Researchers from Britain’s Cambridge and Edinburgh universities, whose work was published in the journal Nature on Wednesday**, said their findings provide important insight into health-related problems linked to people such as nurses, pilots and other shift workers, whose body clocks are disrupted.

The studies also suggest that the 24-hour circadian clock found in human cells is the same as that found in algae, and dates back millions of years to early life on earth, they said.

In the first study, Cambridge scientists found for the first time that red blood cells have a 24-hour rhythm.

This is significant, they explained, because circadian rhythms have always been assumed to be linked to DNA and gene activity — but, unlike most other cells in the body, red blood cells do not have DNA.

“The implications of this for health are manifold. We already know that disrupted clocks…are associated with metabolic disorders such as diabetes, mental health problems and even cancer,” said Akhilesh Reddy, who led the study. “By furthering our knowledge of how the 24-hour clock in cells works, we hope that the links…will be made clearer.”

Many scientific studies have found links between working irregular hours and a greater likelihood of developing diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Sleep disruption is also associated with mental illnesses such as depression and bipolar disorder.

A team of scientists said last year they had used experimental drugs being developed by Pfizer to reset body clocks of mice in a lab — opening up the possibility that drugs might in future be developed to restore rhythms to people whose body clocks have been messed up.

In these new studies, Reddy’s team incubated purified red blood cells from healthy volunteers in the dark and at body temperature and sampled them regularly over several days.

They then examined the levels of certain biochemical markers — proteins called peroxiredoxins that are found in virtually all known organisms and are produced in high levels in blood. The results showed that there was a modification in these proteins in a pattern that went back and forth over 24 hours.

A further study found a similar 24-hour cycle in marine algae — suggesting that internal body clocks have always been important, even for ancient forms of life.

The researchers found those rhythms by sampling the peroxiredoxins in algae at regular intervals over several days. When the algae were kept in darkness, their DNA was no longer active, but the algae kept their circadian clocks ticking even without active genes.

Scientists had previously thought the circadian clock was driven by gene activity, but both the algae and the red blood cells kept time without it.

Andrew Millar of Edinburgh University, who led the second study, said it showed that body clocks are ancient mechanisms that have been around through a billion years of evolution.

“They must be far more important and sophisticated than we previously realized,” he said. He added that more research was now needed to determine how and why these clocks developed in people, and what role they play in controlling our bodies.

(Editing by Paul Casciato)

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January 28, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Surviving the Holiday Blues

From the December 17 Health Day news item by Randy Dotinga

FRIDAY, Dec. 17 (HealthDay News) Christmas and other winter holidays are supposed to be a happy time of year, which makes it all the more stressful when they are anything but joyous.

This is the time of the year when people are especially vulnerable to depression, Dr. Angelos Halaris, a psychiatrist with the Loyola University Health System, said in a university news release. Shopping and entertaining can be stressful, while reflecting on lost loved ones can renew feelings of grief. Add to that the turmoil caused by the poor economy. All these things can help depression gain a foothold in certain individuals.

What to do? If you’re feeling extremely depressed and unable to function, consult a mental health professional immediately. Danger signs include two or more weeks of mood problems, crying jags, changes in appetite and energy levels, overwhelming shame or guilt, loss of interest in daily activities, difficulty concentrating and grim thoughts about death or suicide.

If you feel like your symptoms aren’t severe but still make you miserable, Halaris has these suggestions:

“Exercise works. Having replenishing relationships matter. Doing things that you find rewarding and fulfilling is helpful, as is attending religious services,” Halaris said in the news release. “Getting plenty of sleep and taking care of yourself works. We all have our limits, and learning to live within those limits is important.”

Be aware that depression, exhaustion and lack of interest in life could be a sign of seasonal affective disorder, caused by the lack of sunlight. One frequent symptom is a desire for sweets.

“The most common type of this mood disorder occurs during the winter months,” Halaris said. “SAD is thought to be related to a chemical imbalance in the brain, brought on by lack of light due to winters shorter days and typically overcast skies.”

What can you do about SAD? “If at all possible, get outside during winter, even if it is overcast,” Halaris said. “Expose your eyes to natural light for one hour each day. At home, open the drapes and blinds to let in natural light. SAD can be effectively treated with light therapy, antidepressant medication and/or psychotherapy.”

If you feel the blues because you’re lost in grief, Loyola bereavement counselor Nancy Kiel suggests that it’s important to acknowledge your loss.

“Start a new tradition to honor and remember your loved one,” Kiel said. “Light a special candle or at dinner, have everyone share a favorite memory or all can take part in a loved ones favorite holiday activity. Do something that would make your loved one smile.”

She also suggests that you avoid shopping at the mall — go online instead — and focus on being around people who are caring and supportive.

SOURCE: Loyola University Health System, press release, Dec. 10, 2010.

 

December 21, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Violent Video Games Don’t Predict Aggressive Behavior

Violent Video Games Don’t Predict Aggressive Behavior
New study takes issue with current thinking, points to depression instead

HealthDay news image

From the December 17 2010 Health Day News item by Robert Preidt

FRIDAY, Dec. 17 (HealthDay News) — Exposure to violent video games or television shows is not a strong predictor of aggression or violence among youth, says a new study from Texas A&M International University.

Instead, it found that depression influences children and teens levels of aggression and violence.

The study’s dismissal of violent video games as a risk factor in aggression contrasts to some other recent findings, including an analysis of 130 studies on video games and violence released in March by researchers at Iowa State University and colleagues. That analysis concluded the evidence strongly suggests that playing violent video games increases aggressive thoughts and behaviors and reduces empathy….

After the researchers adjusted for such variables as exposure to domestic violence, bullying and depressive symptoms, they found exposure to violence in video games or television was not a strong predictor of aggressive behavior or rule-breaking, concluded investigator Dr. Christopher Ferguson, of Texas A&M International University.

However, depressive symptoms were a strong predictor for aggression and rule breaking and their influence was particularly strong in young people with preexisting antisocial personality disorders.

“Depressive symptoms stand out as particularly strong predictors of youth violence and aggression, and therefore current levels of depression may be a key variable of interest in the prevention of serious aggression in youth. The current study finds no evidence to support a long-term relationship between video game violence use and subsequent aggression. Even though the debate over violent video games and youth violence will continue, it must do so with restraint,” Ferguson wrote.

The study was published online in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.



December 21, 2010 Posted by | Health News Items, Public Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pain and depression: Is there a link?

From the Mayo Clinic article by Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, M.D.

Pain and depression are closely related. Depression can cause pain — and pain can cause depression. Sometimes pain and depression create a vicious cycle in which pain worsens symptoms of depression, and then the resulting depression worsens feelings of pain.

In many people, depression causes unexplained physical symptoms such as back pain or headaches. Sometimes this kind of pain is the first or the only sign of depression.

Pain and the problems it causes can wear you down over time, and may begin to affect your mood. Chronic pain causes a number of problems that can lead to depression, such as trouble sleeping and stress. Disabling pain can cause low self-esteem due to work, legal or financial issues. Depression doesn’t just occur with pain resulting from an injury. It’s also common in people who have pain linked to a health condition such as diabetes or migraines.

To get symptoms of pain and depression under control, you may need separate treatment for each condition. However, some treatments may help with both.

Because of shared chemical messengers in the brain, antidepressant medications can relieve both pain and depression.

Psychological counseling (psychotherapy) can be effective in treating both conditions.

Stress-reduction techniques, meditation, staying active, journaling and other strategies also may help.

Treatment for co-occurring pain and depression may be most effective when it involves a combination of treatments.

If you have pain and depression, get help before your symptoms worsen. You don’t have to be miserable. Getting the right treatment can help you start enjoying life again.

Some related links

Pain (MedlinePlus topic) has links to overviews, latest news, alternative therapies, health check tools, videos, research, and more

Depression (MedlinePlus topic) has links to overviews, latest news, treatments, related issues, and more

Depression (eMedicine Health) includes information on types of depression, causes, treatments, getting help, and much more
American Chronic Pain Association includes a consumer guide to pain medications and treatments, pain management tools

December 14, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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