Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Research shows Native American mascots and logos hurt all ethnic groups

Research shows Native American mascots and logos hurt all ethnic groups

From the 12 March Medical Press post

A University at Buffalo social psychologist who specializes in the study of prejudice and stigma says that American Indian nicknames and mascots are not neutral symbols, and that their continued use by schools, professional sports teams and other organizations has negative consequences for everyone, not just Native Americans.

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March 16, 2015 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[ Press release] Does illness make people lonely?

Does illness make people lonely? 

From the 11 February 2015 Concordia University press release

Concordia University study has discovered a new link between chronic disease and social isolation

Montreal, February 11, 2015 — Difficult circumstances often bring people closer together. But a new Concordia study published in Health Psychology has found that the onset of chronic illness often results in sufferers feeling lonelier — even for those who have had a steady partner for 50 years or more.

Researchers at the Personality, Aging, and Health Lab at Concordia took on the study because they found that, while plenty of research examined the effect of loneliness on illness, there was a lack of empirical evidence about whether or not illness contributes to loneliness.

“We were surprised by the amount of literature that examined whether people who are lonely are more likely to get sick,” says Meaghan Barlow, the study’s first author. “Yet none of them asked the opposite question: ‘Do sick people get lonely?’”

The new study reveals that they often do when they advance in age, and that it happens regardless of being in a long-term relationship when faced with a bleak diagnosis. “The quality of our social ties plays a role when it comes to coping with the effects of serious disease in later life. And just having a partner around may not be enough,” Barlow says.

“Putting a halt to socializing only contributes to a downward spiral,” Barlow says. “Dealing with a chronic illness shouldn’t prevent you from still trying to get out there if you can.”

Naturally, the challenge for society is to help an aging population find motivation to stay engaged, which means recognizing that the psychological side effects of disease can be offset with an increase in inspiring activity.

“The fact that loneliness can lead to further complications means that measures can be taken to prevent the effects from looping back around,” Barlow says. “Finding different ways to connect with other people also means you are less likely to blame yourself for being sick, and you can’t count on a partner to fill that gap.”

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February 15, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Stigmas, once evolutionarily sound, are now bad health strategies

Cannot but think of the New Testament headings, especially of lepers.

Stigmas, once evolutionarily sound, are now bad health strategies.

Stigmatization may have once served to protect early humans from infectious diseases, but that strategy may do more harm than good for modern humans, according to Penn State researchers.

“The things that made stigmas a more functional strategy thousands of years ago rarely exist,” said Rachel Smith, associate professor of communication arts and sciences and human development and family studies. “Now, it won’t promote positive health behavior and, in many cases, it could actually make the situation worse.”

Stigmatizing and ostracizing members stricken with infectious diseases may have helped groups of early humans survive, said Smith, who worked with David Hughes, assistant professor of entomology and biology. Infectious agents thrive by spreading through populations, according to Smith and Hughes, who published an essay in the current issue of Communication Studies.

For early humans, a person who was stigmatized by the group typically suffered a quick death, often from a lack of food or from falling prey to a predator. Groups did not mix on a regular basis, so another group was unlikely to adopt an ostracized person. Infectious disease stigmas may have evolved as a social defense for group-living species, and had adaptive functions when early humans had these interaction patterns.

However, modern society is much larger, more mobile and safer from predators, eliminating the effectiveness of this strategy, according to Smith.

“In modern times, we mix more regularly, travel more widely, and also there are so many people now,” Smith said. “These modern interaction patterns make stigmatization unproductive and often create more problems.”

Hughes studies disease in another successful society, the ants, which have strong stigma and ostracism strategies that serve group interests at the cost to individuals.

“Ants are often held up as paragons of society and efficiency but we certainly do not want to emulate how they treat their sick members, which can be brutal,” said Hughes.

Stigmatization could actually make infectious disease management worse. The threat of ostracization may make people less likely to seek out medical treatment. If people refuse to seek treatment and go about their daily routines, they may cause the disease to spread farther and faster, according to the researchers, who are both investigators in the Center of Infectious Disease Dynamics in Penn State Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences.

Stigmatization may harm a person’s ability to survive a disease. Ostracization may increase stress, lessening the body’s ability to fight off diseases and infections.

“People are very sensitive to rejection and humans worry about being ostracized,” said Smith. “These worries and experiences with rejection can cause problematic levels of stress and, unfortunately, stress can compromise the immune system’s ability to fight off an infection, accelerating disease progression.”

Once applied, a stigma is difficult to remove, even when there are obvious signs that the person was never infected or is cured. Health communicators should make sure they intentionally monitor if their public communication or intervention materials create or bolster stigmas before using them, Smith said.

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March 31, 2014 Posted by | health care, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The ironic (and surprising) effects of weight stigma

The ironic (and surprising) effects of weight stigma.

From the 8 January 2014 Science Daily article

If you’re one of the millions of people who count losing weight among their top New Year’s resolutions, you might want to pay careful attention to some new findings by UC Santa Barbara psychology professor Brenda Major.

It turns out that the weight-stigmatizing messages presented by the media — the ones that characterize overweight individuals as lazy, weak-willed, self-indulgent and contributing to rising health care costs — may be tipping the scales in the wrong direction. Designed to encourage weight loss, they may actually have the opposite effect.

According to Major’s research, which appears in the current online issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, when women who perceive themselves as overweight are exposed to weight-stigmatizing news articles, they are less able to control their eating afterward than are women who don’t perceive themselves that way.

 

Read the entire article here

 

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January 22, 2014 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , | Leave a comment

The stigma experienced by patients with psychiatric disorders

From the 24 July 2013 post at KevinMD.com

“It don’t matter how many men you shot in Memphis,” the saying goes, “if your name is Sierra or Sequoia, you can’t sing the blues”. In a sense, this adage reworks an older, more bitter joke from the civil rights era, the one that begins “some of my best friends are …” and ends with “but you wouldn’t want your sister to marry one.” Both statements embody stigma, the social effects of being someone who violates others’ expectations or fails to fit into an assigned social niche.

Stigma attached to illness has a long, ignoble history. The most classic example, the devalued social role of lepers, illustrates its classic elements: fear and avoidance. Deformities elicit basic revulsion in many, while infections also trigger fear of contagion. Historically, some of the positive stigma that doctors enjoy reflects our ability to transcend our fears and provide care to those whom society would consign to the desert beyond the pale of a socially integrated life.

In modern times, patients with psychiatric disorders (including addictions) experience stigma in painful and damaging ways. The American Journal of Public Health devoted its entire May edition to the consequences of the stigma that plagues those with mental illness and the disordered behaviors that it often causes. The bottom line of the Journal’s complex assessment across many articles: stigma kilIs. According to Hautzenbuehler et al, increased health care costs, poorer health outcomes and, most tellingly, premature death are all consequences of having a psychiatric disorder of any kind. While we all intuitively “get” why people with schizophrenia or addictions might face stigma based on their disruptive, non conforming behavior and the frustration caused by the intractability of their conditions, the negative consequences of having a psychiatric disorder also extend to otherwise normal appearing people with depression and anxiety, and, most tragically, to children.

Read the entire post here

 

July 25, 2013 Posted by | health care | , , , , | 3 Comments

Whether We Like Someone Affects How Our Brain Processes Movement

 

From the 5 October 2012 article at Science Daily

Hate the Lakers? Do the Celtics make you want to hurl? Whether you like someone can affect how your brain processes their actions, according to new research from the Brain and Creativity Institute at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Most of the time, watching someone else move causes a “mirroring” effect — that is, the parts of our brains responsible for motor skills are activated by watching someone else in action.

But a study by USC researchers appearing October 5 in PLOS ONEshows that whether you like the person you’re watching can actually have an effect on brain activity related to motor actions and lead to “differential processing” — for example, thinking the person you dislike is moving more slowly than they actually are…

Past research has shown that race or physical similarity can influence brain processes, and we tend to have more empathy for people who look more like us.

In this study, the researchers controlled for race, age and gender, but they introduced a backstory that primed participants to dislike some of the people they were observing: Half were presented as neo-Nazis, and half were presented as likable and open-minded. All study participants recruited for the study were Jewish males.

The researchers found that when people viewed someone they disliked, a part of their brain that was otherwise activated in “mirroring” — the right ventral premotor cortex — had a different pattern of activity for the disliked individuals as compared to the liked individuals…

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“These findings lend important support for the notion that social factors influence our perceptual processing.”

 

 

October 10, 2012 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Systematic review of beliefs, behaviours and influencing factors associated with disclosure of a mental health problem in the workplace

From the 19 February Full Text Report summary

Background
Stigma and discrimination present an important barrier to finding and keeping work for individuals with a mental health problem. This paper reviews evidence on: 1) employment-related disclosure beliefs and behaviours of people with a mental health problem; 2) factors associated with the disclosure of a mental health problem in the employment setting; 3) whether employers are less likely to hire applicants who disclose a mental health problem; and 4) factors influencing employers’ hiring beliefs and behaviours towards job applicants with a mental health problem….

February 20, 2012 Posted by | Workplace Health | , , , | Leave a comment

   

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