A new Swedish study rebukes the assertion that the benefit of antidepressant drugs, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are a result of the placebo effect.
The theory had gained considerable attention in international media, including Newsweek and the CBS broadcast 60 minutes.
According to the challenged hypothesis, the fact that many people medicating with antidepressants regard themselves as improved was because they expected to be improved by the medication — even if the medicine lacks actual effect.
However, if SSRIs had indeed acted merely by means of a placebo effect, these drugs should not outperform actual placebo in double blind clinical trials. These trials or experiments, measure depression relief when patients have been treated with an SSRI or with a placebo pill. The study design means that neither the physician nor the patient knows which treatment the patient has been given until the study is over.
To explain why antidepressants in such trials nevertheless often cause greater symptom relief than placebo, it has been suggested that SSRI-induced side effects influence a patient’s perception. That is, the side-effects inform a person that they have not been given placebo, thereby enhancing his or her belief of having been given an effective treatment.
The beneficial effect of SSRIs that has been shown in many studies should thus, according to this theory, not be due to the fact that these drugs exert a specific biochemical antidepressant action in the brain, but that the side effects of the drugs enhance a psychological placebo effect.
This theory has been widely disseminated despite the fact that there has never been any robust scientific support for it.
In order to examine the “placebo breaking the blind” theory, a research group at the Sahlgrenska Academy in Gothenburg, Sweden, analyzed data from the clinical trials that were once undertaken to establish the antidepressant efficacy of two of the most commonly used SSRIs, paroxetine and citalopram.
The analysis, which comprised a total of 3,344 patients, showed that the two studied drugs are clearly superior to placebo with respect to antidepressant efficacy also in patients who have not experienced any side effects.
The researchers conclude that this study, as well as other recent reports from the same group, provides strong support for the assumption that SSRIs exert a specific antidepressant effect.
The finding shows that the benefit of antidepressants is real, and not a function of a placebo interpretation.
Investigators warn that the frequent questioning of these drugs in media is unjustified and may make depressed patients refrain from effective treatment.
Source: University of Gothenburg
A new UK study finds that children and young people under-25 who become victims of cyberbullying are more than twice as likely to enact self-harm and attempt suicide than non-victims.
An interesting aspect of cyberbullying is that the perpetrator, or the person committing cyberbullying, is also more likely to experience suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
The collaborative research, led by investigators at the University of Birmingham, included the review of more than 150,000 children and young people across 30 countries, over a 21-year period.
Their findings, published on open access in PLOS One, highlighted the significant impact that cyberbullying involvement (as bullies and victims) can have on children and young people.
The researchers say it shows an urgent need for effective prevention and intervention in bullying strategies.
Professor Paul Montgomery, University of Birmingham explains:
Prevention of cyberbullying should be included in school anti-bullying policies. Guidelines for broader concepts such as digital citizenship, online peer support for victims, and how an electronic bystander might appropriately intervene, are necessary. Moreover, specific interventions such as how to contact mobile phone companies and Internet service providers to block, educate, or identify users should be created.
‘Suicide prevention and intervention is essential within any comprehensive anti-bullying program and should incorporate a whole-school approach to include awareness raising and training for staff and pupils.’
A number of key recommendations have been made:
- Cyberbullying involvement should be considered by policymakers who implement bullying prevention (in addition to traditional bullying) and safe Internet use programs;
- Clinicians working with children and young people and assessing mental health issues should routinely ask about experiences of cyberbullying;
- The impact of cyberbullying should be included in the training of child and adolescent mental health professionals;
- Children and young people involved in cyberbullying should be screened for common mental disorders and self-harm;
- School, family, and community programs that promote appropriate use of technology are important;
- Prevention of cyberbullying should be included in school anti-bullying policies, alongside broader concepts such as digital citizenship, online peer support for victims, how an electronic bystander might appropriately intervene; and more specific interventions such as how to contact mobile phone companies and Internet service providers to block, educate, or identify users;
- Suicide prevention and intervention is essential within any comprehensive anti-bullying program and should incorporate a whole-school approach to include awareness raising and training for staff and pupils.
The study also found a strong link between being a cyber-victim and a perpetrator. This duality was found to particularly put males at higher risk of depression and suicidal behaviors.
The researchers highlighted that these vulnerabilities should be recognized at school so that cyberbullying behaviors would be seen as an opportunity to support vulnerable young people, rather than for discipline.
It was recommended that anti-bullying programs and protocols should address the needs of both victims and perpetrators, as possible school exclusion might contribute to an individual’s sense of isolation and lead to feelings of hopelessness, often associated with suicidal behaviors in adolescents.
It was also found that students who were cyber-victimized were less likely to report and seek help than those victimized by more traditional means, thus highlighting the importance for staff in schools to encourage ‘help-seeking’ in relation to cyberbullying.
Adults use eye contact to obtain social cues to help determine the emotions of others. We then use this knowledge to make decisions on how we react to the other person. However, eye contact is often not established when an adult is anxious.
While the adult responses to eye contact are well established, little is known about eye gazing patterns in children. Accordingly, a new study investigated how children use eye contact and the consequences which result from the behavior.
University of California, Riverside researchers discovered that anxious children tend to avoid making eye contact, and this has consequences for how they experience fear.
The shorter and less frequently they look at the eyes of others, the more likely they are to be afraid of them, even when there may be no reason to be, explains lead author Kalina Michalska, an assistant professor of psychology.
Her study, “Anxiety Symptoms and Children’s Eye Gaze During Fear Learning,” appears in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.
“Looking at someone’s eyes helps us understand whether a person is feeling sad, angry, fearful, or surprised. As adults, we then make decisions about how to respond and what to do next. But, we know much less about eye patterns in children – so, understanding those patterns can help us learn more about the development of social learning,” Michalska said.
Researchers addressed three main questions:
1. Do children spend more time looking at the eyes of a face that’s paired with something threatening, but not expressing an emotion at that moment?
2. Would children who were more anxious avoid looking at the eye region, similar to what has previously been observed in adults?
3. Would avoiding eye contact affect how afraid children were of the face they saw?
To examine these questions, Michalska and the team of researchers showed 82 children, 9 to 13 years old, images of two women’s faces on a computer screen.
The computer was equipped with an eye tracking device that allowed them to measure where on the screen children were looking, and for how long. The participants were originally shown each of the two women a total of four times.
Next, one of the images was paired with a loud scream and a fearful expression, and the other one was not. At the end, children saw both faces again without any sound or scream.
“The question we were interested in was whether children would spend more time looking at the eyes of a face that was paired with a scream than the face that was not paired with a scream, during that second phase,” Michalska said.
“We examined participants’ eye contact when the face was not expressing any emotions, to determine if children make more eye contact with someone who is associated with something bad or threatening, even when they are not expressing fear at that moment.
We also looked at whether children’s anxiety scores were related to how long children made eye contact.”
The researchers believe three major conclusions can be drawn from the study:
1. All children spent more time looking at the eyes of a face that was paired with the loud scream than the face that was not paired with the scream, suggesting they pay attention to potential threats even in the absence of outward cues.
2. Children who were more anxious avoided eye contact during all three phases of the experiment, for both kinds of faces. This had consequences for how afraid they were of the faces.
3. The more children avoided eye contact, the more afraid they were of the faces.
The findings suggest that children spend more time looking at the eyes of a face when previously paired with something frightening. Investigators believe this means a child will pay more attention to potentially threatening information as a way to learn more about the situation and plan what to do next.
However, anxious children tend to avoid making eye contact, which leads to greater fear experience.
Even though avoiding eye contact may reduce anxiety in the short term, researchers believe that over time, children may be missing out on important social information. This in turn may lead a child to be fearful of a person, even though the person is no longer threatening or scary.
Older adults use social media so that they can keep track of family and friends. Some continue to resist the communication channel, however, because they worried that unsolicited viewers will see their content.
In a new study, Penn State researchers discovered older adults use sites such as Facebook to keep in touch with family and friends, monitor other’s updates, and as a means to share photos.
Nevertheless, some seniors listed privacy, as well as the triviality of some posts, as reasons they stay away from the site.
“The biggest concern is privacy and it’s not about revealing too much, it’s that they assume that too many random people out there can get their hands on their information,” said S. Shyam Sundar, distinguished professor of communications and co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory, Penn State.
“Control is really what privacy is all about. It’s about the degree to which you feel that you have control over how your information is shared or circulated.”
The researchers believe Facebook developers should focus on privacy settings to tap into the senior market. The study is available online and will appear in a forthcoming issue of Telematics and Informatics.
“Clear privacy control tools are needed to promote older adults’ Facebook use,” said Eun Hwa Jung, assistant professor of communications and new media, National University of Singapore.
“In particular, we think that privacy settings and alerts need to be highly visible, especially when they [older adults] are sharing information.”
While older adults are leery about who is viewing their posts, they enjoy using the site to look at pictures and read posts from friends and family, according to the researchers.
“I am more of a Facebook voyeur, I just look to see what my friends are putting out there,” one participant told the researchers.
“I haven’t put anything on there in years. I don’t need to say, ‘I’m having a great lunch!’ and things like that, I don’t understand that kind of communication.”
According to Sundar, another issue that keeps seniors from using social media is their concern over the triviality of the conversation found on a site such as Facebook.
“They believe that people reporting on the mundane and unremarkable things that they did — brushing their teeth, or what they had for lunch — is not worth talking about,” said Sundar.
“That’s an issue, especially for this generation.”
Nevertheless, researchers believe older users could be a significant resource to help drive the growth of Facebook and other social media sites.
“The 55-plus folks were slow initially in adopting social media, but now they are one of the largest growing sectors for social media adoption,” explains Sundar.
The researchers suggest that Facebook is helping to serve as a communications bridge between the generations and that young people are prompting their older family members to join the site.
“In particular, unlike younger people, most older adults were encouraged by younger family members to join Facebook so that they could communicate,” said Jung.
“This implies that older adults’ interaction via social networking sites can contribute to effective intergenerational communication.”
In the study, researchers recruited 46 participants who were between 65 and 95 years old to take part in in-depth interviews. The group included 17 male participants and 29 female participants, all of whom had a college degree. The participants also said they used a computer in their daily lives.
A total of 20 Facebook users and 26 non-users participated in the study.
If participants had a Facebook account, researchers asked them about their experience and their motivations for joining. Participants who did not use Facebook were asked why they did not join.
A limitation of the study was the fact that all participants lived in a retirement home. As such, future research efforts should review the perception and use of Facebook by seniors who live alone.
Source: Penn State
A first of its kind research approach suggests depression can lead to hindsight bias, a distorted view of the past.
It is well known that depression influences a person to cast a sad perception of the present and the future. However, the new research is the first to show that depression can also blemish people’s memories of the past.
That is, rather than glorifying the good old days, people with depression project their generally bleak outlook on to past events.
The research by psychologists at Germany’s Heinrich Heine Universität Düsseldorf and at the UK’s University of Portsmouth appears in the journal Clinical Psychological Science.
Dr. Hartmut Blank, in the University of Portsmouth’s Department of Psychology, is one of the authors.
He said, “Depression is not only associated with a negative view of the world, the self and the future, but we now know with a negative view of the past.”
Hindsight bias includes three core elements:
- exaggerated perceptions of foreseeability — we think we knew all along how events would turn out;
- inevitability — something ‘had’ to happen, and;
- memory bias — misremembering what we once thought when we know the outcome of something.
Hindsight bias has been studied in various settings, including sports events, political elections, medical diagnoses, or bankers’ investment strategies. Until now, it hasn’t been used to study depression.
Blank said, “Everyone is susceptible to hindsight bias, but it takes on a very specific form in depression. While non-depressed people tend to show hindsight bias for positive events but not negative events, people with depression show the reverse pattern.
“Making things worse, depressed people also see negative event outcomes as both foreseeable and inevitable — a toxic combination, reinforcing feelings of helplessness and lack of control that already characterize the experience of people with depression.
“Everyone experiences disappointment and regret from time to time and doing so helps us adapt and grow and to make better decisions. But people with depression struggle to control negative feelings and hindsight bias appears to set up a cycle of misery.
“We have shown hindsight bias in people who are depressed is a further burden on their shoulders, ‘helping’ to sustain the condition in terms of learning the wrong lessons from the past.”
The researchers tested over 100 university students, about half of whom suffered from mild to severe depression.
They were asked to imagine themselves in a variety of everyday scenarios with positive or negative outcomes (from different domains of everyday life, e.g. work, performance, family, leisure, social, romantic).
For each scenario, the researchers then collected measures of hindsight bias (foreseeability, inevitability, and distorted memory for initial expectations).
The results showed that with increasing severity of depression, a specific hindsight bias pattern emerged — exaggerated foreseeability and inevitability of negative (but not positive) event outcomes, as well as a tendency to misremember initial expectations in line with negative outcomes.
Characteristically, this “depressive hindsight bias” was strongly related to clinical measures of depressive thinking, suggesting that it is part of a general negative worldview in depression.
According to Blank, “This is only a first study to explore the crucial role of hindsight bias in depression; more work needs to be done in different experimental and real-life settings, and also using clinical samples, to further examine and establish the link between hindsight bias and depression.”
Competitive situations can lead to a strong display of feelings, including the chance of heated arguments and disputes. However, as emotions get hot, not everyone reacts in the same way.
A new study finds that men respond differently to women, and the reactions of individuals are dissimilar to those of groups of persons.
In the research, psychologists at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) examined the correlations between competitiveness, aggression and hormones.
Participants in a laboratory study were required to master competitive tasks over 10 rounds. They competed against each other either as individuals or as teams, and one side lost the competition while the other side won.
Participants were allowed to give full rein to their aggressive impulses during the competition.
For this purpose, at the beginning of each round, they were asked to specify how loud an unpleasant noise would be that the opponent would be required to listen to through headphones if they lost the round.
Saliva samples were collected from the participants prior to and after the competition in order to document changes to hormone levels.
Dr. Oliver Schultheiss and Dr. Jonathan Oxford found that men tended to behave more aggressively than women, that losers were more aggressive than winners, and that teams were more aggressive than individuals.
Furthermore, the researchers also detected a correlation between aggression and levels of the stress hormone cortisol; the more aggressively a person behaved, the lower their cortisol level was.
The study appears in the journal PLOS ONE.
“Our results show that the usual suspects are the ones who become aggressive — namely participants who are male and frustrated.
“But our analysis also revealed that it was easier for participants who were part of a team to attack others than it was for individuals. At the same time, elevation of stress hormones when encountering a threat that cannot be mastered is in actual fact associated with less aggression,” explains Schultheiss.
A unique aspect of the study included close inspection of female subjects.
Interestingly, researcher’s discovered the hormonal reaction to victory or defeat that occurred in women or female teams was significantly dependent on their personal thirst for power.
Women with a particularly marked thirst for power had higher levels of the sex hormones testosterone and estradiol after a victory than after a defeat.
This reaction was not recorded in women who have a less pronounced power-orientated outlook. Experts believe this hormonal reaction is the reason dominant behavior in women is intensified by a victory, and then subdued by a defeat.
A newly developed universal blood test can help to predict if a person is at high suicide risk. Indiana University researchers say the test is unique as it can be given to everyone. The scientists also report the development of personalized blood tests for different subtypes of suicidality, and for different psychiatric high-risk groups.
Researchers explain that two apps — one based on a suicide risk checklist and the other on a scale for measuring feelings of anxiety and depression – have been designed to be used in conjunction with the blood tests to enhance the precision of tests and to suggest lifestyle, psychotherapeutic and other interventions.
The scientist have also identified a series of medications and natural substances that could be developed for preventing suicide.
“Our work provides a basis for precision medicine and scientific wellness preventive approaches,” said Alexander B. Niculescu III, MD, PhD, professor of psychiatry and medical neuroscience at IU School of Medicine.
The article, “Precision medicine for suicidality: from universality to subtypes and personalization,” appears in the online edition of the journal, Molecular Psychiatry.
The research builds on earlier studies from the Niculescu group.
“Suicide strikes people in all walks of life. We believe such tragedies can be averted. This landmark larger study breaks new ground, as well as reproduces in larger numbers of individuals some of our earlier findings,” said Dr. Niculescu.
There were multiple steps to the research, starting with serial blood tests taken from 66 people who had been diagnosed with psychiatric disorders, followed over time, and who had at least one instance in which they reported a significant change in their level of suicidal thinking from one testing visit to the next.
The candidate gene expression biomarkers that best tracked suicidality in each individual and across individuals were then prioritized using the Niculescu group’s Convergent Functional Genomics approach, based on all the prior evidence in the field.
Next, working with the Marion County (Indianapolis, Ind.) Coroner’s Office, the researchers tested the validity of the biomarkers using blood samples drawn from 45 people who had committed suicide.
The biomarkers were then tested in another larger, completely independent group of individuals to determine how well they could predict which of them would report intense suicidal thoughts or would be hospitalized for suicide attempts.
The biomarkers identified by the research are RNA molecules whose levels in the blood changed in concert with changes in the levels of suicidal thoughts experienced by the patients. Among the findings reported in the current paper were:
• An algorithm that combines biomarkers with the apps that was 90 percent accurate in predicting high levels of suicidal thinking and 77 percent accurate in predicting future suicide-related hospitalizations in everybody, irrespective of gender and diagnosis.
• A refined set of biomarkers that apply universally in predicting risk of suicide among both male and female patients with a variety of psychiatric illnesses, including new biomarkers never before linked to suicidal thoughts and behavior.
• Four new subtypes of suicidality were identified (depressed, anxious, combined, and non-affective/psychotic), with different biomarkers being more effective in each subtype.
• Biomarkers that were associated with specific diagnoses and genders, such as one, known as LHFP, that appears to be a very strong predictor for depressed men.
• Two of the biomarkers, APOE and IL6, have broad evidence for involvement in suicidality and potential clinical utility as targets for drug therapies, as well as suggest a neurodegenerative and inflammatory component to the predisposition to suicide. APOE is responsible for proteins involved with managing cholesterol and fats, and some forms of the gene have been strongly implicated as risks for Alzheimer’s disease. IL6 expresses proteins involved in the body’s inflammation response.
• Potential drug therapies and natural substances for preventing suicide, using the blood biomarker signatures and bioinformatics approaches. They included medications already in use to treat psychiatric illnesses and drugs approved for other uses, such as the diabetes medication metformin.
Source: University of Indiana/EurekAlert
New research confirms what many Americans already know — that their jobs are hard and draining, and it is difficult to separate work from home.
The new study finds that workers frequently face unstable work schedules, unpleasant and potentially hazardous working conditions, and an often hostile social environment.
The findings stem from research conducted by investigators at the RAND Corporation, Harvard Medical School and University of California, Los Angeles. Investigators analyzed responses from the American Working Conditions Survey, one of the most in-depth surveys ever done to examine conditions in the American workplace.
Remarkably, more than one in four American workers say they have too little time to do their job, with the complaint being most common among white-collar workers.
In addition, workers say the intensity of work frequently spills over into their personal lives, with about one-half of people reporting that they perform some work in their free time in order to meet workplace demands.
Despite these challenges, American workers appear to have a certain degree of autonomy on the job, most feel confident about their skill set and many do report that they receive social support while on the job.
“I was surprised how taxing the workplace appears to be, both for less-educated and for more-educated workers,” said lead author Dr. Nicole Maestas, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and an adjunct economist at RAND.
“Work is taxing at the office and it’s taxing when it spills out of the workplace into people’s family lives.”
Researchers say that while eight in 10 American workers report having steady and predictable work throughout the year, just 54 percent report working the same number of hours on a day-to-day basis.
One in three workers say they have no control over their schedule. Despite much public attention focused on the growth of telecommuting, 78 percent of workers report they must be present at their workplace during regular business hours.
Nearly three-fourths of American workers report either intense or repetitive physical exertion on the job at least a quarter of the time. While workers without a college education report greater physical demands, many college-educated and older workers are affected as well.
Emotional stress and challenges to mental health are a relatively common experience at the worksite. Researchers discovered more than half of Americans report exposure to unpleasant and potentially hazardous social environments.
Nearly one in five workers — a “disturbingly high” fraction, researchers said — say they face a hostile or threatening social environment at work. Younger and prime-aged women are the workers most likely to experience unwanted sexual attention, while younger men are more likely to experience verbal abuse.
The findings are from a survey of 3,066 adults who participate in the RAND American Life Panel, a nationally representative, computer-based sample of people from across the United States. The workplace survey was fielded in 2015 to collect detailed information across a broad range of working conditions in the American workplace, as well as details about workers and job characteristics.
Despite the importance of the workplace to most Americans, researchers say there is relatively little publicly available information about the characteristics of American jobs today.
The American Working Conditions survey is designed to be harmonious with the European Working Conditions Survey, which has been conducted periodically over the last 25 years among workers from a broad range of European nations.
The American Working Conditions Survey found that while many American workers adjust their personal lives to accommodate work matters, about one-third of workers say they are unable to adjust their work schedules to accommodate personal matters.
In general, women are more likely than men to report difficulty arranging for time off during work hours to take care of personal or family matters.
Jobs interfere with family and social commitments outside of work, particularly for younger workers who don’t have a college degree. More than one in four reports a poor fit between their work hours and their social and family commitments.
The report also provides insights about how preferences change among workers as they become older.
Older workers are more likely to value the ability to control how they do their work and setting the pace of their work, as well as less physically demanding jobs. Older workers are also generally less likely than younger workers to have some degree of mismatch between their desired and actual working conditions.
The survey also confirms that retirement is often a fluid concept. Many older workers say they have previously retired before rejoining the workforce, and many people aged 50 and older who are not employed say they would consider rejoining the workforce if conditions were right.
Other highlights from the report include:
- The intensity of work such as pace, deadlines, and time constraints differ across occupation groups, with white-collar workers experiencing greater work intensity than blue-collar workers.
- Jobs in the U.S. feature a mix of monotonous tasks and autonomous problem solving. While 62 percent of workers say they face monotonous tasks, more than 80 percent report that their jobs involve “solving unforeseen problems” and “applying own ideas.”
- The workplace is an important source of professional and social support, with more than one half of American workers describing their boss as supportive and that they have very good friends at work.
- Only 38 percent of workers say their job offers good prospects for advancement. All workers — regardless of education — become less optimistic about career advancement as they become older.
- Four out of five American workers report that their job provides “meaning” always or most of the time. Older college-educated men were those most likely to report at least one dimension of meaningful work.
- Nearly two-thirds of workers experience some degree of mismatch between their desired and actual working conditions, with the number rising to nearly three-quarters when job benefits are taken into account. Nearly half of workers report working more than their preferred number of hours per week, while some 20 percent report working fewer than their preferred number of hours.
Future reports will explore how conditions of the American workplace compare to those in Europe and in other parts of the world and selected findings from follow-up surveys using the same panel of participants.
Source: RAND Corporation
A new study suggests it is okay if we are not always happy. In fact, investigators discovered life satisfaction is a product of experiencing both negative and positive emotions.
In an international study, researchers discovered people may be happier when they feel the emotions they desire, even if those emotions are unpleasant, such as anger or hatred.
“Happiness is more than simply feeling pleasure and avoiding pain. Happiness is about having experiences that are meaningful and valuable, including emotions that you think are the right ones to have,” said lead researcher Maya Tamir, Ph.D., a psychology professor at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
“All emotions can be positive in some contexts and negative in others, regardless of whether they are pleasant or unpleasant.”
The cross-cultural study included 2,324 university students in eight countries: the United States, Brazil, China, Germany, Ghana, Israel, Poland and Singapore.
The research is the first study to find this relationship between happiness and experiencing desired emotions, even when those emotions are unpleasant, Tamir said.
The study appears online in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.
Participants generally wanted to experience more pleasant emotions and fewer unpleasant emotions than they felt in their lives, but that wasn’t always the case.
Interestingly, 11 percent of the participants wanted to feel fewer transcendent emotions, such as love and empathy, than they experienced in daily life, and 10 percent wanted to feel more unpleasant emotions, such as anger or hatred. There was only a small overlap between those groups.
For example, someone who feels no anger when reading about child abuse might think she should be angrier about the plight of abused children, so she wants to feel more anger than she actually does in that moment, Tamir said. A woman who wants to leave an abusive partner but isn’t willing to do so may be happier if she loved him less, Tamir said.
Participants were surveyed about the emotions they desired and the emotions they actually felt in their lives. They also rated their life satisfaction and depressive symptoms.
Across cultures in the study, participants who experienced more of the emotions that they desired reported greater life satisfaction and fewer depressive symptoms, regardless of whether those desired emotions were pleasant or unpleasant.
Further research is needed, however, to test whether feeling desired emotions truly influences happiness or is merely associated with it, Tamir said.
The study assessed only one category of unpleasant emotions known as negative self-enhancing emotions, which includes hatred, hostility, anger and contempt. Future research could test other unpleasant emotions, such as fear, guilt, sadness or shame, Tamir said.
Pleasant emotions that were examined in the study included empathy, love, trust, passion, contentment and excitement. Prior research has shown that the emotions that people desire are linked to their values and cultural norms, but those links weren’t directly examined in this research.
The study may shed some light on the unrealistic expectations that many people have about their own feelings, Tamir said.
“People want to feel very good all the time in Western cultures, especially in the United States,” Tamir said.
“Even if they feel good most of the time, they may still think that they should feel even better, which might make them less happy overall.”
Emerging research out of the University of Illinois suggests that some mothers’ and fathers’ psychological well-being may suffer when their work and family identities — and the amount of financial support they provide — conflict with conventional gender roles.
Researchers found that when women’s paychecks increased to compose the majority of their families’ income, these women reported more symptoms of depression.
However, the investigators found the opposite effect in men: Dads’ psychological well-being improved over time when they became the primary wage-earners for their families.
Dr. Karen Kramer and graduate student Sunjin Pak reviewed a data sample that included more than 1,463 men and 1,769 women who participated in the National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth.
A majority of the individuals in the study, all born between 1957 and 1965, were members of the baby-boom generation. Participants’ psychological well-being was measured in 1991 and 1994 using a seven-item scale that assessed their levels of depressive symptoms.
Kramer and Pak found that although women’s psychological well-being was not affected by exiting the workforce to become stay-at-home moms, men’s mental health declined when they stayed home to care for the kids.
“We observed a statistically significant and substantial difference in depressive symptoms between men and women in our study,” said Kramer, who is a professor of human development and family studies.
“The results supported the overarching hypothesis: Well-being was lower for mothers and fathers who violated gendered expectations about the division of paid labor, and higher for parents who conformed to these expectations.”
While women’s educational and career opportunities have multiplied in recent decades, societal norms and expectations about gendered divisions of labor in the workplace and the home have been slower to evolve, according to the researchers.
Mothers and fathers who deviate from conventional gender roles — such as dads who leave the workforce to care for their children full time — may be perceived negatively, potentially impacting their mental health, Kramer and Pak wrote.
The researchers also explored whether parents who held more egalitarian ideas about men’s and women’s responsibilities as wage earners and caretakers for their families fared better — and Kramer and Pak found gender differences there as well.
Women in the study who viewed themselves and their spouses as equally responsible for financially supporting their families and caring for their homes and offspring experienced better mental health when their wages and share of the family’s income increased.
However, regardless of their beliefs, men’s mental health diminished when their earnings as a proportion of the family income shrank. This finding led researchers to suggest that “work identity and (the) traditional role of primary earner are still critical for men, even when they have more egalitarian gender ideology.”
The paper will be presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.
Source: University of Illinois
New findings published in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry show that school-based mental health programs can reach large numbers of children and effectively improve mental health and related outcomes.
Approximately 13 percent of children and teens worldwide have significant mental health problems including anxiety, disruptive behavior disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and depression. If left untreated, these disorders can remain throughout adulthood and have negative effects in many aspects of life.
A large number of interventions have been designed to deliver preventive mental health services in schools, where children and teens spend so much of their time. Now a growing body of evidence shows that school-based mental health programs can be widely implemented and can lead to population-wide improvements in mental health, physical health, educational, and social outcomes.
For the review, Dr. J. Michael Murphy, EdD, of Massachusetts General Hospital and colleagues identified and analyzed school-based mental health programs that have been implemented on a large scale and have collected data on specific mental health outcomes. Their findings show that the eight largest programs have reached at least 27 million children over the last decade.
The programs vary in their focus, methods, and goals. For example, the largest intervention, called “Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports” (PBIS), focuses on positive social culture and behavioral support for all students. The second-largest program, called “FRIENDS,” aims to ease anxiety and teach skills for managing stress and emotions — not only for children, but also for parents and teachers.
While some of the school-based mental health interventions target students at high risk of mental health problems, most are designed to focus on mental health promotion or primary prevention for all students in the school. Most of the programs have been implemented across school districts, while some have been introduced on the state or national level.
Evidence is “moderate to strong” that these interventions are successful in contributing to good mental health and related outcomes. For example, studies of FRIENDS have reported reductions in anxiety, while PBIS has shown improved reading scores and fewer school suspensions.
Other interventions have shown benefits in areas such as bullying and substance abuse.
“This review provides evidence that large-scale, school-based programs can be implemented in a variety of diverse cultures and educational models as well as preliminary evidence that such programs have significant, measurable positive effects on students’ emotional, behavioral, and academic outcomes,” write the researchers.
“Data sets of increasing quality and size are opening up new opportunities to assess the degree to which preventive interventions for child mental health, delivered at scale, can play a role in improving health and other life outcomes,” said Murphy and colleagues.
With ongoing data collection and new evaluation frameworks, they believe that school-based mental health programs have the potential to “improve population-wide health outcomes of the next generation.”
Source: Wolters Klewer Health
Research on an animal models shows that being bullied can lead to sleep disorders and a variety of stress-related mental illnesses.
Neuroscientists determined that being bullied produces long-lasting, depression-like sleep dysfunction and can lead to circadian rhythm-related issues. This disruption of daily biological rhythms can lead to clinical depression and stress-related disorders.
The researchers, however, also found that it may be possible to mitigate these effects with the use of an experimental class of drugs that can block stress.
“While our study found that some stress-related effects on circadian rhythms are short-lived, others are long-lasting,” said William Carlezon, Ph.D., senior author of the study.
“Identifying these changes and understanding their meaning is an important step in developing methods to counter the long-lasting effects of traumatic experiences on mental health.”
Stress is known to trigger psychiatric illnesses, including depression and PTSD, and sleep is frequently affected in these conditions. Some people with stress disorders sleep less than normal, while others sleep more than normal or have more frequent bouts of sleep and wakefulness.
To demonstrate the effects of bullying, the researchers used an animal model simulating the physical and emotional stressors involved in human bullying — chronic social defeat stress.
For this procedure, a smaller, younger mouse is paired with a larger, older, and more aggressive mouse. When the smaller mouse is placed into the home cage of the larger mouse, the larger mouse instinctively acts to protect its territory.
In a typical interaction lasting several minutes, the larger mouse chases the smaller mouse, displaying aggressive behavior and emitting warning calls. The interaction ends when the larger mouse pins the smaller mouse to the floor or against a cage wall, establishing dominance by the larger mouse and submission by the smaller mouse.
The mice are then separated and a barrier is placed between them, dividing the home cage in half. A clear and perforated barrier is used, enabling the mice to see, smell, and hear each other, but preventing physical interactions. The mice remain in this arrangement, with the smaller mouse living under threat from the larger mouse, for the rest of the day. This process is repeated for 10 consecutive days, with a new aggressor mouse introduced each day.
To collect data continuously and accurately, researchers outfitted the smaller mice with micro-transmitters that are akin to activity trackers used by people to monitor their exercise, heart rate, and sleep.
These mice micro-transmitters collected sleep, muscle activity, and body temperature data, which revealed that the smaller mice experienced progressive changes in sleep patterns, with all phases of the sleep-wake cycle being affected. The largest effect was on the number of times the mice went in and out of a sleep phase called paradoxical sleep, which resembles REM (rapid eye movement) sleep in humans, when dreams occur and memories are strengthened.
Bullied mice showed many more bouts of paradoxical sleep, resembling the type of sleep disruptions often seen in people with depression. Bullied mice also showed a flattening of body temperature fluctuations, which is also an effect seen in people with depression.
“Both the sleep and body temperature changes persisted in the smaller mice after they were removed from the physically and emotionally threatening environment, suggesting that they had developed symptoms that look very much like those seen in people with long-term depression,” said Carlezon.
“These effects were reduced, however, in terms of both intensity and duration, if the mice had been treated with a kappa-opioid receptor antagonist, a drug that blocks the activity of one of the brain’s own opioid systems.”
Carlezon explained that these findings not only reveal what traumatic experiences can do to individuals who experience them, but also that we may someday be able to do something to reduce the severity of their effects.
“This study exemplifies how measuring the same types of endpoints in laboratory animals and humans might hasten the pace of advances in psychiatry research. If we can knock out stress with new treatments, we might be able to prevent some forms of mental illness.”
Source: Mclean Hospital