A new study has found that people who suffered multiple types of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) — such as physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, or other stresses, such as living in a household with domestic violence or with adult substance abuse or mental illness — are more than twice as likely to use hospital emergency departments, require overnight hospital stays, or be frequent users of doctors as adults.
The study of 7,414 adults in England and Wales compared those who suffered ACEs with those whose childhoods were ACE free. Researchers found that people with four or more ACEs showed substantially increased levels of health care use even as young adults (18-29 years) with these increases still apparent decades later.
In young adults with no ACEs, 12 percent needed to attend an emergency department in the last year, compared to 29 percent in those with four or more ACEs.
By the age of 60-69 years, 10 percent of individuals with no ACEs required at least one overnight hospital stay in the last year, compared to 25 percent of individuals with four or more ACEs.
According to the researchers, high levels of ACEs are common. In this general population sample, 10 percent of all adults had experienced four or more ACEs as a child.
The study, published in the Journal of Health Service Research & Policy, provides statistical evidence showing that, regardless of socio-economic class or other demographics, people who have adverse childhood experiences use more health and medical services through their lifetime.
The researchers conclude that investing in preventing or reducing adverse childhood experiences, as well as addressing the resulting trauma in those who have experienced ACEs, can help reduce future health service demand and costs.
“Even at the most basic biological levels, experiencing ACEs can change children, leaving them more likely to develop poor physical and mental health throughout their lives,” said Dr. Mark Bellis, a professor of public health at Bangor University’s College of Health & Behavioral Sciences.
“A safe and nurturing childhood is a recipe for building stronger, happier children, with a much greater chance of becoming healthy adults.
“Our results demonstrate that the more adverse experiences people suffer as a child, the more likely they are as adults to be frequent users of basic health services such as GPs and emergency services, as well as requiring more specialist overnight hospital support,” he said. “As costs of health care escalate in the UK and abroad, it is essential we take a life course approach to health that recognizes the problems we frequently see in adults begin with childhood traumas.”
“Adult risks of becoming smokers or heavy drinkers and of developing cancers, diabetes, and other life-threatening diseases are all increased in those with a history of childhood adversity,” added Professor Karen Hughes, a co-author of the paper. “This study shows how the health consequences of ACEs impact not just on the individual, but also on the health services that support them.
“Health professionals already play a substantive role in treating the life-long impacts of childhood adversity, but recognizing the role ACEs play in adult ill health should provide opportunities for better treatment and a greater focus on prevention.”
A new study appearing in the journal Body Image shows that women evaluated as less attractive than their husbands feel more pressure to diet and be thin than women deemed more attractive than their husbands.
“The results reveal that having a physically attractive husband may have negative consequences for wives, especially if those wives are not particularly attractive,” said doctoral student Tania Reynolds at Florida State University (FSU).
As for men, however, their motivation to diet was low regardless of their wives’ attractiveness or their own.
The findings offer interesting insights into a relationship dynamic in which a woman fears she will fall short of her partner’s expectations. Understanding certain social factors which may increase a woman’s risk of developing eating disorders and other health problems could lead to earlier interventions.
“The research suggests there might be social factors playing a role in women’s disordered eating,” Reynolds said. “It might be helpful to identify women at risk of developing more extreme weight-loss behaviors, which have been linked to other forms of psychological distress, such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse and dissatisfaction with life.”
The new findings add to existing research from the same research lab showing that marriages tend to be more successful and satisfying when wives are more attractive than their husbands.
“In order to better understand women’s dieting motivations, the findings of this study highlight the value of adopting an approach that focuses on a couple’s relationship,” said Dr. Andrea Meltzer, an assistant professor of psychology at FSU.
For the study, the researchers examined 113 newlywed couples — married less than four months, average age late 20s, living in the Dallas area — who agreed to be rated on their attractiveness.
Each participant answered several questions focusing in part on their desire to diet or have a thin body. Some questions included, “I feel extremely guilty after eating,” “I like my stomach to be empty,” and “I’m terrified of gaining weight.”
A full-body photograph was taken of every participant and rated on a scale of 1 to 10. Two teams of undergraduate evaluators studied the photos: one at Southern Methodist University in Texas focused on spouses’ facial attractiveness, while another at FSU looked at body attractiveness. The evaluators varied in sex and ethnic makeup.
According to Reynolds, some research has shown that women tend to overperceive just how thin their partners want them to be and, as a result, may inappropriately pursue dieting and a thin figure.
“One way to help these women is for partners to be very reaffirming, reminding them, ‘You’re beautiful. I love you at any weight or body type,'” Reynolds said. “Or perhaps focusing on the ways they are a good romantic partner outside of attractiveness and emphasizing those strengths: ‘I really value you because you’re a kind, smart and supportive partner.'”
Next, Reynolds would like to explore whether women are more motivated to diet when they are surrounded by attractive female friends.
“If we understand how women’s relationships affect their decision to diet and the social predictors for developing unhealthy eating behaviors,” Reynolds said, “then we will be better able to help them.”
Source: Florida State University
New research suggests a link may exist between maternal obesity and the risk of behavior problems for their sons. The findings support the observation that child neurodevelopmental and maternal obesity problems have both increased in the U.S.
In a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers discovered that the heavier mothers were when they entered pregnancy, the higher the risk of behavior problems for their sons. Moreover, investigators found that boys whose mothers were underweight pre-pregnancy also showed higher risk for behavior problems. However, researchers did not find the same effects in girls.
“The study results suggest that early intervention with women to attain healthy weights before they become pregnant is critical to their health and the health of their future children,” commented senior investigator Barbara Abrams, DrPH, of the Division of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 15 out of every 100 women of childbearing age are severely obese. Recent studies have linked high maternal weight, before and during pregnancy, to child behavior and particularly to problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Some evidence also points to a possible link with internalizing problems, such as depression. These problems can have negative effects on school performance and relationships with others.
Researchers used the U.S. National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79) to investigate whether maternal pre-pregnancy body-mass index (BMI) is associated with behavioral problems among school-age children. They assessed whether the effect is modified by race or gender, as well as by race and gender simultaneously.
This analysis included nearly 5,000 female NLSY79 study participants and their biological children, who were studied between 1986 and 2012 as part of the NLSY Children and Young Adults (NLSYCYA) cohort.
Behavioral problems were assessed every two years for children aged four to 14 years using maternal report of the Behavior Problems Index (BPI), a widely used 28-item questionnaire, to determine whether they exhibited specific behaviors in the past three months. Because early puberty is a time when behavioral problems tend to emerge, this study focused on children aged nine to 11 years.
Approximately 65 percent percent of the mothers were normal weight, eight percent underweight, and 10 percent obese, of whom 3.5 percent were BMI 35 or higher. Underweight women were younger, less likely to be married, and had the lowest education, income, and Armed Forces Qualifying Test scores.
The study showed that boys whose mothers entered pregnancy obese were at higher risk for behavior problems at ages nine to 11 years. Data indicated that the heavier mothers were when they entered pregnancy, the higher the risk for behavioral problems to develop in their sons. Boys
The study did not show the same effects in girls, and there were no differences for race.
“Past research looking at a variety of exposures during pregnancy (ranging from stress to chemicals) has shown that boys tend to be more vulnerable to these exposures in utero than girls,” explained investigator Juliana Deardorff, Ph.D., of the Community Health Sciences Division, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley. “Our study extends this work to maternal obesity.”
“It is the first study to document gender differences, and one of a handful of studies to show that pre-pregnancy underweight, in addition to obesity, may be problematic,” she continued.
“Future research should examine whether the gender differences reported here for ages nine to 11 years persist into adolescence or shift as children get older.”
New research finds that the risk of intellectual disability in children born to mothers treated with antidepressants is small and not statistically significant.
In the first-of its kind study, researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai found that any risks were likely due to other factors, including parental age and the parents’ psychiatric history.
While other studies have examined the risk of autism in mother’s who took antidepressants during pregnancy, this is the first study to examine the risk of such disability in this population.
Intellectual disability is defined by an IQ below 70 with deficits that impair everyday functioning. The disability is commonly diagnosed in childhood and is characterized by major limitations in both intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior. No treatments exist for intellectual disability, and it is associated with substantial health care costs.
Sven Sandin, Ph.D., of the Ichan School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, and coauthors including Abraham Reichenberg, Ph.D., also of the Icahn School of Medicine, culled data from Swedish national registers. The population-based study of 179,007 children, born from 2006 through 2007, followed up from birth until a diagnosis of intellectual disability, death or the end of the follow-up in 2014.
Approximately 4,000 of those children were exposed to antidepressants and other psychotropic medications during pregnancy. The researchers compared the risk in these children with a subsample of 23,551children whose mothers were diagnosed with depression or anxiety prior to childbirth but did not use antidepressants during pregnancy.
Of the 179,007 children included in the study, intellectual disability was diagnosed in 37 (0.9 percent) exposed to antidepressants and in 819 children (0.5 percent) who were unexposed to antidepressants, according to the results.
After adjusting for potential confounders, including parental age, the risk of ID after exposure to antidepressant medication was not statistically significant in both the full-population sample and in the sub-sample of women with a history of depression.
“The study did not find a robust association between ID and maternal antidepressant medication during pregnancy,” said Sandin.
The researchers note that while the study was conducted in Sweden, the findings are applicable in most countries where antidepressants are prescribed.
“Our study provides more information for clinicians to evaluate the risks in pregnant women taking antidepressants,” said Reichenberg.
“It should be factored into other considerations such as the increased risk for the mother if not medicated, the drug’s side effects, and other medical conditions.”
Post-traumatic stress disorder affects a wide range of individuals, from combat veterans and law enforcement to the survivors of sexual assault and childhood abuse. The disorder expresses itself in a variety of ways, including anxiety, depression, avoidance and anger. Just as no two people are completely alike, so it is with those dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Reasonably, then, we should not expect a one-size-fits-all approach to work for dealing with the effects of PTSD. Talk-therapy is a popular approach, but in her book, Mindfulness Skills for Trauma and PTSD, Rachel Goldsmith Turow introduces another.
Although it looks something like a textbook, Mindfulness Skills for Trauma and PTSD specifically targets trauma survivors as its intended audience and should prove to be a rich resource for those survivors interested in mindfulness. Turow has written a comprehensive text for readers looking for understanding, exercises and a new approach to dealing with the symptoms of PTSD. This is not to say the book would replace any other work being done with the assistance of professionals, rather, it seems a worthy supplement to the recovery process for trauma survivors of all backgrounds. Likewise, there is plenty here to learn for those working or studying in the field, as well as the friends and family of individuals with PTSD.
Appropriately, Turow begins Mindfulness Skills for Trauma and PTSD with the basic concepts of mindfulness, trauma and PTSD. She defines mindfulness simply as “paying attention to our experiences in this moment in a caring and curious way,” and establishes the core tenets of practicing mindfulness, including: attention, present-moment awareness, the beginner’s mind, nonjudgment, nonstriving and patience. While contemporary discourse has become somewhat oversaturated with writings about and guides to mindfulness, Turow addresses it in a distinct way here by focusing on its unique benefits for trauma survivors.
At the heart of Mindfulness Skills for Trauma and PTSD, readers will find the common theme of self-compassion. Turow explores this somewhat nebulous concept in Chapter 4, subtitled, “The Kind Witness Within.” Trauma victims, she notes, often mistake self-compassion for self-indulgence, but of course it is nothing of the kind.
“Self-compassion also reflects truly listening to everything that is occurring within us, as well as the genuine wish that the suffering be reduced,” she writes.
Like others, Turow argues that self-compassion involves being a sort of friend to one’s self, someone who regrets our pain and genuinely wishes for our recovery. This central concept may be one of the most challenging in Mindfulness Skills for Trauma and PTSD, but is arguably also one of the most necessary.
Turow builds the text from there, establishing some foundational skills, such as anchoring in the present moment, focusing on breathing, acknowledging thoughts without fixating on them, mindful walking, emotional recognition and more. These serve as the basis for later practices.
In Chapters the later chapters, she focuses the scope of her discussion by exploring specific concerns of those dealing with PTSD, including intrusive thoughts and traumatic memories, anxiety, avoidance, self-criticism, depression, numbing, dissociation and how PTSD affects relationships. Consequently, after reading the first few introductory chapters, readers can easily skip ahead to learn about strategies for dealing with their particular symptoms.
Within each chapter, readers will find not only useful discussions of different expressions of PTSD, but also firsthand accounts, research highlights, and, perhaps most beneficial, a series of exercises that deal specifically with the chapter’s subject. For example, in Chapter 7, “Forge Ahead Gently: Mindfulness Practices for Avoidance,” Turow includes several practices including: noting avoidance behaviors, self-compassion for avoidance, mindfulness in graded exposure and others. These exercises include lists with bullet points and charts for easy reference and understanding. Indeed, Mindfulness Skills for Trauma and PTSD as a whole is incredibly accessible, and includes a comprehensive reference section and index for more academically-minded readers.
Moreover, Turow makes a compelling argument. PTSD manifests in a number of ways and addressing it successfully requires diverse approaches. In the final chapter, “Beyond Trauma and PTSD: Posttraumatic Growth and Resilience,” she discusses the ways in which recovery is often nonlinear and leads to significant changes within individuals. In particular, overcoming PTSD may impact our levels of awareness, of ourselves, of our surroundings and of our relationships. That this not need be a negative change is a vital message, for survivors and their loved ones alike.
With mindfulness, those dealing with PTSD can observe their own responses and how they might change over time. This in its own way is potentially empowering, a necessary aspect of the recovery process.
Mindfulness Skills for Trauma and PTSD: Practices for Recovery and Resilience
Rachel Goldsmith Turow
432 pages, softcover
U.K. researchers have discovered depression has different effects on the brain activity of male and female patients in certain brain regions.
In the study, investigators exposed depressed adolescents to happy or sad words while performing radiographic imaging. The discovery of gender-specific effects on brain activity suggests that adolescent girls and boys might experience depression differently and that sex-specific interventions could be beneficial for adolescents.
Men and women appear to suffer from depression differently, and this is particularly striking in adolescents. By 15 years of age, girls are twice as likely to suffer from depression as boys.
There are various possible reasons for this, including body image issues, hormonal fluctuations, and genetic factors, where girls are more at risk of inheriting depression.
However, differences between the sexes don’t just involve the risk of experiencing depression, but also how the disorder manifests and its consequences.
“Men are more liable to suffer from persistent depression, whereas in women depression tends to be more episodic,” said neuroscientist Dr. Jie-Yu Chuang, a researcher at the University of Cambridge and an author on the study.
“Compared with women, depressed men are also more likely to suffer serious consequences from their depression, such as substance abuse and suicide.”
Despite this, so far, most researchers have focused on depression in women, likely because it is more common.
This motivated Chuang and her colleagues to carry out this latest study, found in Frontiers in Psychiatry, to find differences between depressed men and women.
To do this, they recruited adolescent volunteers for the study, who were aged between 11 and 18 years.
Participants included 82 female and 24 male patients who suffered from depression, and 24 female and 10 male healthy volunteers. The researchers imaged the adolescents’ brains using magnetic resonance imaging, while flashing happy, sad, or neutral words on a screen in a specific order.
The volunteers pressed a button when certain types of words appeared and did not press the button when others appeared, and the researchers measured their brain activity throughout the experiment.
When the researchers flashed certain combinations of words on the screen, they noticed that depression affects brain activity differently between boys and girls in brain regions such as the supramarginal gyrus and posterior cingulate.
So, what do these results mean? “Our finding suggests that early in adolescence, depression might affect the brain differently between boys and girls,” Chuang said.
“Sex-specific treatment and prevention strategies for depression should be considered early in adolescence. Hopefully, these early interventions could alter the disease trajectory before things get worse.”
The brain regions highlighted in the study have been previously linked to depression, but further work is needed to understand why they are affected differently in depressed boys, and if this is related to how boys experience and handle depression.
Because depression is more common in girls, the researchers were not able to recruit as many boys in this study, and future experiments should compare similar numbers of girls and boys for more representative results. Chuang and her colleagues would like to explore this phenomenon further.
“I think it would be great to conduct a large longitudinal study addressing sex differences in depression from adolescence to adulthood,” she said.
Emerging research discovers men and women react differently to compounds associated with biochemical changes experienced during bipolar disorder.
Experts say the immune system is activated during bipolar episodes with previous research suggesting that immune system activation in bipolar disorder can cause harmful low-level inflammation in the brain.
Now, an international team of medical researchers believe measuring biological changes may help diagnose bipolar disorder. Moreover, the discovery of biochemical differences could mean that different interventions may be developed for men and women.
Bipolar disorder is a recurring mood condition that will affect about one to four percent of people in the United States over their lifetimes.
The study measured levels of zinc and neopterin, two immune system factors, in the blood of female and male hospital patients experiencing a major manic or depressive episode.
Blood concentrations were compared to those of a healthy control group. Both zinc and neopterin are compounds that have previously been associated with inflammatory processes.
Neopterin is an immune marker secreted by white blood cells when the immune system is activated, while the mineral zinc is required for the immune system to function.
Researchers reported their findings in the journal Psychiatry Research.
The investigators explain that two unique features of bipolar disorder led to this study.
First, researchers know that women and men with bipolar disorder experience episodes of mania or depression — the two hallmarks of the condition — differently, and may have different coexisting health issues.
Female patients with bipolar disorder, for example, are more likely than male patients to experience depressive episodes, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, migraines, and dysregulated mood due to poor sleep.
Because bipolar disorder is different in women and men, researchers suspect that different biological processes may underlie the condition in the two sexes.
Second, the immune system is activated during bipolar episodes, and previous research shows that immune system activation in bipolar disorder causes harmful low-level inflammation in the brain.
“When a person has mania or depression, certain parts of their brain are affected,” said Dr. Erika F.H. Saunders, professor and chair of psychiatry at Penn State College of Medicine and senior author of the new study.
“For example, the hippocampus, which is important in memory formation, shrinks, and the connections between different parts of the brain are affected. We think that inflammation is playing a role in some of those changes that are then associated with poor functioning in bipolar disorder.”
The immune system also functions differently in women and men. Therefore, in the new study, Saunders and the other researchers set out to see if immune system factors were different in women and men with bipolar disorder, with the eventual goal of finding reliable markers for the disease.
Researchers recruited 27 people with bipolar disorder for the study. They had lower levels of zinc in their blood than the 31 healthy people in the control group. There was no difference in neopterin levels between the two groups.
Differences between men and women emerged when the researchers looked at severity of depression or mania. Women’s depression was worse if they had higher concentrations of zinc in their blood, while men’s mania was worse if they had higher concentrations of neopterin.
These findings should not be interpreted as advice for patients with bipolar disorder to take or not take zinc, the researchers point out.
The finding that high zinc levels were associated with depression severity in women was somewhat surprising, Saunders said, because zinc deficiency has been associated with depression in the past.
One possible explanation is that high levels of zinc in the blood may indicate lower levels in the brain. Saunders and her colleagues are now following up in animal studies, measuring zinc levels in the brains of mice with inflammatory depression.
“What we are aiming for ultimately as a field and as a research group is to have a blood marker that we can use in the clinic that will help us predict when someone is developing a bipolar episode, and conversely when a treatment is working,” Saunders said.
Source: Penn State/EurekAlert
Employees who believe they are overqualified for their positions often feel unsatisfied with their jobs, uncommitted to the organization, and are more likely to experience psychological strain, according to a new study published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior.
These feelings may lead to deviant behaviors at work, such as coming in late, leaving early, or even bullying coworkers, say the researchers.
Perceived overqualification — the belief that one has surplus skills compared to job requirements — can have an adverse impact on employees and employers alike, according to researcher Michael Harari, Ph.D., assistant professor in Florida Atlantic University’s (FAU) Department of Management Programs.
Harari and fellow researchers Archana Manapragada and Chockalingam Viswesvaran of Florida International University conducted a meta-analysis of perceived overqualification using 25 years of research to clarify disparate and conflicting findings in the literature.
Perceived overqualification occurs when an employee is expecting a job in which they can use their credentials and skills but does not actually work in such a position, leaving them feeling essentially deprived.
“That deprivation is what is theorized to result in these negative job attitudes,” Harari said. “There’s a discrepancy between expectation and reality. Because of this, you’re angry, you’re frustrated, and as a result you don’t much care for the job that you have and feel unsatisfied.”
Employees experience psychological strain when they feel they aren’t being rewarded for their contributions. This is typically due to an imbalance between their efforts and the reward structure of work.
“We invest effort at work and we expect rewards in return, such as esteem and career opportunities,” Harari said. “And for an overqualified employee, that expectation has been violated. This is a stressful experience for employees, which leads to poor psychological wellbeing, such as negative emotions and psychological strain.”
In addition, workers who feel overqualified are more likely to engage in deviant behaviors, Harari said. This might range from coming in late or leaving early to theft or bullying coworkers.
In fact, the more overqualified an employee feels, the more likely he/she is to take part in counterproductive behaviors that harm the effective functioning of organizations, Harari said. Employees who are younger, overeducated and narcissistic tend to report higher levels of perceived overqualification.
“It seems to suggest that there is a need to take jobs below one’s skill level in order to gain entrance into the workforce,” Harari said. “We do see that, as people get older, they are less likely to report overqualification.”
Source: Florida Atlantic University
Scientists have discovered that the brains of women with bulimia nervosa react differently to images of food after stressful events than the brains of women without bulimia.
Investigators used magnetic resonance imaging scans to discover that women with bulimia have decreased blood flow in a part of the brain associated with self-reflection, compared with increased blood flow in women without bulimia.
This suggests that bulimics may be using food to avoid negative thoughts about themselves, the researchers said.
“To our knowledge, the current study is the first investigation of the neural reactions to food cues following a stressful event in women with bulimia nervosa,” said lead author Brittany Collins, Ph.D., of the National Medical Center.
The research appears in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.
Stress is considered to be a trigger for binge-eating in patients with bulimia nervosa, but there is little research on how people with bulimia nervosa process and respond to food cues.
The researchers conducted two experiments. In the first, 10 women with bulimia and 10 without came to a lab where they all ate the same meal.
After waiting for about an hour and becoming familiar with an MRI scanner, they then entered the scanner and were shown a series of neutral pictures, such as leaves or furniture, followed by a series of high fat/high sugar food pictures, such as ice cream, brownies, pizza, or pasta with cheese sauce.
Participants were then asked to complete an impossible math problem, a task designed to induce stress and threaten their ego. They then re-entered the scanner and looked at different photos of high fat/high sugar foods.
After every activity in the scanner, the women rated their levels of stress and food cravings.
“We found that everyone experienced increased stress after the stress task, and that everyone reported that stress went down after seeing the food cues again. Also, every time that participants saw the food cues, they reported that their craving for food went up,” said co-author Sarah Fischer, Ph.D., of George Mason University.
What was surprising was even though patterns of self-reported results were similar for both groups, the two groups showed very different brain responses on their MRI scans, Fischer said.
For women with bulimia, blood flow to a region called the precuneus decreased. For women without the eating disorder, blood flow to this region increased. The precuneus is involved in thinking about the self.
“We would expect to see increased blood flow in this region when someone is engaged in self-reflection, rumination, or self-criticism,” said Fischer.
In the second experiment, the researchers asked 17 women with bulimia nervosa to complete the same task as the women in the first study, in order to examine whether the findings could be replicated in a different sample of women.
“Our results were the same in the second study,” said Fischer. “Women reported increases in stress following the stress task and increases in food craving after seeing food cues. More important, blood flow to the same region, the precuneus, decreased when viewing food cues following stress.”
Collins believes that this decreased blood flow in bulimics suggests that the introduction of food shuts down self-critical thinking in bulimics and gives them something to focus on instead of the painful prospect of dealing with their own shortcomings.
Psychologists have previously theorized that binge-eating provides bulimic women an alternate focus to negative thoughts about themselves that may be brought on by stress. This research provides support for this theory, according to Collins.
“Our findings are consistent with the characterization of binge-eating as an escape from self-awareness and support the emotion regulation theories that suggest that women with bulimia shift away from self-awareness because of negative thoughts regarding performance or social comparisons and shift focus to a more concrete stimulus, such as food,” said Collins.
The results of these experiments could also suggest a neurobiological basis for the use of food as a distractor during periods of stress in women with the disorder, she said. The researchers called for further studies to confirm their results, which they termed preliminary.
A new study debunks the belief that sexism is only a female issue as investigators discovered male sexual assault can cause emotional trauma and depression.
Using a sample size of 11,860 adults in the United States (5,922 men and 5,938 women), obtained from the National Violence Against Women Survey’s database, researchers at Florida Atlantic University and Sam Houston State University reviewed the gender specific impact of sexual assault.
Sexual assault is unwanted sexual contact, including rape, and is a traumatizing event linked to numerous mental health consequences associated with negative outcomes such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, fear, anxiety, alcohol dependence, use of illicit substances, suicidal ideation, and attempted suicide.
While there is extensive research on the collateral consequences experienced by females, almost no research exists on how sexual violence affects adult, non-incarcerated males or how it affects them as compared to females.
In the study, the researchers sought to challenge a sociological theory that explains that men are more likely to respond to sexual assault with anger and by engaging in criminal activity, while women are more likely to respond with depression and sadness.
The General Strain Theory, used by criminologists and sociologists, explains delinquency and deviant behavior in terms of behavioral, emotional, and cognitive adaptations to negative life events (i.e., strain).
Results of the study are published in the journal Women & Criminal Justice.
The aim of the study, led by Lisa M. Dario, Ph.D., assistant professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice within FAU’s College for Design and Social Inquiry, was to prove how depression and sexual assault are both underreported as well as understudied in adult men.
Research examining male sexual victimization has predominantly focused on childhood trauma. Findings from this study will help to tackle the many gaps that exist, identify appropriate support programs for men, and ultimately remove the stigma and barriers that prevent them from disclosing as well as discussing their experience.
“When we began this study, we thought for sure that we would find that females who were sexually assaulted would exhibit higher depression scores than males who were sexually assaulted,” said Dario.
“I think this is probably because of antiquated ideas that men and women experience emotions differently. What we actually discovered, much to our surprise, is that sexual assault is traumatic regardless of gender.”
The researchers suspect that it is possible that men may even experience depression more than women because they don’t have the social outlets and support systems available to women and therefore may wind up internalizing their feelings and emotions.
What didn’t surprise Dario and her collaborator Eryn Nicole O’Neal, Ph.D., an assistant professor of criminal justice and criminology at Sam Houston State University, was that all victims of sexual assault have higher depression scores than individuals who have not been sexually assaulted in their lifetime.
In 1980, men made up between one to 10 percent of rape reports received in crisis centers, hospitals, and emergency rooms; in 1997, they represented between five and 10 percent of all reported rapes.
More recently, National Crime Victimization Survey results show that men make up about 38 percent of sexual assault and rape incidents reported, and those in the military are particularly vulnerable and more unlikely to report an assault.
“There is no room for ‘sexism’ in sexual assault research [by ignoring male victims] and we must bring attention to an issue that impacts men equally, especially if we know that their negative emotional responses are treatable,” said Dario.
“If left untreated, sexual assault victims may look for other outlets to process their emotions; untreated depression may lead to negative coping mechanisms, like drug use. We do know that people who experience strains, like sex assault, are more likely to use illicit drugs, and we certainly need to be mindful of halting an already nationwide epidemic of opioid and other drug misuse.”
Source: Florida Atlantic University/EurekAlert
Photo: The aim of the study, led by Lisa M. Dario, Ph.D., assistant professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice within FAU’s College for Design and Social Inquiry, was to prove how depression and sexual assault are both underreported as well as understudied in adult men. Credit: Florida Atlantic University.
A new Penn State study finds that for some population groups, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) appears to be a better method to relieve stress than traditional health education.
Researchers performed a clinical trial on eighty-six women age ≥ 18 years, with BMI ≥ 25 kg/m2. Women were randomized to eight weeks of MBSR, or health education, and followed for 16 weeks.
Investigators discovered the MBSR group displayed increased mindfulness and decreased stress compared with health education. In addition, fasting blood sugar levels decreased within the MBSR group, but not within the health education group.
“Our study suggests that MBSR lowers perceived stress and blood sugar in women with overweight or obesity. This research has wider implications regarding the potential role of MBSR in the prevention and treatment of diabetes in patients with obesity,” said Dr. Nazia Raja-Khan, lead author. The study appears in the journal Obesity.
As a background to the study, investigators explain that more than two-thirds of US adults are overweight or obesity, which increases their risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Stress could exacerbate obesity and its cardiometabolic conditions by impeding the adoption of healthy behaviors, and altering body chemistry. Researchers observed, however, that there is a lack of effective interventions targeting stress in obesity.
As such, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), the most researched mindfulness-based intervention, may be beneficial for reducing stress and cardiometabolic risk among overweight or obese individuals.
Potential mechanisms by which MBSR could improve cardiometabolic outcomes include physiological changes in cortisol and catecholamines, psychological changes in depressive and anxiety symptoms, self-regulation, resilience, and coping, and behavioral changes in diet and physical activity.
Mindfulness-based interventions, including MBSR, have been shown to decrease stress in various patient populations. Mindfulness-based eating awareness training, developed for binge eating disorder, reduces binge eating episodes, improves self-control, and may promote weight loss.
Mindfulness-based interventions have also been preliminarily shown to improve glucose and blood pressure in patients with diabetes.
In the study, participants randomized to MBSR received the standard MBSR program consisting of instructor-led weekly 2.5-hour sessions for eight weeks and a six hour retreat session. One adaptation to standard MBSR was that participants were asked to do only 25 to 30 minutes of daily home practice instead of the standard 45 minutes.
There were no other changes to the standard MBSR curriculum, including no changes to the type or content of meditation practice. The instructor who led the MBSR intervention was well qualified, having completed professional MBSR training and with nine years of experience training others in mindfulness.
During the study, the MBSR instructor received regular guidance from a supervisor highly experienced in teaching MBSR. The MBSR intervention lasted eight weeks. Between eight and 16 weeks, participants were encouraged to continue with the daily home practice, but there was no contact from intervention staff.
All participants in the MBSR and health education groups were given the same written guidelines on diet and exercise, which consisted of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ “General, Healthful Nutrition” handout and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Physical Activity and Health” webpage.
These guidelines were the only information that was the same across both groups. The MBSR group did not receive any additional health education other than these guidelines.
The health education group was taught by a registered dietitian who delivered additional diet and exercise information. To control for instructor attention and group support, the health education group also received instructor-led, weekly, 2.5-hour sessions for eight weeks and a six hour retreat.
During sessions, the health education group received lectures and participated in learning activities about diet, exercise, general stress management, and the diagnosis, symptoms, complications, and treatments for obesity.
Participants practiced exercising with cans, resistance bands, balls, and chairs and created their own exercise plan. They reviewed their own food logs and identified foods high in sodium and fat and low in fiber, as well as foods that were good protein choices.
They created meal plans for themselves. During the stress management session, they wrote down what caused them to be stressed and what they did when they were stressed (e.g., ate more, cried). This was followed by a discussion on how to relieve stress.
General stress management was included in the health education group to minimize the bias of subject expectations. The health education group did not receive any mindfulness. The MBSR group received a more extensive discussion on stress and practiced using mindfulness to respond to stress, which is a key component of the MBSR curriculum.
Because weight loss is not a part of the MBSR curriculum, all subjects were informed at enrollment that the primary focus of the study was stress reduction, not weight reduction. They were informed that the study was being done to determine the effects of stress reduction on glucose, blood pressure, and overall health.
To limit subject expectation bias, subjects were not told that one program was hypothesized to be more effective than the other. They were told that the study was being done to test two different stress reduction programs, one of which is combined with health education.
Future studies are needed to determine whether a sustained increase in mindfulness with a longer mindfulness-based intervention would result in even greater and more long-term benefits.
Source: Penn State/Wiley
Having a good reason to get out of bed in the morning means you are more likely to sleep better at night with less sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome, according to a new study.
“Helping people cultivate a purpose in life could be an effective drug-free strategy to improve sleep quality, particularly for a population that is facing more insomnia,” said senior author Dr. Jason Ong, an associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Purpose in life is something that can be cultivated and enhanced through mindfulness therapies.”
For the study, researchers recruited 823 people between the ages of 60 and 100, with an average age of 79. None suffered from dementia. More than half were African American and 77 percent were female.
The study found that people who felt their lives had meaning were 63 percent less likely to have sleep apnea and 52 percent less likely to have restless leg syndrome. They also had moderately better sleep quality, a global measure of sleep disturbance, according to the researchers.
For the study, participants answered a 10-question survey on purpose in life and a 32-question survey on sleep.
For the purpose in life survey, they were asked to rate their responses to such statements as, “I feel good when I think of what I’ve done in the past and what I hope to do in the future.”
Individuals have more sleep disturbances and insomnia as they get older, the researchers noted. Clinicians prefer to use non-drug interventions to improve patients’ sleep, a practice now recommended by the American College of Physicians as a first line treatment for insomnia, Ong said.
Poor sleep quality is related to having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, and feeling sleepy during the day. Sleep apnea is a common disorder that increases with age in which a person has shallow breathing or pauses in breathing during sleep several times per hour. This disruption often makes a person feel unrefreshed upon waking up and excessively sleepy during the day.
Restless leg syndrome causes uncomfortable sensations in the legs and an irresistible urge to move them. Symptoms commonly occur in the late afternoon or evening hours and are often most severe at night when a person is resting, such as sitting or lying in bed.
The next step in the research should be to study the use of mindfulness-based therapies to target purpose in life and resulting sleep quality, said Dr. Arlener Turner, the study’s first author and a former postdoctoral fellow in neurology at Feinberg.
The study was published in the journal Sleep Science and Practice.
A new study finds that drinking alcohol while pregnant causes abnormalities in the brain and behavior that may be passed on for many generations.
The new research finds that drinking alcohol during pregnancy will not only affect a mother’s unborn child, but may also impact brain development and lead to adverse outcomes in her future grand- and even great-grandchildren.
“Traditionally, prenatal ethanol exposure (PrEE) from maternal consumption of alcohol was thought to solely impact directly exposed offspring, the embryo or fetus in the womb,” said Dr. Kelly Huffman, a psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside.
“However, we now have evidence that the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure could persist transgenerationally and negatively impact the next-generations of offspring who were never exposed to alcohol.”
Previous research from Huffman’s laboratory has shown that PrEE impacts the anatomy of the neocortex, the part of the brain responsible for complex behavior and cognition in humans, and that it can lead to abnormal motor behavior and increased anxiety in the exposed offspring.
According to the researchers, they have extended this research by providing evidence that in utero ethanol exposure generates neurobiological and behavioral effects in subsequent generations of mice that had no ethanol exposure.
To determine whether the abnormalities in brain and behavior from prenatal ethanol exposure would pass transgenerationally, Huffman generated a mouse model of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) and tested many aspects of brain and behavioral development across three generations.
As expected, the first generation, the directly exposed offspring, showed atypical gene expression, abnormal development of the neural network within the neocortex and behavioral deficits, the researchers noted.
However, the researchers also discovered that the subsequent, non-exposed generations of mice had neurodevelopmental and behavioral problems similar to the those of the first, directly exposed generation.
“We found that body weight and brain size were significantly reduced in all generations of PrEE animals when compared to controls; all generation of PrEE mice showed increased anxiety-like, depressive-like behaviors and sensory-motor deficits,” Huffman said.
“By demonstrating the strong transgenerational effects of prenatal ethanol exposure in a mouse model of FASD, we suggest that FASD may be a heritable condition in humans.”
The study suggests that alcohol consumption while pregnant leads to a cascade of nervous system changes that ultimately impact behavior, via mechanisms that can produce transgenerational effects.
By gaining an understanding of the neurodevelopmental and behavioral effects of prenatal ethanol exposure that persist across generations, scientists and researchers can begin to create novel therapies and methods of prevention, the researchers concluded.
The study was published in the journal Cerebral Cortex.
It’s called the “age paradox.” Why do some people report high levels of subjective well-being as they age in spite of age-related ailments and the social losses of aging?
“Aging itself is not inevitably associated with a decline in mood and quality of life,” said Professor Karl-Heinz Ladwig, the head of the Mental Health Research Group at the Institute of Epidemiology II, Helmholtz Zentrum München, and a professor of psychosomatic medicine at the TUM University Hospital.
“It is rather the case that psychosocial factors, such as depression or anxiety, impair subjective well-being. And in the case of women, living alone also plays an important role.”
“What made the study particularly interesting was the fact that the impact of stress on emotional well-being has barely been investigated in a broader, non-clinical context,” added Dr. Karoline Lukaschek, an epidemiologist in the Mental Health Research Group and lead author of the paper. “Our study therefore explicitly included anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders.”
For the new study, the research team relied on data derived from about 3,600 participants with an average age of 73 who had taken part in the population-based Cooperative Health Research in the Region of Augsburg (KORA-Age Study).
To ascertain levels of subjective well-being, the scientists used a questionnaire devised by the World Health Organization with a score ranging from zero to 100. For the purpose of analysis, they divided the respondents’ results into two categories: A high score of 50 and above and a low score below 50.
The subsequent evaluation revealed a high level of subjective well-being in the majority — 79 percent — of the respondents. The average values were also above the threshold set by the WHO, the researchers noted.
In the low group, however, there was a conspicuously high number of women: About 24 percent compared to 18 percent for men, the researchers discovered.
In an attempt to uncover the most important causes for subjective well-being, the scientists mainly identified psychosocial factors.
What they found is that depression and anxiety disorders had the strongest effect on well-being. Low income and sleep disorders also had a negative effect.
However, poor physical health seemed to have little impact on perceived life satisfaction, according to researchers.
Among women, living alone also significantly increased the probability of a low sense of well-being, they discovered.
“The findings of the current study clearly demonstrate that appropriate services and interventions can play a major role for older people, especially for older women living on their own,” Ladwig said. “And this is all the more important, given that we know that high levels of subjective well-being are linked to a lower mortality risk.”
The study was published in BMC Geriatrics.
Source: Helmholtz Zentrum München
New research finds that while false-positive mammography results are a good thing, meaning a tumor is not likely, the findings spike use of anxiety and depression medications.
Penn State researchers found that women who experience a false-positive mammogram result are more likely to begin medication for anxiety or depression than women who received an immediate negative result.
Researcher Joel Segel believes the finding highlights the importance of swift and accurate follow-up testing to rule out a breast cancer diagnosis.
Investigators found that patients who receive a false-positive mammogram result are also prescribed anxiety or depression medication at a rate 10 to 20 percent higher than patients who receive an immediate negative result.
These prescriptions are new and not continuations of previously prescribed medicines.
A false-positive result is one where a suspicious finding on the screening mammogram leads to additional testing that does not end up leading to a breast cancer diagnosis.
Additionally, within that group of patients who required more than one test to resolve the false-positive there was a 20 to 30 percent increase in those beginning to take anxiety or depression medications. The increase was particularly noticeable among women with commercial insurance who required multiple tests to rule out a breast cancer diagnosis.
“The results suggest that efforts to quickly resolve initially positive findings including same-day follow-up tests may help reduce anxiety and even prevent initiation of anxiety or depression medication,” said Segel, assistant professor of health policy and administration at Penn State.
This study demonstrates that some women who experience a false-positive mammogram may need additional follow-up care to effectively handle the increased anxiety that may accompany the experience, Segel said.
More importantly, from a practitioner standpoint, the study identifies sub-populations who may be most at risk of increased anxiety following a false-positive mammogram, Segel said.
Specifically, women whose false-positive result requires more than one follow-up test to resolve, women with commercial insurance who undergo a biopsy, women who wait longer than one week to receive a negative result, and women who are under age 50 may all be at higher risk of experiencing clinically significant anxiety or depression.
“Regular breast cancer screening is critical to early detection,” Segel said.
“Patients should continue to work with their providers to ensure they are receiving guideline-appropriate screening and should follow up with their providers if they experience either anxiety or depression following screening or any type of care.”
For the study, researchers reviewed commercial- and Medicaid-claims databases to identify women ages 40 to 64 who underwent screening mammography with no prior claims for anxiety or depression medications.