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Including Family in Caregiving Can Aid Healing, Reduce Readmissions

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 12:30

A new initiative led by Intermountain Healthcare allows family members of hospitalized patients to participate in their care, resulting in better healing and reduced readmission rates.

Researchers explain that Intermountain’s Partners in Healing program provides opportunities for family members to help with basic care for their loved ones while they are in the hospital. The engagement with the hospital care plan helps family members prepare for taking over care responsibilities when the loved one goes home.

The program also allows the patient and family member more control over when they perform the care activities rather than following a schedule when the nurse or patient care tech are available. And it improves communication between the family and the staff, said Michelle Van De Graaff, R.N., of Intermountain Medical Center, who created and piloted the program as part of the study.

“The vast majority of families like to have something to do and they like to participate in patient care. They’re often the most motivated member of the care team,” said Van De Graaff.

“We’ve found that families not only want to promote healing, but patients benefit from someone who knows their preferences, and the result is, the rate of readmissions is reduced after patients are discharged from the hospital.”

Partners in Healing is the first program in the field that shows drafting families as clinical care partners during hospitalization may reduce readmissions. In the study, researchers compared adult heart surgery patients at Intermountain Medical Center whose families participated in the program with those whose relatives did not.

For the study, which appears in the medical journal CHEST, researchers looked at 30-day all-cause readmissions, 30-day all-cause mortality, length of stay, and the number of emergency room visits. Many family members who participated also completed a feedback survey.

The 30-day readmission rate was 65 percent lower for patients whose families participated in Partners in Healing, based on 200 matched pairs of patients. Researchers controlled the results for age, gender, and illness severity. There was no significant difference for the other outcomes.

Participant feedback showed that 92 percent of the patients said the program enhanced the transition from hospital care to home care and 94 percent said they’d highly recommend the program to other families.

Four themes were identified in a feedback survey:

  • Family members praised the Partners in Healing program and expressed gratitude for being involved with it;
  • Family members acquired relevant caregiving skills;
  • Family members reported feeling empowered, integrated into the care team, and confident. They said those feelings reduced their anxiety, increased their confidence in caregiving tasks at home, and aided in the patient’s healing process;
  • Family members thought the program should be available to all families and during all phases of hospitalization, including in intensive care units.

Intermountain Medical Center piloted the nine-year program in seven acute-care units, Van De Graaff said. The Mayo Clinic learned about the program and also tested it last year.

The program will now expand to the other 21 Intermountain Healthcare hospitals and will eventually be available on all Intermountain nursing units.

“Offering the Partners in Healing program to the patients and families in all of our Intermountain hospitals is a commitment to providing the best care possible to our patients by involving their loved ones in the healing process,” said Tammy Richards, assistant vice president of Patient and Clinical Engagement at Intermountain Healthcare.

The program works like this: During a patient’s initial encounter in the hospital, the bedside nurse introduces the program and families are asked if they want to participate.

Those who are interested are taught several basic skills that are appropriate for that patient, then given a badge that indicates to staff that they’re part of the care team and have access to drinks, snacks, ice, and blankets for their family member.

A checklist is taped to the patient’s door and program participants write what they do, such as helping with breathing exercises, assisting with activity, giving help to the bathroom, measuring urine output, recording how much a patient eats and drinks, etc. The nurse then transfers the data into the computer record.

“These are simple tasks, but they give families a sense of control and knowledge about what they can and can’t do,” says Van De Graaff. “By inviting them onto the health care team, we’re also preparing them to take over care when a patient goes home.”


Source: Intermountain Medical Center/EurekAlert

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Abusive Supervision Impacts Employees’ Well-Being and Work Performance

Sun, 02/11/2018 - 15:45

Abusive supervision in the workplace has a damaging impact on not only the employees, but also the business, according to a new study.

Researchers at the Naveen Jindal School of Management at the University of Texas-Dallas found that abusive supervision affects more than 13 percent of U.S. workers. Costs incurred by corporations because of absenteeism, health care costs, and lost productivity has been estimated at $23.8 billion annually.

Abusive supervision refers to subordinates’ perceptions of supervisors engaging in sustained hostile verbal and nonverbal behaviors, excluding physical contact. It can affect employees’ well-being, health, and work performance, researchers note.

“Abusive supervision in the workplace is quite a prevalent phenomenon, and employees should not have to suffer from this,” said Dr. Junfeng Wu, assistant professor of Organizations, Strategy, and International Management. “Our study shows that there are certain costs associated with abusive supervisors and even the leaders who engage in abusive supervision do not benefit from it. We want to convey this important message to organization leaders in order to have them stop these kinds of behaviors.”

The study, published in the Journal of Business Ethics, used a statistical technique called meta-analysis. It combines the results of findings from 79 previous studies to get a systematic understanding of the relationship between abusive supervision and subordinates’ retaliatory responses.

The researchers found that even though the immediate source of injustice is the supervisor, abused employees perceive injustice from both their supervisor and organization, so extend their retaliation to both.

“It will cause problems for the managers who engage in abusive supervision and, overall, it will threaten the well-being of the organization because the employees will engage in organizational deviance, such as arriving to work late or having low productivity,” Wu said.

The researchers also found that those who experience abusive supervision tend to emulate such abusive behaviors and even bully their co-workers.

“Employees see their leader as a role model in the workplace and they tend to follow suit,” Wu said. “This is a social learning effect.”

The researchers also explored whether the impact of abusive supervision on employees’ perceptions of justice and deviant behavior differ based on cultural values.

They explain that power distance is a national cultural value that captures the extent to which people tolerate power differences in interpersonal relationships.

In countries with lower power distance, such as the U.S. and much of Europe, people tend to feel that power should be equally distributed. Retaliation to both the supervisor and to the organization is stronger in lower power distance countries.

In countries with higher power distance, such as China and Japan, people tend to have more tolerance for the inequalities of power distributions.

“That does not mean that leaders can engage in abusive supervision,” Wu said. “Employees still feel it is unjust and they engage in deviance behavior as well. It’s just not as strong.”

Wu said the cross-cultural aspects of this study have implications for international companies.

For example, if a manager from a higher power distance country is assigned to work in a lower power distance country, he should be aware that employees will not tolerate abusive supervision behaviors due to their lower power distance orientation values.

The study recommends that organizations use leadership development programs, coach supervisors, and pay more attention to employee feedback. Wu said these may help reduce the occurrence of abusive supervision in the workplace.

Source: University of Texas Dallas

Photo: Dr. Junfeng Wu is an assistant professor of Organizations, Strategy and International Management in the Naveen Jindal School of Management at UT Dallas. Credit: UT Dallas.

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Complementary Therapy Helps Military Vets with PTSD

Fri, 02/09/2018 - 14:45

A new approach to reduce the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among veterans is the use of prescribed therapeutic horseback riding (THR) as a complimentary therapy.

In a new study, University of Missouri (MU) researchers determined that veterans had a significant decrease in PTSD scores just weeks after THR. Overall results show that therapeutic horseback riding may be a clinically effective intervention for alleviating PTSD symptoms in military veterans.

“PTSD is an anxiety disorder that occurs after exposure to life-threatening events or injuries and is marked by flashbacks, avoidance, and changes in beliefs and feelings,” said Rebecca Johnson, a professor in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine and the Millsap Professor of Gerontological Nursing in the Sinclair School of Nursing.

“Estimates are that more than 23 million military veterans experience PTSD symptoms each year. While counseling and behavior therapies often are prescribed, sometimes clinicians will encourage complementary therapies, such as therapeutic horseback riding. We wanted to test whether THR could be a useful complementary therapy in the treatment of PTSD.”

The interaction between horses and riders has been demonstrated to increase riders’ confidence, self-esteem, sensory sensitivity, and social motivation while decreasing stress.

For the study, 29 military veterans were assessed for eligibility from a nearby Veterans Administration (VA) hospital. Those diagnosed with PTSD or PTSD with traumatic brain injury were invited to participate in a therapeutic horseback riding program once a week for six weeks.

PTSD symptoms then were measured both at three weeks and six weeks into the program using the PTSD Checklist-Military Version (PCL-M) assessment, a 20-item self-reporting survey that is used by clinicians to gauge PTSD symptoms.

Additionally, other measurement instruments were used to assess improvements made in the treatment of the anxiety disorders.

“Results showed that participants in the program experienced a significant decrease in PTSD scores, almost 67 percent, after just three weeks of THR,” Johnson said.

“After six weeks, participants experienced an 87 percent drop in PTSD scores. Interestingly, the veterans who self-identified for the study all were from the Vietnam War era meaning that some of these military veterans had been experiencing PTSD symptoms for 40 or 50 years. It may be important for health care systems to support THR as a viable complimentary therapy.”

Source: University of Missouri

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Exposure to Air Pollution May Lead to Unethical Behavior

Thu, 02/08/2018 - 14:45

A new study suggests that exposure to air pollution, or even imagined exposure to air pollution, may be associated with crime and unethical behaviors such as cheating. The findings, published in the journal Psychological Science, suggest that this link may be due, at least in part, to higher levels of anxiety.

“This research reveals that air pollution may have potential ethical costs that go beyond its well-known toll on health and the environment,” says behavioral scientist Jackson G. Lu of Columbia Business School, the first author of the research. “This is important because air pollution is a serious global issue that affects billions of people — even in the United States, about 142 million people still reside in counties with dangerously polluted air.”

Prior research has suggested that exposure to air pollution increases anxiety, which in turn has been linked to a range of unethical behaviors. The researchers hypothesize that pollution may ultimately increase criminal activity and unethical behavior by increasing anxiety.

First the researchers looked at air pollution and crime data for 9,360 U.S. cities taken over a nine year period. The air pollution data, maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), included information about six major pollutants, including particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide.

The crime data, maintained by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, included information about crimes in seven major categories, such as murder, aggravated assault, and robbery.

The findings show that cities with higher levels of air pollution tend to have higher levels of crime. This association held true even after the researchers accounted for other potential factors, including total population, number of law enforcement employees, median age, gender distribution, race distribution, poverty rate, unemployment rate, unobserved heterogeneity among cities (e.g., city area, legal system), and unobserved time-varying effects (e.g., macroeconomic conditions).

To see if there was a direct, causal link between the experience of air pollution and unethical behavior, the team conducted several more experiments. Since they could not randomly assign participants to physically experience different levels of air pollution, the researchers manipulated whether participants imagined experiencing air pollution.

For example, 256 participants looked at a photo featuring either a polluted scene or a clean scene. They imagined living in that location and reflected on how they would feel as they walked around and breathed the air.

On a supposedly unrelated task, the participants looked at a set of cue words (e.g., sore, shoulder, sweat) and had to identify another word that was linked with each of the cue words (e.g., cold); each correct answer earned them $0.50.

Due to a fake computer glitch, the correct answer appeared if the participants hovered their mouse over the answer box, which the researchers asked them not to do. Unknown to the participants, the researchers recorded how many times the participants peeked at the answer.

The findings show that participants who thought about living in a polluted area cheated more often than did those who thought about living in a clean area.

In another experiment, participants viewed photos of either polluted or clean scenes taken in the exact same locations in Beijing. They were then asked to write about what it would be like to live there. Independent coders rated the essays according to how much anxiety the participants expressed.

Then the researchers counted how often participants cheated in reporting the outcome of a die roll or how often they were willing to use unethical negotiation strategies.

Similar to the previous findings, participants who wrote about living in a polluted location were more likely to engage in unethical behavior compared to those who wrote about living in a clean location; they also expressed more anxiety in their writing. As the researchers hypothesized, anxiety levels appeared to mediate the link between imagining exposure to air pollution and unethical behavior.

Overall, the archival and experimental findings suggest that exposure to air pollution, whether physical or mental, is linked with unethical behavior through increased levels of anxiety.

The researchers note that there may be other mechanisms besides anxiety that link air pollution and unethical behavior. They also acknowledge that imagining being in a polluted area is not the same as experiencing actual air pollution. They highlight these limitations as avenues for further research.

Source: Association for Psychological Science

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Magnetic Brain Stimulation May Reduce Negative Emotions

Thu, 02/08/2018 - 14:00

A new study suggests that processing of negative emotions can be influenced by tweaking/tuning the excitability of brain cells located in the right frontal part of the brain.

Researchers at University of Münster, Germany used magnetic stimulation outside the brain, a technique called repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), to stimulate the right frontal brain to reduce a person’s response to fearful images. Excitatory stimulation helped to manage emotions; conversely, inhibitory stimulation of this brain region is currently used to treat depression.

The study, published in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, provides support for an approach clinicians use to guide treatment in depression, but has never been verified in a lab.

The investigation clarifies that the right frontal brain is a control center for the emotion-generating structures of the brain.

“This study confirms that modulating the frontal region of the brain, in the right hemisphere, directly effects the regulation of processing of emotional information in the brain in a ‘top-down’ manner,” said Cameron Carter, M.D., Editor of Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging,

“These results highlight and expand the scope of the potential therapeutic applications of rTMS,” he said.

In depression, processing of emotion is disrupted in the frontal region of both the left and right brain hemispheres (known as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortices, dlPFC). Scientist believe this area of the brain may have disrupted neural activity. When nerve cells are out of sync this may result in increased negative emotion and diminished positive emotion.

Reducing excitability of the right dlPFC using inhibitory magnetic stimulation has been shown to have antidepressant effects. Researchers explain that even though it’s based on an idea — that this might reduce processing of negative emotion in depression — the theory needs to be fully tested in humans.

The new study did just that as co-first authors Swantje Notzon, M.D., and Christian Steinberg, Ph.D, and colleagues divided 41 healthy participants into two groups to compare the effects of a single-session of excitatory or inhibitory magnetic stimulation of the right dlPFC. They performed rTMS while the participants viewed images of fearful faces to evoke negative emotion, or neutral faces for a comparison.

Excitatory and inhibitory rTMS had opposite effects; excitatory reduced visual sensory processing of fearful faces, whereas inhibitory increased visual sensory processing. Similarly, excitatory rTMS reduced participants’ reaction times to respond to fearful faces and reduced feelings of emotional arousal to fearful faces, which were both increased by inhibitory rTMS.

Although the study was limited to healthy participants, senior author Markus Junghöfer, Ph.D., noted that “…these results should encourage more research on the mechanisms of excitatory and inhibitory magnetic stimulation of the right dlPFC in the treatment of depression.”

Source: Elsevier

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Middle Age Mental Health is Strong in Finland

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 14:00

A new study finds the mental health of middle-aged individuals may be surprisingly robust. Finnish investigators used a unique data set where a group of nearly 370 people have been followed from age eight to 50. They discovered that over time, four groups of mental well-being emerged.

The novel data set was the product of individual participation in the Jyväskylä Longitudinal Study of Personality and Social Development (JYLS) for over 40 years.

The longitudinal study allowed researchers to capture data for multiple dimensions of mental well-being — including satisfaction with life and psychological and social well-being — over time.

Psychological well-being refers to an individual’s sense of having a purpose in life and personal growth, whereas social well-being is characterized by a sense of environmental mastery and acceptance.

Investigators assessed mental health when the study participants were 36, 42, and 50 years old. Research Director Katja Kokko from the Gerontology Research Center at the University of Jyväskylä explains:

“Our analyses provided two new perspectives to the study of mental well-being: First, we included positive dimensions of mental well-being and did not consider it only as an absence of mental distress.

“Second, while it is common to analyze an average developmental trend of mental well-being over time, we looked for groups of individuals differing in their developmental trajectories.”

During the follow-up period, four groups of mental well-being emerged.

Twenty-nine percent of participants were classified as having a high level of life satisfaction as well as psychological and social well-being throughout the study period.

Further, 47 percent had a relatively high and 22 percent a moderately high level of mental well-being.

Conversely, about three percent of the participants had a relatively low score in all the well-being dimensions from age 36 to 50.

“It was a bit unexpected how stable mental well-being was in mid-adulthood and that a majority of the middle-aged had such a high level of well-being,” Kokko explains.

“However, it should be noted that the follow-up intervals were rather long, about six to eight years, and it is possible that within those years mental well-being fluctuated but then returned to an individual’s characteristic level.”

The groups of mental well-being were compared to each other in other areas of functioning as well.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the individuals on the trajectories for high, relatively high, and moderate well-being had more satisfying relationships, more favorable working careers, and fewer diseases than those individuals on the low well-being trajectory.

Few differences between the groups were observed in physical or cognitive functioning.

“We found that only stable low mental well-being — developed over a lengthy period of time, was a risk factor for unfavorable relationships, working career, and health,” Kokko says.

“In older adulthood, mental well-being will possibly also relate to physical and cognitive functioning when there is more variation among the individuals in these areas.”

The present analyses shed light on the development of multi-dimensionally assessed mental well-being in mid-adulthood. They further help identify those groups of individuals who are at the greatest risk. Improving their mental well-being can contribute to functioning in old adulthood.

Source: University of Jyväskylä

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Animal Studies Show How Stress Impacts Cellular Function & Physical Health

Mon, 02/05/2018 - 14:45

Emerging research may have discovered the method by which psychological stress impacts physical health. Scientists believe the key may be the way in which stress affects the mitochondria region of a cell, often called a cell’s “powerhouse.” Experts believe the new understanding could potentially revolutionize the field of psychosomatic medicine.

Two articles found in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine discuss the new findings. The articles present an update on current evidence and a conceptual framework of the role of mitochondria in understanding how psychosocial factors, either negative or positive, may affect human health.

“Ultimately, the successful integration of mitochondria in psychosomatic research should foster a more comprehensive understanding of the forces that influence our health across the lifespan, and of the factors that hinder our ability to heal from disease,” write Drs. Martin Picard, Ph.D., of Columbia University and Bruce S. McEwen of The Rockefeller University, New York.

Mitochondria are subunits of cells throughout the body with their own DNA and are found in nearly every type of cell.

Sometimes called cellular “powerhouses,” mitochondria generate the energy and signals required for life. When mitochondria do not work properly, they can cause severe diseases affecting many different body systems.

Research points to mitochondria as “a potential intersection point between psychosocial experiences and biological stress responses,” Picard and McEwen stated.

In 23 experimental studies in animals that have been conducted by researchers in laboratories across the world, acute and chronic stress influenced specific aspects of mitochondrial function, particularly in the brain.

Therefore, mitochondrial vulnerability to stress may be influenced by a wide range of factors, including behavior, genes, and diet.

The authors outline a conceptual framework by which mitochondria may transduce the effects of psychological stress on physical health. They explain that a growing body of evidence suggests that mitochondria “sense, integrate, and signal information about their environment.”

In short stress, may cause structural and functional “recalibration” of the mitochondria.

The authors describe the concept of mitochondrial allostatic load (MAL), the structural and functional changes that mitochondria undergo in response to chronic stress. In turn, these changes may lead to widespread health effects: for example, increased inflammation leading to disease risk, or cellular DNA damage leading to accelerated aging.

Mitochondria also appear to be involved in regulating the body’s stress reactivity systems, including the brain, as well as controlling immunity and inflammation. Damage to mitochondrial DNA has long been suggested to represent a biological “aging clock.”

Recent studies have unequivocally shown that mitochondria affect the rate of aging in mammals, possibly through increased inflammation. However, it’s still unclear whether this is the case in humans.

The findings are especially exciting for the field of psychosomatic medicine, with its traditional focus on re-integrating the mind (“psyche”) and body (“soma”).

Emerging evidence on the role of mitochondria in translating the effects of stress on health “extend the reach of mind-body research into the cellular-molecular domain that is the core foundation of current biomedical training and practice,” noted Picard and McEwen.

They emphasize the need for further studies to test various elements of their model, especially in humans. “Future research should consider the dynamic bi-directional interactions between mitochondria and other important physiological systems.”

Source: Wolters Kluwer Health/EurekAlert

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New Survey Helps Match Self-Efficacy to Job, Career Development

Mon, 02/05/2018 - 12:30

European researchers have developed a new tool to help companies learn how their employees manage challenging and stressful situation at the workplace. The new survey reveals the complexity of self-efficacy, the belief in one’s capabilities to achieve a goal or an outcome.

Investigators believe the expanded knowledge of an individual’s beliefs about their capabilities can mean better job placement and enhanced training, which plays a major role in career development.

Self-efficacy is important in an individual’s motivation, well-being, personal achievement and fulfillment, according to the researchers. The skill greatly influences work behavior as employees must not only accomplish tasks but also manage their negative emotions as well as interpersonal relationships.

Despite this, self-efficacy has mainly been assessed in relation to job tasks, not emotions and interpersonal aspects.

The new investigation aimed to fill the gap by developing and testing a new work self-efficacy scale to assess individuals’ perceived ability not only in managing tasks, but also negative emotions, being empathic and being assertive.

Researchers at the University of East Anglia’s (UEA) Norwich Business School, the Department of Psychology at Sapienza University of Rome, distance learning school Uninettuno Telematic International University and the Centre for Advances in Behavioural Science at Coventry University led the study.

Results from two studies, involving a total of 2892 Italian employees, provide evidence of the added value of a more comprehensive approach to the assessment of self-efficacy at work.

Researchers also believe the new scale has practical implications for management and staff; for example in recruitment and appraisal processes, as well career development and training.

The findings, which appear in the Journal of Vocational Behavior, show that:

  • the more employees perceive themselves as able to manage their tasks and effectively fulfill their goals (task self-efficacy), the better they perform and the less they are likely to misbehave at work;
  • the more employees perceive themselves as able to manage their negative emotions in stressful and conflict situations (negative emotional self-efficacy), the less they report physical symptoms and the less they experience negative emotions in relation to their job;
  • the more employees perceive themselves as able to understand their colleagues’ moods and states (empathic self-efficacy), the more they are likely to go the extra mile in their working lives and help their colleagues.

Co-author Dr. Roberta Fida, an expert in organizational behavior at Norwich Business School, said, “Our results also showed that the more employees perceive themselves as capable of speaking up for their rights and ideas, what we call assertive self-efficacy, the more they seem to engage in counterproductive work behavior targeting the organization as a whole. This seems to suggest that assertive self-efficacy should be considered as a risk factor.

“However, further analyses showed that reducing individuals to separate elements may obscure their complexity. Indeed, the results of this research showed the importance of considering the relationship between the different self-efficacy beliefs and how they combine with each other. This helps us to understand how individuals organize their capabilities to fulfill their goals and manage themselves in challenging and demanding situations.”

In particular, the findings showed that when employees have high assertive self-efficacy along with high task, negative emotional, and empathic self-efficacy, they actually did not show higher counterproductive work behavior.

On the contrary, they are those helping and going the extra mile as well as those showing high well-being. The opposite is instead true for those employees with high empathic self-efficacy but low task, negative emotional, and assertive self-efficacy.

Results also showed that when employees have high task self-efficacy but they do not perceive themselves as able to manage negative emotions in stressful and conflictual situations, understand others’ needs and mood, or speak up for their rights and ideas, they undoubtedly perform well in their job but they “pay the price” in terms of well-being.

Said Fida, “By using the scale, management and Human Resources may gain an all-round understanding of their employees over the course of their career, and may assess and monitor individuals’ beliefs in relation to different self-regulatory capabilities.

“For example, in the recruitment process, it may provide relevant information to understand how potential employees may adjust to the work environment. It can also be used in the appraisal system as a self-reflective tool.

“In addition, it can provide relevant information for career development, and for training and vocational counseling. It may inform the design of tailored interventions aimed at promoting employees’ self-regulatory competences in ‘less trained’ self-regulatory capabilities.”

Source: University of East Anglia

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Study Finds At Least 1 in 4 German Teens Engages in Self-Harm

Sun, 02/04/2018 - 15:00

A new German study finds that 25 to 35 percent of adolescents in the country have intentionally inflicted injuries upon themselves at least once in their lifetime, with some young people self-harming on a regular basis.

These figures give Germany one of the highest prevalence rates for self-harm among European countries. The researchers present the latest evidence on non-suicidal self-injury in adolescents in the current issue of the journal Deutsches Ärzteblatt International. They also discuss the guidelines for treatment.

Non-suicidal self injury is defined as direct, repetitive, socially unacceptable damage to body tissues without any suicidal intent. To this end, young people who self-harm most often cut, scratch, or burn the surface of their skin, for example, or they hit parts of their bodies (such as their head) against objects and injure their skin or bones in this way.

According to study author Paul L. Plener and his coauthors from Ulm University Hospital, non-suicidal self-injury often serves to help manage negative emotional states.

Many people who self-harm say the physical pain helps drown out the emotional pain. Sometimes, injuring oneself stimulates the body’s endorphins or pain-killing hormones, thus raising one’s mood.

A number of risk factors have been identified for people who may self-harm, with the primary ones being bullying, comorbid psychiatric conditions, and abuse and neglect in childhood. In the past few years, neurobiological research has shown that individuals who self-harm often have abnormalities when it comes to coping with stress.

In addition, researchers have found that after repeated acts of non-suicidal self-injury, patients tend to gain a greater threshold for pain, allowing for more intense acts of harm.

The treatment for non-suicidal self-harm is typically some form of psychotherapy which can help patients learn new coping mechanisms for stress. The researchers assert that other mental comorbidities will have to be taken into account during treatment.

But while psychotherapeutic interventions have been shown to successfully reduce the frequency of self-injury, no single therapeutic approach has demonstrated clear superiority. Randomized controlled studies in adolescents have shown small to moderate effects after cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and mentalization-based treatment.

As of yet, no psychoactive drug has been found to possess specific efficacy in the treatment of non-suicidal self-injury.

In the U.S., research has shown that self-injury occurs in approximately 15 percent of teens and as many as four percent of adults. Studies show an even higher risk for self-injury among college students, with rates ranging from 17 to 35 percent.

Source: Deutsches Ärzteblatt International

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Wealth Accumulation Reduces Anxiety Among Seniors

Fri, 02/02/2018 - 14:45

New research suggests that financial literacy helps people make better saving and investment decisions. The financial activity often enhances wealth accumulation which appears to lessen anxiety about life in old age.

Investigators from Hiroshima University say the study is the first of its kind to examine how understanding about money influences anxiety about life in old age in the United States.

“Anxiety is bad for one’s health, and it is bad for the economy,” says Yoshihiko Kadoya, an Associate Professor of Health Economics and primary author of this study.

Indeed, nearly 75 percent of Americans report feeling anxious about old age.

“If you have a high level of anxiety about the future, you tend to spend less and be more cautious about saving money, which negatively affects the national economy. We predicted that financial literacy would help to reduce this anxiety.”

Kadoya and Mostafa Saidur Rahim Khan, who is a study coauthor and a Ph.D. student, looked at the answers of surveys sent to adults across the United States. Respondents answered questions that tested their financial literacy, including basic calculation skills and understanding the pricing behavior of bonds.

They also reported to what degree they felt anxious about life after turning 65 years old.

Taken as a whole, the researchers did not find a direct causal link between levels of financial literacy and anxiety about life in old age. So, in order to understand how the two are related, the researchers examined household characteristics like wealth, education, and number of children.

Kadoya’s group found that people with high financial literacy are significantly less anxious by way of accumulating assets, such as savings, bonds, and insurance.

Less financially literate people, meanwhile, are less likely to have gathered enough assets to reduce anxiety, possibly because they rely more on social security income for assurance in old age.

Additionally, the researchers found that having a child and doing regular exercise also reduced concern about life in old age.

In 2017, Kadoya’s group conducted a similar study on Japanese people. Even with differences in cultural orientations and social norms between Japan and the United States, results from both countries appear similar among gender, education, and age.

Financial literacy was higher among male, more educated, and older adults compared to female, less educated, and younger adults.

Interestingly, Japanese respondents reported anxiety differently than their American counterparts.

Kadoya and Khan classified the level of anxiety on a scale of one to five, with one being lowest. “In Japan, people tended to avoid one extreme answer, like one or five,” Kadoya said.

“In the US, on another hand, many people tended to pick an extreme answer. These answers may be strongly influenced by culture.” For both countries, though, financial literacy seems to play some role in reducing anxiety about life in the old age.

The relationships between financial literacy and economic outcomes are intricate. As such, having a better understanding of money does not cause low anxiety about life in old age. Rather, the two are associated with one another through wealth accumulation.

For Kadoya’s group, this study is the first in a series that seeks to investigate how financial literacy influences anxiety about life in old age and economic outcomes in the US.

Source: Hiroshima University/EurekAlert

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Vaccine Skepticism Linked to Belief in Conspiracy Theories

Fri, 02/02/2018 - 13:15

New research finds that the belief in conspiracies is associated with antivaccination attitudes. Furthermore, the link was found among people residing in nations around the globe.

Investigators discovered people who believe Princess Diana was murdered or that John F. Kennedy’s assassination was an elaborate plot are more likely to think that vaccines are unsafe, despite scientific evidence to the contrary.

The study, “The Psychological Roots of Anti-Vaccination Attitudes: A 24-Nation Investigation,” appears in Health Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association.

“Vaccinations are one of society’s greatest achievements and one of the main reasons that people live about 30 years longer than a century ago,” said lead researcher Matthew Hornsey, Ph.D., of the University of Queensland.

“Therefore, it is fascinating to learn about why some people are so fearful of them.”

The study is the first to test the relationship between conspiracy beliefs and antivaccination attitudes among a global sample, according to Hornsey.

Hornsey and his co-authors surveyed 5,323 people from 24 countries on five continents using online questionnaires between March 31 and May 11, 2016, measuring antivaccination attitudes and belief in four conspiracy theories.

The theories included:

  • that Princess Diana was murdered;
  • that the American government knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance and chose to let them happen;
  • that a shadowy group of elites exist to plot a new world order;
  • and that John F. Kennedy was murdered as part of an elaborate plot.

Those with strong beliefs in conspiracies were most likely to hold antivaccination attitudes regardless of where they lived.

For example, the more people believed that Princess Diana was murdered, the more negative attitudes they had about vaccinations.

In contrast, level of education had a very small impact on antivaccination attitudes.

“People often develop attitudes through emotional and gut responses,” Hornsey said. “Simply repeating evidence makes little difference to those who have antivaccination attitudes.”

Large pharmaceutical companies, which profit from selling vaccines, are often targets for conspiracy theorists, said Hornsey. “For many conspiracy theorists, profits gained are a sign that the system is broken and the truth is being covered up by vested interests.”

“Trying to reduce people’s conspiracy beliefs is notoriously difficult,” Hornsey said.

“An alternative possibility is to acknowledge the possibility of conspiracies, but to highlight how there are vested interests on the other side too; vested interests that are motivated to obscure the benefits of vaccination and to exaggerate their dangers.”

Anti-vaccination attitudes were also associated with intolerance of those who limit their freedom, disgust toward blood and needles and an individualistic worldview, according to the study.

Source: American Psychological Association

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Domestic Abuse May Be More Common When Dating

Thu, 02/01/2018 - 14:00

New research suggests federal regulations and policies such as the Violence Against Women Act should be extended to include dating relationships.

Investigators from the University of Pennsylvania discovered the majority of intimate partner violence — more than 80 percent of incidents in one study population — involve boyfriends and girlfriends. What’s more, these partnerships result in the most physical violence.

Current policies are directed to keep guns away from abusive partners but they do not apply to dating relationships. The new study, published in the journal Preventive Medicine reveals that they likely should.

“Current boyfriends or girlfriends were more likely than current spouses to injure their victims,” said Dr. Susan B. Sorenson, professor of social policy in the School of Social Policy & Practice.

“They were more likely to push and shove, to grab, to punch. They were more likely to strangle — some pretty awful behaviors toward a partner. They were also more likely to use a knife, a bat, or another kind of weapon. We were not expecting to find this.”

For this research, Sorenson and 2017 graduate Devan Spear aimed to move beyond general victimization surveys to learn not just whether someone has ever experienced intimate partner abuse, but also to identify the abuser.

Was the person a current or former spouse, or a current or former girlfriend or boyfriend?

“Much of the intimate partner violence research has focused on lifetime experience, and that’s a reasonable place to start,” Sorenson said.

“Once we have an overall picture in research, we begin to drill down in order to discern whether there are differences by considerations such as the type of relationship.”

In 2011, Sorenson began collaborating with the Philadelphia Police Department to improve documentation of domestic violence in the city. As a result, an officer who responds to a such a call must fill out a form that includes a narrative description of the event. The officer must also include additional information such as victim-offender relationship and behavior regardless of whether an arrest occurs.

Analyzing 31,206 of these forms from the year 2013, the Penn researchers found that 82.1 percent of intimate partner violence incidents included current or former dating partners (44.3 percent and 37.8 percent, respectively).

Less than 15 percent involved current spouses, and just 3.5 percent involved ex-spouses. Nationally, more than half of intimate violence incidents are reported to police, with 54 percent involving current or former boyfriends or girlfriends.

Sorenson said there’s no single explanation for the Philadelphia-specific results.

For one, married and unmarried couples may experience domestic violence to the same degree, but those in the latter group may be quicker or more likely to call the police. Perhaps someone in a dating relationship who experiences abuse may opt not to marry the abuser.

Or, it might simply be that of the 10 largest cities in the United States, Philadelphia has the highest percentage of never-married adults, at 51.5 percent. By comparison, that figure in Chicago is 49.7 percent, and in Los Angeles, 46.5 percent.

She noted that protections against violent behavior like domestic abuse should expand to include broader definitions, particularly given the changing nature of relationships: From 1970 to 2009, the median age of first marriage for men rose from 22 to 28 years old, and for women increased from 20 to 25. Divorce rates also doubled during the same period for those aged 35 and older.

“People are less likely to marry, they marry later, they’re less likely to have children and when they get married, they’re more likely to get divorced,” Sorenson said. “Relationships today are more transitory and not necessarily traditional.”

The researchers said they recognize the limitations in using data from a single large U.S. city, and in relying on data they cannot independently verify.

However, Sorenson pointed out that relationship status was not the only demographic information collected. Police officers appear to have applied the law equally in terms of race, ethnicity, age, and gender, as well as the circumstances under which they gathered evidence, took statements, checked state registries and provided transportation to medical care.

Sorenson said she thinks the findings could have implications for policymaking and data collection at the national level.

“The federal policy focuses on people who are married, live together or have a child in common. We know that abuse occurs in addition to those kinds of relationships,” she said.

“Unfortunately, the federal policy doesn’t address that, and the policy is from nearly a generation ago by now. It might be time to revisit.”

That could happen soon: The Violence Against Women Act, originally passed in 1994, comes up for reauthorization again in 2018.

Source: University of Pennsylvania

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Online Support Can Improve Quality of Life for Cancer Patients

Thu, 02/01/2018 - 12:30

New research finds that an online stress management program can significantly improve an individual’s quality of life and improve care after a cancer diagnosis.

Researchers from the University of Basel and University Hospital Basel in Swtizerlan said a cancer diagnosis always causes psychological distress. If the mental component of the diagnosis is not managed, quality of life may suffer and even more, the negative psychological state may have a negative impact on treatment and disease progression.

Ideally cancer treatment is coupled with psychological support. However, currently only a minority of cancer patients receive professional psychological support, particularly during the difficult time immediately after diagnosis.

In order to reach cancer patients early after diagnosis and offer a low-threshold tool to overcome distress, researchers developed the online stress management program STREAM.

During the eight week online program, patients were provided with information, individual exercises on downloadable audio-files, and specific strategies on managing life with cancer. Patients logged in using a secured personal account. Once a week, they participated in a written exchange with a psychologist via an integrated email platform.

The study, which appears in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, is the first to show that newly diagnosed cancer patients significantly benefit from a web-based intervention and report better quality of life and less distress.

In total, 129 patients from Switzerland, Germany, and Austria were allocated to either an intervention or a control group within 12 weeks of starting their cancer treatment. The control group only received access to the program after an eight-week waiting period, enabling a comparison between the two groups.

People who completed the STREAM program (mostly breast cancer patients) assessed their quality of life as significantly higher than the control group. Also, distress, measured on a scale from zero to 10, was significantly lower in the online group than in the control group after the intervention.

“The results show that web-based self-help with regular email contact with a psychologist has the potential to efficiently support newly diagnosed cancer patients and thereby decisively improves cancer care,” said Professor Viviane Hess, Professor of Medical Oncology and Senior Oncologist in Basel.

Online interventions present new opportunities to support people affected by cancer who previously could not be reached. “Digital natives are reaching the age at which the risk for age-related diseases such as cancer increases. Approaches that integrate the internet into patient care will therefore continue to increase in importance,” said Hess.

Source: University of Basil

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Study Finds Kids are Not Overmedicated

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 14:00

A new study suggests that contrary to popular opinion, psychiatric medications are not overprescribed for American kids. In fact, because of limited access to child psychiatrists, researchers worry more about undertreatment and a failure to explore other means of treatments before medications.

Investigators from Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) compared prescribing rates with prevalence rates for the most common psychiatric disorders in children, and discovered that some of these medications may be underprescribed.

“Over the last several years, there has been widespread public and professional concern over reports that psychiatric medications are being overprescribed to children and adolescents in the United States,” said Ryan Sultan, M.D., a child psychiatrist and researcher at CUIMC who led the study.

“We were interested in better understanding this concern.”

The research findings appear online in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology.

Investigators used data from a national prescription database of 6.3 million children between the ages of three and 24 years. They, and reviewed the annual prescriptions for three psychiatric drug classes: stimulants, antidepressants, and antipsychotics.

They then compared prescribing patterns with known prevalence rates of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety disorders, and depression between young children (three to five years), older children (six to 12 years), adolescents (13 to 18 years), and young adults (19 to 24 years).

This is the first national study to analyze prescription rates for these three types of psychiatric medications in youth.

Annually, an estimated one in eight U.S. teenagers has a depressive episode, and roughly one in 12 children have symptoms of ADHD. During the year studied, fewer than one in 30 teenagers received a prescription for antidepressants, and only one in 20 got a prescription for stimulants.

“Our results show that, at a population level, prescriptions of stimulants and antidepressant medications for children and adolescents do not appear to be prescribed at rates higher than the known rates for psychiatric conditions they are designed to treat,” said Sultan.

“These findings are inconsistent with the perception that children and adolescents are being overprescribed.”

Overall psychiatric drug prescription patterns in children and adolescents children in the youngest group accounted for the smallest number (0.8 percent) of prescriptions for any psychiatric drug. Adolescents accounted for the highest number (7.7 percent).

The number of prescriptions for stimulants was highest in older children (4.6 percent), with males accounting for more of these prescriptions than females. Antidepressant prescriptions increased with age and was highest for young adults (4.8 percent), particularly for females. Antipsychotic prescriptions peaked during adolescence (1.2 percent) and were prescribed slightly more often for males in this age group.

“The study also showed that, among young people in the United States, the patterns of prescriptions for antidepressants and stimulants are broadly consistent with the typical ages associated with the onsets of common mental disorders, said Mark Olfson, M.D., professor of psychiatry at CUIMC and senior author of the paper.

“However, the situation with antipsychotic medications is less clear cut. Given clinical uncertainty over their appropriate indications, it is unclear whether their annual use rates, which ranged from 0.1 percent in younger children to 1 percent in adolescents, are above or below the rates of the psychiatric disorders they aim to treat.”

“These results provide some reassurance to those who are concerned about the overprescribing of psychiatric medications to children and teenagers,” said Sultan.

“Improving access to child psychiatrists through consultation services and collaborative care models may help address potential undertreatment while also reducing the risk of prescribing medications before other treatments have been tried.”

Source: Columbia University/EurekAlert

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Motivational Music May Hike Risk-Taking, Help Boost Self-Esteem

Tue, 01/30/2018 - 14:45

Listening to motivational music has become a popular way of enhancing mood, motivation, and positive self-evaluation during sports and exercise. New research, however, finds that such music may help to encourage risk-taking and even boost self-esteem, but does not improve overall performance by itself.

The effect was more noticeable among men and participants who selected their own playlist. Additionally, researchers discovered that self-selected music had the power to enhance self-esteem among those who were already performing well, but not among participants who were performing poorly.

The study appears in Frontiers in Psychology.

Although there is an abundance of anecdotal evidence of music being used to help athletes get into the right mindset before games, the psychological processes and mechanisms that explain the motivational power of music are poorly understood.

“While the role of music in evoking emotional responses and its use for mood regulation have been a subject of considerable scientific interest, the question of how listening to music relates to changes in self-evaluative cognitions has rarely been discussed,” said Dr. Paul Elvers of the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics in Frankfurt, one of the study’s authors.

“This is surprising, given that self-evaluative cognitions and attitudes such as self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-efficacy are considered to be sensitive to external stimuli such as music.”

The research team investigated whether listening to motivational music can boost performance in a ball game, enhance self-evaluative cognition, and/or lead to riskier behavior.

The study divided 150 participants into three groups that performed a ball-throwing task from fixed distances and filled in questionnaires while listening to either participant-selected music, experimenter-selected music, or no music at all.

To assess risk-taking behavior, the participants were also allowed to choose the distances to the basket themselves. The participants received monetarily incentivized points for each successful trial.

The results showed that listening to music did not have any positive or negative impact on overall performance or on self-evaluative cognitions, trait self-esteem, or sport-related anxiety. However, it did increase the sense of self-esteem in participants who were performing well and also increased risk-taking behavior — particularly in male participants and participants who could choose their own motivational music.

Moreover, the researchers also found that those who made riskier choices earned higher monetary rewards.

“The results suggest that psychological processes linked to motivation and emotion play an important role for understanding the functions and effects of music in sports and exercise,” said Elvers.

“The gender differences in risk-taking behavior that we found in our study align with what previous studies have documented.”

However, more research is required to fully understand the impact of motivational music on the intricate phenomena of self-enhancement, performance and risky behavior during sports and exercise.

Source: Frontiers/EurekAlert

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Schools, Teachers Vital to Integrating Refugee Kids

Tue, 01/30/2018 - 13:15

Schools play a significant role in helping refugee children integrate into Western asylum countries, according to new research by psychologists at City University of London.

Based on interviews with refugees who had arrived in England and Denmark as children, the new findings show that schools can provide a safe and stable setting where refugee children can develop meaningful and constructive connections to peers, teachers, and other professionals. Schools can also act as a safe place where discrimination, racism, and stigmatization can be actively countered.

The study also sheds light on the importance of providing appropriate training for teachers who are working with refugee children. This includes training teachers with the specific skills needed to work with refugee families and to support children in the educational setting and making sure sufficient collaboration strategies and referral systems are in place when clinical or therapeutic interventions are needed.

“Our study highlights the importance of schools and teachers when considering prevention and intervention strategies in broad and inclusive terms,” said lead author Sara Thommessen.

“Speaking to refugees who settled in England and Denmark as children, we found that it’s important to consider connections between the child, family, school, and wider community, as these elements can have a huge impact on how refugee children integrate into Western asylum-countries.

“With large numbers of refugee individuals seeking safety,it is vital that we put initiatives in place to ensure that they receive the social and education support, encouragement, and guidance they need.”

Due to the increasing number of individuals who have been forced to flee their homes and countries of origin in recent years, there is an immediate need to facilitate the integration of refugee children in Western asylum countries. As a result, the need to understand how best to support such individuals, especially the youngest of them, has become an urgent matter.

For the study, the researchers looked at experiences of seven refugee adults, who had all arrived in Denmark or England as children accompanied by family members and were therefore born outside of the asylum-country.

The researchers found that in both England and Denmark, priority is placed on social and educational support, encouragement, and guidance from teachers and mentors, as well as more general support provided by friends, peers, and family members.

Offering refugee children, youth, and adults the opportunity to create meaningful and close social relationships was of central importance for positive integration and well-being, including working with families or within schools, or by strengthening connections between children, families and staff in schools.

One of the challenges that differed for the two groups was that participants in England felt stigmatized by stereotypical and racist comments, which may also have led to this groups’ strong focus on succeeding academically. The researchers suggest that restoring stability and meaning, by facilitating ethnic pride, might be one way in which to support refugee children in educational contexts.

During the interview, one participant spoke about how extra one-to-one support by a teacher at lunch time made a big difference. “That showed me, I was like, don’t give up: If you want something, work hard, then one day you will achieve something.”

Another participant also spoke warmly about a former teacher in the integration class: “She helped me a lot, not just with school but with everything — even things that had nothing to do with school. I would speak with her all the time. She was really helpful to me. Even now I still talk to her sometimes, we are still in touch.”

Another participant noted the importance of having the teachers and other professionals be fully aware of the children’s background and situations. It is necessary “that they realize these are not just typical kindergarten or preschool children, but that they have actually experienced things like war and that these children are used to a completely different society,” said the participant.

The research is published in the journal Children and Youth Services Review.

Source: City University of London

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Retirement Not An Option for Many Older Adults

Mon, 01/29/2018 - 14:00

Quality of life after retirement is significantly tied to one’s level of education and skills acquired during the working years, according to a new study at the University of Birmingham in the U.K.

The researchers interviewed around 50 retired adults who came from a variety of professions and educational backgrounds and found that the experience of retirement differed greatly according to profession, gender, class, and education.

The study sorted participants into six groups of workers: Professionals, delayed professionals, those who had disjointed careers, mid-career transformation, administrative careers, and semi-skilled careers.

Experiences of retirement differed greatly among those in each group. For example, it was found the professionals were more likely to continue working in a part-time capacity (though not for financial gain), while those who had disjointed careers were more likely to continue to work in some capacity, such as in self- employment, because retirement was not an option for them.

Meanwhile, those who had administrative careers retired from paid employment but were more likely to stay active in family-oriented or volunteer roles.

The findings show the importance of external factors throughout working life, such as employment, family caring history, access to resources, particularly material and financial resources, social networks and cultural capital (including education), and physical and mental health in younger and middle ages.

While men and women with similar career histories shared similar retirement expectations and experiences, this association was mediated by factors such as gender and class, as well as access to resources.

“All of these factors are interlinked, so financial resources can give individuals greater access to social and cultural resources and help maintain physical health,” said researcher Professor Joanne Duberley.

“While education shapes careers and helps people to amass financial capital. As such these interlinkages can mean that inequalities in the initial distribution of resources are reinforced, facilitating those in a privileged position and constrain those who are disadvantaged.”

The study also identified a variety of differing perspectives and feelings about retirement within each group. For example, participants who had long professional careers were more likely to be optimistic and contented in retirement.

“One retiree who had had a professional career used their retirement to set up a cheese making business, something they could afford to do and had the time to do only in their retirement. They saw retirement as an opportunity,” said Duberley.

“In contrast, those who did not embark on professional careers until later in their lives, due to factors such as their earlier caring responsibilities, were more ambivalent about retirement, fearing the loss of work-related identities and financial insecurity.”

Those who followed disjointed career paths with periods in and out of work and in different types of employment, including self-employment, could also face financial instability in retirement.

Women who had worked in administrative jobs, but had also been very involved in family duties, reported feeling more optimism about retirement because it meant more time with family and friends. In contrast, men who had followed semi-skilled careers were more worried about identity loss and inactivity in retirement.

Another important finding was that of having access to financial resources at all stages of one’s life. Participants who had access to significant financial resources early on in their lives were more likely to enjoy successful careers — accumulating more financial resources and having excellent financial security in later life — opening up options for positive retirement experiences.

Source: University of Birmingham

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Imagining a Successful Future Helps Students Manage Challenges and Stress

Sun, 01/28/2018 - 13:30

Having a clear picture of what their future will look like can motivate students to keep going despite the challenges of college life, according to a new study.

This strategy seems to be particularly effective for female students from relatively low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds, said Mesmin Destin of Northwestern University, the lead author of the study published in Springer’s journal Motivation and Emotion.

While college is a time of great opportunity for some, it can be stressful for others. It is often the first time that many students are away from their family and friends. Vulnerable students from lower SES backgrounds often encounter greater financial and psychological challenges than others, and this can lead to hesitation — and even withdrawal — from difficult situations, such as when interacting with their lecturers or taking tests and exams.

The researchers wanted to understand if students’ responses to academic challenges improve when they look forward to the future.

This idea is built around the theory of identity-based motivation, the researchers explain. It holds that people can take positive action during times of adversity when they imagine a successful future for themselves.

“The theory of identity-based motivation proposes that activating a focus on a successful future identity may be especially powerful in motivating students who are vulnerable during challenging academic situations to develop a sense of action readiness,” Destin said. “This involves feeling ready and able to take appropriate action when confronting difficulty.”

In two almost identical laboratory experiments — one involving 93 female students, the other 185 students (including 101 women) — participants were first asked either to write about their past or their future success.

The participants were then filmed during a mock interview with a so-called lecturer, and then had to complete a difficult academic test.

The research team noted whether participants’ body language was bold and confident, and measured the amount of effort participants put into the academic test.

The results were consistent with the theory of identity-based motivation, according to the research team.

They discovered that having a successful future identity can especially prevent female students from lower SES backgrounds from withdrawing during challenging academic situations. Specifically, lower SES women who wrote about their future identities displayed greater action readiness compared to those who contemplated their past. They showed more confident body language. It helped them to put more effort into tackling the test, and had an indirect effect on their performance, the researchers reported.

“Activating imagined successful future identities appears to provide a potential pathway to enable vulnerable students to effectively navigate everyday stressors,” Destin said. “The findings, therefore, suggest that certain students may benefit from strategies that remind them to visualize their successful futures prior to any difficult and important task that they might otherwise be likely to avoid.”

Source: Springer

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Acknowledge Emotional Trauma that Comes with Traumatic Injury

Fri, 01/26/2018 - 14:45

Successful treatment and recovery from a traumatic injury includes care for the emotional responses that accompany physical damage. The concept is especially applicable for black men in America as they are disproportionately affected by traumatic injuries.

Traumatic injuries that occur because of intentional means — gun violence and assault — were found to leave more emotional scarring than a car accident, falls, or other forms of traumatic injury.

Many are unaware that injuries are a major public health problem in the United States. Injuries are the leading cause of death, accounting for nearly 60 percent of all deaths among Americans between the ages of one and 44 years.

Survivors of traumatic injuries often face significant physical and mental health challenges, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

A new study focused on the mental health effects of trauma on black men and how those effects may vary by the intentionality of the injury.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Penn Nursing) explored the emotional responses of urban black men after acute traumatic injury within the context of injury intentionality (e.g., gun violence and assault versus falls and motor vehicle accidents).

“Understanding emotional responses to intentional and unintentional injuries can help inform and improve public health planning and treatment efforts for individuals who experience emotional responses after injury that are concerning or problematic,” explains principal investigator Therese S. Richmond, Ph.D., CRNP, FAAN.

The research appears online and will be published in a future edition of the journal Injury.

This study shows that after an unintentional or intentional injury, urban black men may experience emotional responses including nightmares, avoid places or people that remind them of the injury, feel jumpy, depressed and angry, and worry about their recovery.

Researchers discovered emotional responses to traumatic injuries can differ by the mechanism of the injury and are accentuated among those who were intentionally injured. These individuals were found to experience heightened feelings of fear and distrust of other people’s intentions after their injuries.

Survivors of intentional injuries who experience social withdrawal due to distrust of others may not receive adequate social support or weaken already fragile support, the study found.

“This research particularly emphasizes the need for further investigation of the mental health effects of trauma and how intentional injuries may exacerbate emotional responses in men living in marginalized or disadvantaged communities and who have chronic exposure to violence in their neighborhoods,” says Richmond.

“Intentional injuries among black men in the US are a critical public health problem that can have a significant impact on men’s emotional and mental health.

Future work is needed to develop trauma-informed interventions that address trauma histories and current adversity among intentionally-injured Black men,” said first-author Tammy Jiang, a doctoral student in epidemiology at the Boston University School of Public Health.

Source: Penn Nursing

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Small Personality Changes May Help Predict Alzheimer’s

Thu, 01/25/2018 - 14:45

New research from the Mayo Clinic suggests that even minor personality changes associated with the aging process can help predict the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Investigators explain that a key feature of Alzheimer’s disease is memory loss and losing one’s ability to think and make decisions, also called “cognitive ability”.

The changes can begin slowly, during a phase called “mild cognitive impairment” (or MCI). A variety of diseases can cause MCI, but the most common is Alzheimer’s disease.

Interestingly, not all people who have MCI develop Alzheimer’s disease. However, if memory loss is a person’s key MCI symptom, and if that person’s genes (DNA) suggests they may be likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, the risk for the condition can be as high as 90 percent.

Personality changes and behavior problems that come with Alzheimer’s disease are as troubling as memory loss and other mental difficulties for caregivers and those living with the condition.

In the new study, Mayo Clinic researchers wondered if personality changes that begin early, when MCI memory loss becomes noticeable, could help predict Alzheimer’s disease at its earliest stages.

Their findings appear in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Researchers recruited cognitively normal participants aged 21 and older who were genetically more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. The recruitment period began in January 1994 and ended in December 2016.

Researchers also recruited people without a genetic likelihood for developing Alzheimer’s disease to serve as a control group. All participants took several tests, including medical and neurological (or brain) exams. They were also screened for depression, as well as cognitive and physical function.

After analyzing results, the researchers concluded that personality changes, which can lead to changes in behavior, occur early on during the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

The behavioral changes, however, may be barely noticeable, and can include mood swings, depression, and anxiety.

They suggested that further research might be needed to learn whether diagnosing these early personality changes could help experts develop earlier, safer, and more effective treatments — or even prevention options — for the more severe types of behavior challenges that affect people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Source: American Geriatrics Society

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