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Updated: 1 hour 11 min ago

Resiliency Critical to Overcome Effects of Bullying

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 13:45

New research suggests that since most children will experience bullying at some point in their lifetime schools, families and communities should take a more proactive role in helping children learn to be resilient.

Investigators discovered the reason some children are devastated by bullying while others are not is because children who have developed resiliency skills are buffered and protected from internalizing the harm intended though bullying and cyberbullying.

The study by researchers from Florida Atlantic University and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, validates how resilience differentiates children who just survive bullying from those who thrive when faced with adversity.

Children do in fact play a significant role in allowing or disallowing the harm that takes place when bullied. The researchers believe the ability to be resilient is innate, but it needs to be nurtured through social and environmental factors.

The study, “Cultivating Youth Resilience to Prevent Bullying and Cyberbullying Victimization,” appears in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect.

For the research, investigators hypothesized that resilient youth are less likely to be targets for bullying both at school and online, and that those who are targeted are less impacted by it at school.

To test this concept, they used a validated biopsychosocial 10-item resilience scale to explore the relationship between resilience and experience with bullying and cyberbullying.

The scale included statements like “I can deal with whatever comes my way,” “I am not easily discouraged by failure,” and “Having to cope with stress makes me stronger.”

Items on the scale were designed to assess both the protective capacity of resilience as well as its ability to repair or restore equilibrium in the lives of youth when they face adversity.

Based on a nationally-representative sample of 1,204 American youth ages 12 to 17 and living in the United States, results from the study found that uniformly, students with higher levels of resilience were bullied at school or online less often.

Moreover, among those who were bullied, resilience served as a buffer, insulating them from being affected in a negative manner at school. Their experience with various forms of interpersonal peer harm also varied inversely with the students’ self-reported level of resilience.

“Resilience is a potent protective factor, both in preventing experience with bullying and mitigating its effect,” said Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D., study author, a professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice within FAU’s College for Design and Social Inquiry. Hinduja co-authored the study with Justin W. Patchin, Ph.D., a professor of criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

“Resilient kids are those, who for a variety of reasons, are better able to withstand external pressures and setbacks and are less negatively impacted in their attitudes and actions than their less-equipped peers when facing this type of victimization.”

Hinduja and Patchin hope that the latest data from their study will bring attention to an often-neglected and even forgotten component of the ways that schools, families, and communities address the role and responsibility of the child who is bullied.

There is heavy interest to identify better solutions to bullying these days, and Hinduja recently shared their research on resilience in keynotes with the International Bullying Prevention Association, the World Anti Bullying Forum, and social media companies’ intent on helping targets help themselves.

“We want children to learn and develop the skills they need to deal with problems, and yet we rarely help them engage with those problems so that they can grow in their ability to solve them,” said Hinduja.

“Instead, we seek to constantly protect and insulate them – instead of bolstering their self-confidence, problem-solving ability, autonomy, and sense of purpose – which are all innate strengths.”

Hinduja points out that in many forms of verbal and online bullying, targets do have some ability to allow or disallow much of the harm that others try to inflict if they are trained to manage this form of adversity.

As such, adults and organizations have a responsibility to teach and model for them the proper strategies to deflect, dismiss, or otherwise rise above the insults and hate.

Source: Florida Atlantic University

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Migraines Harm Work Productivity, Stigma Persists

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 12:15

A new national survey finds that a significant percentage of individuals are concerned that migraines detrimentally affect work productivity, quality of life, family/relationships and employment.

The public opinion survey queried more than a thousand Americans, both people with the disease and those without.

Respondents believe employers should make reasonable workplace accommodations for migraine sufferers. This perception was held by 76 of percent migraine suffers and 58 percent of non-sufferers agree. One study has found that a worksite migraine education program has the potential to significantly impact lost productivity and absenteeism for sufferers.

Almost half (45 percent) of migraine sufferers and nearly one-in-five non-sufferers say they know someone with the condition who has left the workforce or reduced their work hours due to the progression of their disease.

Significant majorities of all respondents agree that insurers should cover prevention or alternative migraine treatments – 79 percent of migraine sufferers and 64 percent of non-sufferers.

Unfortunately, more than half of migraine sufferers (53 percent) say individuals with migraine are stigmatized because of their condition. However, less than one-third (31 percent) of non-sufferers believe people with migraines face stigma.

Researchers explains that the most common social stigma associated with individuals with migraine reflects lack of awareness of the seriousness of the condition. Both those who suffer from migraines, and those who do not, link stigma to a migraine sufferers ‘overreaction’ (just a headache) and that it is not a ‘real’ disease.

Stigma also stems from the belief that sufferers are lazy, or fail to manage the condition and refuse to work, according to many respondents.

“The survey findings indicate that the health and economic impact of migraine is broad and must be addressed in order to overcome stigma and aid those suffering from this disabling condition,” said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America.

Research!America, the nation’s largest nonprofit public education and advocacy alliance working to make research to improve health a higher national priority commissioned the survey.

“More research is necessary to understand the biological and environmental factors associated with migraine in order to reduce the prevalence of this disease,” explains Wolley.

A majority of both those who suffer from migraines, and those who do not, say it is important that our nation supports research that focuses on the prevention and treatment of migraine – 77 percent of sufferers and 68 percent of non-sufferers.

About 12 percent of the U.S. population experience migraines, with women three times more likely to have the condition than men. Respondents who suffer themselves are more aware of this gender difference than those who do not — migraine sufferers (66 percent), non-sufferers (48 percent).

More than half of migraine sufferers (52 percent) say veterans are disproportionately affected by the disease, compared to 32 percent of non-sufferers. In one study of approximately 3,600 U.S. soldiers screened within 90 days of returning from a one-year combat tour in Iraq, soldiers were shown to have two-to-four times the incidence rate of migraine as compared to the general population.

There is general agreement that migraine sufferers are at risk of overusing medications – 61 percent of migraine sufferers and 49 percent of non-sufferers agree. When asked if migraine sufferers have access to effective treatments, two thirds of migraine sufferers agreed compared to less than half of non-sufferers. Nearly 40 percent of non-sufferers say they are not sure compared to a much lower 17% of those who suffer from the disease.

The survey found that more migraine sufferers (70 percent) than non-sufferers (53 percent) agree that the condition is a disability. Migraine headaches are covered under the American Disability Act which defines a person with a disability as someone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

Over 20 percent of chronic migraine sufferers are disabled, and the likelihood of disability increases sharply with the number of comorbid conditions. Allergies, anxiety and depression are often other health conditions associated with migraine sufferers, according to those with the condition (81 percent) and non-sufferers (58 percent).

A majority of migraine suffers and non-sufferers alike say they would be likely to have an examination for the condition if suggested by a primary care provider; similarly, they would seek an examination if recommended by family members or a pharmacist.

Of those who suffer from migraine, 43 percent say they are seeking or have received treatment from a health care provider for chronic migraine, followed by cluster migraine (37 percent) and episodic migraine (29 percent).

Among other findings:

    • Migraine sufferers (85 percent) and non-sufferers (61 percent) agree that exposure to excessive light is associated with greater risk of migraine. This is consistent with scientific evidence that people with migraine tend to have recurring attacks triggered by a number of different factors, including stress, anxiety, hormonal changes, bright or flashing lights, lack of food or sleep, and dietary substances. Sudden changes in weather or environment also increases the risk of migraine.
    • Half of migraine sufferers (50 percent) and plurality of non-sufferers (38 percent) say migraines are most likely caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, and stress. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders cites evidence that migraines are genetic, with most migraine suffers having a family history of the disorder.
    • When asked if migraine tracking tools such as apps and online diaries can be helpful in managing the condition, 74 percent of migraine sufferers agreed compared to 48 percent of non-sufferers.

Source: Research!America

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Being Unaware of Memory Loss Tied to Greater Risk for Alzheimer’s

Wed, 10/11/2017 - 12:15

Do you find yourself worrying about how poor your memory has been lately? This may actually be a good thing. A new Canadian study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry shows that people who are aware of their memory problems are actually less likely to develop dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

On the other hand, individuals who are unaware of their memory loss, a condition known as anosognosia, are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s.

“If patients complain of memory problems, but their partner or caregiver isn’t overly concerned, it’s likely that the memory loss is due to other factors, possibly depression or anxiety,” says lead author Dr. Philip Gerretsen, Clinician Scientist in the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Geriatric Division and Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute in Toronto.

“They can be reassured that they are unlikely to develop dementia, and the other causes of memory loss should be addressed.”

In more serious cases, however, the partner or caregiver is the one most likely to feel distressed while the patient has no awareness of any memory problems. In Alzheimer’s disease, lack of awareness is associated with more burden on the caregiver. Both unawareness of illness (anosognosia) and memory loss (known as mild cognitive impairment) can be objectively assessed using questionnaires.

The study, which may be the largest of its kind on illness awareness, involved the data of 1,062 people aged 55 to 90 from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI). This included 191 people with Alzheimer’s disease, 499 with mild cognitive impairment and 372 as part of the healthy comparison group.

The researchers also wanted to know which regions of the brain are impacted when a patient is unaware of his or her illness. To do this, they examined the brain’s uptake of glucose, a type of sugar. Brain cells need glucose to function, but glucose uptake is impaired in Alzheimer’s disease.

Using PET (positron emission tomography) brain scans, the research team showed that those with impaired illness awareness also had reduced glucose uptake in specific brain regions, even when accounting for other factors typically associated with a decrease in glucose uptake, such as age and degree of memory loss.

In the next stage of this research, Gerretsen will be tracking older adults with mild cognitive impairment who are receiving an intervention to prevent Alzheimer’s dementia. This ongoing study, known as the PACt-MD study, combines brain training exercises and brain stimulation with a mild electrical current to improve learning and memory.

Source: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health


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Caught in the Middle, Managers May Turn to Unethical Means

Mon, 10/09/2017 - 11:30

New research suggests middle managers may literally find themselves caught in the middle when top managers set unrealistic goals. As such, the middle managers may promote unethical behavior among subordinates.

The new findings counter the belief that unethical behavior begins at the top or creeps up from low-level positions.

In a study of a large telecommunications company, Pennsylvania State University researchers found that middle managers used a range of tactics to inflate their subordinates’ performance and deceive top management.

Still, the managers may have been motivated to engage in this behavior because leadership instituted performance targets that were unrealizable, said Dr. Linda Treviño of the Smeal College of Business.

Traditionally, when creating a new unit, the company’s top management sets goals, develops incentives and designates certain responsibilities. However, when middle managers are then tasked with carrying out these new directives, they find the objectives are impossible to achieve.

“What we found in this particular case — but I think it happens a lot — is that there were obstacles in the way of achieving these goals set by top management,” said Treviño.

“For a variety of reasons, the goals were unrealistic and unachievable. The workers didn’t have enough training. They didn’t feel competent. They didn’t know the products well enough. There weren’t enough customers and there wasn’t even enough time to get all the work done.”

Facing these obstacles, middle management enacted a series of moves designed to deceive top management into believing that teams were actually meeting their goals, according to Treviño.

For the study, published online in Organization Science, Treviño also who worked with Drs. Niki A. den Nieuwenboer, assistant professor of organizational behavior and business ethics at the University of Kansas, and João Viera da Cunha, associate professor, IESEG School of Management.

“It became clear to middle managers that there was no way their people could meet these goals,” said Treviño.

“They got really creative because their bonuses are tied to what their people do, or because they didn’t want to lose their jobs. Middle managers exploited vulnerabilities they identified in the organization to come up with ways to make it look like their workers were achieving goals when they weren’t.”

According to the researchers, these strategies included coopting sales from another unit, portraying orders as actual sales and ensuring that the flow of sales data reported in the company’s IT system looked normal.

Middle managers created some of these behaviors on their own, but they also learned tactics from other managers, according to the researchers.

Middle managers also used a range of tactics to coerce their subordinates to keep up the ruse, including rewards for unethical behavior and public shaming for those who were reluctant to engage in the unethical tactics.

“Interestingly, what we didn’t see is managers speaking up, we didn’t see them pushing back against the unrealistic goals,” said Treviño.

“We know a lot about what we refer to as ‘voice’ in an organization and people are fearful and they tend to keep quiet for the most part.”

The researchers suggested that the findings could offer insights into other scandals, such as the Wells Fargo and the U.S. Veterans Administration hospital misconduct. They added that top management in organizations should do more in-depth work to institute realistic goals and incentives.

“Everybody has goals and goals are motivating, but there are nuances,” said Treviño.

“What goal-setting theory says is that if you’re not committed to the goal because you think it’s unachievable, you’ll just throw your hands up and give up. Most front-line employees wanted to do that. But the managers intervened, coercing them to engage in the unethical behaviors.”

This type of deception can harm an organization in several ways, including its bottom line through the awarding of bonuses based on this deceptive performance, but also because upper management made strategic decisions and allocated resources based on the unit’s feigned success.

“How can you lead a company if the performance information you get is fake? You end up making bad decisions,” den Nieuwenboer said.

One of the researchers gathered data for over a year as part of an ethnographic study, a type of study that requires researchers to immerse themselves in the culture and the lives of their subjects.

In this case, the ethnographer studied the implementation of a new unit in the telecom company. As part of the data collection, the researcher spent 273 days shadowing workers, 20 days observing middle managers, listened to approximately 15 to 22 informal — lunch or watercooler — breaks between workers per week and conducted 105 formal interviews. Interactions on the phone, through email and in face-to-face meetings were observed and documented.

“One of the advantages that this kind of data affords you is the opportunity to observe what’s going on across hierarchical levels,” said Treviño.

“The middle management role is largely an invisible role. As a researcher, you just don’t get to see that role very often.”

Source: Penn State

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Bullying Can Harm Entire School Climate

Sun, 10/08/2017 - 12:30

In a new study, researchers analyzed the impact of several different types of bullying on the overall school climate in middle and high schools. Their findings, published in the Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma, show that bullying, cyberbullying and harassment are significantly associated with decreases in perceptions of school safety, connection and equity for everyone.

“For each form of victimization, school climate measures go down precipitously, so if we only center the conversation about kids who are being bullied that limits it to ‘that’s not my kid,'” said study author Bernice Garnett, S.c.D., associate professor in the College of Education and Social Services at the University of Vermont.

“But if we change the conversation to bullying can actually damage the entire school climate, then that motivates and galvanizes the overall will of the school community to do something about it.”

According to the study, 43.1 percent of the students polled had experienced at least one form of victimization during the 2015-2016 school year. Just over 32 percent reported being bullied, 21 percent were victims of cyberbullying, and 16.4 percent experienced harassment — defined as “experiencing negative actions from one or more persons because of his or her skin, religion, where they are from (what country), sex, sexual identity, or disability.”

The findings highlight the need for comprehensive policies that address all forms of victimization to help promote safe and equitable school environments, which are tied to educational outcomes.

Previous research has shown that students from vulnerable populations are most frequently victimized. The new study finds that students experiencing polyvictimization (more than one type of bullying) were most likely to identify as female and transgender.

Students who identified as “multiracial” or “other” also experienced higher levels of polyvictimization than their peers. In addition, students experiencing polyvictimization were more likely to report doing “worse” academically.

A recent study from Columbia University, for example, showed that students living in states where schools enumerate homophobic bullying, experience less victimization. Data differs regionally, however, making it difficult to protect students in places where “people are using identities to target for power,” Garnett said.

“Policies can actually shape the experiences of students in schools,” she said. “This study is trying to show that we need to be thinking about the structural forces that make bullying prevalent among certain groups of kids, which is not a coincidence.”

“The reason why queer youth, English Language Learners, kids with disabilities and overweight kids are targeted is because those are socially acceptable identities to target depending on where you live.”

Source: University of Vermont

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Most People Prefer Their Bad News Candid and Direct 

Sat, 10/07/2017 - 12:00

New research has found that when it comes to receiving bad news, most people prefer directness, candor and very little — if any — buffer.

For the study, conducted by Brigham Young University linguistics professor Dr. Alan Manning and the University of South Alabama’s Dr. Nicole Amare, participants were offered various forms of hypothetical bad news.

The researchers found that if someone is delivering bad news about a social relationship — think “I’m breaking up with you” or “I’m sorry, you’re fired” — people value directness over an extended and overly polite lead in.

“An immediate ‘I’m breaking up with you’ might be too direct,” said Manning. “But all you need is a ‘we need to talk’ buffer, just a couple of seconds for the other person to process that bad news is coming.”

And when it comes to receiving negative information about physical facts, such as “you’re dying” or “that water is toxic,” no buffer is required or desired, according to Manning.

“If your house is on fire, you just want to know that and get out,” he said. “Or if you have cancer, you’d just like to know that. You don’t want the doctor to talk around it.”

For the study, 145 study participants received a range of bad-news scenarios, and with each scenario, they were given two potential deliveries.

For each message, they ranked how clear, considerate, direct, efficient, honest, specific, and reasonable they perceived it to be. They also ranked which of those characteristics they valued most.

Participants, for the most part, valued clarity and directness over other characteristics, according to the study’s findings.

Previous research and advice on delivering bad news has been mixed, in part because it’s been shaped in a way that makes bad news delivery easiest for the deliverer, said Manning. And that has led to buffers that drag out uncertainty for the recipient.

“If you’re on the giving end, yeah, absolutely, it’s probably more comfortable psychologically to pad it out, which explains why traditional advice is the way it is,” he said. “But this survey is framed in terms of you imagining you’re getting bad news and which version you find least objectionable. People on the receiving end would much rather get it this way.”

Though the buffer in giving bad news is almost always a bad idea, there are cases when it can be valuable — even necessary, Manning said.

When trying to make a persuasive case for someone to change a firmly held opinion, strategic buildup can play an integral role.

“People’s belief systems are where they’re the most touchy,” he said. “So any message that affects their belief system, their ego identity, that’s what you’ve got to buffer.”

Source: Brigham Young University

Photo: When receiving bad news, most people prefer to hear it straight. Credit: Savanna Richardson/BYU Photo.

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Early School Starts Times May Influence Teen Mental Health Issues

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 12:15

University of Rochester researchers have discovered that starting school before 8:30 a.m. may place adolescents at higher risk for depression and anxiety.

The finding is provocative as researchers say early start times elevate risk even if a teen is doing everything else right to get a good night’s sleep.

Psychiatry Jack Peltz, Ph.D., a clinical assistant professor in psychiatry led the study which appears in the journal Sleep Health. He believes the findings reinforce the theorized link between sleep and adolescent mental health.

The research is salient as it is among the first to demonstrate that school start times may have a critical impact on adolescent sleep and daily functioning. The findings provide additional evidence in the national debate over how school start times impact adolescent health.

“Our study is consistent with a growing body of research demonstrating the close connection between sleep hygiene and adolescent mental health,” says Peltz.

“But ours is the first to really look at how school start times affect sleep quality, even when a teen is doing everything else right to get a good night’s sleep. While there are other variables that need to be explored, our findings show that earlier school start times seem to put more pressure on the sleep process and increase mental health symptoms, while later school start times appear to be a strong protective factor for teens.”

Peltz is one of many investigators now exploring ways to address what has become a nationwide sleep epidemic among adolescents.
About 90 percents of high-school-aged adolescents get insufficient sleep on school nights, or barely meet the required amount of sleep (8-10 hours) needed for healthy functioning. School start times, among other interventions (ie. limiting electronic use before bedtime), have become a critical point of interest.

The research to date, however, has primarily focused on the academic benefits of delaying school start times for adolescents, rather than examining how earlier start times may disrupt sleep-related processes and affect mental health outcomes, says Peltz.

“Looking at school start times as a larger contextual variable that may moderate sleep hygiene, sleep quality and adolescent functioning, fills an important gap in the literature,” he says.

With the help of a grant from the National Sleep Foundation, Peltz’ and his co-authors used an online tool to collect data from 197 students across the country between the ages of 14 and 17.

All children and parents completed a baseline survey that included questions about the child’s level of sleep hygiene, family socioeconomic status, their circadian chronotype (roughly, whether you are a “morning person” or “night person”), and their school start times.

They were separated into two groups: those who started school before 8:30 a.m. and those who started after 8:30 a.m. (which is currently the recommended start time for high schoolers by the American Academy of Pediatricians).

Over a period of seven days, the students were instructed to keep a sleep diary, in which they reported specifically on their daily sleep hygiene, levels of sleep quality and duration, and their depressive/anxiety symptoms.

The results showed that good baseline sleep hygiene was directly associated with lower average daily depressive/anxiety symptoms across all students, and the levels were even lower in students with school start times after 8:30. However, students with good baseline sleep hygiene and earlier school start times had higher average daily depressive/anxiety symptoms.

“Our results suggest that good sleep hygiene practices are advantageous to students no matter when they go to school,” says Peltz.

“Maintaining a consistent bedtime, getting between 8 and 10 hours of sleep, limiting caffeine, turning off the TV, cell phone and video games before bed… these efforts will all benefit their quality of sleep and mental health. However, the fact that school start times showed a moderating effect on mental health symptoms, suggests that better sleep hygiene combined with later school start times would yield better outcomes.”

Peltz says one possible explanation for the difference may be that “earlier starting students” have more pressure on them to get high quality sleep, or there may be other aspects of the school environment that vary by start time that may trigger their depression/anxiety symptoms.

Moreover, Peltz says there may be other lifestyle changes that coincide with earlier start times as well (for example, morning nutrition or exercise) that require closer scrutiny.

“More studies are definitely needed, but our results help clarify the somewhat mixed findings with other sleep hygiene-focused interventions, by suggesting that school start times may be a very important contextual factor,” he says.

Peltz hopes the evolving evidence in this area will help propel more concrete national sleep hygiene recommendations for children and teens, similar to what the American Dental Association recommends for oral health.

“If we don’t sleep, eventually we will die…our brains will cease to function,” he says. “At the end of the day, sleep is fundamental to our survival. But if you have to cram for a test or have an important paper due, it’s one of the first things to go by the wayside, although that shouldn’t be.”

Source: University of Rochester

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Early Life Stress May Have Greater Impact on Extreme Preemies’ Mental Health

Thu, 10/05/2017 - 12:15

A new Canadian study finds that childhood stress may pose an even greater mental health risk to adults who were extremely low birth weight preemies (2.2 pounds or less) than to those born at normal weight.

In particular, decreased exposure to bullying and family problems during childhood and adolescence is linked to a lower risk of adult mental illness in extreme low birth weight preemies. Early mental health support for these children and their parents could also prove beneficial.

“In terms of major stresses in childhood and adolescence, preterm survivors appear to be impacted more than those born at normal birth weight,” said Ryan J. Van Lieshout, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences at McMaster University and the Albert Einstein/Irving Zucker Chair in Neuroscience.

“If we can find meaningful interventions for extremely low birth weight survivors and their parents, we can improve the lives of preterm survivors and potentially prevent the development of depression and anxiety in adulthood.”

The researchers used the McMaster Extremely Low Birth Weight (ELBW) Cohort, which involves a group of 179 extremely low birth weight survivors and 145 normal birth weight controls born between 1977 and 1982, which has 40 years’ worth of data.

The findings reveal that although these preemies were not necessarily exposed to a larger number of risk factors compared to their normal birth weight counterparts, these stressors appeared to have a greater impact on their mental health as adults.

Besides bullying by peers and a small circle of friends, researchers looked at a number of other risk factors, including maternal anxiety or depression and family dysfunction.

“We believe it may be helpful to monitor and provide support for the mental health of mothers of preemies, in particular, as for the purposes of this study, they were the primary caregiver,” said Van Lieshout.

“There can also be family strain associated with raising a preemie and all the related medical care, which can lead to difficulties. Support for the family in a variety of forms might also be beneficial.”

The study builds on previous research showing that extremely low birth weight survivors have an increased risk of mental illness in adulthood.

“We are concerned that being born really small and being exposed to all the stresses associated with preterm birth can lead to an amplification of normal stresses that predispose people to develop depression and anxiety later in life,” said Van Lieshout.

The findings are published in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

Source: McMaster University

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Impact of Bullying Lessens Over Time – Resiliency Important

Thu, 10/05/2017 - 11:30

A new study from the UK confirms that bullying can influence the development of anxiety and depression years later. However, University College London investigators also found that the detrimental effects of bullying decreased over time, which the authors say shows the potential for resilience in children exposed to bullying.

“Previous studies have shown that bullied children are more likely to suffer mental health issues, but give little evidence of a causal link, as pre-existing vulnerabilities can make children both more likely to be bullied and experience worse mental health outcomes. We used a robust study design to identify causation,” said the study’s lead author, Dr Jean-Baptiste Pingault (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences).

The study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association – Psychiatry (JAMA-Psychiatry).

“While our findings show that being bullied leads to detrimental mental health outcomes, they also offer a message of hope by highlighting the potential for resilience. Bullying certainly causes suffering, but the impact on mental health decreases over time, so children are able to recover in the medium term,” said Dr. Pingault.

The study involved 11,108 participants from the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS), which is based at King’s College London. By surveying twins, researchers were able to look at the associations between bullying and mental health outcomes, and then account for the confounding effects of their genes and shared environmental influences.

The comprehensive evaluation was made possible by the study of both monozygotic (“identical”) twins who have matching genes and home environments and dizygotic (“non-identical”) twins, who don’t share all of their genes, but have matching home environments.

Both children and their parents filled out questionnaire: at age 11 and 14 they were asked about peer victimization, and at 11 and 16 they were asked about mental health difficulties.

The effect sizes were stronger before controlling for shared environmental factors and genetics, confirming that bullying itself is only partly to blame for the poor mental health outcomes experienced by bullied children.

The researchers found that once confounding factors were removed, there was proof of a cause and effect between bullying and concurrent anxiety, depression, hyperactivity and impulsivity, inattention, and conduct problems.

Two years later, the impact on anxiety persisted. Five years later, there was no longer an effect on any of those outcomes, but 16-year-olds who had been bullied at age 11 remained more likely to have paranoid thoughts or cognitive disorganization (a tendency for thoughts to become derailed).

“While our findings show that being bullied leads to detrimental mental health outcomes, they also offer a message of hope by highlighting the potential for resilience. Bullying certainly causes suffering, but the impact on mental health decreases over time, so children are able to recover in the medium term,” Dr Pingault said.

“The detrimental effects of bullying show that more needs to be done to help children who are bullied. In addition to interventions aimed at stopping bullying from happening, we should also support children who have been bullied by supporting resilience processes on their path to recovery. Our findings highlight the importance of continuous support to mental health care for children and adolescents” he said.

Dr Sophie Dix, Director of Research at MQ: Transforming Mental Health said: “This important research is further strong evidence of the need to take the mental health impacts of bullying seriously. We hope this study provides fresh impetus to make sure young people at risk – and those currently being bullied – get effective help as soon as possible.”

“ …..this unprecedented study gives the strongest evidence to date that bullying can directly cause many common mental health conditions – and have a serious effect on mental health in the long-term. But the good news is that it shows that people can and do get better – demonstrating the importance of resilience. Now we need to understand why this is and develop new ways, through research, to intervene and change lives,” she said.

Source: University College – London

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Parent Training Can Improve Behavior, Social Skills for Kids with ADHD

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 13:45

New research finds a program that focuses on strengthening parenting skills improves symptoms of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in 3- to 8-year-olds.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill investigators performed a rigorous review of the “Incredible Years® Basic Parent Program,” a training tool designed for parents of high-risk children and those who display behavioral problems.

The program focuses on helping parents strengthen relationships with their children. Key concepts of the training include teaching parents how to provide praise and incentives, set limits, establish ground rules and address misbehavior.

“Prior research already has shown that this program improves behavior difficulties in young children,” said Dr. Desiree W. Murray, associate director of research at UNC’s Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute. “This review provides new evidence specifically about its effectiveness for ADHD symptoms.”

Murray explained that parents not only reported sustained improvements for their children’s ADHD behaviors, but also for their social skills and interactions with peers.

She said effective early intervention is crucial for young children with ADHD, due to the unfavorable short-term and long-term outcomes associated with the disorder.

“ADHD in preschoolers can bring conflict with family members, and it carries elevated risk of physical injuries and suspension or expulsion from child care settings,” Murray said.

“Negative trajectories over time can include the development of other psychiatric disorders and difficulties with social adjustment.”

Previous studies have also shown that children with ADHD struggle academically, with lower test scores and higher risk of dropping out of high school.

“We can help to prevent the wide array of negative outcomes that are associated with ADHD,” Murray said. “We believe the most effective intervention approaches may be those that target preschoolers with symptoms of ADHD but who have not yet met the full criteria for diagnosis with ADHD.”

Murray and her team, which included FPG research scientist Dr, Doré R. LaForett and UNC doctoral student Jacqueline R. Lawrence, screened 258 studies and narrowed their list to 11 studies that met stringent criteria for rigor and methodology.

The evidence — primarily parent reports — showed the effectiveness of the Incredible Years® Basic Parent Program for ADHD behaviors in young children.

Study results appear in The Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders.

Murray said a key caregiver strategy that all IY programs teach —  and which is particularly relevant for ADHD-related difficulties — is “coaching” young children to develop persistence, as well as academic, social and emotional skills.

As parents and others prompt, describe, and praise targeted behaviors, children learn to regulate their own emotions and behavior, and they become motivated to use these skills.

“We think an effective 12-14 session program is a modest investment for preschool children who are at risk for ADHD,” she said. “The research shows it may promote long-term benefits that can move these children towards a more positive developmental path.”

Source: University of North Carolina

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Belief that Depression Meds Will Help May Make It So

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 13:00

Swedish researchers have found that believing in the value of antidepressant medication appears to influence their benefits.

Experts believe the findings suggest that the way in which the treatment is described to the patient can be as important as the treatment itself. Moreover, the discovery may help to explain why selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) work for some individuals but not for others.

Uppsala University researchers said that clinicians and researchers have debated the benefits of SSRIs. Clinicians argue that SSRIs may lack specific therapeutic properties and that their beneficial effects observed in clinical trials could be explained by different expectancies in the drug and placebo groups.

Even in a in a double-blind study in which participants are not informed if they are taking a placebo or an antidepressant, the participant may come to realize that he or she has been given the drug instead of placebo because of the experienced side effects. This knowledge may in turn result in increased expectations of improvement and a better effect is reported.


Researchers at Uppsala University’s Department of Psychology discovered that when participants were informed that they were given an antidepressant, they reported better symptom relief. Researchers used the SSRI escitalopram (Lexapro) to demonstrate the considerably better effects when a participant was given with correct as compared to incorrect verbal information.

Study results appear in the journal EBioMedicine.

In the randomized study, all patients with social anxiety disorder were treated with the same dosage of escitalopram for nine weeks, but only one group was correctly informed about the drug and its effectiveness.

The other group was led to believe they were treated with a so-called “active placebo with similar side effects as the SSRI but no clinical effect.

“Our results show that the number of responders was three times higher when correct information was given than when patients thought they were treated with an ineffective active placebo, even though the pharmacological treatment was identical,” said author Dr. Vanda Faria.

Apparently, the knowledge or belief that antidepressant will be successful results in brain changes; MRI neuroimaging showed that the SSRI had different effects on brain activity when associated with expectations of improvement or not.

There were differences between the two groups in activations of the posterior cingulate cortex and the coupling between this region and the amygdala, the small brain structure central to fear and anxiety.

“This may reflect an interaction between cognition and emotion as the brain changes differently with medication pending on the patient’s expectancies,” said co-author Dr. Malin Gingnell.

The results suggest a marked placebo component related to expectancies in SSRI treatment, underscoring the importance of the communication between prescriber and patient.

“We don’t think SSRIs are ineffective or lack therapeutic properties for anxiety, but our results suggest that the presentation of the treatment may be as important as the treatment itself,” said Dr. Tomas Furmark, who led the study.

Source: Uppsala University

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Concussion Recovery Can Take Twice as Long for Young Female Athletes

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 12:15

Young female athletes tend to experience concussion symptoms twice as long as their male counterparts, according to a new study published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

The researchers believe that the longer recovery period may be due to underlying conditions typically more prevalent in girls, such as migraines, depression, anxiety and stress.

According to the Mayo Clinic, common symptoms after a concussive traumatic brain injury are headache, loss of memory (amnesia) and confusion. The amnesia usually involves forgetting the event that caused the concussion.

For the study, the researchers analyzed the medical records of 110 male and 102 female athletes (aged 11 to 18) with first-time concussion diagnoses. The median duration of symptoms was 11 days for boys and 28 days for girls. The findings show that symptoms resolved within three weeks for 75 percent of boys, compared to 42 percent of girls.

“These findings confirm what many in sports medicine have believed for some time,” said lead researcher John Neidecker, D.O., a sports concussion specialist in Raleigh, N.C. “It highlights the need to take a whole person approach to managing concussions, looking beyond the injury to understand the mental and emotional impacts on recovery when symptoms persist.”

Previous studies have found that concussions can worsen some pre-existing conditions, including headaches, depression, anxiety and stress. All of these are more prevalent in girls and mirror hallmark concussion symptoms, according to a consensus statement from the 5th International Conference on Concussion.

Understanding the overlap of symptoms means physicians must be skilled at eliciting patient history to get a full understanding of factors that might complicate recovery.

“Often in this age range, issues like migraines, depression and anxiety have not yet been diagnosed,” said Neidecker. “So, if I ask a patient whether they have one of these conditions, they’re likely to say ‘No’. But when I ask about their experiences, I get a much clearer picture.”

Neidecker gave an example of a young female patient with no history of migraines but who reported experiencing weekly headaches before her head injury occurred. She thought the headaches were normal, but in fact she had been suffering from migraines.

Neidecker uses a similar roundabout approach to uncovering anxiety, mental stress and depression, and said diagnosis can be difficult because adolescence is inherently emotional and stressful. For example, he recommends asking young athletes whether they are hard on themselves or feel bad when they don’t perform their best.

Young people with Type A personality traits typically have a baseline level of stress about the need to perform and become more stressed when they cannot, Neidecker explained. Losing the physical outlet of sport for managing their stress worsens the problem during the recovery period.

“It can really become a vicious cycle for some of these kids,” said Neidecker. “Uncovering and addressing any underlying conditions gets them back on the field faster and ultimately helps them be healthier and happier in the future.”

Source: American Osteopathic Association

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Even Minimal Exercise Can Help Prevent Depression

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 11:45

A new study led by Australian researchers suggests that regular exercise of any intensity can prevent future depression — and just one hour a week can help.

The landmark study by the Black Dog Institute reveals that even small amounts of exercise can protect against depression. Moreover, the mental health benefits are universal and extend to all ages and any gender.

The study appears in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Researchers noted this is the largest and most extensive study of its kind, involving 33,908 Norwegian adults. Among the participants, investigators monitored levels of exercise and symptoms of depression and anxiety for over 11 years.

The international research team found that 12 percent of cases of depression could have been prevented if participants undertook just one hour of physical activity each week.

“We’ve known for some time that exercise has a role to play in treating symptoms of depression, but this is the first time we have been able to quantify the preventative potential of physical activity in terms of reducing future levels of depression,” said lead author Dr. Samuel Harvey from the University of New South Wales.

“These findings are exciting because they show that even relatively small amounts of exercise — from one hour per week — can deliver significant protection against depression.

“We are still trying to determine exactly why exercise can have this protective effect, but we believe it is from the combined impact of the various physical and social benefits of physical activity.

“These results highlight the great potential to integrate exercise into individual mental health plans and broader public health campaigns. If we can find ways to increase the population’s level of physical activity even by a small amount, then this is likely to bring substantial physical and mental health benefits.”

The findings follow the Black Dog Institute’s recent Exercise Your Mood campaign, which ran throughout September and encouraged Australians to improve their physical and mental wellbeing through exercise.

Researchers used data from the Health Study of Nord-Trøndelag County (HUNT study), one of the largest and most comprehensive population-based health surveys ever undertaken. The survey was conducted between January 1984 and June 1997.

Participants were asked at baseline to report the frequency of exercise they participated in and at what intensity: without becoming breathless or sweating, becoming breathless and sweating, or exhausting themselves.

During the follow-up stage, they completed a self-report questionnaire (the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale) to indicate any emerging anxiety or depression.

The research team also accounted for variables which might impact the association between exercise and common mental illness. These include socio-economic and demographic factors, substance use, body mass index, new onset of physical illness and perceived social support.

Results showed that people who reported doing no exercise at all at baseline had a 44 percent increased chance of developing depression compared to those who were exercising one to two hours a week.

However, these benefits did not carry through to protecting against anxiety, with no association identified between level and intensity of exercise and the chances of developing the disorder.

“Most of the mental health benefits of exercise are realized within the first hour undertaken each week,” said Harvey.

“With sedentary lifestyles becoming the norm worldwide, and rates of depression growing, these results are particularly pertinent as they highlight that even small lifestyle changes can reap significant mental health benefits.”

Source: University of New South Wales

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Study Shows Stepped Care Can Be Effective for Youth Anxiety

Tue, 10/03/2017 - 11:30

In a new study, researchers found that a “stepped care” model of treatment for youth with anxiety can be effectively delivered using at least 14 percent less therapist time than traditional treatment service.

Stepped care uses the most effective but lease resource intensive treatment first, such as self-management strategies. Treatment is then only stepped up to more intensive/specialist services as clinically required.

Escalating health care costs have led professionals to discover cheaper and more efficient ways to spend our public health dollars. The new findings show mental health professionals can now treat young people with anxiety disorders effectively and in a cost-efficient manner.

“Other models of stepped care could be even more efficient,” said Ronald Rapee, Ph.D., lead author of the study. “For instance, if we had stuck with only the first two steps of stepped care, we would have had very similar outcomes, but at more than 30 percent saving.”

This study is the first to test a stepped care model of treatment delivery for children and adolescents with anxiety. And while the idea of stepped care is not new, it has not been well tested and has yet to find its way into routine mental health services.

In traditional care, a child with anxiety is seen by a therapist on a regular basis over 10-20 weeks. In stepped care, the young person first begins using self-help to manage their own symptoms. Only if this doesn’t work do they “step up” to treatment with a therapist. Higher intensity steps can be added if needed.

In this study, 281 young people with clinical anxiety disorders, aged between 6 and 17 years, were treated in either a traditional or stepped care model. Stepped care was delivered over three steps.

Following the first step (self-help), 40 percent of young people improved and did not need any further treatment, pointing to a massive saving. One year after coming to therapy, almost 70 percent of young people in both groups were completely free of their presenting anxiety. But this success took 14 percent fewer hours from a mental health professional by using stepped care.

The authors point out that this study tested one model of stepped care within one local system, and the results might not apply in the same way across all societies. The findings highlight the potential value of stepping care for youth with anxiety, but further work is needed to test different combinations and models of stepping.

“The possibility that we can identify ways of delivering treatment to help more clinically anxious youth within our existing workforce has tremendous implications for our health system and our economy,” said Mary Lou Chatterton, Pharm.D., another study author.

The research appears in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP).

Source: Elsevier

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Dream Deprivation May Be As Serious As Sleep Loss

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 13:00

A new comprehensive literature review by an integrative medicine specialist suggests dream loss is at the root of many of the health concerns attributed to sleep loss.

The review by Rubin Naiman, PhD, appears in the “Unlocking the Unconscious: Exploring the Undiscovered Self” issue of the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. Naiman is a sleep and dream specialist at the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.

The paper details the various factors that cause rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and dream loss. Typical sleep follows a pattern in which deeper, non-REM sleep is prioritized by the body. Only later in the night and into the early morning do people experience dreaming, during REM sleep.

“We are at least as dream-deprived as we are sleep-deprived,” noted Dr. Naiman, UA clinical assistant professor of medicine.

He sees REM/dream loss as an unrecognized public health hazard that silently wreaks havoc by contributing to illness, depression and an erosion of consciousness.

“Many of our health concerns attributed to sleep loss actually result from REM sleep deprivation.”

The review examines data about the causes and extent of REM/dream loss associated with medications, substance use disorders, sleep disorders and behavioral and lifestyle factors.

Naiman further reviews the consequences of REM/dream loss and concludes with recommendations for restoring healthy REM sleep and dreaming.

Source: University of Arizona

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Natural Remedy for Youth Sleeping Problems

Fri, 09/29/2017 - 13:45

New research indicates high rates of sleep problems among youth continuing through teenage years and into early adulthood. The study also suggests that although the sleeping issues come from a variety of issues, many can be controlled with early training on maintaining an active lifestyle.

In the study, investigators from James Cook University and the University of Queensland tracked more than 3600 people from the age of 14 until they were 21. Reports of sleep problems were significant as “just over a quarter of the 14-year-olds reported sleep problems, with more than 40 percent of those still having sleep problems at 21,” said lead investigator, Dr. Yaqoot Fatima from JCU’s Mount Isa Centre for Rural and Remote Health.

She said the causes of sleep problems were different at different ages.

“Maternal factors, such as drug abuse, smoking, depression and anxiety among mothers are the most significant predictors of adolescent sleep problems in their children, at 14-years-old.  

For all people studied, being female, having experienced early puberty, and being a smoker were the most significant predictors of sleep problems at 21 years.”

She said adolescent depression or anxiety were linking factors for sleep problems between the two ages.

“It’s a vicious circle. Depression and anxiety are well-established risk factors for sleep problems and people with sleep problems are often anxious or depressed,” she said.

Dr. Fatima said that as well as the traditional factors, excessive use of electronic media is emerging as another significant risk.

“In children and adolescents, it’s found to be strongly associated with later bedtime and shorter sleep duration, increasing the risk of developing sleep disturbances,” she said.

Dr. Fatima said the study was worrying as it revealed a high incidence of persistent sleep problems and possible concurrent health problems among young people – but it also strongly suggested an answer to the problem.

“Even allowing for Body Mass Index and other lifestyle factors, we found that an active lifestyle can decrease future incidence and progression of sleep problems in young subjects.

So, early exercise intervention with adolescents might provide a good opportunity to prevent their sleep problems persisting into later life.”

Fatima believes future research should investigate the factors that appear to extend a young adults’ sleep problems into adulthood, and how these may be prevented.

Source: James Cook University

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Abusive Management Style Counterproductive in the Long Run

Fri, 09/29/2017 - 11:30

New research discovers that an abrasive management style may actually help an individual feel good about themselves, but only for a short while.

Indeed, the Michigan State University study, discovered bullying and belittling employees starts to take its toll on a supervisor’s mental state after about a week.

“The moral of the story is that although abuse may be helpful and even mentally restorative for supervisors in the short-term, over the long haul it will come back to haunt them,” said Russell Johnson, MSU associate professor of management and an expert on workplace psychology.

The study appears in the Academy of Management Journal.

While numerous studies have documented the negative effects of abusive supervision, some bosses nevertheless still act like jerks, meaning there must be some sort of benefit or reinforcement for them, Johnson said.

Indeed, the researchers found that supervisors who were abusive felt a sense of recovery because their boorish behavior helped replenish their mental energy and resources.

Johnson said it requires mental effort to suppress abusive behavior – which can lead to mental fatigue – but supervisors who act on that impulse “save” the mental energy that would otherwise have been depleted by refraining from abuse.

The findings extended across cultures as Johnson and colleagues conducted multiple field and experiments on abusive bosses in the United States and China. They collected daily survey data over a four-week period and studied workers and supervisors in a variety of industries including manufacturing, service and education.

The benefits of abusive supervision appeared to be short-lived, lasting a week or less. After that, abusive supervisors started to experience decreased trust, support and productivity from employees – and these are critical resources for the bosses’ recovery and engagement.

Investigators discovered that although workers may not immediately confront their bosses following abusive behavior, over time they react in negative ways, such as engaging in counterproductive and aggressive behaviors and even quitting.

To prevent abusive behavior, the researchers suggest supervisors take well-timed breaks, reduce their workloads and communicate more with their employees.

Communicating with workers may help supervisors by releasing negative emotions through sharing, receiving social support and gaining relational energy from their coworkers.

Source: Michigan State University

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Survey: 1 in 3 Americans Use Sleep Aids Without Notifying Doc

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 13:45

Sleep is difficult to come by for older Americans as a new poll reveals 46 percent of individuals report trouble falling asleep one or more nights a week. Moreover, most Americans appear to believe that poor sleep is a normal aging characteristic.

University of Michigan investigators administered the National Poll on Healthy Aging to a national sample of older people and discovered that more than one-third of survey participants use some sort of medication to help fall asleep at night.

Respondents reported they had not informed their physician that their sleep posed a problem. Half believed — incorrectly — that sleep problems just come naturally with age.

Investigators explain that those who turn to medications may not realize that prescription, over-the-counter, and even “natural” sleep aids carry health risks — especially for older adults — either alone or in combination with other substances.

In fact, national guidelines strongly warn against prescription sleep medicine use by people over age 65.

Despite this, the nationally representative poll of people ages 65 to 80 found that eight percent of older people take prescription sleep medicine regularly or occasionally. Among those who report sleep troubles three or more nights a week, 23 percent use a prescription sleep aid.

Most who use such drugs to help them sleep had been taking them for years. Manufacturers and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration say such drugs are only for short-term use.

Researchers explains that sleep issues are not uncommon and that medication are not the only solution.

“Although sleep problems can happen at any age and for many reasons, they can’t be cured by taking a pill, either prescription, over-the-counter or herbal, no matter what the ads on TV say,” said poll director Preeti Malani, M.D., a University of Michigan physician trained in geriatric medicine.

“Some of these medications can create big concerns for older adults, from falls and memory issues to confusion and constipation,” even if they’re sold without a prescription.

“The first step for anyone having trouble sleeping on a regular basis should be to talk to a doctor about it,” she said.

“Our poll shows that nearly two-thirds of those who did so got helpful advice, but a large percentage of those with sleep problems simply weren’t talking about it.”

She notes that non-medication-based sleep habits are the first choice for improving sleep in older people. In all, 46 percent of those polled had trouble falling asleep one or more nights a week. Fifteen percent of the poll respondents said they had trouble falling asleep three or more nights a week.

Other health conditions can contribute to sleep difficulties. Twenty-three percent of poll respondents who had trouble sleeping said it was because of pain. And 40 percent of those with frequent sleep problems said their overall health was fair or poor. Other reasons for sleep troubles included having to get up to use the bathroom at night, and worry or stress.

Insomnia and other irregular sleep patterns can interfere with daytime functioning, and are associated with memory issues, depression, and an increased risk of falls and accidents. Even so, many said they didn’t see sleep issues as a health problem — in fact, this belief was the most common reason that poll respondents said they didn’t talk to their doctor about sleep.

This also highlights the need for doctors to ask their older patients about their sleep habits and what they’re doing to address any issues they may be having.

“We know that sleep is a critical factor for overall health as we age, and this new research highlights sleep problems as both a significant health issue for older adults and an under acknowledged one both by patients and their providers,” said Alison Bryant, Ph.D., senior vice president of research for AARP.

“We need to help people understand that lack of sleep is not just a natural part of aging.”

In all, 14 percent of the poll respondents said they regularly took a prescription sleep medication, prescription pain medication, an over-the -counter (OTC) sleep aid, or a herbal supplement to help them sleep. Another 23 percent took one of these options occasionally; most of the occasional users said they chose OTC sleep aids.

The most recent sleep criteria established by the American Geriatrics Society, which guides the use of medications among older people, gives a strong warning against use of prescription sleep drugs, which are sold under such names as Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata.

Meanwhile, even though OTC sleep aids can be purchased without a doctor’s guidance or prescription, they still carry health risks for older people, Malani said. Most of them contain diphenhydramine, an antihistamine that can cause side effects such as confusion, urinary retention, and constipation.

Among poll respondents with frequent sleep problems who took something occasionally to help them sleep, OTC sleep remedies were the most common choice. But among those with frequent sleep issues who took something on a regular basis to try to sleep, prescription sleep medications were the most common option, with 17 percent reporting use.

Use of melatonin and other herbal remedies may be perceived as safer, but less is known about their potential side effects and they are not subject to the FDA’s approval process for medications, said Malani. But any issue that prompts someone to buy an OTC or herbal remedy on a regular basis is something they should discuss with their doctor, she added.

Source: University of Michigan

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Anxious Moms’ Babies More Alert to Threatening Faces

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 13:00

New research finds that mothers often worry, but babies of anxious mothers may also spend more time focusing on threats in their environment.

Using a novel experimental design, Pennsylvania State University scientists used eye-tracking technology to measure how long babies spent looking at happy, neutral and angry faces. They found that the babies with anxious moms had a harder time looking away from an angry face — which they could view as a threat — than babies whose moms were not anxious.

Researchers believe the study findings, published in in the journal Emotion, could help give clues about which children are at risk for developing anxiety later in life.

“Once we learn more about the pathways to anxiety, we can better predict who’s at risk and hopefully help prevent them from needing treatment later on,” said Dr. Koraly Pérez-Edgar, a professor of psychology.

“Treatment is difficult for the child and parent, it’s expensive and it doesn’t always work. If we can prevent anxiety from developing, that’s a whole lot better. Let’s find out which kids are at the highest risk and intervene.”

Previous research has found that focusing too much on threat could potentially increase anxiety, and some forms of therapy focus on turning attention away from threat as a way to lower anxiety.

“Paying too much attention to threat, even as infants, could possibly set up this cycle. The more you fixate on threat, the more opportunity you have to see the world as a threatening place, which could help lead to more anxiety,” Pérez-Edgar said.

“Additionally, we think that risk factors in biology and potentially mom’s anxiety could also make that more likely.”

To examine the relationship between a mother’s anxiety and her baby’s attention to threat, researchers recruited 98 babies between the ages of 4 and 24 months.

The research team was led by Pérez-Edgar, and included Drs. Kristin Buss, professor of psychology at Penn State, and Vanessa Lobue, assistant professor of psychology at Rutgers University.

The study methodology included investigators asking babies’ mothers questions about their anxiety levels. Also, the babies themselves were placed in front of a screen that was equipped with an eye tracker, a strip that ran along the bottom of the monitor and followed the movement of the babies’ irises using infrared.

As each baby focused on the screen, their gaze was measured while happy, neutral and angry faces appeared one at a time. Once the baby was focused on a face, a second image was flashed in their peripheral vision to distract them.

“By the time you’re a few months old, a reflex develops where you’ll automatically turn and look if something pops up in your peripheral vision,” Pérez-Edgar said. “This became a conflict for the babies, because they were focused on the face but then had this reflex to turn and look.”

The researchers found that the more anxious a baby’s mother was, the more time her baby spent looking at the angry faces before turning to look at the image in their peripheral vision. This suggests that the babies with anxious moms had a harder time disengaging from a potential threat in their environment.

Additionally, the researchers found that the age of the baby did not matter. The babies with anxious moms spent a longer time looking at the angry face whether they were four or 24 months old, suggesting a potential genetic element.

“It doesn’t seem like the babies are learning to pay more attention to threat from their anxious moms. If that were true, the older babies might have more trouble turning away because they’ve been around their moms longer than the younger babies,” Pérez-Edgar said.

“This seems to suggest that there may be a shared genetic or biological component.”

Pérez-Edgar said the results give powerful clues about where to keep looking to learn more about how anxiety develops in children. In a future study, Pérez-Edgar, Buss and Lobue will take a closer look at how mothers’ anxiety affects babies over time, instead of at one instance.

Source: Penn State

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What Does PTSD Look Like in Preschoolers After the Hurricane?

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 13:45

Since 1992, the year that Hurricane Andrew struck South Florida, Annette M. La Greca has been investigating how best to define post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in children.

Dr. La Greca, distinguished professor of psychology and pediatrics at the University of Miami (UM) has been trying to gain a better understanding of how disasters impact the mental health of children, to identify which children in particular may need support services post-disaster, and to know which key factors help most with recovery.

In a new study, published in the International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology, La Greca, along with UM graduate student BreAnne Danzi, examine how well the “preschool” definition of PTSD identifies school-aged children with significant distress after a major hurricane.

“The good news is that most children are resilient, even after a very devastating storm,” said La Greca. However, children have different ways of expressing distress than adults.

The findings come as recent hurricanes have led to massive evacuations of children and families and wreaked havoc: Hurricane Harvey in Texas, Hurricane Irma in Florida and the Caribbean and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The study involved 327 children (ages 7-11) from six elementary schools in Galveston, Texas, who were directly in the path of Hurricane Ike, a Category 2 storm that made landfall in September 2008.

The researchers found that the preschool definition of PTSD identifies more distressed children than the typical “adult-based” definition. Thus, the preschool definition may be more helpful when screening elementary school-age children (ages 7-11) for PTSD-risk.

Additional research by La Greca and her team also found that two-thirds of children who are initially distressed after a disaster recover naturally over the course of the school year. They found that children who do recover are more likely to have greater social support from friends and family, fewer life stressors in the disaster’s aftermath and more positive coping skills than those who remain chronically distressed.

“We now know from research that some children who endured a stressful evacuation or experienced scary or life-threatening events during the storm are at risk for a poor recovery over time,” she said.

“Children who need extra support include those who report feeling anxious or depressed, as well as stressed, and who lack social support from friends and family. They also have multiple stressors to deal with after the storm. All of those factors contribute to poor recovery and less resilience.”

“There is no doubt that hurricanes and other extreme weather events can be stressful for children and for adults,” said La Greca. “But as with many stressful experiences, a little extra support can go a long way.”

Source: University of Miami


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