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Psychology, psychiatry and mental health news and research findings, every weekday.
Updated: 17 min 2 sec ago

Less Prenatal Stress Reduces Child Behavioral Problems

1 hour 23 min ago

Parenting in itself is a complicated task. Moreover, the challenge is dramatically exacerbated when a beloved child begins to show signs of a behavioral disorder.

New research suggests expectant mothers may want to consider stress management as a way to lower the risk of problematic behavior in their offspring.

Investigators from the University of Ottawa examined data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children and found that mothers who experience significant prenatal stress may be increasing their child’s risk for behavioral issues.

“Mothers who are exposed to high levels of stress during pregnancy have kids who are more than twice as likely to have chronic symptoms of hyperactivity and conduct disorder,” explains Dr. Ian Colman, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Medicine.

“Hyperactivity is a symptom of ADHD, and about 10 percent of school-age children are affected by ADHD or conduct disorder,” he said. “These disorders can lead to poor results in school and difficulties in their relationships with family and friends.”

Behavioral disorders such as those seen by the researchers are characterized by aggressive or antisocial behavior, high activity levels, and difficulty inhibiting behavior.

The conditions are also associated with school failure, substance use/abuse, and criminal activity, according to the paper which appears in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

A mother’s stress can alter brain development in the fetus, and it is believed these changes may be long-lasting or permanent, said Dr. Colman.

The research approach was unique as investigators studied the effects of specific stressors on participants, as opposed to gauging overall stress levels.

Participants reported stressful events, such as problems at work, the illness of a relative, or an argument with a partner, family or friend.

“Generally speaking, we found that the higher the stress, the higher the symptoms,” Dr. Colman said.

“We can’t avoid most stressful events in our lives and since we can’t always prevent them, the focus should be on helping mothers manage stress in order to give their children the best start in life.”

Source: University of Ottawa

Risky Teen Behavior May Be Exploration, Not Underdeveloped Brain

2 hours 7 min ago

A new review published in the journal Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience argues that teenagers’ risky behaviors may be a matter of exploration rather than the result of an under-developed brain, which is the current popular theory.

In recent years, neuroscientists have proposed the theory that teenagers’ seemingly impulsive and risky behaviors may be linked to low development of the prefrontal cortex and its weak connectivity with brain reward regions.

In the new review, however, the researchers challenge that conclusion. They examined the evidence behind this popular notion and found that much of it misinterpreted adolescent exploratory behavior as impulsive and lacking in control. Instead, the review suggests that much of what looks like adolescent impulsivity is behavior that is guided more by curiosity or a desire to learn about the world.

“Not long ago, the explanation for teenage behavior was raging hormones,” said lead author Daniel Romer, Ph.D., research director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.

“Now, it’s that the prefrontal cortex isn’t fully developed. Neuroscientists were quick to interpret what appeared to be a characteristic of the developing brain as evidence of stereotypes about adolescent risk-taking. But these behaviors are not symptoms of a brain deficit.”

The authors say that the brain development theory fails to take into account the implications of different kinds of risk taking. For example, teens have a heightened attraction to new and exciting experiences, known as sensation seeking, which peaks during adolescence.

However, adolescents who exhibit that tendency alone are not necessarily more likely to develop health issues such as substance use or gambling addiction. In fact, the researchers say that the rise in adolescent levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which may be a driving force for sensation seeking, also supports the brain’s ability to exert greater control and to learn from experience.

“What’s happening is that adolescents lack experience,” Romer said. “So they’re trying things out for the first time, like learning how to drive. They’re also trying drugs, deciding what to wear and who to hang out with. For some youth, this leads to problems.

“But when you’re trying things for the first time, you sometimes make mistakes. Researchers have interpreted this as a lack of control when for most youth, it’s just exploration.”

Romer added, “The reason teens are doing all of this exploring and novelty seeking is to build experience so that they can do a better job in making the difficult and risky decisions in later life – decisions like ‘Should I take this job?’ or ‘Should I marry this person?’ There’s no doubt that this period of development is a challenge for parents, but that’s doesn’t mean that the adolescent brain is somehow deficient or lacking in control.”

The authors say that the stereotype of the risky adolescent is based more on the rise of such behavior in adolescence than on its prevalence.

“For the vast majority of adolescents,” the researchers write, “this period of development passes without substance dependence, sexually transmitted infection, pregnancy, homicide, depression, suicide, or death due to car crashes.”

In fact, it’s only a small subset of teens — those who exhibit impulsive behavior and have weak cognitive control — who are most at risk of unhealthy outcomes. These impulse control problems are often identified at ages four or five, and teens with these issues are disproportionately likely to experience the hazards of adolescence and beyond, including higher rates of injuries and illnesses from car crashes, violence, and sexually transmitted infections, the authors say.

“Further research is clearly needed to understand the brain development of youth who are at risk for adverse outcomes, as abnormalities of brain development are certainly linked to diverse neuropsychiatric conditions. This research will help us to understand not only what makes adolescence a period of growth but also of risk,” said co-author Theodore Satterthwaite, M.D., a faculty member in the Department of Psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Source: Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania

Loss of Sense of Smell May Help Identify Alzheimer’s

2 hours 53 min ago

New research suggests odor identification tests may help scientists track the evolution of Alzheimer’s disease in persons at risk.

“Despite all the research in the area, no effective treatment has yet been found for AD,” said Dr. John Breitner, the director of the Centre for Studies on Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease at the Douglas Mental Health Research Centre of McGill University.

Brietner is one of the authors of a new study on the subject that appears in the journal Neurology.

Loss of memory usually means that the damage to your brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) may already have been going on for as long as 20 years. Early detection of AD can have profound advantages.

“If we can delay the onset of symptoms by just five years, we should be able to reduce the prevalence and severity of these symptoms by more than 50 percent,” Brietner said.

Researchers assessed close to 300 people with an average age of 63 who are at risk of developing AD because they had a parent who had suffered from the disease. Participants were presented multiple choice scratch-and-sniff tests to identify scents as varied as bubble gum, gasoline or the smell of a lemon.

One hundred of them also volunteered to have regular lumbar punctures to measure the quantities of various AD-related proteins whose presence in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).

The researchers found that those with the most difficulty in identifying odors were those in whom other, purely biological indicators of AD, were most evident.

“This is the first time that anyone has been able to show clearly that the loss of the ability to identify smells is correlated with biological markers indicating the advance of the disease,” said Marie-Elyse Lafaille-Magnan, a doctoral student at McGill and the first author on the study.

“For more than 30 years, scientists have been exploring the connection between memory loss and the difficulty that patients may have in identifying different odors.

“This makes sense because it’s known that the olfactory bulb (involved with the sense of smell) and the entorhinal cortex (involved with memory and naming of odors) are among the first brain structures first to be affected by the disease.”

The new approach offers a cheaper way to track progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

“This means that a simple smell test may potentially be able to give us information about the progression of the disease that is similar to the much more invasive and expensive tests of the cerebrospinal fluid that are currently being used.”

“However, problems identifying smells may be indicative of other medical conditions apart from AD and so should not be substituted for the current tests.”

The researchers caution more that far more work needs to be done to see how changes in a person’s ability to identify smells over time relates to the progression of the disease itself.

For the time being, smell tests are simply one more avenue to explore as researchers look for ways to identify the disease before the symptoms actually begin to appear.

Source: McGill University

Activity Patterns May Predict if Depression Responds to Ketamine

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 7:45am

Monitoring a depressed patient’s daily activity patterns before trying the drug ketamine — being tested as a fast-acting antidepressant — may help physicians determine whether the drug will be effective or not, according to a new study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

During a depressive episode, many people experience reduced energy, a feeling of being slowed down and having less interest in activities. As their mood lifts, energy and activity return to their usual levels.

In the study, patients whose depressive symptoms improved in response to ketamine showed a particular level of activity before trying the drug: more activity earlier in the day and less activity later in the day. This finding suggests that activity patterns may help identify patients who would benefit from the drug.

“These findings are the first clinical results to suggest that trait-like circadian activity patterns are associated with rapid mood response to ketamine,” said first author Dr. Wallace Duncan from the Experimental Therapeutics and Pathophysiology Branch at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

For the study, the researchers used wristwatch activity monitors on 51 patients to examine measures of circadian timekeeping systems, including the timing and levels of activity. All of the patients had either major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder, and all had depressive symptoms that had not responded to any previous treatments.

The findings show that patients who responded to a single infusion of ketamine initially typically had more activity earlier in the day and lower activity later in the day than patients who did not respond to ketamine.

“In other words, their daily activity clock was shifted forward,” said Dr. John Krystal, editor of Biological Psychiatry.

Those patients who responded to ketamine also had advance-shifted timing of their activity on the first day after the treatment, and increased overall activity levels on the third day, consistent with the notion that activity levels are part of the clinical response to ketamine.

Altered measures of circadian timekeeping on the third day suggest that changes in circadian circuits may mediate ketamine’s continued effects on mood.

Furthermore, the differences in activity levels before and after treatment suggest biological differences in the circadian systems that regulate activity between people who respond to the drug and those who don’t. The researchers suggest that these underlying differences may help predict ketamine’s effects on mood.

“It would be nice if daily patterns of activity could be used clinically to identify people who might respond to ketamine and to monitor clinical improvement,” said Krystal.

According to Duncan, the findings are also important because they show that rapid-acting treatments such as ketamine can provide key insights into the associations between sleep and circadian rhythms, activity, and mood response.

The unique activity produced by ketamine suggests that the clock-gene mechanisms that control circadian rhythms may be linked to the type of depression that responds to ketamine.

In addition, depressive symptom scores were linked to decreased activity and increased sleep quality on the first night after the infusion, indicating that improved sleep quality may be key to ketamine’s rapid mood effects.

Source: Elsevier

Hormones Can Influence Competitive Emotions

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 7:00am

Competitive situations can lead to a strong display of feelings, including the chance of heated arguments and disputes. However, as emotions get hot, not everyone reacts in the same way.

A new study finds that men respond differently to women, and the reactions of individuals are dissimilar to those of groups of persons.

In the research, psychologists at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) examined the correlations between competitiveness, aggression, and hormones.

Participants in a laboratory study were required to master competitive tasks over 10 rounds. They competed against each other either as individuals or as teams, and one side lost the competition while the other side won.

Participants were allowed to give full rein to their aggressive impulses during the competition.

For this purpose, at the beginning of each round, they were asked to specify how loud an unpleasant noise would be that the opponent would be required to listen to through headphones if they lost the round.

Saliva samples were collected from the participants prior to and after the competition in order to document changes to hormone levels.

Dr. Oliver Schultheiss and Dr. Jonathan Oxford found that men tended to behave more aggressively than women, that losers were more aggressive than winners, and that teams were more aggressive than individuals.

Furthermore, the researchers also detected a correlation between aggression and levels of the stress hormone cortisol; the more aggressively a person behaved, the lower their cortisol level was.

The study appears in the journal PLOS ONE.

“Our results show that the usual suspects are the ones who become aggressive — namely participants who are male and frustrated.

“But our analysis also revealed that it was easier for participants who were part of a team to attack others than it was for individuals. At the same time, elevation of stress hormones when encountering a threat that cannot be mastered is in actual fact associated with less aggression,” explains Schultheiss.

A unique aspect of the study included close inspection of female subjects.

Interestingly, researcher’s discovered the hormonal reaction to victory or defeat that occurred in women or female teams was significantly dependent on their personal thirst for power.

Women with a particularly marked thirst for power had higher levels of the sex hormones testosterone and estradiol after a victory than after a defeat.

This reaction was not recorded in women who have a less pronounced power-orientated outlook. Experts believe this hormonal reaction is the reason dominant behavior in women is intensified by a victory, and then subdued by a defeat.

Source: Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

Personalized Blood Tests Provide Better Way to Predict Suicide Risk

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 6:15am

A newly developed universal blood test can help to predict if a person is at high suicide risk. Indiana University researchers say the test is unique as it can be given to everyone. The scientists also report the development of personalized blood tests for different subtypes of suicidality, and for different psychiatric high-risk groups.

Researchers explain that two apps — one based on a suicide risk checklist and the other on a scale for measuring feelings of anxiety and depression – have been designed to be used in conjunction with the blood tests to enhance the precision of tests and to suggest lifestyle, psychotherapeutic, and other interventions.

The scientist have also identified a series of medications and natural substances that could be developed for preventing suicide.

“Our work provides a basis for precision medicine and scientific wellness preventive approaches,” said Alexander B. Niculescu III, M.D., Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and medical neuroscience at IU School of Medicine.

The article, “Precision medicine for suicidality: from universality to subtypes and personalization,” appears in the online edition of the journal, Molecular Psychiatry.

The research builds on earlier studies from the Niculescu group.

“Suicide strikes people in all walks of life. We believe such tragedies can be averted. This landmark larger study breaks new ground, as well as reproduces in larger numbers of individuals some of our earlier findings,” said Dr. Niculescu.

There were multiple steps to the research, starting with serial blood tests taken from 66 people who had been diagnosed with psychiatric disorders, followed over time, and who had at least one instance in which they reported a significant change in their level of suicidal thinking from one testing visit to the next.

The candidate gene expression biomarkers that best tracked suicidality in each individual and across individuals were then prioritized using the Niculescu group’s Convergent Functional Genomics approach, based on all the prior evidence in the field.

Next, working with the Marion County (Indianapolis, Ind.) Coroner’s Office, the researchers tested the validity of the biomarkers using blood samples drawn from 45 people who had committed suicide.

The biomarkers were then tested in another larger, completely independent group of individuals to determine how well they could predict which of them would report intense suicidal thoughts or would be hospitalized for suicide attempts.

The biomarkers identified by the research are RNA molecules whose levels in the blood changed in concert with changes in the levels of suicidal thoughts experienced by the patients. Among the findings reported in the current paper were:

  • An algorithm that combines biomarkers with the apps that was 90 percent accurate in predicting high levels of suicidal thinking and 77 percent accurate in predicting future suicide-related hospitalizations in everybody, irrespective of gender and diagnosis.
  • A refined set of biomarkers that apply universally in predicting risk of suicide among both male and female patients with a variety of psychiatric illnesses, including new biomarkers never before linked to suicidal thoughts and behavior.
  • Four new subtypes of suicidality were identified (depressed, anxious, combined, and non-affective/psychotic), with different biomarkers being more effective in each subtype.
  • Biomarkers that were associated with specific diagnoses and genders, such as one, known as LHFP, that appears to be a very strong predictor for depressed men.
  • Two of the biomarkers, APOE and IL6, have broad evidence for involvement in suicidality and potential clinical utility as targets for drug therapies, as well as suggest a neurodegenerative and inflammatory component to the predisposition to suicide. APOE is responsible for proteins involved with managing cholesterol and fats, and some forms of the gene have been strongly implicated as risks for Alzheimer’s disease. IL6 expresses proteins involved in the body’s inflammation response.
  • Potential drug therapies and natural substances for preventing suicide, using the blood biomarker signatures and bioinformatics approaches. They included medications already in use to treat psychiatric illnesses and drugs approved for other uses, such as the diabetes medication metformin.

Source: University of Indiana/EurekAlert

Photo: This is Alexander B. Niculescu III. Credit: Indiana University School of Medicine.

New User-Friendly Apps Can Help Older Adults Manage Mental Issues

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 5:30am

In a new study, researchers showed that the use of a smartphone application can transform the delivery of geriatric psychiatry by integrating medical and psychiatric self-management intervention.

Experts explain that care of middle-aged and older patients with serious mental illness is complicated. Often these patients suffer from other medical conditions and are at increased risk of premature death. Typically, health care costs for people with mental illness are two to three times higher than individuals in the general population.

In an effort to help individual better cope with their illness, researchers from Dartmouth University developed a smartphone-based intervention with a user-friendly design. They found that even patients with limited technical abilities could use this app successfully.

The app and intervention protocol were developed using commercially available products from Wellframe.

“The use of mobile health interventions by adults with serious mental illness is a promising approach that has been shown to be highly feasible and acceptable,” said lead investigator Karen L. Fortuna, Ph.D., of the Dartmouth Centers for Health and Aging and the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth.

“These technologies are associated with many advantages compared with traditional psychosocial interventions, including the potential for individually tailored, just-in-time delivery along with wide dissemination and high population impact.

“Nevertheless, the process of adapting an existing psychosocial intervention to a smartphone intervention requires adaptation for a high-risk group with limited health and technology literacy.”

Following multiple design iterations, investigators tested the app’s usability. Ten participants (mean age of 55.3 years) with serious mental illness and other chronic health conditions reported a high level of usability and satisfaction with the smartphone application.

The app takes patients through 10 sessions over a period of approximately three months, covering topics such as stress vulnerability and illness, medication adherence and strategies, and substance and medication abuse. Physicians can remotely monitor app use, and intervene when problems are detected, facilitating telemedicine for less accessible populations.

According to Fortuna, “Smartphone applications also potentially facilitate patient engagement in participatory, personalized, and preventative care. As the health care industry increasingly embraces prevention and illness self-management, it is important for physicians and patients to be actively involved in designing and developing new technologies supporting these approaches.”

This study is part of a special issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry that captures an important moment in the evolving relationship between technology and the clinical care of older adults.

Source: Dartmouth University/EurekAlert

Study Finds Work is Intense and Emotionally Exhausting for Most US Workers

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 7:45am

New research confirms what many Americans already know — that their jobs are hard and draining, and it is difficult to separate work from home.

The new study finds that workers frequently face unstable work schedules, unpleasant and potentially hazardous working conditions, and an often hostile social environment.

The findings stem from research conducted by investigators at the RAND Corporation, Harvard Medical School and University of California, Los Angeles. Investigators analyzed responses from the American Working Conditions Survey, one of the most in-depth surveys ever done to examine conditions in the American workplace.

Remarkably, more than one in four American workers say they have too little time to do their job, with the complaint being most common among white-collar workers.

In addition, workers say the intensity of work frequently spills over into their personal lives, with about one-half of people reporting that they perform some work in their free time in order to meet workplace demands.

Despite these challenges, American workers appear to have a certain degree of autonomy on the job, most feel confident about their skill set and many do report that they receive social support while on the job.

“I was surprised how taxing the workplace appears to be, both for less-educated and for more-educated workers,” said lead author Dr. Nicole Maestas, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and an adjunct economist at RAND.

“Work is taxing at the office and it’s taxing when it spills out of the workplace into people’s family lives.”

Researchers say that while eight in 10 American workers report having steady and predictable work throughout the year, just 54 percent report working the same number of hours on a day-to-day basis.

One in three workers say they have no control over their schedule. Despite much public attention focused on the growth of telecommuting, 78 percent of workers report they must be present at their workplace during regular business hours.

Nearly three-fourths of American workers report either intense or repetitive physical exertion on the job at least a quarter of the time. While workers without a college education report greater physical demands, many college-educated and older workers are affected as well.

Emotional stress and challenges to mental health are a relatively common experience at the worksite. Researchers discovered more than half of Americans report exposure to unpleasant and potentially hazardous social environments.

Nearly one in five workers — a “disturbingly high” fraction, researchers said — say they face a hostile or threatening social environment at work. Younger and prime-aged women are the workers most likely to experience unwanted sexual attention, while younger men are more likely to experience verbal abuse.

The findings are from a survey of 3,066 adults who participate in the RAND American Life Panel, a nationally representative, computer-based sample of people from across the United States. The workplace survey was fielded in 2015 to collect detailed information across a broad range of working conditions in the American workplace, as well as details about workers and job characteristics.

Despite the importance of the workplace to most Americans, researchers say there is relatively little publicly available information about the characteristics of American jobs today.

The American Working Conditions survey is designed to be harmonious with the European Working Conditions Survey, which has been conducted periodically over the last 25 years among workers from a broad range of European nations.

The American Working Conditions Survey found that while many American workers adjust their personal lives to accommodate work matters, about one-third of workers say they are unable to adjust their work schedules to accommodate personal matters.

In general, women are more likely than men to report difficulty arranging for time off during work hours to take care of personal or family matters.

Jobs interfere with family and social commitments outside of work, particularly for younger workers who don’t have a college degree. More than one in four reports a poor fit between their work hours and their social and family commitments.

The report also provides insights about how preferences change among workers as they become older.

Older workers are more likely to value the ability to control how they do their work and setting the pace of their work, as well as less physically demanding jobs. Older workers are also generally less likely than younger workers to have some degree of mismatch between their desired and actual working conditions.

The survey also confirms that retirement is often a fluid concept. Many older workers say they have previously retired before rejoining the workforce, and many people aged 50 and older who are not employed say they would consider rejoining the workforce if conditions were right.

Other highlights from the report include:

  • The intensity of work such as pace, deadlines, and time constraints differ across occupation groups, with white-collar workers experiencing greater work intensity than blue-collar workers.
  • Jobs in the U.S. feature a mix of monotonous tasks and autonomous problem solving. While 62 percent of workers say they face monotonous tasks, more than 80 percent report that their jobs involve “solving unforeseen problems” and “applying own ideas.”
  • The workplace is an important source of professional and social support, with more than one half of American workers describing their boss as supportive and that they have very good friends at work.
  • Only 38 percent of workers say their job offers good prospects for advancement. All workers — regardless of education — become less optimistic about career advancement as they become older.
  • Four out of five American workers report that their job provides “meaning” always or most of the time. Older college-educated men were those most likely to report at least one dimension of meaningful work.
  • Nearly two-thirds of workers experience some degree of mismatch between their desired and actual working conditions, with the number rising to nearly three-quarters when job benefits are taken into account. Nearly half of workers report working more than their preferred number of hours per week, while some 20 percent report working fewer than their preferred number of hours.

Future reports will explore how conditions of the American workplace compare to those in Europe and in other parts of the world and selected findings from follow-up surveys using the same panel of participants.

Source: RAND Corporation

For Many Couples, Coke vs Pepsi Can Impact Relationship

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 7:00am

New research suggests that when partners prefer different consumer brands — say you prefer Diet Coke and your partner likes Diet Pepsi — relationship quality may be impacted.

In fact, Duke University investigators believe preferring different brands can affect our happiness in relationships more than shared interests or personality traits.

“People think compatibility in relationships comes from having similar backgrounds, religion, or education,” said Dr. Gavan Fitzsimons, a marketing professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. “But we find those things don’t explain how happy you are in life nearly as much as this notion of brand compatibility.”

The findings appear in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Fitzsimons worked with Fuqua colleagues Drs. Tanya Chartrand and Grainne Fitzsimons, plus lead author and former Fuqua Ph.D. student Danielle Brick, now at the University of New Hampshire.

The researchers found that partners who had low power in their relationships — those who don’t feel they can shape their partner’s behavior — tend to find themselves stuck with their partner’s preferred brands.

“If you are lower in relationship power and have different brand preferences than your partner, you’re probably going to find yourself stuck with your partner’s favorite brands, over and over again. This could lead to a death-by-a-thousand-cuts feeling,” Brick said.

“Most couples won’t break up over brand incompatibility, but it leads to the low power partner becoming less and less happy.”

The investigators discovered different settings and products produced the same result. For example, researchers used brand preferences in soda, coffee, chocolate, beer, and automobiles to study individuals and couples, some of whom were tracked over two years.

These results were combined with findings on relationship power and happiness. “It’s an extremely robust effect, we found it over and over and over again,” Fitzsimons said.

Brick said it’s likely these brand compatibility effects have steadily gained strength as brands have evolved to play a bigger role in the daily lives of consumers. However, in the past, agreement on brands were not given the same weight as other relationship-influencing factors because they’re not seen as significant.

“If you are a different religion than your romantic partner, you know that if this is an issue you can’t work through, then the relationship isn’t going to last,” Brick said.

“Conversely, if you like Coke and your partner likes Pepsi, you’re probably not going to break up over it — but 11 years into a relationship, when he or she keeps coming home with Pepsi, day in and day out, it might start to cause a little conflict. And if you’re the low-power person in the relationship, who continually loses out on brands and is stuck with your partner’s preferences, you are going to be less happy.”

The results have implications for individuals and firms.

“People who are looking for love should maybe consider including brand preferences on their dating profiles,” Fitzsimons said.

“There’s also an opportunity for marketers to seek to be the family brand. Even if two partners have slightly different brand preferences, if they can adopt a joint brand that both are happy about, that might increase happiness for a partner who would otherwise feel unsatisfied.”

Fitzsimons said that family branding isn’t currently commonplace.

“Some brands are marketed as family-oriented, but that’s not the same as reaching out to everyone in the family,” he said.

“It’s tricky, but firms that get it right can have their brand associated with happiness and harmony — and there’s nothing better than that.”

Source: Duke University

‘Smiley’ Emojis in Formal Work Emails May be Frowned Upon

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 6:15am

A new study reveals that smiley-face emojis and similar emoticons in professional e-mails may not create a positive impression and may even affect the receiver’s willingness to share work-related information.

“Our findings provide first-time evidence that, contrary to actual smiles, smileys do not increase perceptions of warmth and actually decrease perceptions of competence. In formal business e-mails, a smiley is not a smile,” said Dr. Ella Glikson, a postdoctoral fellow at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), Department of Management, Guilford Glazer Faculty of Business and Management.

For the study, researchers from BGU, the University of Haifa in Israel and Amsterdam University conducted a series of experiments with a total of 549 participants from 29 different countries.

In one experiment, the participants were asked to read a work-related e-mail from an unknown person and then evaluate both the competence and warmth of that person.

The participants all received similar messages, but some included smileys while others did not. The findings show that in contrast to face-to-face smiles, which increase the perception of both competence and warmth, the e-mail smileys had no effect on perception of warmth, and in fact had a negative effect on the perception of competence.

“The study also found that when the participants were asked to respond to e-mails on formal matters, their answers were more detailed and they included more content-related information when the e-mail did not include a smiley,” said Glikson. “We found that the perceptions of low competence if a smiley is included in turn undermined information sharing,”

In another experiment, the email included only a photograph. In this case, a “smiling” sender was perceived as more competent and friendly than a neutral one. However, when an e-mail on formal work-related matters included a smiley, the sender was perceived as less competent. The smiley did not influence the evaluation of the sender’s friendliness.

The new findings also contribute to the ongoing discussion of gender in the use and interpretation of emoticons: when the gender of the e-mail writer was unknown, recipients were more likely to assume that a smiley e-mail was sent by a woman. However, this attribution did not influence the evaluation of competence or friendliness.

“People tend to assume that a smiley is a virtual smile, but the findings of this study show that in the case of the workplace, at least as far as initial ‘encounters’ are concerned, this is incorrect,” said Glikson.

“For now, at least, a smiley can only replace a smile when you already know the other person. In initial interactions, it is better to avoid using smileys, regardless of age or gender.”

The new findings are published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Source: American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Are Unpleasant Emotions Part of Happiness?

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 5:30am

A new study suggests it is okay if we are not always happy. In fact, investigators discovered life satisfaction is a product of experiencing both negative and positive emotions.

In an international study, researchers discovered people may be happier when they feel the emotions they desire, even if those emotions are unpleasant, such as anger or hatred.

“Happiness is more than simply feeling pleasure and avoiding pain. Happiness is about having experiences that are meaningful and valuable, including emotions that you think are the right ones to have,” said lead researcher Maya Tamir, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

“All emotions can be positive in some contexts and negative in others, regardless of whether they are pleasant or unpleasant.”

The cross-cultural study included 2,324 university students in eight countries: the United States, Brazil, China, Germany, Ghana, Israel, Poland, and Singapore.

The research is the first study to find this relationship between happiness and experiencing desired emotions, even when those emotions are unpleasant, Tamir said.

The study appears online in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

Participants generally wanted to experience more pleasant emotions and fewer unpleasant emotions than they felt in their lives, but that wasn’t always the case.

Interestingly, 11 percent of the participants wanted to feel fewer transcendent emotions, such as love and empathy, than they experienced in daily life, and 10 percent wanted to feel more unpleasant emotions, such as anger or hatred. There was only a small overlap between those groups.

For example, someone who feels no anger when reading about child abuse might think she should be angrier about the plight of abused children, so she wants to feel more anger than she actually does in that moment, Tamir said. A woman who wants to leave an abusive partner but isn’t willing to do so may be happier if she loved him less, Tamir said.

Participants were surveyed about the emotions they desired and the emotions they actually felt in their lives. They also rated their life satisfaction and depressive symptoms.

Across cultures in the study, participants who experienced more of the emotions that they desired reported greater life satisfaction and fewer depressive symptoms, regardless of whether those desired emotions were pleasant or unpleasant.

Further research is needed, however, to test whether feeling desired emotions truly influences happiness or is merely associated with it, Tamir said.

The study assessed only one category of unpleasant emotions known as negative self-enhancing emotions, which includes hatred, hostility, anger, and contempt. Future research could test other unpleasant emotions, such as fear, guilt, sadness, or shame, Tamir said.

Pleasant emotions that were examined in the study included empathy, love, trust, passion, contentment, and excitement. Prior research has shown that the emotions that people desire are linked to their values and cultural norms, but those links weren’t directly examined in this research.

The study may shed some light on the unrealistic expectations that many people have about their own feelings, Tamir said.

“People want to feel very good all the time in Western cultures, especially in the United States,” Tamir said.

“Even if they feel good most of the time, they may still think that they should feel even better, which might make them less happy overall.”

Source: American Psychological Assocation/EurekAlert

Bumper Stickers Can Incite Emotions & Cognitive Interplay

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 7:00am

A new research effort suggests bumper stickers engage social communication by stimulating drivers and passengers to interact.

The premise challenges traditional theory that views freeways and other superhighways as “non-places of negligible social interaction,” where drivers pass each other at high speeds, stop infrequently, and are otherwise largely insulated from one another.

“Bumper stickers open up the possibility to try to imagine who it is that would have such a message on their car,” said Walter Goettlich, a University of Kansas doctoral student in sociology.

“They can make you feel a certain way. Or you can see something and say, ‘Oh, that’s one of those people,’ and other times just be flummoxed.”

Goettlich presented his research at the American Sociological Association annual meeting in Montreal.

In the course of his research, he drove more than 10,000 miles on the interstate system in the eastern half of the United States gathering data, conducting interviews, and observing his own reactions to stickers he encountered.

“Certainly, not everyone who reads a given sticker will attempt to make sense of it, and many will not even take notice in the first place,” he said. “But for those who do, the practice of reading such inscriptions is not a trivial matter.”

Goettlich identifies a set of interpretive strategies drivers use to make sense of sticker messages while on the road. The tactics include labeling, affective, and puzzle modes of reading.

He suggests the messages are a form of cognitive shorthand that helps driver-reader stay safe within the limits of driving at high speed on superhighways.

When using the labeling mode, readers activate a pre-established association of values. For example, a respondent mentioned assuming a New York Yankees sticker indicated arrogance or that a Harley-Davidson sticker symbolized patriotism.

The affective mode is characterized by an emotional response in the driver-reader to a sticker, and by extension to the driver whose car bears that sticker, such as anger when encountering a message that does not match the observer’s view.

As compared with the other strategies, the puzzle mode is an open-ended attempt to interpret messages that do not activate value associations or strong emotions.

Using this mode, reader-drivers often rely upon external resources such as Internet searches or social media to make sense of otherwise obscure sticker texts. The use of these techniques, Goettlich argued, extends the social space of such encounters well beyond the superhighway itself.

Goettlich finds the puzzle mode is an effect of recent changes to sticker manufacturing, specifically the shift from mass-produced stickers to mass-customized ones.

Bumper sticker messages are increasingly specific, and in some cases unique. This specificity requires a new interpretive orientation. Mass-customized production, as available through sites such as CafePress or Zazzle, further allow drivers to create sticker messages in response to others they have seen on the road.

In these ways, the highway becomes a space for drivers and passengers to interact.

“It’s a form of social encounter,” Goettlich said.

“I think it’s important to pay attention to this, especially as many political pundits and social critics lament declining public involvement. In these kinds of spaces, especially highways, malls, and airports, how do we maintain social connections? And what are the limitations of these connections, particularly if we already have somebody pegged or labeled as something?”

Source: University of Kansas

Transgender TV Characters May Impact Audience Attitudes

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 6:15am

People who watch transgender characters on television tend to have more positive attitudes toward both transgender people and related policies, according to a new study at the University of Southern California (USC), Annenberg.

The findings show that watching a fictional story may influence people’s attitudes more than exposure to transgender issues on the news.

“While media visibility of transgender people reached new levels in recent years, little has been known about the effects of that visibility. Our study shows the power of entertainment narratives to influence viewers’ attitudes toward transgender people and policy issues,” said Traci Gillig, a doctoral candidate at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and the lead author on the study.

For the study, the researchers surveyed 488 regular viewers of the USA Network series “Royal Pains,” of whom 391 saw a particular episode aired in June 2015 which featured a transgender teen, played by transgender activist Nicole Maines.

Participants who watched this episode had more positive attitudes toward both transgender people and related policies, such as students using bathrooms aligned with their gender identity.

The fictional “Royal Pains” episode was more influential than news events. In fact, exposure to transgender issues in the news and Caitlyn Jenner’s transition (which was unfolding during the study period) had no effect on attitudes.

The study is also the first to show the effect of cumulative exposure to transgender portrayals, across multiple shows. The more shows featuring transgender characters (such as Amazon’s “Transparent” and Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black”) that viewers watched, the more transgender-supportive their attitudes.

Viewing two or more transgender storylines reduced the association between participants’ political ideology and their attitudes toward transgender people by half.

The study was conducted in collaboration with Hollywood, Health & Society (HH&S), a program of the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center that serves as a free resource to the entertainment industry on TV storylines addressing health, safety, and national security issues.

“We worked closely with the ‘Royal Pains’ writers, connecting them with medical experts and providing information for the storyline,” said HH&S Director Kate Langrall Folb.

The study findings suggest that increased visibility of transgender characters in mainstream entertainment can have far-reaching influence on public perceptions of transgender people and the policies that impact them.

“Watching TV shows with nuanced transgender characters can break down ideological biases in a way that news stories may not. This is especially true when the stories inspire hope or when viewers can relate to the characters,” said HH&S Senior Research Associate Erica Rosenthal.

The study findings are published in the journal Sex Roles.

Source: Springer

Breaking Gender Roles May Challenge Mental Health

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 5:30am

Emerging research out of the University of Illinois suggests that some mothers’ and fathers’ psychological well-being may suffer when their work and family identities — and the amount of financial support they provide — conflict with conventional gender roles.

Researchers found that when women’s paychecks increased to compose the majority of their families’ income, these women reported more symptoms of depression.

However, the investigators found the opposite effect in men: Dads’ psychological well-being improved over time when they became the primary wage-earners for their families.

Dr. Karen Kramer and graduate student Sunjin Pak reviewed a data sample that included more than 1,463 men and 1,769 women who participated in the National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth.

A majority of the individuals in the study, all born between 1957 and 1965, were members of the baby-boom generation. Participants’ psychological well-being was measured in 1991 and 1994 using a seven-item scale that assessed their levels of depressive symptoms.

Kramer and Pak found that although women’s psychological well-being was not affected by exiting the workforce to become stay-at-home moms, men’s mental health declined when they stayed home to care for the kids.

“We observed a statistically significant and substantial difference in depressive symptoms between men and women in our study,” said Kramer, who is a professor of human development and family studies.

“The results supported the overarching hypothesis: Well-being was lower for mothers and fathers who violated gendered expectations about the division of paid labor, and higher for parents who conformed to these expectations.”

While women’s educational and career opportunities have multiplied in recent decades, societal norms and expectations about gendered divisions of labor in the workplace and the home have been slower to evolve, according to the researchers.

Mothers and fathers who deviate from conventional gender roles — such as dads who leave the workforce to care for their children full time — may be perceived negatively, potentially impacting their mental health, Kramer and Pak wrote.

The researchers also explored whether parents who held more egalitarian ideas about men’s and women’s responsibilities as wage earners and caretakers for their families fared better — and Kramer and Pak found gender differences there as well.

Women in the study who viewed themselves and their spouses as equally responsible for financially supporting their families and caring for their homes and offspring experienced better mental health when their wages and share of the family’s income increased.

However, regardless of their beliefs, men’s mental health diminished when their earnings as a proportion of the family income shrank. This finding led researchers to suggest that “work identity and (the) traditional role of primary earner are still critical for men, even when they have more egalitarian gender ideology.”

The paper will be presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.

Source: University of Illinois

School-Based Mental Health Programs Reach Large Numbers of Kids

Sun, 08/13/2017 - 8:45am

New findings published in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry show that school-based mental health programs can reach large numbers of children and effectively improve mental health and related outcomes.

Approximately 13 percent of children and teens worldwide have significant mental health problems including anxiety, disruptive behavior disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and depression. If left untreated, these disorders can remain throughout adulthood and have negative effects in many aspects of life.

A large number of interventions have been designed to deliver preventive mental health services in schools, where children and teens spend so much of their time. Now a growing body of evidence shows that school-based mental health programs can be widely implemented and can lead to population-wide improvements in mental health, physical health, educational, and social outcomes.

For the review, Dr. J. Michael Murphy, EdD, of Massachusetts General Hospital and colleagues identified and analyzed school-based mental health programs that have been implemented on a large scale and have collected data on specific mental health outcomes. Their findings show that the eight largest programs have reached at least 27 million children over the last decade.

The programs vary in their focus, methods, and goals. For example, the largest intervention, called “Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports” (PBIS), focuses on positive social culture and behavioral support for all students. The second-largest program, called “FRIENDS,” aims to ease anxiety and teach skills for managing stress and emotions — not only for children, but also for parents and teachers.

While some of the school-based mental health interventions target students at high risk of mental health problems, most are designed to focus on mental health promotion or primary prevention for all students in the school. Most of the programs have been implemented across school districts, while some have been introduced on the state or national level.

Evidence is “moderate to strong” that these interventions are successful in contributing to good mental health and related outcomes. For example, studies of FRIENDS have reported reductions in anxiety, while PBIS has shown improved reading scores and fewer school suspensions.

Other interventions have shown benefits in areas such as bullying and substance abuse.

“This review provides evidence that large-scale, school-based programs can be implemented in a variety of diverse cultures and educational models as well as preliminary evidence that such programs have significant, measurable positive effects on students’ emotional, behavioral, and academic outcomes,” write the researchers.

“Data sets of increasing quality and size are opening up new opportunities to assess the degree to which preventive interventions for child mental health, delivered at scale, can play a role in improving health and other life outcomes,” said Murphy and colleagues.

With ongoing data collection and new evaluation frameworks, they believe that school-based mental health programs have the potential to “improve population-wide health outcomes of the next generation.”

Source: Wolters Klewer Health

Study Probes What Happens When People Hear Voices

Sun, 08/13/2017 - 8:00am

A new study has discovered that people who hear voices — both with and without a diagnosed psychotic illness — are more sensitive than other people to a 125-year-old experiment designed to induce hallucinations.

And the subjects’ ability to learn that these hallucinations were not real may help pinpoint those in need of psychiatric treatment, according to researchers at Yale University.

People with schizophrenia and other psychotic illnesses often report hearing voices, but so do other people with no diagnosed psychiatric disorder, the researchers noted.

Drs. Philip Corlett, an assistant professor of psychiatry, and Al Powers, a clinical instructor in psychiatry, wanted to identify factors that contribute to auditory hallucinations and to tease apart what makes some people’s experiences troubling and others’ benign.

“Hallucinations may arise from an imbalance between our expectations about the environment and the information we get from our senses,” said Powers, the study’s lead author. “You may perceive what you expect, not what your senses are telling you.”

To test this theory, they used a technique developed at Yale in the 1890s designed to induce auditory hallucinations.

In the experiment, four groups of subjects — voice-hearers (both psychotic and non-psychotic) and non-voice hearers (psychotic and non-psychotic) — were repeatedly presented with a light and a tone at the same time while undergoing brain scans. They were told to detect the tone, which was difficult to hear at times.

Eventually, many subjects in all groups reported hearing a tone when only the light was presented, even though no tone was played. The effect, however, was much more pronounced in the two voice-hearing groups, according to the researchers.

“In both clinical and non-clinical subjects, we see some of the same brain processes at work during conditioned hallucinations as those engaged when voice-hearers report hallucinations in the scanner,” said Corlett, senior author of the study.

In a previous study, the researchers showed that a group of self-described voice-hearing psychics had similar voice-hearing experiences as patients with schizophrenia. Unlike patients, however, they tended to experience these voices as positive and reported an ability to exert more control over them, the researchers reported.

The new experiment also used computational modeling to differentiate people with psychosis from those without. People with a psychotic illness had difficulty accepting that they had not really heard a tone and exhibited altered activity in brain regions that are often implicated in psychosis.

These behavioral and neuroimaging markers may be an early indication of pathology and could help identify those who are in need of psychiatric treatment, the researchers concluded.

The study was published in the journal Science.

Source: Yale University

Maternal Inflammation Can Affect Fetal Brain Development

Sun, 08/13/2017 - 7:15am

New research shows that increased levels of inflammatory markers during pregnancy can lead to changes in fetal brain development which, in turn, may increase the child’s risk of developing psychiatric disorders.

The incidence of impaired impulse control — the cardinal symptom of these disorders — appears to be particularly affected by this increase in maternal inflammation, according to the study, which was published in Biological Psychiatry.

While changes in the expression of inflammatory markers during a woman’s pregnancy may be linked to infection, they can also be associated with other conditions, such as obesity or psychological stress.

Led by Professor Dr. Claudia Buss, researchers from the Charité, Universitätsmedizin Berlin; the University of California Irvine; Oregon Health and Science University; and the University of North Carolina, discovered that newborns whose mothers had elevated inflammatory markers during pregnancy have an enlarged amygdala, the region of the brain that plays an important role in emotional processing.

The researchers also discovered changes in the amygdala’s connectivity to other brain regions. The changes in amygdala size and connectivity were in turn associated with impaired impulse control, according to the study’s findings.

The study was conducted at the University of California, Irvine, where Buss holds an adjunct associate professor position. The researchers recruited nearly 90 women in the first trimester of pregnancy and their infants were followed up until the age of 24 months.

The women and their unborn children underwent three examinations, one in each of the three trimesters of pregnancy. In addition to carrying out ultrasound examinations and the analysis of biological samples, the researchers also recorded potential medical complications, as well as the psychological well-being of the mothers.

The children underwent further examinations after birth. The initial examination, which took place during the first month of life, used magnetic resonance imaging to study the children’s brains during natural sleep. At 24 months of age, play-based tasks were used to assess the children’s impulse control.

“We discovered that higher levels of interleukin-6, an inflammatory marker, were associated with changes in the neonatal amygdala in terms of its anatomy and connectivity. Furthermore, our subsequent findings showed that these changes were also associated with lower impulse control at two years of age,” said Buss.

“We therefore conclude that a link exists between higher levels of maternal inflammatory markers and an increased risk of psychiatric disorders that are commonly associated with impaired impulse control.”

According to the researchers, animal studies have shown that infections and inflammation in a pregnant animal lead to changes in offspring brain development and behavior.

Epidemiological studies also support the findings of this study, suggesting that maternal infections and other clinical phenotypes associated with increased interleukin-6 concentrations, such as obesity, during pregnancy increase the risk of psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia and autism.

Source: Charité, Universitätsmedizin Berlin

New Imagination Strategies May Boost Memory

Sun, 08/13/2017 - 6:30am

Imagining an action/consequence relationship between two random objects may help you improve your memory, according to a new Canadian study published in the journal Memory & Cognition.

For example, if today’s forecast calls for rain, and you want to make sure you remember an umbrella, try to imagine the umbrella tip being stuck in your home’s door lock, blocking you from locking it.

According to the researchers, imagining this type of action between two objects (the umbrella being lodged in the door lock) and a potential consequence (not being able to lock the door) can help people improve their memory for relationships with several objects.

This particular finding is part of an in-depth study into a natural memory strategy known as “unitization.”

Better understanding of this strategy could allow it to be used in personalized memory rehabilitation to help older adults and those with amnesia bypass gaps in their abilities, said Dr. Jennifer Ryan, senior scientist at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute in Toronto.

“Previous research has shown that imagining two objects fusing into one will help people work around these memory deficits; but our work demonstrated that understanding the relationship between the two items is also important,” said Ryan, who is also a psychology and psychiatry professor at the University of Toronto.

“We know that cognitive function is impaired during aging and this strategy could be one workaround for minor memory problems, depending on what you need to achieve.”

For the study, the researchers analyzed the performance of 80 healthy older adults (between the ages of 61 to 88) on a memory task. The participants were first trained and tested on the task to gather initial results. Then they were taught one of the three individual features of unitization (fusion, motion, action/consequence) or the overall unitization strategy.

After learning these new techniques, the subjects were tested again to see if their memory performance improved.

The findings show that participants who were trained to improve their memory using only the action/consequence feature of unitization saw the greatest memory improvements.

“We are trying to understand what’s important to unitization and what people need to learn in order to benefit,” said Ryan. “There is no single strategy that will fix your memory, but one method may be more be suitable than another.”

Next, the researchers plan to investigate how the brain’s systems support different memory strategies. With additional funding, researchers could explore incorporating this memory strategy into a personalized brain rehabilitation program for older adults.

Source: Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care

Brain Markers May Impact Widespread Pain

Sat, 08/12/2017 - 8:45am

Does widespread pain stem from the brain? A new study suggests it does.

Pain is the most common reason people seek medical care, according to the National Institutes of Health.

“Sometimes we can easily pinpoint what is causing a person pain,” said Richard Harris, Ph.D., associate professor of anesthesiology and rheumatology at Michigan Medicine at the University of Michigan. “But, there are still one in five Americans who suffer from persistent pain that is not easily identifiable.”

One reason may be is that when someone experiences pain, they often think about how intense the pain is, but rarely do they also consider how widespread the pain is.

Harris is the senior author of the new study, published in Pain, that sought to find what underlies widespread pain.

“We examined data from the brains of participants in the Multidisciplinary Approach to the Study of Chronic Pelvic Pain Research Network study,” Harris reported. “We compared participants with a clinical diagnosis of urological chronic pelvic pain syndrome to pain-free controls and to fibromyalgia patients.”

The research team used data from 1,079 participants from the MAPP study that included questionnaires capturing their pain severity and function. They were also asked to draw on a body map where they were experiencing pain.

Researchers then had a subset of the participants undergo functional and structural MRIs.

“Surprisingly, many of the individuals, in addition to having pain located in the pelvic region, had pain also widely distributed throughout their body,” Harris said.

“Interestingly, when we put these individuals into the brain imaging scanner, we found that those who had widespread pain had increased gray matter and brain connectivity within sensory and motor cortical areas, when compared to pain-free controls.”

Urological chronic pelvic pain syndrome patients with widespread pain showed increased brain gray matter volume and functional connectivity involving the sensorimotor and insular cortices.

“What was surprising was these individuals with widespread pain, although they had the diagnosis of urological chronic pelvic pain, were actually identical to another chronic pain disorder: fibromyalgia,” Harris said.

The researchers note the changes in brain gray matter volume and functional connectivity were identical to outcomes present in fibromyalgia patients, but were not seen in the pain-free control group.

“This study represents the fact that pelvic pain patients, a subset of them, have characteristics of fibromyalgia,” Harris said. “Not only do they have widespread pain, but also they have brain markers indistinguishable from fibromyalgia patients.”

The researchers said they hope their study provides physicians with the opportunity to look at new ways of treating chronic pain patients.

“We think that this type of study will help treat these patients because if they have a central nerve biological component to their disorder, they’re much more likely to benefit from targets that affect the central nervous system rather than from treatments that are aimed at the pelvic region,” Harris says.

Source: Michigan Medicine-University of Michigan

Older Adults Need More Follow-Up after ER Screenings for Suicide

Sat, 08/12/2017 - 8:00am

Nearly half of adults over the age of 70 who committed suicide visited an emergency room in the year before their death.

However, when healthcare providers see older adults in the emergency room, some may be too quick to assume that the warning signs for suicide are just a natural part of aging. As a result, many older adults may not get the help they need to address suicidal thoughts, according to a new study.

According to the World Health Organization, suicide rates for men over the age of 70 are higher than in any other group of people. In 2015, almost 8,000 older adults committed suicide in the U.S., and the proportion of suicides is higher among older adults than younger people. When older adults try to commit suicide, they are more likely to be successful compared to younger adults. This is why suicide prevention strategies are especially important for older men and women, researchers noted.

For the new study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers reviewed emergency room records of 800 people, including 200 older adults.

They discovered that:

  • 53 percent of older adults had a chief complaint involving “psychiatric behavior” (behavior relating to mental illness or its treatment), compared to 70 percent of younger adults;
  • 93 percent of older adults had documented suicidal thoughts in the past two weeks compared to 79 percent of younger adults;
  • 17 percent of older adults reported attempting suicide in the past two weeks compared with 23 percent of younger adults;
  • Less than 50 percent of the older adults who showed warning signs for suicide received a mental health evaluation, compared to 66 percent of younger adults;
  • Only 34 percent of older adults who had attempted suicide or had suicidal thoughts were referred to mental health professionals, compared to 60 percent of younger adults.

The researchers concluded that improving responses to suicide risk detection, as well as improving mental health treatment for older adults at risk for suicide, could reduce deaths from suicide among older adults.

Source: American Geriatrics Society