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Updated: 1 hour 42 min ago

India Study: Regular School Lunches Significantly Boost Children’s Learning Over Time

14 hours 31 min ago

Elementary school children in India who have been enrolled in a free lunch program for several years experience significantly better learning outcomes compared to students who have been participating for less than a year, according to a new study led by researchers from the European School of Management and Technology (ESMT) Berlin.

The findings, published in the Journal of Development Economics, suggest that good nutrition in childhood has a positive cumulative effect that goes beyond the immediate benefits.

In the study, researchers found that children with up to five years of midday meals scored 18 percent higher on reading tests compared to students with less than a year of school lunches. They also showed an improvement of 9 percent on math tests.

Professors Rajshri Jayaraman, from ESMT Berlin, and Tanika Chakraborty, from the Indian Institute of Technology, studied the effects of India’s Midday Meal Scheme, the world’s largest free school lunch program, which feeds over 120 million children every day.

“The effect of nutrition appears to be cumulative, seen over time,” says Jayaraman. “Previous studies have varied between two weeks and two years and failed to capture the important impact — our research shows that the real benefit of school lunches was seen in children exposed for two to five years.”

The study is the longest and largest to look at the effects of midday meals on primary school-aged children’s learning. The researchers analyzed data from nearly 600 rural districts in India, involving more than 200,000 households. Due to the staggered implementation of the program across districts, the researchers were able to identify the causal effect of regular meals on learning.

Although India has been experiencing a boost in economic growth, the country still struggles to adequately feed its population. Nutrition continues to be the nation’s primary challenge, as it has a very high prevalence of undernourishment and micronutrient deficiency.

The new findings confirm the enormous value of the free school meal programs that are operating all around the world. According to the World Food Program, 368 million children globally — that’s one in five — received a school meal in 2013, at a cost of 75 billion U.S. dollars.

Source: ESMT Berlin

Sibling Bullying May Be More Common in Bigger Families

15 hours 32 min ago

Children with more than one brother or sister are at greater risk of sibling bullying than kids with only one sibling, according to a new U.K. study published in the journal Developmental Psychology. The findings also show that firstborn children and older brothers tend to be the perpetrators.

“Sibling bullying is the most frequent form of family violence and it is often seen as a normal part of growing up by parents and health professionals, but there is increasing evidence that it can have long-term consequences, like increased loneliness, delinquency and mental health problems,” said lead author Dieter Wolke, PhD, of the University of Warwick in England.

Wolke and his co-author, Slava Dantchev, B.Sc. wanted to study the underlying causes of sibling bullying and take into account family structure, parenting behaviors, early social experiences and a child’s temperament.

The researchers looked at data from a study of 6,838 British children born in either 1991 or 1992 and their mothers. They defined sibling bullying as psychological abuse (saying nasty or hurtful things), physical abuse (hitting, kicking or pushing) or emotional abuse (ignoring one’s sibling, telling lies or spreading false rumors).

The kids were put into four categories: victims, bully victims (defined as being both a perpetrator and victim of bullying), bullies or uninvolved.

When the children were 5 years old, their mothers reported how often the children were victims or perpetrators of bullying within the family. Sibling relationships were evaluated two years later when the mothers were asked how much time the children spent engaging with their siblings on various activities, such as crafts or drawing.

At age 12, the children self-reported if they had been bullied by a sibling or if they had bullied a sibling within the previous six months. The children were also asked their ages when they first experienced sibling bullying and when they first bullied a sibling.

Researchers also collected family statistics from the mothers, including the number of children living in the household, the mother’s marital status, the family’s socioeconomic background, maternal mental health during and after pregnancy, parental conflicts, the mother-child relations and domestic violence and child abuse.

They also factored in each child’s temperament, mental health, IQ and social/emotional intelligence at various points during their early years.

The findings reveal that around 28 percent of the children were involved in sibling bullying; psychological abuse was the most common form. The majority of those children were found to be bully victims, meaning they bullied and were bullied, according to the study.

“Bullying occurs in situations where we cannot choose our peers, like in families,” said Wolke. “Siblings live in close quarters and the familiarity allows them to know what buttons to press to upset their brothers or sisters. This can go both ways and allows a child to be both a victim and a perpetrator of bullying.”

Family structure and gender were the strongest predictors of sibling bullying by middle childhood, according to the study.

“Bullying was more likely to occur in families with three or more children and the eldest child or older brothers were more often the bullies,” said Dantchev. “Female children and younger children were more often targeted.”

The researchers believe bullying can happen more often in larger families because resources such as parental affection or attention and material goods may be more limited.

“Despite our cultural differences, humans are still very biologically driven. A firstborn child will have their resources halved with the birth of a sibling, and even more so as more siblings are added to the family,” said Wolke. “This causes siblings to fight for those limited resources through dominance.”

Marital and socioeconomic status did not appear to be linked with more or less bullying.

“Sibling bullying does not discriminate. It occurs in wealthy families just as much as lower-income families and it occurs in single-parent households just as much as two-parent households,” said Wolke.

These findings may be helpful to parents as they welcome new additions to their families, Wolke said.

“It will be important for parents to realize and understand that resource loss can affect an older child,” he said. “It is a good idea for parents to manage this from the beginning by spending quality time with their firstborn or older children and by involving them in caring for younger siblings.”

Source: American Psychological Association

Young Kids With Suicidal Thoughts May Understand Death Better Than Peers

Thu, 02/14/2019 - 6:57am

Young children who express suicidal thoughts and behaviors appear to have a better understanding of what it means to die than the majority of their peers, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP).

“It’s an uncomfortable topic to contemplate, and in many ways, I think it’s easier to assume that children don’t really know what they’re saying, and therefore they can’t possibly mean the same things that adults mean when they talk about wanting to die,” said lead author Laura Hennefield, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research scholar at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

“We did find, however that even children as young as four years of age who expressed suicidal ideation had a solid understanding of what it means to die. Although it remains unclear how to fully assess risk in these circumstances, our findings highlight the need to take children’s expressions of suicidal thoughts and behaviors seriously.”

The study involved a randomized controlled trial of 139 children ages 4 to 6. This included 22 depressed children with suicidal ideation, 57 depressed children without suicidal ideation, and 60 healthy peers of the same age.

During the pre-treatment evaluation, children completed an experimenter-led death interview to measure their understanding of five concepts of death including:

  • universality (all living things eventually die);
  • specificity (only living things die);
  • irreversibility (death is permanent);
  • cessation (upon death bodily processes stop functioning);
  • causality (there are events that can cause death).

The findings show that depressed children with suicidal ideation had a better understanding of these death concepts than the other peer groups. Further, 100 percent of depressed children with suicidal ideation were able to describe a reasonable event that could cause death compared to 61 percent of depressed children without suicidal ideation and 65 percent of healthy children.

Surprisingly, the researchers also found that both age and expressing suicidal ideation independently predicted children’s attribution of death to violent causes. In fact, children with suicidal ideation were 3.6 times more likely to describe death as caused by violence than depressed children without suicidal ideation.

“When asked to describe an event that could cause death, older children, and children who expressed suicidal ideation, were much more likely to describe a violent cause such as shooting, stabbing or being poisoned,” said Hennefield.

Senior author Joan Luby, M.D., the study’s principal investigator and director of the Early Emotion Development Program at Washington University School of Medicine, added, “We started this line of inquiry after observing higher than expected rates of suicidal ideation in our treatment study, which was something we had not previously seen in prior studies of preschool depression.”

“This led us to add measures to investigate the meaning of this symptom to help guide caretakers and clinicians to respond,” she said. “Very similar to the past studies of depression in preschoolers conducted in the Early Emotional Development Program and elsewhere, our findings suggest greater emotional awareness and capacities in younger children than previously understood.”

Source: Elsevier

When It Comes to Relationships, Nice Guys May In Fact Finish First

Thu, 02/14/2019 - 6:30am

In a new study, Michigan State University investigators suggest that despite popular belief, sharing similar personalities may not be as important as most people think to relationship compatibility. And dating apps may be less useful than once thought.

“People invest a lot in finding someone who’s compatible, but our research says that may not be the end-all be-all,” said Dr. Bill Chopik, associate professor of psychology and director of MSU’s Close Relationships Lab.

“Instead, people may want to ask, ‘Are they a nice person?’ ‘Do they have a lot of anxiety?’ Those things matter way more than the fact that two people are introverts and end up together.”

The most striking finding of the study was that having similar personalities had almost no effect on how satisfied people were in their lives and relationships, Chopik said.

Chopik explains that despite their popularity, apps that match people on compatibility may have it all wrong, he said.

“When you start to get into creating algorithms and psychologically matching people, we actually don’t know as much about that as we think we do,” he said.

“We don’t know why the heart chooses what it does, but with this research, we can rule out compatibility as the lone factor.”

The researchers looked at almost every way couples could be happy, making it the most comprehensive study to date.

Using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, which is a long-running survey of households, Chopik and Dr. Richard Lucas measured the effects of personality traits on well-being in more than 2,500 heterosexual couples who have been married roughly 20 years. Lucas is a MSU Foundation Professor in the Department of Psychology.

The researchers discovered that even among the couples who share similar personalities, having a partner who is conscientious and nice leads to higher levels of relationship satisfaction.

At the same time, having a partner who is neurotic, and, surprisingly, more extroverted, results in lower relationship satisfaction.

The research appears in the Journal of Research in Personality.

Source: Michigan State University

Fitness-Brain Function Link in Old Age May Be More Robust in Men

Thu, 02/14/2019 - 6:00am

A new Canadian study of older adults suggests that the well-established link between physical fitness and brain function may be particularly strong in men. The findings are published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

Previous research has linked fitness levels with changes in the brain’s nerve-rich gray matter and better cognitive function in later life. Studies have also shown that cardiorespiratory fitness — a measure of how well oxygen is delivered to the muscles during exercise — is tied to how the brain functions during periods of rest.

As we get older, our resting state nerve connectivity begins to change. These changes can negatively affect cognitive function.

In the new study, researchers from York University and McGill University in Canada investigated the potential gender differences in the relationship between fitness and brain function in older adults.

The research team evaluated a group of 20 men and a group of 29 women, both with an average age of 67. The participants self-reported their typical daily physical activity levels and had their height, weight, age, sex and resting heart rate recorded to determine their cardiorespiratory fitness.

The volunteers also underwent brain imaging tests to record nerve function both within specific brain networks (local efficiency) and among all networks (global efficiency).

Overall, the men were found to have higher cardiorespiratory fitness levels than the women, while the women showed both higher local network efficiency and lower global network efficiency. This pattern of connectivity found in the female participants has been linked to executive function, which are skills that contribute to being able to focus, pay attention and manage time.

Fitness levels, however, were more strongly associated with improving this brain efficiency pattern for men than women.

“Our findings that [cardiorespiratory fitness] is associated with brain function in a sex-dependent manner underscore the importance of considering sex as a factor when studying associations between exercise and brain health in older adulthood,” the researchers wrote.

Around 31 million adults age 50 and older are inactive, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Living a sedentary life can take a large toll on one’s physical and mental health and is linked to a higher risk of premature death.

Older adults who cannot meet the general physical activity guidelines (150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week) should be as active as their abilities or conditions allow, according to the CDC.

Source: American Physiological Society

Inattention in Low-Income Boys Tied to Lesser Earnings in Adulthood

Wed, 02/13/2019 - 6:30am

Inattention and low levels of prosocial behaviors in kindergarten may be tied to reduced earnings in adulthood, according to a new study of 6-year-old boys from low-income backgrounds. Hyperactivity, aggression and opposition were not significantly associated with changes in later earnings.

The findings are published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

“Identifying early childhood behavioral problems associated with economic success or failure is essential for developing targeted interventions that enhance economic prosperity through improved educational attainment and social integration,” said coauthor Daniel Nagin, Ph.D., professor of public policy and statistics at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College in Pennsylvania.

The research involved 920 boys who were 6 years old and living in low-income neighborhoods in Montreal, Canada, beginning in 1984 and continuing through 2015. The boys’ kindergarten teachers rated them on five behaviors: inattention, hyperactivity, physical aggression, opposition and prosocial behavior.

The findings show that the teachers’ ratings of boys’ inattention —  characterized as poor concentration, distractibility, having one’s head in the clouds, and lacking persistence — were associated with lower earnings when the students were 35 to 36 years old. Hyperactivity, aggression, and opposition were not significantly associated with changes in later income.

Prosocial behavior (sharing, helping and cooperating) was associated with higher earnings. Examples of prosocial behavior included trying to stop quarrels, inviting bystanders to join in a game, and trying to help someone who has been hurt.

Both findings took into account children’s IQ (assessed at age 13) and their families’ adversity (parents’ educational level and occupational status). Earnings were measured by government tax return data.

Because the research was observational in nature, causality was not assessed. In addition, the study did not examine earnings obtained informally that were likely not reported to Canadian tax authorities. And because the study focused on boys in low-income neighborhoods, its generalizability to other genders or individuals of different socioeconomic status is limited.

“Monitoring inattention and low levels of prosocial behavior should begin in kindergarten so at-risk boys can be identified early and targeted with intervention and support,” said coauthor Sylvana Cote, Ph.D., of the University of Montreal, Canada, and the University of Bordeaux in France.

The study was conducted by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania, the University of Montreal, University College Dublin, Ste-Justine Hospital Research Center in Montreal, OFCE (French Observatory of Economic Conditions), Center for Economic Research and Applications (France), Statistics Canada, and University of Bordeaux.

Source: Carnegie Mellon University

Mindfulness Training via Smartphone Can Improve Social Skills

Wed, 02/13/2019 - 6:00am

While smartphones are often criticized for issues ranging from addictive properties, community seclusion and sleep disturbances, research shows that used in the right way, smartphones may be a vehicle to deliver mindfulness-based training.

In a new study, Carnegie Mellon University investigators discovered smartphone-based mindfulness training may help individuals feel less lonely and motivate them to interact with more people.

The researchers also found acceptance skills training to be a critical active ingredient for improving these social functioning outcomes.

Experts believe smartphones and emerging technology can be used to address loneliness and social isolation, a growing public health concern across age groups. The findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“When we talk about mindfulness interventions, we talk about two key components,” said Dr. J. David Creswell, associate professor of psychology in CMU’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

“The first is learning to use your attention to monitor your present-moment experiences, whether that’s noting body sensations, thoughts or images. The second is about learning to adopt an attitude of acceptance toward those experiences — one of openness, curiosity and non-judgment.”

For example, someone engaging in meditation might notice pain in his or her knee. Mindfulness training programs instruct participants to mentally note the sensation but not alter their physical state.

In the Carnegie Mellon study, participants receiving training in acceptance skills were encouraged to respond to these uncomfortable experiences by saying “yes” in a gentle tone-of-voice to maintain an open and welcoming state of mind.

“Learning to be more accepting of your experience, even when it’s difficult, can have carryover effects on your social relationships. When you are more accepting toward yourself, it opens you up to be more available to others,” Creswell said.

In the study, 153 adults were randomly assigned to one of three 14-day smartphone-based interventions. For 20 minutes each day, one mindfulness training group received training in monitoring and acceptance skills, a second mindfulness group received training in monitoring skills only, and a third group received no mindfulness content and instead received guidance in common coping techniques.

In addition, they were instructed to complete brief homework practice lasting no more than 10 minutes daily. For three days before and after the intervention, participants completed periodic assessments throughout the day to measure loneliness and social contact.

Participants that received training in monitoring and acceptance skills saw the greatest benefits: they reduced daily life loneliness by 22 percent and increased social contact by an average of two interactions each day.

The monitoring only mindfulness group, which did not get acceptance skills training, did not show these benefits, suggesting that acceptance skills training may be a critical ingredient for the social benefits of mindfulness training programs.

“Loneliness and social isolation are among the most robust known risk factors for poor health and early death. But so far, few interventions have been effective for reducing loneliness and increasing social contact.

“Our research shows that a 14-day smartphone-based mindfulness program can target both, and that practice in welcoming and opening to all of our inner experiences — good or bad — is the key ingredient for these effects,” said Emily Lindsay, Ph.D.

Lindsey led the study as a doctoral student at CMU and is now a research scientist at the University of Pittsburgh.

Source: Carnegie Mellon University

Oral Contraceptives May Impair Recognition of Complex Emotions

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 6:00am

A new study, published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, finds that women taking birth control pills may be slightly less adept at detecting subtle expressions of complex emotions, such as pride or contempt, as opposed to general emotions like happiness or fear.

On average, oral contraceptive pill (OCP) users were nearly 10 percent worse than non-users in deciphering the most nuanced emotional expressions, raising questions over the potential effects of OCPs on social interactions.

Besides birth control, oral contraceptives can help control acne, heavy periods and endometriosis, as well as reduce the risk of ovarian, uterine and colon cancers. On the downside, the pill can increase slightly the risk of breast and cervical cancer, blood clots and high blood pressure.

But the psychological effects of OCP use are less well documented.

“More than 100 million women worldwide use oral contraceptives, but remarkably little is known about their effects on emotion, cognition and behavior,” said study senior author Dr. Alexander Lischke of the University of Greifswald, Germany.

“However, coincidental findings suggest that oral contraceptives impair the ability to recognize emotional expressions of others, which could affect the way users initiate and maintain intimate relationships.”

To study the effects of OCPs on women’s emotion recognition, the researchers gave a special emotion recognition task to two similar groups of healthy women: 42 OCP users, and 53 non-users.

“If oral contraceptives caused dramatic impairments in women’s emotion recognition, we would have probably noticed this in our everyday interactions with our partners,” Lischke said.

“We assumed that these impairments would be very subtle, indicating that we had to test women’s emotion recognition with a task that was sensitive enough to detect such impairments. We, thus, used a very challenging emotion recognition task that required the recognition of complex emotional expressions from the eye region of faces”

As expected, the findings were subtle but clear: OCP users were less accurate in the recognition of the most subtle complex expressions than non-users by nearly 10 percent, on average.

“Whereas the groups were equally good at recognizing easy expressions, the OCP users were less likely to correctly identify difficult expressions.”

The effect could be found in both positive and negative expressions, and regardless of the type of OCP or the menstrual cycle phase of non-users.

According to Lischke, the findings are consistent with prior research.

“Cyclic variations of estrogen and progesterone levels are known to affect women’s emotion recognition, and influence activity and connections in associated brain regions,” he said.

“Since oral contraceptives work by suppressing estrogen and progesterone levels, it makes sense that oral contraceptives also affect women’s emotion recognition However, the exact mechanism underlying oral contraceptive induced changes in women’s emotion recognition remains to be elucidated.”

Lischke says more research is needed to confirm and extend the findings before any potential changes are made to current guidelines regarding the prescription of OCPs.

“Further studies are needed to investigate whether oral contraceptive-induced impairments in emotion recognition depend on the type, duration or timing of use,” he said.

“These studies should also investigate whether these impairments actually alter women’s ability to initiate and maintain intimate relationships. If this turns out to be true, we should provide women with more detailed information about the consequences of oral contraceptive use.”

Source: Frontiers



Extra Support for Suicidal Teens Can Cut Risk of Dying Young

Mon, 02/11/2019 - 8:00pm

Providing a suicidal teen with extra support from a few caring adults during vulnerable times appears to reduce the risk of dying young. And researchers discovered youth-support teams appear to make a long-term difference.

In the study, researchers from the University of Michigan tracked deaths among hundreds of young adults who were hospitalized for suicidal thoughts or attempts during their teen years. The youth were enrolled in the study during the early 2000s.

Half of the young people had been randomly assigned to receive the extra support of a few caring adults who received training in how to help the teens stick to their treatment plan and how to talk with them in ways that could encourage positive behavioral choices. The other half received the usual levels of care for the time.

In the study, which appears in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, investigators discovered that far more of the young people who got standard care had died, compared with young adults in the group who had received the extra adult support. This outcome was observed after about 12 years.

The “Youth-Nominated Support Teams,” or YSTs as the original study called them, were made up of family members, coaches, teachers, youth group leaders and other adults.

For three months following each teen’s hospitalization for suicidal behavior, these 656 “caring adults” received weekly telephone support from professional staff to address their questions and concerns and help them feel more comfortable in their role with the teens.

Although the study of hundreds of young adults cannot show cause and effect, it shows a strong association between the YST approach and a reduced overall risk of early death. The research found the approach specifically reduced risk of death from either suicide or drug overdose of undetermined intent.

The new study was coordinated by a team led by Cheryl King, Ph.D., a U-M professor of psychiatry and psychology, and leader of the original YST study. The researchers matched the original information about the study participants with national death records and state death certificates.

In all, 15 of the 448 study participants had died by 2016, but only two of the deaths were among those who had been assigned to the YST group. Statistically, this meant that the non-YST group had a six-fold higher rate of death.

The deaths, which occurred when the study participants were age 18 through 26, were ruled suicides in four instances, drug overdoses or an infection likely related to drug use in nine cases, and one case each of homicide and motor vehicle crash.

When the researchers looked at only the unknown intent drug deaths and suicides, there were eight in the usual-treatment group, but only one in the YST group.

However, the number of suicides was too small to show a statistical difference in the number of suicides between the three in the non-YST group and the one in the YST group.

“The YST intervention may have had small and cascading positive effects that combined to have a long-term impact on the risk of dying,” said King.

When King and her colleagues carried out the original study, they looked mainly at whether the teens stuck to their mental health treatment plans, got help for drug or alcohol problems if they had them, and expressed suicidal thoughts in the first year.

The teens in the YST group were more likely to go to their therapy and medication-related appointments, and to attend substance use-related sessions during the year following their hospitalization for suicide risk.

In the first weeks after their hospitalization, the YST group had lower rates of suicidal thoughts. But when the one-year follow-up ended, the researchers found no major effect on suicidal ideation or self-harm.

The precise cause of the difference in deaths between the two groups, more than a decade later, is unknown. But King ventures that the extra support of adults — including parents, one of whom teens named to their support teams three-quarters of the time — may have helped.

“We know from other research that we need to look at all causes of early mortality that are preventable” because of the often intertwined nature of drug use and abuse, depression and other mental health disorders, and suicidal behavior, King said.

The intertwined nature of these disorders can even continue in death, when death certificates are vague about the cause of death and whether an overdose was intentional or unintentional.

The next step for King and her co-authors is additionally examine YST and its long-term results.

Source: University of Michigan/EurekAlert

Weight-Based Bullying of LGBTQ Teens May Be Common

Mon, 02/11/2019 - 7:00am

Many LGBTQ teens face victimization and bullying because of their sexual and/or gender identity. Now a new study published in the journal Pediatric Obesity finds that weight-related bullying is also extremely prevalent in sexual and gender minority youth, even among those with a low BMI (body mass index).

Weight-based bullying has harmful health consequences, including increased risk for depression, low self esteem, suicidal ideation, poor body image, disordered eating, harmful weight control behaviors, and lower levels of physical activity.

Although there are many studies focused on weight-based bullying in youth, there has been little research on this type of bullying in LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) adolescents, despite their high prevalence of obesity and greater risk for victimization.

For the study, researchers from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity and the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Connecticut looked at the data of 9,838 adolescents who participated in the 2017 LGBTQ National Teen Survey.

This comprehensive survey is conducted in partnership with the Human Rights Campaign to assess victimization, health behaviors, family relationships, and experiences of LGBTQ adolescents across the United States.

The findings reveal that 44 to 70 percent of LGBTQ teens reported weight-based teasing from family members, 41 to 57 percent reported weight-based teasing from peers, and as many as 44 percent reported weight-based teasing from both family members and peers.

In addition, around 1 in 4 teens reported teasing at school, and body weight was the third most common reason that these teens indicated they were teased or treated badly (behind sexual orientation and gender identity).

“Body weight is often absent in school-based anti-bullying policies, and our findings suggest that heightened awareness of this issue may be warranted in school settings to ensure that weight-based victimization is adequately addressed and that sexual and gender minority youth are recognized as potentially vulnerable targets of weight-based bullying,” said lead author Dr. Rebecca Puhl, deputy director of the UConn Rudd Center, Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Connecticut.

One key finding was that regardless of the source (family or peers) of weight-based bullying, sexual and gender minority adolescents face these experiences across diverse body weight categories.

The highest rates of weight-based bullying occurred in LGBTQ adolescents who were obese (as many as 77 percent reported these experiences), but high percentages of teens at lower body weight categories were also vulnerable: 55 to 64 percent of those with an underweight BMI reported weight-based victimization.

“These issues warrant attention among health care providers, parents, educators, and all others who interact with adolescents,” said Dr. Ryan Watson, professor of human development and family studies at the University of Connecticut and co-author of the study.

“Increased consideration must be given to the intersection of social identities related to body weight, sexual orientation, and gender identity in youth.”

The findings are timely, as a 2017 policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommended that pediatricians evaluate youth with obesity for their experiences of victimization and stigma related to their body weight.

“Health care providers should be aware that sexual and gender minority youth can be vulnerable to weight-based victimization, regardless of their body size. Our study suggests that it may be warranted to screen LGBTQ youth for their victimization experiences not only in the context of sexual and gender identity, but also in the context of body weight,” said Puhl.

Source: Wiley

Pregnant Moms Who Feel In Charge of Life May Have High-Achieving Kids

Mon, 02/11/2019 - 6:00am

Pregnant moms who have a strong sense of control over their lives — as opposed to feeling like their lives are controlled by luck and external forces — tend to have children who score higher in math and science, according to new research published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

The study is part of a series from the University of Bristol in the U.K. in which the researchers evaluate a specific personality trait known as “locus of control.” This is a psychological measure of how much someone believes they have control over the outcome of events in their lives or whether they think external forces beyond their control dictate how life turns out.

Importantly, people with an external locus of control believe there is little point in making an effort in life, since what happens to them is due to luck and circumstances. This stands in contrast to those with an internal locus of control, as they are motivated to action because they feel they can influence what is going to happen.

For the study, researchers examined the prenatal locus of control traits in participants by looking at the responses of questionnaires completed by over 1,600 pregnant women enrolled in Bristol’s Children of the 90s study.

Next, the researchers looked at the mathematical and scientific reasoning and problem-solving skills of the participants’ offspring at the ages of 8, 11 and 13. These skills were assessed in school using specially designed tests.

The findings reveal that mothers who had an internal locus of control before their child was born (those who believe in the connection between their actions and what happens to them) were more likely to have a child who is good at math and science.

Compared to their externally controlled peers, internally focused moms also were more likely to provide their children with diets that assist brain development, to more frequently read stories to them and to show an interest in their child’s homework and academic progress.

“It is widely known that the locus of control of a child is strongly associated with their academic achievements, but until now we didn’t know if mothers’ locus of control orientation during pregnancy had a role to play in early childhood. Thanks to the longitudinal data from Children of the 90s study we can now make these associations,” said Professor Jean Golding, lead author and founder of the Children of the 90s study.

“If our findings, that mothers’ attitudes and behaviors can have an effect on their child’s academic abilities, can be replicated it would suggest that more efforts should be made to increase the opportunities for mothers to feel that their behaviors will have a positive outcome for themselves and their children. It would help future generations raise healthy, confident and independent children.”

Golding adds that an intervention study could help determine whether encouraging women to become more internal would improve the academic development of their children.

“Internal parents believe that they have behavioral choices in life,” said coauthor Professor Stephen Nowicki at Emory University in Atlanta and expert on locus of control.

“This and other findings from our child development work with the University of Bristol and expectant parents show that when they expect life outcomes to be linked to what they do, their children eat better, sleep better and are better able to control their emotions.”

“Such children later in childhood are also more likely to have greater academic achievements, fewer school related personal and social difficulties and less likelihood of being obese.

“It is possible for a parent to change their outlook; we’ve demonstrated in the past that parents who become more internal — they learn to see the connections between what they do and what happens to their children— improved their parenting skills, which would have a positive effect on their children’s personal, social and academic lives,” said Nowicki.

Source: University of Bristol


Mouse Study: Essential Nutrient May Help Ward Off Alzheimer’s Across Generations

Sun, 02/10/2019 - 9:03pm

The essential nutrient choline holds promise in helping to protect against Alzheimer’s disease (AD) across several generations, according to a mouse study at Arizona State University (ASU).

Researchers at the Biodesign Institute and ASU-Banner Neurodegenerative Disease Research Center (NDRC) focused on mice bred to display AD-like symptoms. They found that when mice were given high choline in their diet, their offspring showed improvements in spatial memory, compared with those given a normal choline regimen in the womb.

Choline is an essential nutrient naturally present in some foods and also available as a dietary supplement.  It is used by the body to produce acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter essential for brain and nervous system functions including memory, muscle control and mood.

Importantly, the positive effects of choline supplementation appear to be transgenerational, not only protecting mice receiving choline supplementation during gestation and lactation, but also the subsequent offspring of these mice. So while the last generation received no direct choline supplementation, they still reaped the benefits of treatment, likely due to inherited changes in their genes.

Choline acts to protect the brain from Alzheimer’s disease in at least two ways, both of which are investigated in the new study. First, choline lowers homocysteine, an amino acid that can act as a potent neurotoxin, contributing to the hallmarks of AD: neurodegeneration and the formation of amyloid plaques.

Homocysteine doubles the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and is found in higher levels in AD patients. Choline performs a chemical transformation, converting the harmful homocysteine into the helpful chemical methionine.

Secondly, choline lowers the activation of microglia, cells that clear away debris in the brain. While their housekeeping functions are important for brain health, activated microglia can get out of control, as they typically do in AD.

Over-activation of microglia leads to brain inflammation and can eventually lead to neuron death. Choline supplementation reins in microglia activity, offering further protection from the ravages of AD.

It is well-established that choline is especially important in early brain development. Pregnant women are advised to maintain choline levels of 550 mg per day for the health of their developing fetus.

“Studies have shown that about 90 percent of women don’t even meet that requirement,” said lead author Ramon Velazquez, Ph.D. “Choline deficits are associated with failure in developing fetuses to fully meet expected milestones like walking and babbling. But we show that even if you have the recommended amount, supplementing with more in a mouse model gives even greater benefit.”

Indeed, when the AD study mice received supplemental choline in their diet, their offspring showed major improvements in spatial memory, which was tested in a water maze. Further examination of mouse tissue extracted from the hippocampus, a brain region known to play a central role in memory formation, confirmed the epigenetic alterations induced by choline supplementation.

Choline is an attractive candidate for protection against AD as it is considered a very safe alternative, compared with many pharmaceuticals. The authors note that it takes about 9 times the recommended daily dose of choline to produce harmful side effects.

The researchers stress however that although the findings in mice are promising, a controlled clinical trial in humans will ultimately determine the effectiveness of choline as a potential weapon against Alzheimer’s disease.

“No one has ever shown transgenerational benefits of choline supplementation,” Velazquez said. “That’s what is novel about our work.”

The findings are published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Source: Arizona State University

Improved Diet Can Ease Depression Symptoms, Enhance Mood

Sun, 02/10/2019 - 6:00am

A new study provides evidence that dietary improvement significantly reduces symptoms of depression and improves mood, even in people without diagnosed depressive disorders. A healthier diet improved mental health more so in women than men, but did not have a effect on anxiety for either gender.

Dr. Joseph Firth and colleagues from the University of Manchester and Western Sydney University crafted a novel research strategy that combined existing data from clinical trials of diets for mental health conditions. In their analysis of almost 46,000 people, they discovered weight loss, nutrient boosting and fat reduction diets can all reduce the symptoms of depression.

The study appears in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

“The overall evidence for the effects of diet on mood and mental well-being had up to now yet to be assessed,” Firth said. “But our recent meta-analysis has done just that; showing that adopting a healthier diet can boost peoples’ mood. However, it has no clear effects on anxiety.”

The study combined data from 16 randomized controlled trials that examined the effects of dietary interventions on symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Sixteen eligible trials with outcome data for 45,826 participants were included; the majority of which examined samples with non-clinical depression.

The study found that all types of dietary improvement appeared to have equal effects on mental health, with weight-loss, fat reduction or nutrient-improving diets all having similar benefits for depressive symptoms.

“This is actually good news,” said Firth; “The similar effects from any type of dietary improvement suggests that highly-specific or specialized diets are unnecessary for the average individual.

“Instead, just making simple changes is equally beneficial for mental health. In particular, eating more nutrient-dense meals which are high in fiber and vegetables, while cutting back on fast-foods and refined sugars appears to be sufficient for avoiding the potentially negative psychological effects of a ‘junk food’ diet.

Dr. Brendon Stubbs, co-author of the study and Clinical Lecturer at the NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre and King’s College London, said, “Our data add to the growing evidence to support lifestyle interventions as an important approach to tackle low mood and depression.

“Specifically, our results within this study found that when dietary interventions were combined with exercise, a greater improvement in depressive symptoms was experienced by people. Taken together, our data really highlight the central role of eating a healthier diet and taking regular exercise to act as a viable treatment to help people with low mood.”

Studies examined with female samples showed even greater benefits from dietary interventions for symptoms of both depression and anxiety.

Source: University of Manchester

Self-Compassion Exercises Show Physical, Psychological Benefits

Sat, 02/09/2019 - 11:33pm

Taking some time to think kind thoughts about yourself and loved ones has psychological and physical benefits, according to a new U.K. study.

Investigators at the Universities of Exeter and Oxford discovered taking part in self-compassion exercises can ease the body’s threat response, lowering heart rate and bolstering the immune system.

“Previous research has found that self-compassion was related to higher levels of well-being and better mental health, but we didn’t know why,” said researcher Dr. Anke Karl.

“Our study is helping us understand the mechanism of how being kind to yourself when things go wrong could be beneficial in psychological treatments. By switching off our threat response, we boost our immune systems and give ourselves the best chance of healing.

The study appears in the journal Clinical Psychological Science.

The study was conducted at Exeter by Karl and Dr. Hans Kirschner. Kirschner said the findings suggest being kind to oneself switches off the threat response and puts the body in a state of safety and relaxation that is important for regeneration and healing.

The researchers said the threat system comprises increased heart rate and sweating, release of the stress hormone cortisol and over-activity of the amygdala, an integral part of the brain’s emotional network. And a persistent threat response  can impair the immune system.

In the new study 135 healthy University of Exeter students were divided into five groups. Members of each group heard a different set of audio instructions. Researchers then took physical measurements of heart rate and sweat response, and asked participants to report how they were feeling.

Participants were asked questions on how safe they felt, how likely they were to be kind to themselves and how connected they felt to others.

The two groups whose instructions encouraged them to be kind to themselves not only reported feeling more self-compassion and connection with others, but also showed a bodily response consistent with feelings of relaxation and safety.

Their heart rates dropped and heart rate variability improved, a healthy sign of a heart that can respond flexibly to situations. They also showed lower sweat response.

Meanwhile, instructions that induced a critical inner voice led to an increased heart rate and a higher sweat response, consistent with feelings of threat and distress.

The recordings that encouraged self-compassion were a “compassionate body scan” in which people were guided to attend to bodily sensations with an attitude of interest and calmness; and a “self-focused loving kindness exercise” in which they directed kindness and soothing thoughts to a loved one and themselves.

The three other groups listened to recordings designed to induce a critical inner voice, put them into a “positive but competitive and self-enhancing mode,” or an emotionally neutral shopping scenario.

All the audio recordings were 11 minutes long.

While people in both the self-compassion and positive but competitive groups reported greater self-compassion and decreased self-criticism, only the self-compassion groups showed the positive bodily response.

Co-author Willem Kuyken, professor of clinical psychology at the University of Oxford, said: “These findings help us to further understand some of our clinical trials research findings, where we show that individuals with recurrent depression benefit particularly from mindfulness-based cognitive therapy when they learn to become more self-compassionate.

“My sense is that for people prone to depression, meeting their negative thoughts and feelings with compassion is a radically different way.”

The researchers stressed that the study was conducted in healthy people, so their findings do not mean that people with depression would experience the same improvements from one-off exercises.

Moreover, they did not investigate another important feature of self-compassion, the ability to directly repair mood or distress. Further research is necessary to address these two open points.

Source: University of Exeter

How Does Religion Impact Child Development?

Sat, 02/09/2019 - 6:30am

A new study suggests that growing up in a religious household can be a mixed blessing for childhood development. The findings, published in the journal Religions, show that children raised in religious families tend to have enhanced social and psychological skills but may perform less well academically, compared to their non-religious peers.

For the study, researchers from The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) analyzed data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS)-Kindergarten Cohort. They looked at the effects of parents’ religious attendance and how the religious environment in the household (frequency of parent-child religious discussions and spousal conflicts over religion) influenced a nationally representative sample of third-graders.

They also reviewed the children’s psychological adjustment, interpersonal skills, problem behaviors, and performance on standardized tests in reading, math, and science.

The findings show that third-graders’ psychological adjustment and social competence were positively associated with various religious factors. However, students’ performance on reading, math, and science tests were negatively tied to several forms of parental religiosity.

The results suggest that parental religiosity can be a mixed blessing that produces significant gains in social psychological development among third-graders while potentially undermining academic performance, particularly in math and science.

“Religion emphasizes moral codes designed to instill values such as self-control and social competence,” said Dr. John Bartkowski, professor of sociology at UTSA.

“Religious groups’ prioritization of these soft skills may come at the expense of academic performance, which is generally diminished for youngsters raised in religious homes when compared with their non-religious peers.”

The new findings add to the 2008 study conducted by Bartkowski and colleagues, which was the first to use national data to look at the impact religion has on child development. That study found that religion was linked to enhanced psychological adjustment and social competence among primary school-age children (kindergartners).

The study also found that religious solidarity among parents and communication between parent and child were linked to positive development characteristics while religious conflict among spouses was connected to negative outcomes.

Bartkowski said there are many ways to pursue well-rounded development, and religion is only one avenue.

“If it takes a village to raise a child, religion occupies an important place in that village. But it certainly doesn’t have a corner on fostering positive developmental trajectories for children. In fact, religion may be best paired with other community resources such as academically oriented school clubs and activities,” he said.

Bartkowski also noted an important limitation in the new study.

“Some religious groups may more effectively balance soft skill development and academic excellence than others,” he said.

“Regrettably, our data set does not inquire about denominational affiliation, so we cannot say if children from Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, Muslim or other denominational backgrounds are especially likely to strike the delicate balance between social psychological development and academic excellence.”

A major takeaway from the study is that religion can be an important influence, generally for good and sometimes for ill, as children navigate their way through the grade school years, said Bartkowski.

Source: University of Texas at San Antonio


Serious Health Issues Often Missed in Older Adults

Sat, 02/09/2019 - 6:00am

Nearly half of adults 65 and older have two or more of the following symptoms: pain, fatigue, depression, anxiety, breathing difficulty, sleep problems. And one in four older adults have three or more.

But these symptoms and the more serious health issues they may foreshadow are often missed by clinicians, often because patients discuss only one symptom per visit, a new study finds.

The findings are published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

“Our study shows that the report of multiple symptoms is common among older adults and increases the risk for a range of negative health outcomes over time, such as falls and hospitalization,” said lead author Dr. Kushang Patel, research associate professor in anesthesiology and pain medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

The national study included 7,609 U.S. Medicare beneficiaries. The researchers assessed the participants’ annual physical performance during a six-year period and tracked the occurrence of falls, disability, hospitalization, nursing home admission, and mortality.

The study defined “symptoms” as negative health-related experiences reported by patients but not observed by clinicians. Symptoms account for most outpatient visits and are among the leading causes of disability, the researchers said.

And while many symptoms can be attributed to a specific disease or condition — such as chest pain with heart disease — they often have multiple causes and can reinforce each other.

For example, when older patients request to see a care provider about pain, they may also be experiencing fatigue and sleep difficulty, said Patel. In fact, those three symptoms are the most common triad, affecting 4.7 million older Americans, report the researchers.

“Our results indicate that the overall burden of symptoms is something the clinician should consider, as it may have an impact that is not apparent when just dealing with diseases and symptoms individually, one at a time,” Patel said.

“For many older adults, symptoms often interfere with accomplishing daily activities. Addressing symptoms gives clinicians an opportunity to identify the patient’s goals and priorities, which can then help guide treatment decisions.”

But this doesn’t mean that all Americans will struggle with symptoms as they age. A quarter of older Americans have none of these symptoms, Patel said.

But for the nearly 50 percent of older Americans who do experience two or more symptoms, the paper is a call to action in how health care is delivered for seniors, according to an accompanying editorial.

Patel hopes the new study will help drive efforts to improve patient-centered, integrated care for vulnerable older adults.

Source: University of Washington Health Sciences/UW Medicine



Study: Intensive Yoga Improves Physical, Mental Symptoms in Rheumatoid Arthritis

Fri, 02/08/2019 - 6:15am

Eight weeks of intensive yoga practice can significantly reduce the severity of physical and mental symptoms in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis (RA), according to a new study published in the journal Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience.

Rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic and debilitating autoimmune disease, causes inflammation in the joints and can lead to painful deformity and immobility, particularly in the fingers, wrists, ankles and feet.

Many RA patients experience depression as well, and this poses a significant healthcare burden on patients, their caregivers, healthcare systems, and society as a whole. Existing medical therapies are limited in that they fail to cure the psychological component of the disease and can result in numerous side effects.

Depression also seems to decrease patients’ adherence to medical treatment. This can worsen health outcomes even more and increase disease severity.

After participating in the yoga regimen, RA patients showed notable improvements in levels of certain inflammatory biomarkers, daily functioning and disease activity. The findings demonstrate yoga’s preventive, curative and rehabilitative potential for achieving optimal health.

“Our findings show measurable improvements for the patients in the test group, suggesting an immune-regulatory role of yoga practice in the treatment of RA,” said lead investigator, Rima Dada, MD, PhD, Professor in the Department of Anatomy at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi, India.

“An intensive yoga regimen concurrent with routine drug therapy induced molecular remission and re-established immunological tolerance. In addition, it reduced the severity of depression by promoting neuroplasticity.”

Dada noted that high disease activity and underlying depression are linked to increased disability, reduced quality of life, and reduced rates of recovery and treatment response.

The study was a mind-body intervention (MBI) randomized trial to investigate the effects of practicing 120 minutes of yoga, five days a week for eight weeks on 72 RA patients. Both the test and control groups were receiving routine drug therapies (disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs or DMARDs).

The findings show significant improvement in several RA disease biomarkers, including neuroplasticity, inflammation, immunity, cellular health, and aging. The yoga regimen was also tied to a reduction in depression severity, disease activity, and disability quotient in RA patients.

Improvements in mental health and disease severity also made the yoga group more compliant in their treatment and allowed them to perform more daily chores without much difficulty.

“This study offers a new option. Pharmacological treatments can be supplemented with alternative and complementary interventions like yoga to alleviate the symptoms at both physical and psychosomatic levels,” said Dada.

Source: IOS Press

Brain Aging Patterns May Occur at a Faster Rate in Psychosis Patients

Fri, 02/08/2019 - 5:30am

People with chronic psychosis may experience accelerated brain aging in two important cognitive networks, according to a new study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

One of these brain networks, called the frontoparietal network (FPN), was found to be normal in patients with early psychosis but reduced in those with chronic psychosis. This suggests that the decline happens after the illness has taken course. The other brain network with reduced efficiency is the cingulo-opercular network (CON).

The findings suggest that interventions designed to boost these brain networks after early signs of psychosis may help patients have better functional outcomes later in life.

“There is growing evidence that normal biological aging is accelerated in psychotic disorders. One aspect of healthy aging is declining cognitive function and less efficient communication within brain networks supporting cognitive abilities, including planning, problem solving, and memory,” said lead author Julia M. Sheffield, PhD, Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The earliest signs of decline in healthy aging often involve communication within the FPN and CON networks. Therefore, the new findings suggest that psychosis patients experience normal patterns of brain aging — but at an accelerated rate.

For the study, the research team used brain imaging to compare the connectivity between brain regions — a measure of how efficiently the regions communicate — in 240 patients with psychotic disorder (including schizophrenia and psychotic bipolar disorder) and 178 healthy participants.

“The accelerated decline was specific to cognitive networks, providing evidence that accelerated aging is not due to a global reduction in efficient communication across the whole brain,” said Sheffield.

Specifically, patients with psychosis showed significantly reduced efficiency in the frontoparietal and subcortical networks, in comparison to healthy participants.

“The premature ‘aging’ or degeneration of cortical networks has been increasingly documented in association with schizophrenia,” said John Krystal, MD, Editor of Biological Psychiatry.

“However, we have very little insight into the underlying mechanisms. Linking these imaging findings to mechanism is a critical step to understanding the progression of schizophrenia so that we may disrupt it.”

In addition, since the network declines appear after the illness has already taken hold, there may be greater potential for disrupting this process.

“With advances in cognitive remediation and the positive impact of exercise on connectivity of these networks, our findings provide hope that young adults with recent onset psychosis will benefit from interventions bolstering connectivity within these networks, potentially slowing down or normalizing the rate of decline in efficiency and, therefore, cognitive function,” said Sheffield.

The new findings help researchers better understand how brain networks change over the course of psychotic disorders. The findings also suggest that targeting these networks could disrupt the accelerated rate of normal aging in people with early psychosis.

Source: Elsevier

When Parents Feel Less Stress, More Autonomy at Work, Kids’ Health May Benefit

Thu, 02/07/2019 - 10:30pm

New research suggests children’s health is less likely to be negatively affected when parents feel a sense of control over their work lives. Investigators found that simple measures to advance work-place autonomy can help parents recharge, gain a sense of control, and improve parenting.

The finding adds to prior findings that show that sick children can influence a company’s bottom line if parents are distracted or have to take time off to care for their children.

Investigators believe workers can learn techniques such as mindfulness to help them transition from the workplace to the home environment. Moreover, business and industry leaders may be motivated to improve workplace autonomy if they understand that boosting a worker’s sense of control can directly improve profitability.

The paper appears in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.

“If you can decide how you are going to do your job, rather than having that imposed on you, it is better for children,” said co-author Dr. Christiane Spitzmueller, professor of industrial organizational psychology at the University of Houston.

The good news, she said, is that there are things organizations can do to provide employees with that sense of control.

The researchers collected data from both parents and children in Lagos, Nigeria, targeting one group of low-income families and a second group of more affluent families. Teenage children from both groups were surveyed at their schools and asked to assess their own health.

Spitzmueller said the researchers expect their findings to be applicable in the United States, as the more affluent families had education levels, incomes and expectations of family life that are similar to those in Western nations.

While the low-income group included people living in dire poverty, she noted that their responses did not differ markedly from those of the wealthier group.

“Economic resources were not as much of a buffer as we would have thought,” she said.

Instead, feelings of autonomy in the workplace accounted for the difference between families where the parents’ work-family conflicts played out in health problems for the children and those whose children fared better.

The researchers looked at so-called “self-regulatory resources,” or the amount of self-control parents bring to parenting, including the ability to act in a more reflective manner.

“If a parent has too many stressors, it reduces your self-control,” Spitzmueller said.

Parental self-control was linked to better health outcomes for children. In other words, how we parent when we experience high levels of stress is probably fundamentally different from how we parent when we are coping well.

“At lower levels of job autonomy,” the researchers wrote, “employees likely have to rely more on self-regulatory resources to compensate for the impact of limited control over one’s job on one’s personal life.

“At higher levels of job autonomy, freedom and more decision-making opportunities are likely to motivate the person to engage, but self-regulatory resources would be less needed.”

The impact was most pronounced when job demands are high and job autonomy is low, and Spitzmueller said that allows for potential interventions and policies to address the issue.

Some are relatively simple, including teaching parents to take a few minutes to recharge before plunging from the workplace into parenthood. Practicing mindfulness, Spitzmueller said, can allow parents to “replenish their resources.”

Source: University of Houston

Stress and Quality of Relationships Can Impact Sleep

Thu, 02/07/2019 - 10:07pm

In a new study, University of Minnesota researchers found the quality of a person’s romantic relationships and the life stress he or she experiences in early adulthood (at age 23 and 32), are related to sleep quality and quantity in middle adulthood (at age 37).

Study findings appear in the journal Personal Relationships.

Investigators found that people who have positive relationship experiences in early adulthood experience fewer, less disruptive stressful life events at age 32, which in turn predicts better sleep quality at age 37.

Sleep is a shared behavior in many romantic relationships, and it is a strong contender for how relationships “get under the skin” to affect long-term health.

Researchers believe their findings add to a growing body of literature showing that one of the important ways in which relationships impact individuals is by reducing the occurrence and severity of life stress.

“Although a large body of evidence shows that relationships are important for health, we are just beginning to understand how the characteristics of people’s close relationships affect health behaviors, such as sleep,” said lead author Chloe Huelsnitz, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Minnesota.

“The findings of our study suggest that one way that relationships affect health behavior is through their effects on individuals’ stress.”

Source: Wiley