Guns and dementia

From WebMD: “A new survey looks at access to guns by people with dementia.It finds that caregivers images-1and family members of people being checked for problems with thinking didn’t consistently remove guns from their homes or keep them locked up.The study underlines the need for doctors to ask caregivers if they have guns in the home and, if so, advise them on safety measures to take, the researchers say.In the United States, there is “a significant presence of firearms in the homes of patients with dementia, and many of these patients suffer from delusions and hallucinations, some of which can be paranoid, persecutory, or hostile,” says Jason Hsieh, a medical student at Cleveland Clinic Lerner School of Medicine.The results were presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2014.

“In the U.S., 27% percent of people over the age of 65 own a firearm, Hsieh says. “In general, almost 40% of households in the U.S. contain a firearm, and surprisingly, in households with a firearm, the average number of firearms is 6.6,” he says.The elderly have the highest suicide rate of any part of the population, and firearms are the most common, as well as the most fatal, method of suicide. Data from the National Trauma Databank show that as people get older, the proportion of gun injuries that are self-inflicted rises. Other data show that as they age, people are less likely to survive a gunshot and less likely to return home after recovery.

“In addition to suicide, elderly individuals can be the victim of homicide, and this often happens from their caregiver,” Hsieh says. “Most of these events happen at home, and again, just like suicide, using a firearm is the most common method.”Also, it’s been shown that caregivers, families, and loved ones with dementia often don’t remove guns from the home as the dementia gets worse, he sayThe concern comes from the fact that people with dementia more frequently behave aggressively than those without it. Increasing dementia is linked with worsening agitation and aggression, along with delusions – particularly, mistaking a person for someone else, he says.Included in this analysis were 495 people, with an average age of nearly 80. Most of the patients were women (63%).Of the group, 378 (77%) qualified for a diagnosis of dementia, and 64% were already diagnosed with depression or qualified as depressed, the researchers say. Continue reading “Guns and dementia”

Anti-choice wins in court

The Supreme Court unanimously struck down Massachusetts’ abortion buffer zone law on Thursday, ruling in favor of anti-choice protesters who argued that being required to stay 35 feet away from clinic entrances is a violation of their freedom of speech.ThinkProgress reports that “The decision rolls back a proactive policy intended to safeguard women’s access to reproductive health care in the face of persistent harassment and intimidation from abortion opponents.images-2

“By its very terms, the Act restricts access to ‘public way[s]‘ and ‘sidewalk[s],’ places that have traditionally been open for speech ac­tivities and that the Court has accordingly labeled ‘traditional public fora,’ ” the opinion states. “The buffer zones burden substantially more speech than necessary to achieve the Commonwealth’s asserted interests.”

“Reproductive rights advocates had been hoping the justices would uphold the policy, which they say has gone a long way to ensure that woman can safely enter abortion clinics. More than 30 pro-choice organizations filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to rule in favor of Massachusetts’ buffer zone, which was approved in response to a mass shooting at several of the state’s abortion clinics.

“According to the National Abortion Federation (NAF), which closely tracks threats and violence against abortion providers across the country, buffer zones have had a measurable impact in the areas where they’re in place. A recent survey conducted among NAF’s member organizations found that 51 percent of facilities in areas with buffer zones reported a decrease in criminal facility after the policy was enacted, and 75 percent of them said it helped improve patients’ and staff members’ ability to access the clinic. Continue reading “Anti-choice wins in court”

The truth about violence and mental health

After mass shootings, like the ones these past weeks in Las Vegas, Seattle and Santa Barbara, the national conversation often focuses on imgres-2mental illness. But as TruthOut asks, ” what do we actually know about the connections between mental illness, mass shootings and gun violence overall?

“To separate the facts from the media hype, we talked to Dr. Jeffrey Swanson, a professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Duke University School of Medicine, and one of the leading researchers on mental health and violence. Swanson talked about the dangers of passing laws in the wake of tragedy ― and which new violence-prevention strategies might actually work.

“Here is a condensed version of our conversation, edited for length and clarity.Mass shootings are relatively rare events that account for only a tiny fraction of American gun deaths each year. But when you look specifically at mass shootings ― how big a factor is mental illness?On the face of it, a mass shooting is the product of a disordered mental process. You don’t have to be a psychiatrist: what normal person would go out and shoot a bunch of strangers?But the risk factors for a mass shooting are shared by a lot of people who aren’t going to do it. If you paint the picture of a young, isolated, delusional young man ― that probably describes thousands of other young men.A 2001 study looked specifically at 34 adolescent mass murderers, all male. 70 percent were described as a loner. 61.5 percent had problems with substance abuse. 48 percent had preoccupations with weapons. 43.5 percent had been victims of bullying. Only 23 percent had a documented psychiatric history of any kind ― which means 3 out of 4 did not. Continue reading “The truth about violence and mental health”

More on bias in the lab

Federal health officials are taking steps to correct a longstanding gender imbalance in laboratory research on potential drug treatments.An Editorial in the New York times states that “For the past two decades, federal law has required that women be included in clinical studies funded by the National Institutes of Health in recognition of the fact that drugs often have vastly different effects in men and women. As a result, more than half of the participants in N.I.H.-imgresfunded clinical research are women. But there has been no similar requirement to eliminate the sex bias from more basic laboratory research that can lead up to a clinical trial or doom a drug to the discard pile if it seems not to work.

“That is about to change. Top N.I.H. officials announced in the journal Nature this month that the agency would soon require researchers applying for grants to balance male and female cells and laboratory animals unless there is good reason to include only one sex “based on rigorously defined exceptions.” A laboratory study of ovarian cancer or of prostate cancer could presumably include only animals or cells of the relevant sex, for example. The new rules could have a significant effect on how laboratory research is conducted because the N.I.H. is a major funder of biomedical research around the world.

“The gender imbalance results in part from resistance to any change in ingrained practices, fears that costs may rise, and obsolete views that fluctuations in female hormones would complicate results in female laboratory animals. Yet for some traits and behaviors there is far more variability among males than females. Continue reading “More on bias in the lab”

Child obesity, down then up again

U.S. childhood obesity rates have increased over the past 14 years, according to a study published on Monday, casting doubt on a recent analysis by government health researchers that found a sharp drop in

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preschool obesity rates over the past decade, Reuters reports.

“The good news, announced in February by researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), received widespread media coverage and prompted first lady Michelle Obama to say she was “thrilled at the progress we’ve made over the last few years in obesity rates among our youngest Americans.

“The new study, published online in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics, used the same data source as the CDC, but analyzed obesity rates over a different timeframe. It found increases in obesity for children age 2 to 19, and a marked rise in the percentage who were severely obese.Asheley Cockrell Skinner of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who led the new study, said the main message of her analysis is that childhood obesity rates have not improved.”I don’t want a study like the previous one to change the national discourse,” she told Reuters Health, referring to the CDC’s work.

“Obesity experts had already begun to question the large drop reported by the CDC for children ages 2 to 5. In their February paper the CDC scientists themselves acknowledged the statistical limitations of their data.CDC researcher Cynthia Ogden, who led the study released in February, said in response that her report described trends over the last 10 years and found “an apparent decline in obesity among children ages 2-5 (which we said in the paper should be interpreted cautiously).””We’re confident in our analysis for this time period,” she wrote in an email to Reuters Health on Monday,

Continue reading “Child obesity, down then up again”

Celebrity cancers discourage smoking

When a celebrity is diagnosed with a smoking-related cancer,imgres interest in quitting smoking among the general public increases, according to a new study.

Huffington Post reports that a ” team of researchers found that when Brazil President Lula da Silva was diagnosed in 2011 with laryngeal cancer, which he said was caused by smoking, online search activity regarding quitting smoking and media coverage on quitting smoking increased in the days after. Plus, this interest in smoking cessation remained higher than normal even a month after his diagnosis was announced.

“This study is the first to demonstrate that celebrity diagnoses can prompt the public to engage in behaviors that prevent cancer,” study researcher Seth M. Noar, a health communication professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said in a statement. “Harnessing this finding will save far more lives than screening alone.”

“Noar and his colleagues, from the Santa Fe Institute, San Diego State University and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, examined Google news archives to look at media coverage, and also analyzed Googled searches, in the weeks following the announcement of da Silva’s laryngeal cancer diagnosis in October 2011. They found that news coverage about quitting smoking rose 500 percent right after his diagnosis was announced, and stayed higher by 163 percent for the week following his diagnosis. During this time, Google searches for quitting smoking also were 67 percent higher than normal. Continue reading “Celebrity cancers discourage smoking”

Millennial skepticism over Obamacare

The Harvard Institute of Politics survey released Wednesday has garnered a lot of attention for its findings about Millennials’ views of Obamacare, in addition to their opinions on President Obama himself, reports The Atlantic.

“Between 56 and 57 percent of the 18- to-29-year-old respondents didn’t approve of the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare (depending on how the question was asked); 40 to 44 percent thought their quality of care would get worse under the new law; and 50 to 51 percent said they expected costs to increase.

“This has led to a giant round of Oh my God, Obamacare is going to be a giant failure because young people hate it, won’t enroll, and the insurance plans will go into death spirals. Well, no. Ryan Cooper argues this morning that Millennials “will come around on Obamacare.” But do they even need to? More than half the Millennials in the IOP study said they’d at least consider to signing up for Obamacare exchange insurance if and when they are old enough to need it.

“According to the survey, 22 percent said they’d definitely or probably enroll in Obamacare, and another 29 percent said they were 50-50 on whether they’d enroll or not. Only 45 percent said they definitely would not enroll. The whole survey sample was asked those questions, according to topline data provided by the pollsters. Sounds dismal—until you see that only 22 percent of those surveyed individuals were uninsured! Another way of looking at the data: 22 percent of people in a sample that was 22 percent uninsured said they would definitely or probably sign up for Obamacare. And 29 percent of people in a sample that was 35 percent covered by their parents’ insurance said they were 50-50 on enrolling if and when eligible. That paints a very different picture than just focusing on the large percentage who think their costs will go up while their quality of care goes down. Obamacare’s long-term health depends on whether people who are already insured support the program, but their opinion matters much less in the short term. Continue reading “Millennial skepticism over Obamacare”

Corporations expand transgender health care

Nearly one fourth of Fortune 500 companies, such as Apple and General Mills, cover medical expenses associated with transgender care, according to gay and transgender rights group Human Rights Campaign.

That’s up from 19 percent last year. When the group began tracking transgender benefits in 2002, no Fortune 500 companies offered them, reports Newsday.

“The trend shows how much companies want their workplaces to be perceived as welcoming and progressive. Since the Human Rights Campaign began grading companies on the inclusiveness of their benefits for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees, many companies have beefed up their benefits for those groups.

“Beginning in 2011, companies could only receive a 100 percent rating on the group’s Corporate Equality Index by offering at least one insurance plan covering up to $75,000 worth of counseling, hormone therapy and sexual reassignment surgery — the medical term for a sex-change operation. The number of Fortune 500 companies meeting the requirement jumped to 121 this year from 39 in 2011.

“Companies are recognizing that . . . in order to remain competitive in corporate America, you can’t offer discriminatory plans,” says Jennifer Levi, a professor at the Center for Gender and Sexuality Studies at Western New England University in Springfield, Mass.

“While more companies offer transgender benefits, most government programs like Medicare and Medicaid classify sexual reassignment surgery as cosmetic or experimental and do not cover it. Continue reading “Corporations expand transgender health care”

Treatment lags for teens with mental health conditions

Less than half of American teens with mental health disorders receive treatment, and those who do get help rarely see a mental health specialist, a new study indicates, reports Reuters today.

“The findings underscore the need for better mental health services for teens, said study author E. Jane Costello, associate director of the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy in Durham, N.C.

“It’s still the case in this country that people don’t take psychiatric conditions as seriously as they should,” Costello said in a Duke news release. This remains so, despite a wave of mass shootings in which mental illness may have played a role, she and her colleagues noted.

“The analysis of data from more than 10,000 teens aged 13 to 17 across the United States also showed that treatment rates varied greatly for different types of mental health problems. For example, teens with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder oppositional defiant disorder received mental health care more than 70 percent of the time, while those with phobias or anxiety disorders were least likely to be treated. The researchers also found that blacks were much less likely than whites to be treated for mental disorders, according to the study, published online Nov. 15 in the journal Psychiatric Services. In many cases, teens received treatment from pediatricians, school counselors or probation officers, rather than mental health specialists. This is because there are not enough qualified child mental health professionals to handle the demand, said Costello, who is also a professor of psychology and epidemiology at Duke University. Continue reading “Treatment lags for teens with mental health conditions”

Sleep helps with depression

imagesCuring insomnia in people with depression could double their chance of a full recovery, scientists are reporting. The findings, based on an insomnia treatment that uses talk therapy rather than drugs, are the first to emerge from a series of closely watched studies of sleep and depression to be released in the coming year, reports the New York Times

“The new report affirms the results of a smaller pilot study, giving scientists confidence that the effects of the insomnia treatment are real. If the figures continue to hold up, the advance will be the most significant in the treatment of depression since the introduction of Prozac in 1987.

“Depression is the most common mental disorder, affecting some 18 million Americans in any given year, according to government figures, and more than half of them also have insomnia.

“Experts familiar with the new report said that the results were plausible and that if supported by other studies, they should lead to major changes in treatment.

“It would be an absolute boon to the field,” said Dr. Nada L. Stotland, professor of psychiatry at Rush Medical College in Chicago, who was not connected with the latest research.

“It makes good common sense clinically,” she continued. “If you have a depression, you’re often awake all night, it’s extremely lonely, it’s dark, you’re aware every moment that the world around you is sleeping, every concern you have is magnified.”The study is the first of four on sleep and depression nearing completion, all financed by the National Institute of Mental Health. Continue reading “Sleep helps with depression”

Mandating coverage for mental health and addiction

The Obama administration today completed a generation-long effort to require insurers to cover care for mental health and addiction just like physical illnesses when it issues long-awaited regulations defining parity in benefits and treatment, as reported in the New York Times

“The rules, which will apply to almost all forms of insurance, will have far-reaching consequences for many Americans. In the White House, the regulations are also seen as critical to President Obama’s program for curbing

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gun violence by addressing an issue on which there is bipartisan agreement: Making treatment more available to those with mental illness could reduce killings, including mass murders.

“In issuing the regulations, senior officials said, the administration will have acted on all 23 executive actions that the president and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. announced early this year to reduce gun crimes a

fter the Newtown, Conn., school massacre. In planning those actions, the administration anticipated that gun control legislation would fail in Congress as pressure from the gun lobby proved longer-lasting than the national trauma over the killings of first graders and their caretakers last Dec. 14.

“We feel actually like we’ve made a lot of progress on mental health as a result in this year, and this is kind of the big one,” said a senior administration official, one of several who described the outlines of the regulations that Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, will announce at a mental health conference on Friday in Atlanta with the former first lady Rosalynn Carter.

“While laws and regulations dating to 1996 took initial steps in requiring insurance parity for medical and mental health, “here we’re doing full parity, and we’ve also taken steps to extend it to the people covered in the Affordable Care Act,” the senior official said. “This is kind of the final word on parity.” Continue reading “Mandating coverage for mental health and addiction”

The new global depression

Depression can have a profound impact on a person’s life, work, and relationships. But a new study shows the true toll of mental health conditions on a global scale.imgres

“New research led by Alize Ferrari from the University of Queensland and the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research in Australia found that depression is the second leading cause of the global disability burden.

“Depression, defined as a persistent state of sadness or disinterest in things once found pleasurable, is one of the most common mental disorders.

“The World Health Organization states that approximately 350 million people worldwide have depression, or about four percent of the world’s population.

“While many people have chronic depression that ultimately leads to a disability, it’s common for it to become debilitating immediately. It’s not necessarily something that builds and becomes worse over time,” Dobrenski, who was not involved in the study, said. “Unfortunately, the system moves very slowly so it can take a long time for someone to become qualified [for mental health care], even though they are ‘eligible’ within days.”   However, he added, some types of depression can fade away just as quickly, so it’s sometimes a disservice to designate someone as disabled so quickly. The new study, appearing in the journal PLOS Medicine, shows that rates of major depressive disorder (MDD) vary by country and region, but are highest in Central America and Central and Southeast Asia. Afghanistan, which has seen political turmoil and war since long before the U.S. occupation began 2001, leads the world in rates of depression, the researchers discovered. Japan, on the other hand, has the lowest rate of depression disability worldwide. To reach their conclusions, researchers scoured published studies on MDD, or clinical depression, and dysthymia, which is a milder form of depression. Continue reading “The new global depression”

Court to address death penalty and mental disability

The Supreme Court said Monday it would consider taking another step toward limiting the use of the death penalty, this time by trying to clarify the legal standard for who is ineligible for the ultimate punishment because of mental disability, reports the LA Times.images

At issue is whether states such as Florida may disqualify anyone who scores above 70 on an IQ test. A score below 70 generally indicates mental disability.

“The justices agreed to hear the case of Freddie Hall, a Florida death row inmate who killed two people in 1978, but who was described as mentally disabled when he was a child and was deemed to be mentally retarded by the judge who sentenced him to die. Three years ago, Florida prosecutors said Hall had scored a 71 on a Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale test and therefore could be executed for his crimes. At other times he scored 73 and 80.

“His case figures to be the most important death penalty dispute decided during this court term. During the last decade, the court has limited the use of the death penalty by excluding those who were younger than 18 at the time of the crime or who suffered from a significant mental disability. But until now, the court has not intervened to clarify who qualifies for an exemption based on a mental disability. “It’s been 11 years, and this issue is still not settled,” said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

Continue reading “Court to address death penalty and mental disability”

Cognitive therapy and depression

Cognitive behavioural therapy is more effective than standard care for people with hypochondria or health anxiety, say researchers writing in The Lancet.

As the BBC reported today, “In their study, 14% of patients given CBT regained normal anxiety levels against 7% given the usual care.

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“The researchers say nurses could easily be trained to offer the psychological therapy.  Between 10% and 20% of hospital patients are thought to worry obsessively about their health. Previous studies have shown that CBT, which aims to change thought patterns and behaviour, is an effective treatment for other anxiety disorders. But there is a shortage of specialists trained to deliver CBT, and as a result waiting lists can be long.

“In this study, 219 people with health anxiety received an average of six sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy while 225 received reassurance and support, which is standard. After periods of six months and 12 months, patients in the CBT group showed “significantly greater improvement in self-rated anxiety and depression symptoms” compared with standard care, the study showed. There was also a particularly noticeable reduction in health anxiety in the CBT group straight after treatment began.

“The therapy was delivered by non-CBT experts who had been trained in only two workshops.Study author Prof Peter Tyrer, head of the Centre for Mental Health at Imperial College London, said the results showed that hypochondria could be successfully treated, in a “relatively cheap” way, by general nurses with minimal training in a hospital setting. Reducing the anxiety levels of 14% of the CBT group might not seem a high figure, he said, but these were often people with serious problems who had sometimes spent thousands of pounds on private health assessments because of fears about their health. “Health anxiety is costly for healthcare providers and an effective treatment could potentially save money by reducing the need for unnecessary tests and emergency hospital admissions,” Prof Tyrer said. Writing about the study in The Lancet, Chris Williams from the University of Glasgow and Allan House from the University of Leeds, said the findings were “intriguing” but translating them into services was “problematic”. Continue reading “Cognitive therapy and depression”

Shutting down mental health care

In recent days the news has been filled with reports of shutdown related injustices to families of fallen U.S. soldiers, patients in government cancer treatment programs, students reliant on federal aid. As Forbes Magazine reports, mental health care is also taking a hit.

“In the months leading up to World Mental Health Day, DC has been shaken by a series of violent events that ended with innocent lives lost and our country’s mental health services called into question. imgresDuring this same time period, Washington, DC has been consumed by a government shutdown, with lawmakers and policymakers trying to determine how to rein in our country’s financial burdens and overspending. Unfortunately, as federal and state governments look to cut budgets at every turn, mental and behavioral health services are often on the chopping block first. Financial cuts, compounded with US stigma often applied to mental health troubles and disparate access to services across the county, mean that those who need services most are often those left without proper care.

“August though October brought DC into the spotlight for many reasons, the saddest of which is the violence that was covered by mass media as two shootings occurred. In one case, Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old, perpetrated a mass shooting that left 12 people dead, in Washington’s Navy Yard. Previous to the shooting, it was reported that Mr. Alexis was treated at the VA for mental health issues including sleep disorders and paranoia, but had not lost clearance.

“Miriam Carey, also 34, reportedly had an unhealthy obsession with the White House when she drove her car into the White House gates and led police on a chase around DC before being killed. Although she had no reported psychosis or supposed violent intent, it was noted in the months leading up to the incident she believed that the President had been stalking her and might have suffered from postpartum depression. When killed by authorities on Pennsylvania Avenue, she had her 18-month-old child in the car.”

“Although societal stigma and knowledge of where to access behavioral and mental services are often barriers to care, budget cuts continue to make seeking care more difficult. Whether this be through decreases in available services, lack of providers due to poor reimbursements or less preventative actions in communities, the impact of mental health funding shortages is great. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “increasingly, emergency rooms, homeless shelters and jails are struggling with the effects of people falling through the cracks due to lack of needed mental health services and supports.” Continue reading “Shutting down mental health care”

Insurers won’t pay mental health bills

The first time Melissa Morelli was taken to the hospital, she was suicidal and cutting herself, her mother says. imgresShe was just 13, and she had been transferred to a psychiatric hospital, where she stayed for more than a week, reports today’s New York Times.

“Her doctors told her mother, Cathy Morelli, that it was not safe for Melissa to go home. But the family’s health insurancecarrier would not continue to pay for her to remain in the hospital.

“Former Representative Patrick J. Kennedy, with Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, right, and Victoria Veltri, Connecticut’s health care advocate, backed the mental health parity law that his father, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, also championed. The second time, the same thing happened. And the third and the fourth. Over the course of five months, Ms. Morelli took Melissa to the hospital roughly a dozen times, and each time the insurance company, Anthem Blue Cross, refused to pay for hospital care. “It was just a revolving door,” Ms. Morelli said.

“You had not been getting better in a significant way,” Anthem explained in one letter sent directly to Melissa, then 14, in July 2012. “It does not seem likely that doing the same thing will help you get better.”Desperate to get help for her daughter, Ms. Morelli sought the assistance of Connecticut state officials and an outside reviewer. She eventually won all her appeals, and Anthem was forced to pay for the care it initially denied. All told, Melissa spent nearly 10 months in a hospital; she is now at home. Anthem, which would not comment on Melissa’s case, says its coverage decisions are based on medical evidence. Melissa’s treatment did not come cheap: it ultimately cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, Ms. Morelli said. Patients often find themselves at odds with health insurers, but the battles are perhaps nowhere so heated as with the treatment of serious mental illness.

“It was not supposed to be this way. A federal law, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, was aimed at avoiding fights like this over coverage by making sure insurers would cover mental illnesses just as they cover treatment for diseases like canceror multiple sclerosis. Long a priority of Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, it was squeezed into a bank bailout bill with the help of Christopher J. Dodd, then a Democratic senator from Connecticut, after Mr. Kennedy learned that he had brain cancer, which turned out to be fatal. The law requires larger employer-based insurance plans to cover psychiatric illnesses and substance-abuse disorders in the same way they do other illnesses. But five years after President George W. Bush signed the law, there is widespread agreement that it has fallen short of its goal of creating parity for mental health coverage. Continue reading “Insurers won’t pay mental health bills”

The insomniac’s mind

Brain scans of people who say they have insomnia have shown differences in brain function compared with people who get a full night’s sleep.images

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, said the poor sleepers struggled to focus part of their brain in memory tests, reports the BBC

“Other experts said that the brain’s wiring may actually be affecting perceptions of sleep quality. The findings were published in the journal Sleep. People with insomnia struggle to sleep at night, but it also has consequences during the day such as delayed reaction times and memory. The study compared 25 people who said they had insomnia with 25 who described themselves as good sleepers. MRI brain scans were carried out while they performed increasingly challenging memory tests. One of the researchers, Prof Sean Drummond, said: “We found that insomnia subjects did not properly turn on brain regions critical to a working memory task and did not turn off ‘mind-wandering’ brain regions irrelevant to the task.

“This data helps us understand that people with insomnia not only have trouble sleeping at night, but their brains are not functioning as efficiently during the day.” A sleep researcher in the UK, Dr Neil Stanley, said that the quality of the sleep each group was having was very similar, even though one set was reporting insomnia. He said: “What’s the chicken and what’s the egg? Is the brain different and causing them to report worse sleep? “Maybe they’re perceiving what happened in the night differently; maybe what is affecting their working memory and ability to focus on the task at hand is also causing insomnia.”

 

More at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-23897665

Unhappy workers more likely to smoke

Americans who are emotionally disconnected from their work and workplace, or “actively disengaged,” are slightly more likely to smoke than those who are “engaged” or “not engaged” on the job, reports Gallup today.

“Eighteen percent of actively disengaged workers smoke vs. 15% of engaged or not engaged employees.These data hold even after controlling for income level — meaning workers who are actively

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disengaged, regardless of how much income they make, are more likely to smoke. The findings also hold true across gender, age, and education level. The actively disengaged category is the worst of Gallup’s engagement groupings, which also include “not engaged” and — the best group — “engaged.”

“These findings are based on Americans’ assessments of workplace elements with proven linkages to performance outcomes, including productivity, customer service, quality, retention, safety, and profit. These data are based on surveys of more than 50,000 American adults, including 8,011 smokers, conducted as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index and Gallup Daily tracking from January through July 2013. Overall, 18% of American employees were actively disengaged at work in 2012, according to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report.

“Gallup research has previously found a link between active disengagement at work and poor health. In fact, Gallup data have shown that the actively disengaged workers are just as likely as the unemployed to be in poor health. Those who are actively disengaged are more likely than other workers to have a host of chronic conditions and to be obese. And, they are more likely to experience stress, anger, and worry — particularly during the workweek — which could trigger them to smoke. The finding that these workers are also more likely to smoke fits with these prior discoveries.

“Having a low income, although related to both smoking and active disengagement, is not the reason why the actively disengaged are more likely to smoke. The actively disengaged, regardless of how much they earn annually, are more likely than those who are engaged to smoke.

“The causal direction of the relationship, though, is not clear from this data. It is possible that active disengagement causes workers to smoke, or it could be that something intrinsic to smokers makes them more likely to be actively disengaged on the job.

“Regardless of which direction the relationship goes, what is clear is that employers can benefit from helping employees either stop smoking or never pick up the habit at all. Not only are there obvious healthcare cost benefits to this, but now Gallup data also show that there may be productivity gains to be found as well if fewer workers smoke.”

More at: http://www.gallup.com/poll/164162/americans-hate-jobs-likely-smoke.aspx?utm_source=feedly

OK2TALK vs. mental health stigma

OK2TALK is a media campaign to reduce mental health stigma among teens and young adults.

A new survey from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) reveals that two-thirds of young adults have personal experience with mental health problems, states OK2TALK.org

“Although the overwhelming majority of parents and young adults are supportive of discussing mental illness more openly, more than one-fourth

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of young adults (28 percent) and one in six parents (16 percent) admit they avoid talking about it.

“To encourage these critical conversations and let people know that help is available and effective, NAB today unveiled a new public service announcement (PSA) campaign featuring teens and young adults opening up about their experiences with mental illness. The “OK2TALK” campaign includes television and radio ads in English and Spanish, and uses social media to invite teens and young adults to create the conversation about mental health.

“With unrivaled reach into homes across America, broadcasters have a powerful platform to encourage young people to start talking about mental health and get the help they need,” said NAB President and CEO Gordon H. Smith. Smith’s own family has been profoundly affected by mental illness. His 22-year-old son, Garrett, took his own life in 2003, after a long struggle with depression. He and his wife, Sharon, hope that encouraging conversation about mental illness helps keep other families from meeting the same fate: “I believe that had we known better the signs of suicidal tendency, and sought help and treatment earlier for Garrett, our son would still be alive today.” Continue reading “OK2TALK vs. mental health stigma”

Smoking and the mentally ill

“The lives of people with serious mental illnesses are about 25 years shorter than the rest of the population, on average, and the main causes of early death are tobacco-related diseases.imgres-5

Patients in psychiatric hospitals who take part in smoking cessation programs during their stay are more likely to be smoke-free after 18 months, compared to patients who don’t participate in the programs, says a new study as reported by Reuters today.

“What’s more, researchers found that quitting smoking appeared to be safe for the patients and was tied to a decreased risk of being admitted back into the hospital.

“That’s a new finding and it needs to be replicated, but we’re excited that it didn’t cause any harm and may have supported their recovery,” said Judith Prochaska, the study’s lead author from the Stanford Prevention Research Center in California.

“Prochaska and her colleagues write in the American Journal of Public Health that it’s estimated people with mental illnesses use two to four times more tobacco than the general population. Most U.S. hospitals have been smoke-free since 1993, but at least half of hospital psychiatric units allow smoking and sell cigarettes, according to the researchers. “It used to be that people with mental illnesses had a waiver,” Dr. Steven Schroeder, the Distinguished Professor of Health and Health Care at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), told Reuters Health. Schroeder, who was not involved with the new research, said some people believed psychiatric inpatients were not ready or didn’t want to quit smoking and that giving up smoking might make their conditions worse. Continue reading “Smoking and the mentally ill”