US population growth has slowed to levels not seen since the Great Depression, according to data released this week by the US census bureau.
The US population was expected to grow just 0.7% in 2013, to arrive at 317,297,938 people on New Year’s Day 2014. That rate was down from 0.73% in 2010-2011 and much lower than the 1.2% growth rate of the 1990s, a decade of economic expansion.
The United States has not seen such slow growth since the Depression era of 1933-1937, according to William Frey, a demographics expert and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “Up until 2008, really we didn’t see those growth rates change much,” Frey said. “This sharp bump that we’ve seen in the last few years does suggest that the economy has a lot to do with it.” But average annual growth, Frey said, is a “fairly crude measure” that can miss the underlying influence of immigration laws and changing cultural and social mores.
“In the Great Depression era, migration laws were stricter in the late teens and early to mid-20s,” he said. “You had lower fertility rates as well, with the very dire circumstances” of many families. From 1932-1933, population growth settled at 0.59%, creeping to 0.60% in 1937, according to census bureau figures. Declining unemployment and other recent signs of economic life have yet to register on the population scales. Real GDP growth picked up in 2011 after declining sharply in the first decade of the new millennium, from nearly 1% a year in 2000 to just more than 0.3% in 2010. Continue reading “US population growth continues to drop”
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.
“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”
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.
“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”
The idea of treating a psychiatric illness by passing a jolt of electricity through the brain was one of the most controversial in 20th Century medicine. So why are we still using a procedure described by its critics as barbaric and ineffective?The BBC ran a story today discussion the continuing benefits of this controversial procedure:
“Sixty-four-year-old John Wattie says his breakdown in the late 1990s was triggered by the collapse of his marriage and stress at work.
“We had a nice house and a nice lifestyle, but it was all just crumbling away. My depression was starting to overwhelm me. I lost control, I became violent,” he explains. John likens the feeling to being in a hole, a hole he could not get out of despite courses of pills and talking therapies. But now, he says, all of that has changed thanks to what is one of the least understood treatments in psychiatry – electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
“Before ECT I was the walking dead. I had no interest in life, I just wanted to disappear. After ECT I felt like there was a way out of it. I felt dramatically better.” The use of electricity to treat mental illness started out as an experiment. In the 1930s psychiatrists noticed some heavily distressed patients would suddenly improve after an epileptic fit. John Wattie on why he feels he needs ECT to keep severe depression at bay
“Passing a strong electric current through the brain could trigger a similar seizure and – they hoped – a similar response. By the 1960s it was being widely used to treat a variety of conditions, notably severe depression. But as the old mental asylums closed down and aggressive physical interventions like lobotomies fell out of favour, so too did electroshock treatment, as ECT was previously known. The infamous ECT scene in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest cemented the idea in the public’s mind of a brutal treatment, although by the time the film was released in 1975 it was very rarely given without a general anaesthetic. Continue reading “Continuing value of ECT”
In a society driven by consuming, can shopping mania be an illness?
For some people, overspending might mean ordering the lobster or splurging on an extra pair of shoes at Macy’s, reports YahooFinance.
“For Julie Fast it’s different. The Portland, Oregon, author woke up one day and decided to go on a trip to China. She obtained a visa, hopped on a flight, enrolled in language school and was conversing in Mandarin within weeks. Along the way, she blew through around $10,000. Shortly after that, and partly as a result of the impromptu and costly spree, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Wild overspending often goes along with the manic highs that, when interspersed with depressing lows, characterize the disorder, which afflicts roughly 5.7 million Americans.
“When you have manias, that voice of caution is literally taken away. It is gone,” says Fast, 49, who co-wrote the book “Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder” and helped advise actress Claire Danes for her role as a federal agent afflicted with bipolar disorder on the popular TV series “Homeland.” One sufferer she knows impulsively spent $40,000 on a piece of art. Another bought an entire mini-mall – the whole building and the shops within it.”I have known people who have used up their whole 401(k)s, who have gambled it all away, who have taken their kids’ college money,” she said. At the time, “it feels so good that you don’t even worry or feel guilty.” Continue reading “The morning after bill”
Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) today announced research findings showing the usefulness of self-help books for the treatment of mental health conditions like depression.
“Patients offered books, plus sessions guiding them in how to use them, had lower levels of depression a year later than those offered usual GP care,” reports the BBC.
“The effect was seen in addition to the benefits of other treatments such as antidepressants, Scottish researchers report in the journal Plos One. Such an approach may help the NHS tackle demand for therapy, they said.
“More than 200 patients who had been diagnosed with depression by their GP took part in the study, half of whom were also on antidepressant drugs. Some were provided with a self-help guide dealing with different aspects of depression, such as being assertive or overcoming sleep problems.Patients also had three sessions with an adviser who helped them get the most out of the books and plan what changes to make. After four months those who had been prescribed the self-help books had significantly lower levels of depression than those who received usual GP care. Continue reading “Self-help books seem to work for depression”