1. Mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s diagnoses trigger lower self-ratings of quality of life

    August 20, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine press release:

    Researchers at Penn Medicine have discovered that a patient’s awareness of a diagnosis of cognitive impairment may diminish their self-assessment of quality of life. In a study published this month in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences the researchers report that older adults who were aware of their diagnosis — either Mild Cognitive Impairment or mild stage Alzheimer’s disease dementia — reported greater depression, higher stress, and lower quality of life than those who were unaware. They also found that older adults who had an expectation that their disease would worsen over time reported lower overall satisfaction with daily life.

    “These findings suggest that a patient’s quality of life could be impacted by a diagnostic label and their expectations for the prognosis. So, when a clinician discloses the diagnosis and prognosis of Mild Cognitive Impairment or mild stage Alzheimer’s disease, a patient may experience additional symptoms, like anxiety or depression,” said the study’s lead author, Shana Stites, PsyD, MA, MS, a clinical psychologist in the Penn Memory Center, senior research investigator for the Penn Project on Precision Medicine for the Brain (P3MB).

    For many years, a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease was often not made until a patient had substantial memory and cognitive problems — by which time patients themselves were often unaware of their diagnosis. Advances in awareness, as well in diagnostic methods, mean doctors are diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease earlier, and in the future, routine diagnosis may occur before symptoms even begin. According to Stites, early diagnosis holds the promise for opportunities to prevent cognitive and functional losses and to plan for these losses. But study results show that an early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can also bring challenges.

    The Penn Researchers studied how awareness of diagnosis impacts on self-ratings of quality of life in people with one of two disorders, Mild Cognitive Impairment — a disorder defined by slight but noticeable declines in cognitive abilities — or mild stage Alzheimer’s disease dementia. They compared these ratings to a group of adults above the age of 65 with normal cognition. Study participants completed measures of multiple domains of quality of life including cognitive problems, activities of daily living, physical functioning, mental wellbeing, and perceptions of one’s daily life. The researchers compared the measure of quality of life by cognitive performance, diagnosis awareness, and diagnostic group.

    The findings help to identify psychological processes underlying relationships between cognitive decline and quality of life. According to Stites, the study has practical implications for current and future clinical practice.

    “It’s not just an issue of to tell or not to tell, it’s an issue of how you tell and what you tell because when you give someone a diagnosis you’re also communicating, either directly or indirectly, a lot of information that can affect the activities people do in daily life, their planning for employment and lifestyle, emotional wellbeing, and social relationships with close friends and family members. These issues need to be explicitly addressed with patients,” Stites said. “Maybe at this point we can’t prevent cognitive decline, but we certainly have effective interventions for treating depression and for managing other symptoms.”

    The researchers note that further study is needed to understand what drives the impact of awareness of diagnosis and prognosis on quality of life. Future studies might include pre-clinical research that is being done in Alzheimer’s disease, where clinicians are working to diagnose people who are at risk of developing the disease based on genes and biomarkers to determine how diagnosis awareness might affect an individual’s sense of identity and functioning in the world if they learn that they have a high probability of developing Alzheimer’s disease in the future.

    A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can evoke assumptions, stereotypes, feelings, and attitudes that can affect a person’s quality of life, how they view themselves and how they are treated by others. This study is part of the research team’s ongoing efforts to understand how early diagnosis can impact a person’s quality of life and wellbeing. The results add to what they’ve been learning about the stigma of Alzheimer’s disease.


  2. Study suggests engaging in casual video game play during rest breaks can help restore mood in response to workplace stress

    August 19, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society press release:

    More than half of Americans regularly experience cognitive fatigue related to stress, frustration, and anxiety while at work. Those in safety-critical fields, such as air traffic control and health care, are at an even greater risk for cognitive fatigue, which could lead to errors. Given the amount of time that people spend playing games on their smartphones and tablets, a team of human factors/ergonomics researchers decided to evaluate whether casual video game play is an effective way to combat workplace stress during rest breaks.

    In their Human Factors article (now online), “Searching for Affective and Cognitive Restoration: Examining the Restorative Effects of Casual Video Game Play,” Michael Rupp and coauthors used a computer-based task to induce cognitive fatigue in 66 participants, who were then given a five-minute rest break. During the break, participants either played a casual video game called Sushi Cat, participated in a guided relaxation activity, or sat quietly in the testing room without using a phone or computer. At various times throughout the experiment, the researchers measured participants’ affect (e.g., stress level, mood) and cognitive performance.

    Those who took a silent rest break reported that they felt less engaged with work and experienced worry as a result, whereas those who participated in the guided relaxation activity saw reductions in negative affect and distress. Only the video game players reported that they felt better after taking the break.

    Rupp, a doctoral student in human factors and cognitive psychology at the University of Central Florida, notes, “We often try to power through the day to get more work finished, which might not be as effective as taking some time to detach for a few minutes. People should plan short breaks to make time for an engaging and enjoyable activity, such as video games, that can help them recharge.”


  3. Study suggests gamblers more likely to have suffered childhood traumas

    August 16, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Lincoln press release:

    Men with problem and pathological gambling addictions are more likely to have suffered childhood traumas including physical abuse or witnessing violence in the home, according to new research.

    Psychologists examined responses in a survey of more than 3,000* men on a variety of life factors, and found that just over a quarter who had probable pathological gambling problems had witnessed violence in the home as a child. Ten per cent also reported being physically abused in childhood, and a further seven per cent said they had suffered a life-threatening injury.

    Problem gamblers — those who have not yet escalated to a pathological problem, but are deemed to have a more serious addiction than non-problem gamblers — also reported higher rates of childhood trauma, with just under 23 per cent saying they had witnessed violence at home, and nine per cent experiencing physical abuse. In comparison, just eight per cent of non-problem gamblers witnessed domestic violence when they were a child, and less than four per cent had suffered abuse.

    The study, led by the University of Lincoln, UK, also found that 35 per cent of pathological gamblers had suffered serious money problems as adults, 29 per cent had been convicted of a criminal offence, and almost 20 per cent had experienced relationship breakdowns. In comparison, for non-problem gamblers the figures came in at just 12, 9, and 10 per cent respectively.

    The pattern of people who had previously suffered traumas in childhood or stressful events as an adult becoming pathological and problem gamblers remained even when other associated risk factors, such as substance abuse and homelessness, were accounted for. Interestingly, the more serious the gambling problem, the higher the percentage of reported childhood trauma or life stressors as an adult in all but two questions.

    Researchers say the findings highlight a need for gambling treatment services to include routine screening for traumatic life events or substance abuse, so that treatments can be better tailored.

    Forensic psychologist Dr Amanda Roberts, from the University of Lincoln’s School of Psychology, led the study. She said: “The links between gambling problems, trauma and life stressors have been known to exist for some time, but understanding the extent of these relationships will help early intervention and better treatment.

    “We have found that among men in the United Kingdom, disordered gambling remains uniquely associated with trauma and life stressors in childhood and adulthood after adjusting for alcohol and drug dependence.

    “Probable pathological gamblers and problem gamblers reported injuries, marital difficulties, homelessness, money problems and criminality more often than non/non-problem gamblers. Taken as a whole, this suggests that disordered gambling does not occur on its own, but that it is perhaps symptomatic of other social, behavioural and psychological problems of some individuals.

    “General experiences of stressful life events, such as job loss or homelessness in adulthood are not usually characterised by the same extreme psychological responses; this distinction is important, since associations with traumatic events might indicate increased vulnerability to developing gambling problems, while associations with other types of stressful life event, such as job loss, might indicate consequential harms associated with gambling.”

    The results build on Dr Roberts’ previous study which found that men who gamble are more likely to act violently towards others, with the most addicted gamblers the most prone to serious violence.

    The new findings have been published in the journal Addictive Behaviors.


  4. Study suggests talking to yourself in the third person can help you control emotions

    August 15, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Michigan State University press release:

    The simple act of silently talking to yourself in the third person during stressful times may help you control emotions without any additional mental effort than what you would use for first-person self-talk — the way people normally talk to themselves.

    A first-of-its-kind study led by psychology researchers at Michigan State University and the University of Michigan indicates that such third-person self-talk may constitute a relatively effortless form of self-control. The findings are published online in Scientific Reports, a Nature journal.

    Say a man named John is upset about recently being dumped. By simply reflecting on his feelings in the third person (“Why is John upset?”), John is less emotionally reactive than when he addresses himself in the first person (“Why am I upset?”).

    “Essentially, we think referring to yourself in the third person leads people to think about themselves more similar to how they think about others, and you can see evidence for this in the brain,” said Jason Moser, MSU associate professor of psychology. “That helps people gain a tiny bit of psychological distance from their experiences, which can often be useful for regulating emotions.”

    The study, partially funded by the National Institutes of Health and the John Temple Foundation, involved two experiments that both significantly reinforced this main conclusion.

    In one experiment, at Moser’s Clinical Psychophysiology Lab, participants viewed neutral and disturbing images and reacted to the images in both the first and third person while their brain activity was monitored by an electroencephalograph. When reacting to the disturbing photos (such as a man holding a gun to their heads), participants’ emotional brain activity decreased very quickly (within 1 second) when they referred to themselves in the third person.

    The MSU researchers also measured participants’ effort-related brain activity and found that using the third person was no more effortful than using first person self-talk. This bodes well for using third-person self-talk as an on-the-spot strategy for regulating one’s emotions, Moser said, as many other forms of emotion regulation require considerable thought and effort.

    In the other experiment, led by U-M psychology professor Ethan Kross, who directs the Emotion and Self-Control Lab, participants reflected on painful experiences from their past using first and third person language while their brain activity was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging, or FMRI.

    Similar to the MSU study, participants’ displayed less activity in a brain region that is commonly implicated in reflecting on painful emotional experiences when using third person self-talk, suggesting better emotional regulation. Further, third person self-talk required no more effort-related brain activity than using first person.

    “What’s really exciting here,” Kross said, “is that the brain data from these two complimentary experiments suggest that third-person self-talk may constitute a relatively effortless form of emotion regulation.

    “If this ends up being true — we won’t know until more research is done — there are lots of important implications these findings have for our basic understanding of how self-control works, and for how to help people control their emotions in daily life.”

    Moser and Kross said their teams are continuing to collaborate to explore how third-person self-talk compares to other emotion-regulation strategies.


  5. Violent sleep patterns, stress hormones change after a violent crime in the neighborhood

    August 14, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Society for Research in Child Development press release:

    Almost 1.2 million violent crimes — homicide, sexual assault, assault, and robbery — were committed in the United States in 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. A new study has found that violent crime changes youth’s sleep patterns the night immediately following the crime and changes patterns of the stress hormone cortisol the following day. Both may then disrupt academic performance in students.

    The study was conducted by researchers at Northwestern University, New York University, and DePaul University. It appears in the journal Child Development.

    “Past research has found a link between violent crimes and performance on tests, but researchers haven’t been able to say why crime affects academic performance,” explains Jennifer A. Heissel, a PhD graduate in human development and sociology at Northwestern University, who led the study. “Both sleep and cortisol are connected to the ability to learn and perform academic tasks; our study identifies a pathway by which violent crime may get under the skin to affect academic performance.” The study did so by examining the causal pathways involved with sleep and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which regulates the body’s response to stress.

    Researchers tracked the sleep and stress hormones of 82 youth (ages 11 to 18) in a large Midwestern city who attended public schools that were racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse. The students filled out daily diaries over four days, wore activity-tracking watches that measured sleep, and had their saliva tested three times a day to check for cortisol. Researchers also collected information on all the violent crimes reported to the police in the city during the study, including which youth had a violent crime occur in his or her neighborhood.

    For each youth, researchers compared the students’ sleep on the nights following a violent crime to their sleep on nights when there were no violent crimes committed nearby. They also compared students’ stress hormones (cortisol) on days following a violent crime to their stress hormones on days when there were no violent crimes committed nearby.

    Among the findings: Youth went to sleep later on nights when a violent crime occurred near their home, often resulting in fewer total hours of sleep. In addition, the increase in youth’s cortisol levels the morning after a crime occurred nearby the day before was larger than on mornings following no crime the previous day, a pattern that previous research suggests might reflect the body’s anticipation of more stress the day following a crime. The changes in sleep and cortisol were largest when the crime committed the previous day was homicide, moderate for assault and sexual assault, and nonexistent for robbery.

    “The results of our research have several implications for policy,” suggests Emma Adam, professor of human development and social policy at Northwestern University, who also conducted the study. “They provide a link between violent crime and several mechanisms known to affect cognitive performance. They also may help explain why some low-income youth living in high-risk neighborhoods sleep less than higher-income youth. And they suggest that although programs to reduce violent crime may be the best policy solution, schools could also provide students with programs or methods to cope with their response to stressful events like nearby violent crimes.”


  6. Stress hormone linked to mood and hippocampus volume

    August 13, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Society for Neuroscience press release:

    Individual differences in the pattern of release of the hormone cortisol in response to a stressful experience reveal how stressed a person actually feels, suggests a study of healthy women published in The Journal of Neuroscience. This approach could help to better identify and treat individuals more susceptible to the negative feelings associated with the physiological stress response.

    Most stress research in humans involves inducing a short period of stress and classifying participants as either responders or non-responders based on the level of the hormone cortisol in their saliva. These studies do not typically find differences between the two groups’ subjective experience of stress.

    Roee Admon, Diego Pizzagalli and colleagues modified existing laboratory procedures to induce stress for more than one hour in 79 women and identified three different types of cortisol response. Participants that released either very high or very low amounts of cortisol over time reported feeling more stressed than those with a pattern of moderate hormonal release. The authors also found smaller volume of the hippocampus — a structure with a large number of cortisol receptors that regulates stress response — in these high and low responders compared to the moderate responders.


  7. How social rank can trigger vulnerability to stress

    August 1, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne press release:

    Stress is a major risk factor for a range of psychopathologies. However, stress does not affect everyone equally: in the face of sustained adversity, some people develop depression symptoms while others adapt and remain resilient. Identifying risk factors and biomarkers for vulnerability to developing stress-induced depression in order to identify individual susceptibility before stress exposure has been a major challenge. EPFL scientists have now shown that social organization can affect differential vulnerability to chronic stress and underscored brain energy metabolism as a predictive biomarker for social status and susceptibility to stress-induced depression. The work is published in Current Biology.

    The work was carried out by the lab of Carmen Sandi at EPFL, which has long history of research on stress. Previous studies have repeatedly shown that following exposure to defeat experiences, some mice show signs of depression such as avoiding social contact, while other mice behave as unstressed, retaining normal social interests. But most of this work identified vulnerability in the mice based on symptoms developed after stress exposure, not before.

    The EPFL researchers were intrigued by the fact that differential vulnerability to stress is observed in mice known as C57BL/6J, which are genetically identical. The mice in the study had also been exposed to the same housing and living conditions to exclude the influence genetic factors or issues related to early life trauma.

    Since mice typically live in groups of four per cage, the scientists reasoned that the hierarchical order established within the homecage might be related to the vulnerability to stress. By giving mice from the same homecage competitive challenges, the researchers could identify the dominant and the subordinate animals in each group. Then, following chronic stress exposure, they found that dominant animals are the ones that display a susceptibility to stress by showing strong social avoidance. On the other hand, subordinate mice behaved like the non-stressed ones, showing resilience.

    Subsequently, the scientists collaborated with the lab of Rolf Gruetter at EPFL to apply an in vivo neuroimaging technique known as proton nuclear magnetic resonance (1H-NMR) spectroscopy that measures metabolite levels in the brain. They focused on two brain regions: the nucleus accumbens, which is involved in motivation and reward, and the medial prefrontal cortex, which is involved in planning.

    The neuroimaging showed that the metabolic profile of the nucleus accumbens relates to social status and vulnerability to stress. More precisely, non-stressed, subordinate individuals showed lower levels of metabolites related to energy metabolism (glutamate, phosphocreatine, total creatine, N-acetylaspartate, and taurine) in the nucleus accumbens than dominant mice. But after exposure to chronic stress, the metabolite levels of energy-related metabolites were increased in subordinate, but not in dominant mice.

    The study is the first to non-invasively identify risk factors and biomarkers that predict social status and stress-induced depression-like behavior. On an experimental level, the findings can now help make progress on investigating of mechanisms related to vulnerability and resilience to stress, as it will help stratifying individuals in longitudinal studies. On a clinical level, the study shows that energy metabolism in the nucleus accumbens can be a potential biomarker for stress vulnerability. And the study also has multiple implications on a societal level, given the ubiquitous nature of hierarchies in our society.

    “Our findings reinforce the view that losing status is more pertinent to depression than social subordination,” says Carmen Sandi. “In the future, it will be important to study whether social status can also predict depression or anxiety when individuals are chronically exposed to stressors of a non-social nature.” Her group will now capitalize on these findings to investigate the value of interventions that target energy metabolism in the brain, in order to help vulnerable individuals to cope with stress.


  8. Study suggests teacher burnout can be contagious

    July 30, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Michigan State University press release:

    Burnout among young teachers appears to be contagious, indicates a new study led by Michigan State University education scholars.

    The study found a significant link between burnout among early-career teachers and exposure to both a school-wide culture of burnout and burnout among the young teachers’ closest circle of colleagues.

    Surprisingly, the link was stronger to the school-wide culture of burnout than it was to burnout among close colleagues.

    “If you are surrounded by people who are downcast or walking around under a pall of burnout, then it has a high chance of spilling over, even if you don’t have direct contact with these folks,” said Kenneth Frank, professor of measurement and quantitative methods in MSU’s College of Education.

    “This study,” Frank added, “is one of the first to provide evidence that the organizational culture in schools can make a notable difference for early-career teachers’ burnout levels.”

    Frank co-authored the study with Jihyun Kim, an MSU doctoral student, and Peter Youngs, a former MSU scholar who’s now an associate professor at the University of Virginia. Their findings appear in the journal Teaching and Teacher Education.

    The researchers analyzed the survey data on burnout of 171 teachers who were in their first four years in the profession and 289 experienced teachers who served as the young teachers’ mentors or close colleagues.

    Kim, lead author on the paper, said she was interested in investigating teacher burnout based on her experiences as an early-career teacher in her native Korea, where she worked long days and weekends.

    Early-career teachers are particularly vulnerable to stress and burnout as they adjust to working full-time and respond to school and district expectations, she said. Further, schools often fail to provide teachers with enough resources, including the appropriate teaching materials, assistant teachers, professional development and preparation time.

    “These resources are critical not only for reducing teacher burnout, but also for closing gaps in students’ learning,” said Kim, who will begin work in the fall as an assistant professor of education at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania.

    Frank said teacher burnout is also tied to the current education policy environment. Controversial policies such as evaluating teachers based primarily on student test scores, merit pay for teachers and lack of voice in assignment of students to teachers can bring added pressure.

    “We know that early career teachers are susceptible to burnout because of the significant demands placed on them. It is also clear that the introduction of new reforms in K-12 education on a frequent basis adds to the pressures they experience,” Frank said.

    “If school administrators and policymakers are serious about promoting retention and reducing burnout among novice teachers, they should be aware not just of the curriculum they are advocating, or their rules and policies for teachers. They should also attend to how the organizational culture in their schools can have direct effects on burnout levels of their faculty.”


  9. Under stress, brains of bulimics respond differently to food

    July 29, 2017 by Ashley

    From the American Psychological Association press release:

    Magnetic resonance imaging scans suggest that the brains of women with bulimia nervosa react differently to images of food after stressful events than the brains of women without bulimia, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.

    In women with bulimia, the researchers found decreased blood flow in a part of the brain associated with self-reflection, compared with increased blood flow in women without bulimia. This suggests that bulimics may be using food to avoid negative thoughts about themselves, the researchers said.

    “To our knowledge, the current study is the first investigation of the neural reactions to food cues following a stressful event in women with bulimia nervosa,” said lead author Brittany Collins, PhD, of the National Medical Center. The research was published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

    Stress is considered to be a trigger for binge-eating in patients with bulimia nervosa, but there is little research on how people with bulimia nervosa process and respond to food cues.

    The researchers conducted two experiments. In the first, 10 women with bulimia and 10 without came to a lab where they all ate the same meal. After waiting for about an hour and becoming familiar with an MRI scanner, they then entered the scanner and were shown a series of neutral pictures, such as leaves or furniture, followed by a series of high fat/high sugar food pictures, such as ice cream, brownies, pizza or pasta with cheese sauce.

    Participants were then asked to complete an impossible math problem, a task designed to induce stress and threaten their ego. They then re-entered the scanner and looked at different photos of high fat/high sugar foods. After every activity in the scanner, the women rated their levels of stress and food cravings.

    “We found that everyone experienced increased stress after the stress task, and that everyone reported that stress went down after seeing the food cues again. Also, every time that participants saw the food cues, they reported that their craving for food went up,” said co-author Sarah Fischer, PhD, of George Mason University.

    What was surprising was even though patterns of self-reported results were similar for both groups, the two groups showed very different brain responses on their MRI scans, Fischer said. For women with bulimia, blood flow to a region called the precuneus decreased. For women without the eating disorder, blood flow to this region increased. The precuneus is involved in thinking about the self.

    “We would expect to see increased blood flow in this region when someone is engaged in self-reflection, rumination or self-criticism,” said Fischer.

    In the second experiment, the researchers asked 17 women with bulimia nervosa to complete the same task as the women in the first study, in order to examine whether the findings could be replicated in a different sample of women.

    “Our results were the same in the second study,” said Fischer. “Women reported increases in stress following the stress task and increases in food craving after seeing food cues. More important, blood flow to the same region, the precuneus, decreased when viewing food cues following stress.”

    Collins believes that this decreased blood flow in bulimics suggests that the introduction of food shuts down self-critical thinking in bulimics and gives them something to focus on instead of the painful prospect of dealing with their own shortcomings.

    Psychologists have previously theorized that binge-eating provides bulimic women an alternate focus to negative thoughts about themselves that may be brought on by stress. This research provides support for this theory, according to Collins.

    “Our findings are consistent with the characterization of binge-eating as an escape from self-awareness and support the emotion regulation theories that suggest that women with bulimia shift away from self-awareness because of negative thoughts regarding performance or social comparisons and shift focus to a more concrete stimulus, such as food,” said Collins.

    The results of these experiments could also suggest a neurobiological basis for the use of food as a distractor during periods of stress in women with the disorder, she said. The researchers called for further studies to confirm their results, which they termed preliminary.

    The article is part of a special section of the July 2017 issue of the journal devoted to outstanding contributions by young investigators in the field of eating disorders.

    “This issue is dedicated to highlighting the accomplishments of an impressive group of young researchers,” wrote the section co-editors Pamela Keel, PhD, Florida State University, and Gregory Smith, PhD, University of Kentucky, in their introduction. “The papers offer a glimpse into the many and multifaceted forms of progress young researchers are making in the effort to understand and address an extraordinarily important form of psychopathology, dysfunction related to the basic need of food consumption.”


  10. Well-being in later life: The mind plays an important role

    July 25, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Helmholtz Zentrum München – German Research Center for Environmental Health press release:

    Aging itself is not inevitably associated with a decline in mood and quality of life,” says Prof. Karl-Heinz Ladwig, summarizing the results. “It is rather the case that psychosocial factors such as depression or anxiety impair subjective well-being, the Head of the Mental Health Research Group at the Institute of Epidemiology II, Helmholtz Zentrum München and Professor of Psychosomatic Medicine at the TUM University Hospital explains. “And in the case of women, living alone also plays an important role.”

    “To date the impact of emotional stress has barely been investigated”

    For the current study, Prof. Ladwig and his team relied on data derived from about 3,600 participats with an average age of 73 who had taken part in the population-based KORA-Age Study. “What made the study particularly interesting was the fact that the impact of stress on emotional well-being has barely been investigated in a broader, non-clinical context,” explains PD Dr. Karoline Lukaschek, epidemiologist in the Mental Health Research Group and lead author of the paper. “Our study therefore explicitly included anxiety, depression and sleep disorders.”

    Generally high levels of well-being but…

    To ascertain levels of subjective well-being, the scientists used a questionnaire devised by the World Health Organization (the WHO-5 Well-Being Index) with a score range of 0 to 100. For the purpose of analysis, they divided the respondents’ results into two categories: ‘high’ (score > 50) and ‘low’ (score ? 50). The subsequent evaluation revealed a high level of subjective well-being in the majority (79 percent) of the respondents. The average values were also above the threshold set by the WHO. In the ‘low’ group, however, there was a conspicuously high number of women: about 24 percent compared to 18 percent for men.

    Depression and anxiety disorders are the biggest risk

    Trying to uncover the most important causes for subjective well-being, the scientists mainly identified psychosocial factors: above all, depression and anxiety disorders had the strongest effect on well-being. Low income and sleep disorders also had a negative effect. However, poor physical health (for example, low physical activity or so-called multimorbidity) seemed to have little impact on perceived life satisfaction. Among women, living alone also significantly increased the probability of a low sense of well-being.

    “The findings of the current study clearly demonstrate that appropriate services and interventions can play a major role for older people, especially for older women living on their own,” Prof. Ladwig says, categorizing the results. “And this is all the more important, given that we know that high levels of subjective well-being are linked to a lower mortality risk.”