1. Study suggests grape-derived compounds may promote resilience against depression

    February 19, 2018 by Ashley

    From the Mount Sinai Hospital / Mount Sinai School of Medicine press release:

    In a study to be published online February 2 in Nature Communications, scientists from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai describe an extensive analysis of novel grape-derived compounds, dihydrocaffeic acid (DHCA) and malvidin-3′-O-glucoside (Mal-gluc), which might be developed as therapeutic agents for the treatment of depression. The study results indicate that these natural compounds may attenuate depression by targeting newly discovered underlying mechanisms of the disease.

    According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year approximately 16 million individuals in the United States have a major depressive episode. Conventional pharmacological treatments are estimated to produce temporary remission in less than 50 percent of patients, and they are often associated with severe adverse effects. Thus, there is an urgent need for a wider spectrum of novel therapeutics.

    Depression is associated with a multitude of pathological processes, including inflammation of the peripheral immune system, a set of biological structures and processes in the lymph nodes and other tissues that protect against disease and abnormalities involving synapses, the structures that permit neurons to pass an electrical or chemical signal to other neurons. However, currently available antidepressants are largely restricted to targeting the systems that regulate serotonin, dopamine, and other related neurotransmitters, and these treatments do not specifically address inflammation and synaptic maladaptations that are now known to be associated with MDD.

    Previous research has found that grape-derived polyphenols have some efficacy in modulating aspects of depression, yet the mechanisms of action had largely remained unknown until now. The new study, led by Giulio Maria Pasinetti, PhD, Saunders Professor of Neurology, and a team of investigators from the Center for Integrative Molecular Neuroresilience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, found that a bioactive dietary polyphenol preparation — a combination of three grape-derived polyphenol products, including a select Concord grape juice, a select grape seed extract, and trans-resveratrol — was effective in promoting resilience against stress-induced depression in mice.

    Specifically, researchers found that DHCA and Mal-gluc can promote resilience in mouse models of depression by modulating inflammation and synaptic plasticity, respectively. DHCA reduces interleukin 6 (IL-6), a pro-inflammatory substance secreted by T cells and macrophages to stimulate immune response, by epigenetically modulating the non-coding sequence of the IL-6 gene. Mal-gluc modulates histone acetylation of the Rac1 gene and allows transcription activators to access the DNA for increased transcription in the brain, which influences the expression of genes responsible for synaptic plasticity. Researchers also demonstrated that DHCA/Mal-gluc treatment was effective in attenuating depression-like phenotypes in a mouse model of increased systemic inflammation induced by transplantation of cells from the bone marrow of stress-susceptible mice.

    “Our research shows that combination treatment with the two compounds can promote resilience against stress-mediated depression-like phenotypes by modulating systemic inflammatory responses and brain synaptic plasticity in a mouse model of depression,” says Jun Wang, PhD, Associate Professor of the Department of Neurology and first author on the paper.

    The Mount Sinai study provides, for the first time, novel preclinical evidence supporting the targeting of multiple key disease mechanisms through DNA epigenetic modification for the treatment of depression. This study strongly supports the need to test and identify novel compounds that target alternative pathologic mechanisms, such as inflammation and synaptic maladaptation, for individuals who are resistant to currently available treatment.

    “Our approach to use a combination treatment of DHCA and Mal-gluc to simultaneously inhibit peripheral inflammation and modulate synaptic plasticity in the brain works synergistically to optimize resilience against chronic stress-induced depression-like phenotypes,” said Dr. Pasinetti. “The discovery of these new, natural grape-derived polyphenol compounds targeting cellular and molecular pathways associated with inflammation may provide an effective way to treat a subset of people with depression and anxiety, a condition that affects so many people.”

    Researchers from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey and the University of North Texas contributed to this research.

    The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health and The Office of Dietary Supplements.


  2. Study suggests too much business travel may increase risk of depression and sleep issues

    January 19, 2018 by Ashley

    From the Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health press release:

    People who travel for business two weeks or more a month report more symptoms of anxiety and depression and are more likely to smoke, be sedentary and report trouble sleeping than those who travel one to six nights a month, according to a latest study conducted by researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and City University of New York. Among those who consume alcohol, extensive business travel is associated with symptoms of alcohol dependence. Poor behavioral and mental health outcomes significantly increased as the number of nights away from home for business travel rose. This is one of the first studies to report the effects of business travel on non-infectious disease health risks. The results are published online in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

    The Global Business Travel Association Foundation estimates there were nearly 503 million person-business trips in 2016 in the U.S. compared to 488 million in the prior year. “Although business travel can be seen as a job benefit and can lead to occupational advancement, there is a growing literature showing that extensive business travel is associated with risk of chronic diseases associated with lifestyle factors,” said Andrew Rundle, DrPH, associate professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health. “The field of occupational travel medicine needs to expand beyond its current focus on infectious disease, cardiovascular disease risks, violence and injury to bring more focus to the behavioral and mental health consequences of business travel.”

    The study was based on the de-identified health records of 18,328 employees who underwent a health assessment in 2015 through their corporate wellness work benefits program provided by EHE International, Inc. The EHE International health exam measured depressive symptoms with the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), anxiety symptoms with the Generalized Anxiety Scale (GAD-7) and alcohol dependence with the CAGE scale.

    A score above 4 on the Generalized Anxiety Scale (GAD-7) was reported by 24 percent of employees, and 15 percent scored above a 4 on the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), indicating that mild or worse anxiety or depressive symptoms were common in this employee population. Among those who consume alcohol, a CAGE score of 2 or higher indicates the presence of alcohol dependence and was found in 6 percent of employees who drank. GAD-7 and PHQ-9 scores and CAGE scores of 2 or higher increased with increasing nights away from home for business travel. These data are consistent with analyses of medical claims data from World Bank employees which found that the largest increase in claims among their business travelers was for psychological disorders related to stress.

    Employers and employees should consider new approaches to improve employee health during business trips that go beyond the typical travel health practice of providing immunizations and medical evacuation services, according to Rundle, whose earlier research found that extensive business travel was associated with higher body mass index, obesity, and higher blood pressure.

    “At the individual-level, employees who travel extensively need to take responsibility for the decisions they make around diet, exercise, alcohol consumption, and sleep. However, to do this, employees will likely need support in the form of education, training, and a corporate culture that emphasizes healthy business travel. Employers should provide employees who travel for business with accommodations that have access to physical activity facilities and healthy food options.”


  3. Study suggests Industrial Revolution may have left a damaging psychological ‘imprint’ on today’s populations

    December 21, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Cambridge press release:

    People living in the former industrial heartlands of England and Wales are more disposed to negative emotions such as anxiety and depressive moods, more impulsive and more likely to struggle with planning and self-motivation, according to a new study of almost 400,000 personality tests.

    The findings show that, generations after the white heat of Industrial Revolution and decades on from the decline of deep coal mining, the populations of areas where coal-based industries dominated in the 19th century retain a “psychological adversity.”

    Researchers suggest this is the inherited product of selective migrations during mass industrialisation compounded by the social effects of severe work and living conditions.

    They argue that the damaging cognitive legacy of coal is “reinforced and amplified” by the more obvious economic consequences of high unemployment we see today. The study also found significantly lower life satisfaction in these areas.

    The UK findings, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, are supported by a North American “robustness check,” with less detailed data from US demographics suggesting the same patterns of post-industrial personality traits.

    Regional patterns of personality and well-being may have their roots in major societal changes underway decades or centuries earlier, and the Industrial Revolution is arguably one of the most influential and formative epochs in modern history,” says co-author Dr Jason Rentfrow, from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Psychology.

    “Those who live in a post-industrial landscape still do so in the shadow of coal, internally as well as externally. This study is one of the first to show that the Industrial Revolution has a hidden psychological heritage, one that is imprinted on today’s psychological make-up of the regions of England and Wales.”

    An international team of psychologists, including researchers from the Queensland University of Technology, University of Texas, University of Cambridge and the Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University, used data collected from 381,916 people across England and Wales during 2009-2011 as part of the BBC Lab’s online Big Personality Test.

    The team analysed test scores by looking at the “big five” personality traits: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness. The results were further dissected by characteristics such as altruism, self-discipline and anxiety.

    The data was also broken down by region and county, and compared with several other large-scale datasets including coalfield maps and a male occupation census of the early 19th century (collated through parish baptism records, where the father listed his job).

    The team controlled for an extensive range of other possible influences — from competing economic factors in the 19th century and earlier, through to modern considerations of education, wealth and even climate.

    However, they still found significant personality differences for those currently occupying areas where large numbers of men had been employed in coal-based industries from 1813 to 1820 — as the Industrial Revolution was peaking.

    Neuroticism was, on average, 33% higher in these areas compared with the rest of the country. In the ‘big five’ model of personality, this translates as increased emotional instability, prone to feelings of worry or anger, as well as higher risk of common mental disorders such as depression and substance abuse.

    In fact, in the further “sub-facet” analyses, these post-industrial areas scored 31% higher for tendencies toward both anxiety and depression.

    Areas that ranked highest for neuroticism include Blaenau Gwent and Ceredigion in South Wales, and Hartlepool in England.

    Conscientiousness was, on average, 26% lower in former industrial areas. In the ‘big five’ model, this manifests as more disorderly and less goal-oriented behaviours — difficulty with planning and saving money. The underlying sub-facet of ‘order’ itself was 35% lower in these areas.

    The lowest three areas for conscientiousness were all in Wales (Merthyr Tydfil, Ceredigion and Gwynedd), with English areas including Nottingham and Leicester.

    An assessment of life satisfaction was included in the BBC Lab questionnaire, which was an average of 29% lower in former industrial centres.

    While researchers say there will be many factors behind the correlation between personality traits and historic industrialisation, they offer two likely ones: migration and socialisation (learned behaviour).

    The people migrating into industrial areas were often doing so to find employment in the hope of escaping poverty and distressing situations of rural depression — those experiencing high levels of ‘psychological adversity’.

    However, people that left these areas, often later on, were likely those with higher degrees of optimism and psychological resilience, say researchers.

    This “selective influx and outflow” may have concentrated so-called ‘negative’ personality traits in industrial areas — traits that can be passed down generations through combinations of experience and genetics.

    Migratory effects would have been exacerbated by the ‘socialisation’ of repetitive, dangerous and exhausting labour from childhood — reducing well-being and elevating stress — combined with harsh conditions of overcrowding and atrocious sanitation during the age of steam.

    The study’s authors argue their findings have important implications for today’s policymakers looking at public health interventions.

    “The decline of coal in areas dependent on such industries has caused persistent economic hardship — most prominently high unemployment. This is only likely to have contributed to the baseline of psychological adversity the Industrial Revolution imprinted on some populations,” says co-author Michael Stuetzer from Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University, Germany.

    “These regional personality levels may have a long history, reaching back to the foundations of our industrial world, so it seems safe to assume they will continue to shape the well-being, health, and economic trajectories of these regions.”

    The team note that, while they focused on the negative psychological imprint of coal, future research could examine possible long-term positive effects in these regions born of the same adversity — such as the solidarity and civic engagement witnessed in the labour movement.

    The top 10 UK regions near historical coalfields (0-25km distance) that rank highest in Neuroticism among coal regions (ranking in order with Blaenau Gwent having the highest scores in N among the coal regions).

    (UA = Unitary authority)

    Blaenau Gwent

    Hartlepool UA

    Merthyr Tydfil

    Stoke-on-Trent UA

    Newport

    Blackpool UA

    Rhondda Cynon Taf

    Powys

    Halton UA

    Derby UA

    The top 10 UK regions near historical coalfields (0-25 km distance) that rank lowest in Conscientiousness among coal regions (ranking in order with Merthyr Tydfil having the lowest scores in C among the coal regions).

    Merthyr Tydfil

    Ceredigion

    Gwynedd

    Bristol City UA

    Leicester UA

    Nottingham UA

    Blackpool UA

    Cardiff

    Blaenau Gwent

    Middlesbrough UA


  4. New method helps identify causal mechanisms in depression

    December 17, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Elsevier press release:

    People with major depressive disorder have alterations in the activity and connectivity of brain systems underlying reward and memory, according to a new study in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging. The findings provide clues as to which regions of the brain could be at the root of symptoms, such as reduced happiness and pleasure, in depression.

    As the first of its kind, the new study by Prof. Edmund Rolls, Prof. Jianfeng Feng, Dr. Wei Cheng, and colleagues at the University of Warwick, UK uses a new approach to measure the influence of one brain region on another, referred to as effective connectivity, in depression. The approach goes beyond the limitations of previous brain imaging studies, which show if — but not how — activity of different brain regions is related. “The new method allows the effect of one brain region on another to be measured in depression, in order to discover more about which brain systems make causal contributions to depression,” said Prof. Rolls.

    “This represents an exciting new methodological advance in the development of diagnostic biomarkers and the identification of critical brain circuitry for targeted interventions for major depression,” said Dr. Cameron Carter, Editor of Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging.

    Rolls and colleagues compared 336 people with major depressive disorder to 350 healthy controls. Brain regions involved in reward and subjective pleasure received less drive (or reduced effective connectivity) in patients, which may contribute to the decreased feeling of happiness in depression.

    In addition, brain regions involved in punishment and responses when a reward is not received had decreased effective connectivity and increased activity, providing evidence for the source of sadness that occurs in the disorder.

    Memory-related areas of the brain had increased activity and connectivity in people with depression, which the authors suggest may be related to heightened memory processing, possibly of unpleasant memories, in depression.

    “These findings are part of a concerted approach to better understand the brain mechanisms related to depression, and thereby to lead to new ways of understanding and treating depression,” said Prof. Rolls.


  5. Study suggests lack of sleep could cause mood disorders in teens

    December 14, 2017 by Ashley

    From the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology press release:

    Chronic sleep deprivation — which can involve staying up late, and waking up early for work or school — has become a way of life for both kids and adults, especially with the increasing use of phones and tablets late into the night. But this social jet lag poses some serious health and mental health risks: new research finds that for teenagers, even a short period of sleep restriction could, over the long-term, raise their risk for depression and addiction.

    University of Pittsburgh’s Peter Franzen and Erika Forbes invited 35 participants, aged 11.5-15 years, into a sleep lab for two nights. Half the participants slept for 10 hours, while the other half slept only four hours. A week later, they came back to the lab for another two nights and adopted the opposite sleep schedule from their initial visit.

    Each time they visited the lab, the participants underwent brain scans while playing a game that involved receiving monetary rewards of $10 and $1. At the end of each visit, the teens answered questions that measured their emotional functioning, as well as depression symptoms.

    The researchers found that sleep deprivation affected the putamen, an area of the brain that plays a role in goal-based movements and learning from rewards. When participants were sleep-deprived and the reward in the game they played was larger, the putamen was less responsive. In the rested condition, the brain region didn’t show any difference between high- and low-reward conditions.

    Franzen and Forbes also found connections between sleep restriction and mood: after a night of restricted sleep, the participants who experienced less activation in the putamen also reported more symptoms of depression. This is consistent with findings, from a large literature of studies on depression and reward circuitry, that depression is characterized by less activity in the brain’s reward system.

    The results suggest that sleep deprivation in the tween and teen years may interfere with how the brain processes rewards, which could disrupt mood and put a person at risk of depression, as well as risk-taking behavior and addiction.


  6. Researchers ‘dismantle’ mindfulness intervention to see how each component works

    December 13, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Brown University press release:

    As health interventions based on mindfulness have grown in popularity, some of the field’s leading researchers have become concerned that the evidence base for such practices is not yet robust enough. A new study shows how a rigorous approach to studying mindfulness-based interventions can help ensure that claims are backed by science.

    One problem is that mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) sometimes blend practices, which makes it difficult to measure how each of those practices affects participants. To address that issue, the researchers took a common intervention for mood disorders — mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) — and created a controlled study that isolated, or dismantled, its two main ingredients. Those include open monitoring (OM) –– noticing and acknowledging negative feelings without judgment or an emotional secondary reaction to them; and focused attention (FA) — maintaining focus on or shifting it toward a neutral sensation, such as breathing, to disengage from negative emotions or distractions.

    “It has long been hypothesized that focused attention practice improves attentional control while open-monitoring promotes emotional non-reactivity — two aspects of mindfulness thought to contribute its therapeutic effects,” said study lead and corresponding author Willoughby Britton, an assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior in the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. “However, because these two practices are almost always delivered in combination, it is difficult to assess their purported differential effects. By creating separate, validated, single-ingredient training programs for each practice, the current project provides researchers with a tool to test the individual contributions of each component and mechanism to clinical endpoints.”

    In the study, the researchers randomized more than 100 individuals with mild-to-severe depression, anxiety and stress to take one of three eight-week courses: one set of classes provided a standardized MBCT that incorporated the typical blend of OM and FA. The two other classes each provided an intervention that employed only OM or only FA. In every other respect — time spent in class, time practicing at home, instructor training and skill, participant characteristics, number of handouts — each class was comparable by design.

    At the beginning and end of the classes, the researchers asked the volunteers to answer a variety of standardized questionnaires, including scales that measure their self-reported ability to achieve some of the key skills each practice is assumed to improve. If the researchers saw significant differences between the FA group and the OM group on the skills each was supposed to affect, then there would be evidence that the practices uniquely improve those skills as intervention providers often claim.

    Sure enough, the different practices engaged different skills and mechanisms as predicted. The FA-only group, for example, reported much greater improvement in the ability to willfully shift or focus attention than the OM-only group (but not the MBCT group, which also received FA training). Meanwhile, the OM-only group was significantly more improved than the FA-only group (but not the MBCT group) in the skill of being non-reactive to negative thoughts.

    “If FA practice promotes attentional control, and OM practice promotes emotional non-reactivity, then end users can alter the amount of each practice to fit their individual needs for each skill,” Britton said. “The study created validated single-practice programs that can be used by other researchers or providers for specific populations or conditions. This is the first step to an evidence-based personalized medicine approach to mindfulness.”

    The Science of Behavior Change

    Along with co-author and epidemiology associate professor Eric Loucks, director of Brown University’s Mindfulness Center, Britton is part of the five-university Mindfulness Research Collaborative. The collaborative is one of eight teams in the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health’s Science of Behavior Change (SOBC) Research Network.

    The new research will appear in print inae February 2018 special issue of the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy titled “An experimental medicine approach to behavior change: The NIH Science Of Behavior Change (SOBC),” which takes a mechanism-focused approach to studying behavioral interventions.

    The Mindfulness Research Collaborative (MRC) consists of 11 mindfulness researchers across five universities, and is one of the eight teams in the SOBC Research Network who are working to advance a mechanism-focused approach to behavioral interventions. The collaborative’s SOBC project “Mindfulness Influences on Self-Regulation: Mental and Physical Health Implications” seeks to identify self-regulation intervention targets that are engaged by MBIs, as well as factors that influence target engagement. The current paper describes the “Dismantling Mindfulness” concurrent clinical trial.

    Britton said the SOBC approach can make mindfulness more effective for people who practice it.

    “Mindfulness research in general could benefit from employing the SOBC experimental medicine approach,” she said. “Little is known about how MBIs work or how they should be modified to maximize effectiveness. The SOBC experimental medicine approach will not only help MBIs become maximally effective, but also provide essential mechanistic information that will help tailor the intervention and instructor training to specific populations and conditions.”


  7. Study suggests surrogate decision makers experience psychological distress

    by Ashley

    From the Regenstrief Institute press release:

    Nearly half of the 13 million older adults hospitalized annually in the United States are unable to make their own medical decisions and rely on surrogates, usually close family members, to make decisions for them. However little is known about how these surrogates respond to the demands put upon them. A new study from the Indiana University Center for Aging Research and the Regenstrief Institute explores predictors and frequency of surrogate decision-maker distress and has found high levels of both anxiety and depression.

    The researchers report that provision of high levels of emotional support to surrogates during their family member’s hospitalization was associated with more effective decisions and lower surrogate anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress.

    While emotional support (such as, “hospital staff really listened to me when we talked”) was associated with decision quality, surprisingly provision of information (“I [surrogate] received as much detail about my loved one’s care as I needed”) was less important.

    The researchers note that their study provides a detailed look at the relationship between clinician communication and psychological well-being of the family member. While this observational study does not prove causation, it raises the question of whether improved emotional support of surrogates could lead to both better decisions for the patient and better psychological outcomes for the surrogate.

    “Family decision makers face emotional, ethical and communication challenges that differ from personal decision making. It is not enough to provide good information; family members also need emotional support when making difficult decisions,” said corresponding author Alexia Torke, MD, the IU Center for Aging Research associate director, Regenstrief Institute investigator and IU School of Medicine associate professor of medicine, who led the study.

    “As the population ages and more and more family members are thrust into the role of surrogate decision makers, appropriately supporting these family members will become a public health imperative,” she said. Dr. Torke is the associate division chief of general internal medicine and geriatrics at IU School of Medicine and is also affiliated with the IU Health Fairbanks Center for Medical Ethics and Daniel F. Evans Center for Spiritual and Religious Values in Healthcare.

    A total of 364 patient-surrogate pairs from three hospitals were enrolled in the study. The average patient age was 82. Six out of ten patients were female and nearly three out of ten were African-American. Surrogates’ average age was 58 and 71 percent were female. Two thirds of surrogates were the patient’s adult children; 17 percent were the patient’s spouse.

    As many as 15 percent of the surrogate decision makers were found to suffer from clinically high levels of anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress even six to eight weeks after the family member’s hospitalization. Some of the surrogate distress experienced during the acute illness resolved, but remained high for over 10 percent of surrogates. Surprisingly, anxiety and depression was not significantly higher for those making decisions for ICU patients than for other inpatients.

    “Even though high quality information is associated with overall satisfaction with the hospital stay, information without emotional support may be harmful to surrogates,” said Dr. Torke. “Improved emotional support could lead to both better decisions for the patient and better psychological outcomes for the surrogate. Physicians, nurses, chaplains and social workers can provide emotional support to family members. This study points to the fact that this support is very important.”


  8. Study examines which adolescents benefit most from sleep interventions

    December 3, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Wiley press release:

    In a recent study of adolescents, the benefits of cognitive-behavioral sleep interventions were greatest among individuals with higher levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms. The results, which are published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, were consistent across genders.

    “We know there is a strong link between emotional problems, like anxiety and depression, and sleep problems. In the past some researchers and clinicians have thought that these emotional problems might interfere with sleep improvement treatments, but our results with adolescents show that the opposite is the case,” said senior author Dr. Nicholas Allen, of the University of Oregon. “Those with higher levels of emotional problems were actually more likely to benefit from sleep interventions. This opens up new opportunities to use sleep improvement as a way to address mental health.”


  9. Study links teenage depression to father’s depression

    November 28, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University College London press release:

    Adolescents whose fathers have depressive symptoms are more likely to experience symptoms of depression themselves, finds a new study led by UCL researchers.

    While the link between mothers’ depression and depression in their children is well-established, the new Lancet Psychiatry study is the first to find an association between depression in fathers and their teenaged children, independent of whether the mother has depression, in a large sample in the general population. The effects of fathers’ and mothers’ depression on their children’s symptoms were similar in magnitude.

    “There’s a common misconception that mothers are more responsible for their children’s mental health, while fathers are less influential — we found that the link between parent and teen depression is not related to gender,” said the study’s lead author, Dr Gemma Lewis (UCL Psychiatry).

    “Family-focused interventions to prevent depression often focus more on mothers, but our findings suggest we should be just as focused on fathers,” she said.

    The researchers drew on two large longitudinal studies of children: Growing up in Ireland, and the Millennium Cohort Study in England and Wales, using data from 6070 and 7768 families from the two studies, respectively. Parental depressive symptoms were assessed using a questionnaire when the children were 9 and 7 years old in the two cohorts, and then adolescent depressive symptoms were assessed when the children were 13 and 14 years old. The study samples were population-based, meaning they included people who experienced symptoms of depression but had not sought treatment.

    After adjusting for confounding factors such as maternal depression, family income and parental alcohol use, the researchers found that for every 3-point (one standard deviation) increase on the Mood and Feelings Questionnaire (MFQ; a commonly-used measure of depressive symptoms) on the part of fathers, there was an associated 0.2-point increase in the adolescent’s MFQ score. The findings were replicated in both independent study samples.

    Incidence of depression increases markedly at the beginning of adolescence, so the researchers say that understanding the risk factors at that age can be key to preventing depression later in life.

    “Men are less likely to seek treatment for depression. If you’re a father who hasn’t sought treatment for your depression, it could have an impact on your child. We hope that our findings could encourage men who experience depressive symptoms to speak to their doctor about it,” said Dr Lewis.

    Previous studies have shown links between paternal depression and poor behavioural and emotional outcomes in their children, but no large study in the general population (as opposed to a clinical population) has looked at the link with adolescent depression while taking into account maternal depression as well.

    “The mental health of both parents should be a priority for preventing depression among adolescents. There has been far too much emphasis on mothers but fathers are important as well,” said the study’s senior author, Professor Glyn Lewis (UCL Psychiatry).


  10. Study looks at mental health risks of too much screen time

    November 24, 2017 by Ashley

    From the San Diego State University press release:

    Increased time spent in front of a screen — in the form of computers, cell phones and tablets — might have contributed to an uptick in symptoms of depression and suicide-related behaviors and thoughts in American young people, especially girls, according to a new study by San Diego State University professor of psychology Jean Twenge. The findings point to the need for parents to monitor how much time their children are spending in front of media screens.

    “These increases in mental health issues among teens are very alarming,” Twenge said. “Teens are telling us they are struggling, and we need to take that very seriously.”

    Twenge, along with SDSU graduate student Gabrielle Martin and colleagues Thomas Joiner and Megan Rogers at Florida State University, looked at questionnaire data from more than 500,000 U.S. teens found in two anonymous, nationally representative surveys that have been conducted since 1991. They also looked at data suicide statistics kept by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    They found that the suicide rate for girls aged 13-18 increased by 65 percent between 2010 and 2015, and the number of girls experiencing so-called suicide-related outcomes — feeling hopeless, thinking about suicide, planning for suicide or attempting suicide — rose by 12 percent. The number of teen girls reporting symptoms of severe depression increased by 58 percent.

    “When I first saw these sudden increases in mental health issues, I wasn’t sure what was causing them,” said Twenge, author of iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — And Completely Unprepared for Adulthood. “But these same surveys ask teens how they spend their leisure time, and between 2010 and 2015, teens increasingly spent more time with screens and less time on other activities. That was by far the largest change in their lives during this five-year period, and it’s not a good formula for mental health.”

    The researchers returned to the data and looked to see if there was a statistical correlation between screen-time and depressive symptoms and suicide-related outcomes. They found that 48 percent of teens who spent five or more hours per day on electronic devices reported at least one suicide-related outcome, compared to only 28 percent of those who spent less than an hour a day on devices. Depressive symptoms were more common in teens who spent a lot of time on their devices, as well.

    The findings fit with previous studies that have linked spending more time on social media to unhappiness.

    On the positive side, the researchers found that spending time away from screen and engaging in in-person social interaction, sports and exercise, doing homework, attending religious services, etc., was linked to having fewer depressive symptoms and suicide-related outcomes. The researchers reported their findings today in the journal Clinical Psychological Science.

    While economic struggles are generally thought to be linked to depression and suicide, the U.S. economy was improving between 2010 and 2015, so that is unlikely to be the primary driver of these increases, Twenge noted.

    “Although we can’t say for sure that the growing use of smartphones caused the increase in mental health issues, that was by far the biggest change in teens’ lives between 2010 and 2015,” she said.

    The good news? You don’t have to totally give up on electronic devices to lower your risk for depression and suicide-relayed outcomes. Twenge said that limiting screen-time to one or two hours per day would statistically fall into the safe zone for device usage.