When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, many families found themselves suddenly isolated together at home. A year later, new research has linked this period with a variety of large, detrimental effects on individuals’ and families’ well-being and functioning.
The study — led by Penn State researchers — found that in the first months of the pandemic, parents reported that their children were experiencing much higher levels of “internalizing” problems like depression and anxiety, and “externalizing” problems such as disruptive and aggressive behavior, than before the pandemic. Parents also reported that they themselves were experiencing much higher levels of depression and lower levels of coparenting quality with their partners.
Mark Feinberg, research professor of health and human development at Penn State, said the results — recently published in the journal Family Process — give insight into just how devastating periods of family and social stress can be for parents and children, and how important a good coparenting relationship can be for family well-being.
“Stress in general — whether daily hassles or acute, crisis-driven stress — typically leads to greater conflict and hostility in family relationships,” Feinberg said. “If parents can support each other in these situations, the evidence from past research indicates that they will be able to be more patient and more supportive with their children, rather than becoming more harsh and angry.”
It seems like 100 years ago that I took care of my aunt who was suffering form Alzheimer’s Disease. Going into her first afflicted winter, I recalled her having told me that she “always felt down” in the winter time. Not long before that, her physician had said to me that it would be no problem keeping her in her home if she didn’t become aggressive. As I wanted her to remain in her home, I started looking into Seasonal Affective Disorder.
During this time of long hours in our homes due to the pandemic, and with the onset of shorter, darker winter days, I thought it would be worthwhile to talk about SAD.
Here is what the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) says about SAD.
Many people go through short periods of time where they feel sad or not like their usual selves. Sometimes, these mood changes begin and end when the seasons change. People may start to feel “down” when the days get shorter in the fall and winter (also called “winter blues”) and begin to feel better in the spring, with longer daylight hours.
In some cases, these mood changes are more serious and can affect how a person feels, thinks, and handles daily activities. If you have noticed significant changes in your mood and behavior whenever the seasons change, you may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression.
In a study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, the team named social connection as the strongest protective factor for depression, and suggested that reducing sedentary activities such as TV watching and daytime napping could also help lower the risk of depression.Continue reading →
Older adults with depression may be at much higher risk of remaining depressed if they are experiencing persistent or worsening sleep problems, according to a study from researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The researchers, who published their findings online April 30 in the journal Sleep, analyzed data from almost 600 people over 60 years old who visited primary care centers in the Northeast U.S. All patients met clinical criteria for major or minor depression at the outset of the study. Continue reading →
Millions of Americans are being impacted by the psychological fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic aftermath, and large numbers may experience emotional distress and be at increased risk of developing psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety, according to a new article published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The Perspective article, co-authored by Carol North, M.D., a UT Southwestern crisis psychiatrist who has studied survivors of disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina, calls on already stretched health care providers to monitor the psychosocial needs of their patients as well as themselves and fellow health care workers during this time. Continue reading →
As far as I am concerned when it comes to the benefits to our body and brain from exercise, the hits just keep on coming. The University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions reports the following good news.
Summary: Researchers report, in animal models of addiction, daily aerobic exercise alters the mesolimbic dopamine pathway in the brain.
Daily aerobic exercise altered the mesolimbic dopamine pathway in the brain. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.
New research by the University has identified a key mechanism in how aerobic exercise can help impact the brain in ways that may support treatment — and even prevention strategies — for addiction.
Also known as “cardio,” aerobic exercise is brisk exercise that increases heart rate, breathing and circulation of oxygen through the blood, and is associated with decreasing many negative health issues, including diabetes, heart disease and arthritis. It also is linked to numerous mental health benefits, such as reducing stress, anxiety and depression.Continue reading →
Eating a diet that emphasizes vegetables, fruit and whole grains it may lead to a reduced risk of depression, according to a study by researchers at Rush University Medical Center.
Study author Dr. Laurel Cherian will present a preliminary study abstract with these conclusions during the American Academy of Neurology’s 70th Annual Meeting in Los Angeles from April 21 to 27, 2018.
Study participants who closely adhered to a diet similar to the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet were less likely to develop depression than people who did not closely follow the diet. The DASH diet recommends fruits and vegetables and fat-free or low-fat dairy products and limits foods that are high in saturated fats and sugar.
“Depression is common in older adults and more frequent in people with memory problems, vascular risk factors such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or people who have had a stroke,” said Cherian, a vascular neurologist and assistant professor in Rush’s Department of Neurological Sciences. “There is evidence linking healthy lifestyle changes to lower rates of depression and this study sought to examine the role that diet plays in preventing depression.”.”
The National Institutes of Aging-funded study evaluated a total of 964 participants of the Rush Memory and Aging Project with an average age of 81 annually for approximately six-and-a-half years. Each participant was monitored for symptoms of depression and filled out questionnaires about how often they ate various foods. The researchers examined how closely the participants’ reported diets adhered diets such as the DASH diet, Mediterranean diet and the traditional Western diet, which is high in saturated fats and red meats and low in fruits and vegetables.
The researchers categorized participants in three groups based on how closely they adhered to these diets. Those who were in the two groups that followed the DASH diet more closely were 11 percent less likely to develop depression than people in the group that did not follow the diet closely. Conversely, the researchers found that the more closely people followed a Western diet, the more likely they were to develop depression.
Cherian noted that the study does not prove that the DASH diet leads to a reduced risk of depression; it only shows an association.
For the record, this has nothing to do with losing weight, but everything to do with providing your body and your brain with proper nourishment. I especially liked the final segment which points out how your brain benefits from exercise.
I have written extensively about how important a good night’s sleep is to living a healthy life. Now, it seems there are potential psychological vulnerabilities, too. I will give the link at the end of post.
Sleeping less than the recommended eight hours a night is associated with intrusive, repetitive thoughts like those seen in anxiety or depression, according to new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.
Binghamton University Professor of Psychology Meredith Coles and former graduate student Jacob Nota assessed the timing and duration of sleep in individuals with moderate to high levels of repetitive negative thoughts (e.g., worry and rumination). The research participants were exposed to different pictures intended to trigger an emotional response, and researchers tracked their attention through their eye movements. The researchers discovered that regular sleep disruptions are associated with difficulty in shifting one’s attention away from negative information. This may mean that inadequate sleep is part of what makes negative intrusive thoughts stick around and interfere with people’s lives . Continue reading →
I would like to add a personal word here. When I first started taking care of my aunt with Alzheimer’s some years ago I was concerned about her handling winter. We had always been close and I remember that winter’s short and dark days got her down. The doctor had told me that she would be able to live at home if she didn’t become aggressive. I had no idea how to keep her mood up but I stumbled upon an article about these full spectrum lights that mimic the sun’s rays.
So, I thought I would get her a couple of these lamps to fool her body and brain away from dark thoughts and moods. Long story short: it worked. She was able to live out her life in her own house. By the way, this was the house she moved into when she married my uncle more than 60 years earlier.
Well with the forecast in mind, snow, wind, and all the things associated with it, I have to ask: Are you ready for winter?
The ten foot snow banks, the blizzards, the -38 C wind chills, the bad roads and everything else that I’d rather not even think about right now?
Hold on a second.
You might have assumed I was talking about the physical requirements to get through yet another Winnipeg winter, but I wasn’t. We all go through it every year right? Winter clothes are in good shape? Check. The furnace is in good working order? Check. Got the winter tires on? Check.
Sure all those things are necessary to get by in the six month Manitoba deep freeze, but what about mental preparation?
I never used to think about that very much because you just dealt with it, you handled it. You knew what to expect and…
Herewith more positive reinforcement for our mantra of eat less; move more; live longer. Neuroscience News reports that a landmark study led by the Black Dog Institute has revealed that regular exercise of any intensity can prevent future depression – and just one hour can help.
Published today in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the results show even small amounts of exercise can protect against depression, with mental health benefits seen regardless of age or gender.
Results showed that people who reported doing no exercise at all at baseline had a 44% increased chance of developing depression compared to those who were exercising one to two hours a week. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.
In the largest and most extensive study of its kind, the analysis involved 33,908 Norwegian adults who had their levels of exercise and symptoms of depression and anxiety monitored over 11 years.
The international research team found that 12 percent of cases of depression could have been prevented if participants undertook just one hour of physical activity each week.
“We’ve known for some time that exercise has a role to play in treating symptoms of depression, but this is the first time we have been able to quantify the preventative potential of physical activity in terms of reducing future levels of depression,” said lead author Associate Professor Samuel Harvey from Black Dog Institute and UNSW.
“These findings are exciting because they show that even relatively small amounts of exercise – from one hour per week – can deliver significant protection against depression.
“We are still trying to determine exactly why exercise can have this protective effect, but we believe it is from the combined impact of the various physical and social benefits of physical activity.
“These results highlight the great potential to integrate exercise into individual mental health plans and broader public health campaigns. If we can find ways to increase the population’s level of physical activity even by a small amount, then this is likely to bring substantial physical and mental health benefits.” Continue reading →
As a 77 year old, I am mostly confused by the social media. I have been on Facebook for years, because a friend of mine invited me to be his ‘friend.’ When I accepted, I found myself with an account. I use it mainly for posts from this blog. I do like Google Plus a lot. I hope you younger readers aren’t overdoing it and increasing your risks of depression.
Depression and anxiety risk much higher in some people using social media.
Using over seven different social media platforms is linked to a tripling in depression risk, psychological research finds.
The study asked about the 11 most popular social media platforms: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and LinkedIn.
Those who used between 7 and 11 of these, had 3.1 times the depression risk.
They also had 3.3 times the risk of having high levels of anxiety symptoms.
Professor Brian A. Primack, who led the study, said:
“This association is strong enough that clinicians could consider asking their patients with depression and anxiety about multiple platform use and counseling them that this use may be related to their symptoms. While we can’t tell from this study whether depressed and anxious people seek out multiple platforms or whether something about using multiple platforms can lead to…
As regular readers know, I am a dog lover . I have posted about my poodle, Gabi, a number of times. She accompanies me on about 5000 miles of bikes rides every year. So, I was very pleased to run across this item by Honor Whiteman on Medical News Today.
On arriving home after a long, stressful day at work, you are greeted at the door by an overexcited four-legged friend. It can’t fail to put a smile on your face. Pet ownership is undoubtedly one of the greatest pleasures in life, providing companionship and giggles galore. But the benefits do not end there; your pet could be doing wonders for your health and well-being.
My intrepid little partner, Gabi, in her basket wearing her hat ready to ride.
The United States is a nation of animal lovers; more than 65 percent of households own a pet, with dogs and cats being the most popular choice.
It is no surprise that so many of us have a pet in our lives; not only are animals fantastic company, but they also teach us compassion and offer unconditional love.
As British novelist George Eliot once said, “Animals are such agreeable friends – they ask no questions; they pass no criticisms.”
Adding to pets’ indisputable charm is the wealth of benefits they offer for human health and well-being. We take a closer look at what these are.
1. Lower risk of allergies
Around 50 million people in the U.S. have nasal allergies, and pet dander is one of the most common triggers.With this in mind, it may come as a surprise that pets could actually lower the risk of developing allergies.
One study reported by Medical News Today in 2015 associated exposure to dogs and farm animals in early life with a lower risk of asthma development by school age.
More recent research published in the journal Microbiome found that children who were exposed to household pets prior to birth and up to 3 months after experienced changes in gut bacteria associated with childhood allergies. Continue reading →
I have done a number of posts on depression – a mood disorder very common and often misunderstood. One of the first things you need to know about depression is that it is a disorder of cognition not just mood, according to Robert D. Edger, M.D. speaking before Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Healthy Transitions Program® . You don’t just buck up or keep smiling to get rid of it. You usually need a medical intervention. Statistics show that possibly 75 percent of sufferers do not get medical help.
Here are my pup and me riding in Chicago’s annual Bike the Drive up Lake Shore Drive. A bike is a super tool for fighting depression.
Here are a few suggestions from WebMD that at least offer some relief from depression. Needless to say, I was happy to see that, once more, exercise casts some light into the darkness of this situation. Click on the link to read them all. Continue reading →