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‘Augmented Reality’ Experiences Can Influence Later Behavior

Thu, 05/23/2019 - 7:00am

As major technology firms ramp up production of augmented reality products, a new study from Stanford researchers assessed how the virtual experiences will affect people’s behavior – in the both the physical world and a digitally enhanced one.

In recent years, companies have focused on developing augmented reality goggles and other products, shifting away from their previous emphasis on virtual reality. While VR attempts to simulate a real-life environment and take the user out of the present setting, AR technology layers digital information atop the user’s physical surroundings.

Dr. Jeremy Bailenson, a professor of communication in the School of Humanities and Sciences, found that after people had an experience in augmented reality (AR) – simulated by wearing goggles that layer computer-generated content onto real-world environments – their interactions in their physical world changed as well, even with the AR device removed.

For example, people avoided sitting on a chair they had just seen a virtual person sit on.

Researchers also found that participants appeared to be influenced by the presence of a virtual person in a similar way they would be if a real person were next to them.

“We’ve discovered that using augmented reality technology can change where you walk, how you turn your head, how well you do on tasks, and how you connect socially with other physical people in the room,” said Bailenson.

Bailenson co-authored the PLOS ONE paper with graduate students Mark Roman Miller, Hanseul Jun and Fernanda Herrera.

Bailenson said today’s AR goggles can project a realistic, 3D version of an actual person in real time onto the physical surroundings of the goggles-wearer. This allows for groups of people across the world to make eye contact and communicate nonverbally in other nuanced ways – something that video conferencing struggles to achieve.

“AR could help the climate change crisis by allowing realistic virtual meetings, which would avoid the need for gas to commute or flying to meetings in person,” Bailenson said.

“And this research can help bring attention to the possible social consequences of AR use at a large scale, so the technology can be designed to avoid these issues before becoming ubiquitous.”

To examine how AR affected the way people behaved in social situations, researchers recruited 218 participants and conducted three studies. In the first two experiments, each participant interacted with a virtual avatar named Chris who would sit on a real chair in front of them.

The first study replicated a traditional psychology finding known as social inhibition. Just as people complete easy tasks with ease and struggle with more challenging ones when they have a person watching them in the real world, the same held true when an avatar was watching study participants in augmented reality, the researchers found.

Study participants completed easy anagrams faster but performed poorly on the complex ones when avatar Chris was visible in their AR field of vision.

Another study tested whether participants would follow accepted social cues when interacting with avatar Chris. This was measured by tracking whether participants would sit on the chair that avatar Chris previously sat on.

Researchers found that all participants who wore the AR headset sat on the empty chair next to Chris instead of sitting right on the avatar. Of those participants who were asked to take off the headset before choosing their seat, 72 percent still chose to sit in the empty chair next to where Chris sat previously.

“The fact that not a single one of the subjects with headsets took the seat where the avatar sat was a bit of a surprise,” Bailenson said.

“These results highlight how AR content integrates with your physical space, affecting the way you interact with it. The presence of AR content also appears to linger after the goggles are taken off.”

In the third study, researchers examined how AR affects the social connection between two people who are having a conversation while one of them wears an AR headset. Researchers found that those wearing AR goggles reported feeling less socially connected to their conversation partner.

Bailenson said that additional studies, which he and his team are now working on, are needed to further examine the effects of augmented reality.

“This paper scratches the surface of the social-psychological costs and benefits of AR use, but much research is needed to understand the effects of this technology as it scales,” the researchers wrote.

Source: Stanford University

Childhood Trauma Tied to Teen Violence, Depression

Thu, 05/23/2019 - 6:00am

Children from poor urban areas who are exposed to traumatic events such as physical and emotional neglect, violence, and sexual abuse are more likely to experience depression and violence in the teen years, according to a new worldwide study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The findings, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, also show that boys tend to face even greater exposure to violence and neglect, which makes them more likely to be violent in return.

“This is the first global study to investigate how a cluster of traumatic childhood experiences known as ACEs, or adverse childhood experiences, work together to cause specific health issues in early adolescence with terrible, lifelong consequences,” said Dr. Robert Blum, lead researcher for the Global Early Adolescent Study (GEAS), based in countries across five continents.

The researchers catalogued the ACEs suffered by 1,284 adolescents (ages 10 to 14) in 14 low-income urban settings around the world. They discovered remarkably common experiences with trauma, and very similar impacts, regardless of where the children lived: Vietnam, China, Bolivia, Egypt, India, Kenya, U.K. and the United States.

The study is the first to include an evaluation of how adversity impacts young children in multiple low- and middle-income countries, where the vast majority of the 1.8 billion 10- to 24-year-olds worldwide live; about a quarter of the global population.

Overall, the study found that 46 percent of young adolescents reported experiencing violence, 38 percent suffered emotional neglect and 29 percent experienced physical neglect. Boys were more likely to report physical neglect, sexual abuse and violence victimization.

Also, for both boys and girls, the more adversity they experienced, the more likely they were to engage in violent behaviors, such as bullying, threatening or hitting someone. But the effect of the adversity was more pronounced for boys than girls, with boys 11 times more likely to be engaged in violence, and girls four times more likely to be violent.

Also, the study found that, in general, the cumulative effect of their traumas tended to produce higher levels of depressive symptoms among girls than boys, while boys tended to show more external aggression than girls.

The study is part of the Global Early Adolescent Study, a major collaboration of the World Health Organization and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The project seeks to understand more about the development of gender stereotypes in early adolescence and their impact on adolescent health around the world.

And the new findings support a key conclusion from a major new report being presented at Women Deliver in Vancouver based on a global coalition of adolescent health experts: that the world will never achieve gender equality “by focusing on girls and women alone and excluding boys and men.”

That report, from the Bellagio Working Group on Gender Equality, reflects the assessment of 22 experts from 15 countries. Their analysis, Achieving Gender Equality by 2030: Putting Adolescents at the Center, finds that boys have as equal a part to play as girls in achieving the fifth of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal, which seeks to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” by 2030. The report warns that “we cannot achieve a gender equitable world by ignoring half of its occupants.”

Source: Burness

Managing Gut Bacteria May Help Relieve Anxiety

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 9:30pm

People who suffer from anxiety symptoms may find some relief by regulating their gut microorganisms through the use of both probiotic and non-probiotic food and supplements, according to a new review of studies published in the journal General Psychiatry.

Increasingly, research has shown that gut microbiota — the trillions of microorganisms in the gut which perform important functions in the immune system and metabolism by providing essential inflammatory mediators, nutrients and vitamins — can help regulate brain function through the “gut-brain axis.”

Recent research also suggests that mental disorders can be treated by regulating the intestinal microbiota, but some of this evidence has been conflicting. A research team from the Shanghai Mental Health Center at Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine in China conducted an analysis to determine if there is any solid evidence supporting the improvement of anxiety symptoms by regulating intestinal microbiota.

Intestinal microbiota can be altered through the use of probiotic supplements or other non-supplement ways like changing one’s diet. Probiotics are living organisms found naturally in some foods and are considered “good” or “friendly” bacteria, because they fight against harmful bacteria.

The researchers looked at 21 studies involving 1,503 people collectively. Of these, 14 studies had chosen probiotics as interventions to regulate intestinal microbiota (IRIFs), and seven chose non-probiotic ways, such as adjusting daily diets.

Importantly, the researchers found that the probiotic supplements used in seven of these studies contained only one kind of probiotic; two studies used a product that contained two kinds of probiotics; and the supplements used in the other five studies included at least three kinds.

In total, 11 of the 21 studies showed a positive effect on anxiety symptoms by regulating intestinal microbiota, meaning that more than half (52 percent) of the studies showed this approach to be effective, although some studies that had used this approach did not find it worked.

Of the 14 studies that had used probiotics as an intervention, more than a third (36 percent) found them to be effective in reducing anxiety symptoms, while six of the remaining seven studies that had used non-probiotics ways to regulate the gut found those to be effective — an 86% rate of effectiveness.

Some studies had used both the IRIF approach and treatment as usual. In the five studies that used treatment as usual and IRIF as interventions, only studies that had conducted non-probiotic ways got positive results, that showed a reduction in anxiety symptoms.

Non-probiotic interventions were also more effective in the studies that used IRIF alone. In those studies only using IRIF, 80 percent were effective when using non-probiotic interventions, while only 45 percent were found to be effective when using probiotic ways.

The authors say one reason that non-probiotic interventions were more effective than probiotic supplement interventions may be due to the fact that changing one’s diet (a diverse energy source) could have more of an impact on gut bacteria growth than introducing specific types of bacteria in a probiotic supplement.

In addition, since some studies had involved introducing different types of probiotics, these could have fought against each other to work effectively, and many of the intervention times used might have been too short to significantly increase the abundance of the imported bacteria.

“We find that more than half of the studies included showed it was positive to treat anxiety symptoms by regulation of intestinal microbiota,” write the researchers.

“There are two kinds of interventions (probiotic and non-probiotic interventions) to regulate intestinal microbiota, and it should be highlighted that the non-probiotic interventions were more effective than the probiotic interventions. More studies are needed to clarify this conclusion since we still cannot run meta-analysis so far.”

They also suggest that, in addition to the use of psychiatric drugs for treatment, “we can also consider regulating intestinal flora to alleviate anxiety symptoms.”

Source: BMJ


Rapid Change in Weight Linked to Higher Dementia Risk in Older Adults

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 7:00am

Older adults who experience significant weight gain or loss within a couple of years may be at greater risk of dementia, according to a new Korean study published in the journal BMJ Open.

Dementia is a critical public health issue considering our aging population and the increased life expectancy. In 2015, an estimated 46.8 million people were diagnosed with dementia. Meanwhile, the global prevalence of obesity, which is closely related to cardiometabolic diseases, has increased by more than 100 percent over the past four decades.

Previous research has shown a link between cardiometabolic risk factors (such as high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels) and dementia. However, the association between body mass index (BMI) in late-life and dementia risk remains unclear. To address this gap, a research team from the Republic of Korea set out to investigate the link between BMI changes over a two-year period and dementia in an elderly Korean population.

They evaluated 67,219 participants ages 60 to 79 years who underwent BMI measurement in 2002-2003 and 2004-2005 as part of the National Health Insurance Service-Health Screening Cohort in the country.

At the start of the study period, the participants’ BMI, socioeconomic status and cardiometabolic risk factors were established. The difference between BMI at the start of the study period and at the next health screening (2004-2005) was used to calculate the change in BMI.

After two years, the incidence of dementia was monitored for an average 5.3 years from 2008 to 2013. During the 5.3-year follow up, the numbers of men and women with dementia totaled 4,887 and 6,685, respectively.

The results show a significant association between late-life BMI changes and dementia in both sexes. Rapid weight change — a 10 percent or higher increase or decrease in BMI — over a two-year period was linked to a greater risk of dementia compared with a person with a stable BMI.

However, the BMI at the start of the period was not associated with dementia incidence in either sex, with the exception of low body weight in men.

After breaking down the figures based on BMI at the start of the study period, the researchers found a similar association between BMI change and dementia in the normal weight subgroup, but the pattern of this association varied in other BMI ranges.

Cardiometabolic risk factors including pre-existing hypertension, congestive heart failure, diabetes and high fasting blood sugar were significant risk factors for dementia.

In particular, participants with high fasting blood sugar had a 1.6-fold higher risk of developing dementia compared to those with normal or pre-high fasting blood sugar. Furthermore, unhealthy lifestyle habits such as smoking, frequent drinking and less physical activity in late life were also linked to dementia.

This is an observational study, so it cannot establish cause, and the researchers point to some limitations, including uncertainty around the accuracy of the definition of dementia and reliance on people’s self-reported lifestyle habits, which may not be accurate. However, the study involved a large amount of data and reported various modifiable risk factors of dementia in late life.

As such, the researchers conclude “Both weight gain and weight loss may be significant risk factors associated with dementia. This study revealed that severe weight gain, uncontrolled diabetes, smoking and less physical activity in late-life had a detrimental effect on dementia development.”

“Our results suggest that continuous weight control, disease management and the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle are beneficial in the prevention of dementia, even in later life.”

Source: BMJ


Poll: 1 in 3 Think Social Media Can Damage Mental Health

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 6:00am

A new poll released by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) suggests Americans generally believe social media has a more negative than positive influence on mental and emotional well-being.

The APA sponsored poll was conducted online from a nationally representative sample of 1,005 adults during the period April 4-7, 2019, and from similar polls of about 1,000 adults in March 2018 and April 2017.

Researchers discovered more than one in three adults (38 percent) see social media usage as harmful to mental health, whereas nearly half (45 percent) see social media usage as having both positive and negative impact on mental health. Only 5 percent see it as having a positive impact.

Experts explain that while social media can help connect people, it can also leave people feeling more isolated. When asked about the connection between social media and loneliness, more than two-thirds of adults (67 percent) agree social media usage is related to feelings of loneliness and social isolation.

Opinions on social media vary by generation and ethnicity. Millennials are more likely (73 percent) than baby boomers (62 percent) to agree with the connection between social media and loneliness.

African Americans (33 percent) are more likely than Caucasians (22 percent) or Hispanics (25 percent) to completely agree on this relationship between social media and loneliness.

Survey results revealed a stronger consensus on the effects of social medial among children and teens. Indeed, across ages, gender and ethnicities, people expressed concern about social media use among children and teens.

Nearly nine in ten adults (88 percent) think social media activity among kids/teens is concerning. The level of concern was also similar among people with children and those without children.

Positive use of social media to augment mental health was reported. About one in seven adults (14 percent) use a social media app to support their mental health. Not unexpectedly, younger adults are much more likely than older adults to do so.

Nearly a quarter of millennials (24 percent) say they use a social media app to support their mental health compared to only 3 percent of baby boomers.

Hispanic Americans (27 percent) and African Americans (17 percent) are more likely than Caucasians (9 percent) to say they use a social media app to support their mental health.

“These results reflect Americans concern with use of social media and its potential negative impacts,” said APA President Altha Stewart, M.D.

“While social media can have benefits and help keep us connected to friends and family, it’s important for adults, and for children and teens, to balance social media use with other activities and connecting with others in real life.”

Source: American Psychiatry Association

Regular Word and Number Puzzles Tied to Sharper Mind in Older Adults

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 7:00am

Older adults who regularly play word and number puzzles tend to have sharper brain function, according to new U.K. research published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

“We’ve found that the more regularly people engage with puzzles such as crosswords and Sudoku, the sharper their performance is across a range of tasks assessing memory, attention and reasoning,” said study leader Dr. Anne Corbett from the University of Exeter Medical School in England.

“The improvements are particularly clear in the speed and accuracy of their performance. In some areas the improvement was quite dramatic — on measures of problem-solving, people who regularly do these puzzles performed equivalent to an average of eight years younger compared to those who don’t.”

The researchers have presented previous findings on word puzzles at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in 2018. The new research, which involved more than 19,000 participants, builds on these findings and also reports the same effect in people who regularly complete number puzzles.

“We can’t say that playing these puzzles necessarily reduces the risk of dementia in later life but this research supports previous findings that indicate regular use of word and number puzzles helps keep our brains working better for longer,” said Corbett.

The study used participants in the PROTECT online platform run by the University of Exeter and Kings College London. Currently, more than 22,000 healthy people ages 50 and 96 are registered in the study, and the study is expanding into other countries including Hong Kong and the U.S. The online platform enables researchers to conduct and manage large-scale studies without the need for laboratory visits.

For the current experiment, the researchers asked PROTECT participants to report how frequently they engage in word and number puzzles and to complete a series of cognitive tests sensitive to measuring changes in brain function.

They discovered that the more regularly participants engaged with the puzzles, the better they performed on tasks assessing attention, reasoning and memory.

Based on these results, the researchers calculate that people who engage in word puzzles have brain function equivalent to 10 years younger than their age, on tests assessing grammatical reasoning and eight years younger than their age on tests measuring short term memory.

“PROTECT is proving to be one of the most exciting research initiatives of this decade, allowing us to understand more about how the brain ages and to conduct cutting-edge new studies into how we can reduce the risk of dementia in people across the U.K.,” said Dr. Clive Ballard, Professor of Age-Related Diseases at the University of Exeter Medical School.

“If you’re aged 50 or over, you could sign up to take part in research that will help us all maintain healthy brains as we age.”

Source: University of Exeter


Teens with ADHD Far More Likely to Engage in Risky Driving, Get Into Accidents

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 6:00am

A new large-scale study finds that teen drivers with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are significantly more likely to get into car accidents, be issued traffic and moving violations, and engage in risky driving behaviors, compared to their non-ADHD peers.

An estimated 6.1 million children ages 2 to 17 living in the U.S. have been diagnosed with ADHD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Many of these young people with ADHD are potential drivers, and safe transportation is a growing concern.

Evidence-based guidance to clinicians and families is urgently needed to protect these drivers, as well as others on the road.

“What this study suggests is that we have to go beyond current recommendations of medication and delaying the age of getting licensed to decrease crash risk for teens with ADHD,” said Allison E. Curry, PhD, MPH, lead author of the study and a Senior Scientist and Director of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s (CHOP).

“Their higher rate of citations suggest that risky driving behaviors may account for why they crash more. More research is needed to objectively measure if and how these behaviors specifically contribute to crash risk.”

For the study, a multidisciplinary team of researchers from CHOP’s Center for Injury Research and Prevention and the Center for Management of ADHD analyzed detailed crash and traffic violation records for newly licensed drivers. This included 14,936 adolescents who were patients at six CHOP primary care practices in New Jersey and had obtained an intermediate driver’s license between January 2004 and December 2014.

The researchers linked the teens’ electronic health data with New Jersey driver licensing records, traffic violations, and police-reported crash data. Within this group, they identified 1,769 adolescents with childhood-diagnosed ADHD who had received an intermediate driver’s license during the study period, and compared their crash outcomes with those of the drivers without ADHD.

Although crash risk is higher for all newly licensed drivers, the team found it is 62 percent higher for those with ADHD the first month after getting licensed, and 37 percent higher during the first four years after licensure, regardless of their age when licensed.

Drivers with ADHD also experienced higher rates of specific crash types, including driving with passengers, at-fault-, single vehicle-, injury- and alcohol-related crashes, the last risk being 109 percent higher than those without ADHD.

The rates of traffic and moving violations were also significantly higher among young drivers with ADHD: Nearly 37 percent were issued a traffic violation and almost 27 percent a moving violation within their first year of driving, compared to 25 percent and 18 percent respectively among their peers without ADHD.

Drivers with ADHD also had higher rates of alcohol or drug violations and moving violations (including speeding, nonuse of seat belts, and electronic equipment use). Their rate was 3.5 times that of young drivers without ADHD in the first year of driving and 1.5 times that of young drivers without ADHD in the first four years of driving.

Because these behaviors can be changed, the findings suggest that clinicians and families can work with this at-risk group of teens to practice safe driving behaviors and potentially reduce their crash risk.

“We need additional research to understand the specific mechanisms by which ADHD symptoms influence crash risk so that we can develop skills training and behavioral interventions to reduce the risk for newly licensed drivers with ADHD,” said Thomas J. Power, Ph.D., ABPP, study co-author and director of the Center for Management of ADHD at CHOP.

“There’s not enough research currently being conducted on older adolescents and young adults with ADHD, particularly studies focused on promoting safe driving behavior.”

The findings are published in the journal Pediatrics.

Source: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Mom’s Support When Dad Cares for Baby Key to How He Sees Their Relationship

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 7:26pm

How a new father feels about his changing relationship with his partner may depend in part on how much support he feels from her when he is caring for their baby, according to a new study published in the journal Family Process.

Researchers from Ohio State University found that a first-time dad tends to feel closer to the mother both as a co-parent and as a romantic partner when he believes he has her confidence when he is taking care of the baby.

“Fathers are more involved than they have ever been in parenting, but moms are still seen in our society as the expert caregivers,” said Anna Olsavsky, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in human sciences at The Ohio State University.

“So how mothers react to their partners’ parenting matters a lot. It affects how new dads feel about their whole family situation, including his relationship with his wife or partner.”

This study, which involved 182 relatively affluent, highly educated dual-earner couples, is one of a few to focus on the transition to parenthood from the perspective of fathers, said Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, study co-author and professor of psychology at Ohio State. “It’s still rare to examine the father’s view on family processes.”

The researchers used data from the New Parents Project, a long-term study co-led by Schoppe-Sullivan that is investigating how dual-earner couples adjust to becoming parents for the first time. The couples were assessed four times: when the mother was in her third trimester of pregnancy and when the baby was 3, 6 and 9 months old.

When the baby was 3 months old, fathers answered questions about what researchers call “maternal gatekeeping,” or how much the mother inhibits or welcomes the father’s involvement in child care.

Fathers reported how much they felt their partner “opened” or “closed” the gate on them when it came to interacting with the baby.

For example, each dad reported on gate-closing behaviors, such as how often his partner took over baby-related tasks because she thought he wasn’t doing them properly or how often she gave him irritated looks about his caretaking.

Examples of gate opening include encouraging the father to help bathe the baby or mom expressing her appreciation for his parenting help.

When the baby was 6 months old, the new dads were asked about their co-parenting closeness with their partner. For example, they rated how much they felt they were “growing and maturing together through experiences as parents.”

Finally, when the baby was 9 months old, the fathers rated how good they felt about their romantic relationship with their partner.

The findings reveal that whether the mother “opened” or “closed” the gate on the father had a significant impact on how he felt about their relationship as a couple.

“If mothers are critical and less supportive of their partners’ parenting, it could have ramifications for the whole family dynamic,” Schoppe-Sullivan said.

“Fathers may not only do less child care, they may have more negative views on their relationship with their wife or partner.”

But the flip side was also true: Gate opening had a positive effect on how the new dad viewed their relationship.

“There has been some work suggesting that gate opening may be viewed by fathers negatively as demands for them to be more involved in child rearing, but that’s not what we found,” Olsavsky said. “Gate opening was perceived positively by fathers. They felt it improved their relationship as a couple.”

The researchers emphasized that it is important for both new parents to support each other, but because of societal norms, fathers may need extra support.

“There is this underlying assumption that mothers are the experts when it comes to parenting. And they have more sources of support in society when it comes to how to be a good parent,” Olsavsky said. “But fathers don’t generally get that support from society. The only support they often get as parents is from their partner. That’s why it is so important.”

Source: Ohio State University

Some Concussion Patients Suffer from Persistent Fatigue, Poor Brain Function

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 7:00am

A recent Australian study sheds new light on the debilitating effects of persistent post-concussion symptoms (PCS) felt by approximately 10 percent of concussion patients. Lingering concussion symptoms often include significant levels of fatigue and poorer brain function, which can persist for months, or even years, following concussion.

For the study, concussion expert Professor Alan Pearce from La Trobe University in Melbourne used innovative brain technology to look into how we can better understand and diagnose PCS, and in turn, pursue better treatment options.

“Whether it’s a fall at home or tackle on the field, concussion can affect anyone. But it’s the persistent post-concussion symptoms, sometimes occurring weeks and sometimes months after the initial trauma, that are so often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed,” said Pearce.

“Mild traumatic brain injuries are the most common injury, and concussions account for 80 percent of those, so this is a big issue for Australia.”

“For the first time, we used two types of technology to measure signals sent to the brain and signals sent from the brain. From this, we could assess the brain’s functioning in a way that has never been done before.”

For example, this technology was able to identify specific brain mechanisms — increased cortical inhibition and altered central information processing — which may be tied to the high fatigue levels. These lingering symptoms, such as fatigue and slow reaction times, could not be detected in previous trials, which tested only cognition, and they cannot be seen in an MRI scan.

Pearce says the new findings give doctors another opportunity to diagnose these persisting symptoms of concussion. They also give people who might be suffering the symptoms long after the initial trauma a good reason to get seen by a medical professional.

The findings are published in the journal Neuroscience.

Source: La Trobe University

Study: Fast Walkers Tend to Live Longer

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 6:30am

Fast walkers tend to have a longer life expectancy than slower walkers, regardless of the person’s body weight or obesity status, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Leicester Biomedical Research Centre in the U.K.

The research, using data of 474,919 people from the UK Biobank, shows that people with a habitually fast walking pace have a long life expectancy across all levels of weight status, from underweight to morbidly obese. Underweight individuals with a slow walking pace had the lowest life expectancy (an average of 64.8 years for men, 72.4 years for women). The same pattern of results was found for waist circumference measurements.

“Our findings could help clarify the relative importance of physical fitness compared to body weight on life expectancy of individuals,” said Professor Tom Yates, professor of physical activity, sedentary behavior and health at the University of Leicester in England and a lead author of the study.

“In other words, the findings suggest that perhaps physical fitness is a better indicator of life expectancy than body mass index (BMI), and that encouraging the population to engage in brisk walking may add years to their lives.”

In another recent study, Yates and his team showed that middle-aged people who reported that they are slow walkers were at higher risk of heart-related disease compared to the general population.

That study, which also used data from the UK Biobank, showed that slow walkers were twice as likely to have a heart-related death as fast walkers, even when other risk factors such as smoking and body mass index were taken into account.

“Studies published so far have mainly shown the impact of body weight and physical fitness on mortality in terms of relative risk…” said Dr. Francesco Zaccardi, clinical epidemiologist at the Leicester Diabetes Centre and co-author of the study.

“However, it is not always easy to interpret a ‘relative risk,’” he said. “Reporting in terms of life expectancy, conversely, is easier to interpret and gives a better idea of the separate and joint importance of body mass index and physical fitness.”

The study is published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Source: National Institute for Health Research

Current Thinking Can Distort Memories of Love

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 6:30am

New research suggests as our memories fade, we rely on our current assessment of a person to remember how we felt about them in the past.

This extends to some of the most central figures in our lives — our parents.

“Memories of the love we felt in childhood towards our parents are among the most precious aspects of autobiographical memory we could think of,” said lead author Dr. Lawrence Patihis, researcher at the University of Southern Mississippi. “Yet our findings suggest that these memories of love are malleable, which is not something we would want to be true.”

“If you change your evaluation of someone, you will likely also change your memory of your emotions towards them and this is true of memory of love towards mothers in childhood,” he continued.

For the study’s first experiment, Patihis and coauthors Cristobal S. Cruz and Mario E. Herrera recruited 301 online participants. Some wrote about recent examples of their mother’s positive attributes, such as showing warmth, generosity, competence and giving good guidance. Others wrote about recent examples of their mother’s lack of these attributes. Participants in one comparison group wrote about a teacher and participants in another comparison group received no writing prompt at all.

The participants then completed a survey assessing how they currently thought about their mother’s attributes, including her warmth and generosity.

They then completed the Memory of Love Towards Parents Questionnaire (MLPQ), which contained 10 items designed to measure the love participants remembered feeling for their mother at different ages, the researchers reported. Questions included “During the whole year when you were in first grade, how often on average did you feel love toward your mother?” and “During the whole year when you were in first grade, how strong on average was your love toward your mother?”

The MLPQ also measured participants’ current feelings of love for their mothers, according to the researchers.

The participants completed the questionnaires again two weeks and four weeks after the initial session.

The results showed that the writing prompts influenced participants’ current feelings and their memories of love. Specifically, participants who were prompted to write about their mother’s positive attributes tended to recall stronger feelings of love for their mother in first, sixth, and ninth grade compared with participants who wrote about their mother’s lack of positive attributes.

These effects endured at the four-week follow-up for first grade memories, but not for memories of sixth grade or ninth grade, the study discovered.

Additional findings showed the effects of the writing prompts were not simply the result of changes in participants’ mood, according to the researchers.

A second experiment, with another 302 online participants, replicated these findings. Importantly, the participants did not differ in their current assessments of their mother before receiving the writing prompt, indicating that the effects of the writing prompts were not due to preexisting differences among participants, the researchers explained.

The findings also revealed that participants’ current feelings of love for their mothers, as measured at the start of the experiment, were misremembered eight weeks later following the experimental manipulation. The writing prompt effects had begun to fade by the time the researchers conducted an eight-week follow-up after the experiment.

The researchers plan to expand this research to explore whether the same effects emerge for other emotions and target individuals. They’re also exploring whether successes in life might similarly alter childhood memories of emotion. In addition, the researchers hope to discover whether these effects might influence later behavior.

“The significance of this research lies in the new knowledge that our current evaluations of people can be lowered if we choose to focus on the negative, and this can have a side effect: The diminishing of positive aspects of childhood memories,” Patihis said. “We wonder if wide-ranging reappraisals of parents, perhaps in life or in therapy, could lead to intergenerational heartache and estrangement. Understanding this subtle type of memory distortion is necessary if we want to prevent it.”

The study was published in Clinical Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Source: Association for Psychological Science

Link Established Between Insomnia and Memory Problems

Sun, 05/19/2019 - 7:00am

Chronic insomnia disorder, which affects approximately 10 percent of adults, has a direct negative impact on the cognitive function of people 45 and over, according to a new study.

Chronic insomnia, one of the most common sleep disorders, is characterized by trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at least three nights a week for over three months with an impact on daytime functioning, such as mood, attention and daytime concentration.

“A number of studies have shown links between insomnia and cognitive problems,” said  Dr. Thanh Dang-Vu, an associate professor at Concordia University and the university’s research chair in sleep, neuroimaging and cognitive health and a clinical associate professor in the Department of Neuroscience at Université de Montréal.

“However, many of these studies were conducted on a limited number of individuals suffering from insomnia, and the results are not always consistent from study to study.”

“Other studies do not distinguish between chronic insomnia disorder and the simple presence of symptoms,” he continued. “Chronic insomnia is often associated with other health issues, such as anxiety or chronic pain, that can also affect cognitive function, which makes it difficult to determine the direct contribution of insomnia to these cognitive problems.”

According to Dang-Vu, the purpose of the study was to determine the precise link between chronic insomnia and cognitive function, while also accounting for the possible effect of other health issues.

The analysis examined data from 28,485 participants aged 45 from Canada. Each participant belonged to one of three groups:

  1. people with chronic insomnia disorder;
  2. people with symptoms of insomnia who did not complain of any impact on their daytime functioning, and;
  3. people with normal sleep quality.

They all filled out questionnaires and underwent physical exams and a battery of neuropsychological tests to evaluate different cognitive functions and the quality of their sleep, the researcher explained.

“The individuals in the chronic insomnia group performed significantly worse on the tests compared to those from the other two groups,” he reported. “The main type of memory affected was declarative memory — the memory of items and events. This was the case even after accounting for other factors, be they clinical, demographic or lifestyle characteristics, which may influence cognitive performance.”

Further research will aim to better characterize this relationship between poor sleep and cognitive problems, he noted.

“Does chronic insomnia predispose people to cognitive decline? Can these cognitive deficits be reversed with sleep disorder treatment? There are many important questions that remain to be explored and that will have a major impact on the prevention and treatment of age-related cognitive disorders,” he concluded.

Source: Concordia University

Photo: Researcher Thanh Dang-Vu, Ph.D., of Concordia University and Université de Montréal. Credit: Concordia University.

Schizophrenia, Epilepsy May Hike Risk of Early Death

Sun, 05/19/2019 - 7:00am

Patients with both schizophrenia and epilepsy are particularly vulnerable to early death, according to a new Danish study from Aarhus University. The findings reveal that more than 25 percent of people with both conditions die between the ages of 25 and 50.

Previous research has shown a clear link between epilepsy and mental disorders, including depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and psychosis. For example, one study revealed that people with epilepsy are more than two-and-a-half times more likely to develop schizophrenia.

For the new study, published in the journal Epilepsia, researchers followed more than 1.5 million people born in Denmark between 1960-1987 and classified them according to whether they were diagnosed with epilepsy, schizophrenia or a combination of epilepsy and schizophrenia on their 25th birthday.

Among the study subjects, 18,943 were diagnosed with epilepsy, 10,208 were diagnosed with schizophrenia, and 471 were diagnosed with both epilepsy and schizophrenia before they turned twenty-five.

The mortality rate for these subjects at age fifty was 3.1 percent for people who did not suffer from epilepsy and schizophrenia; 10.7 percent for people with epilepsy; 17.4 percent for people with schizophrenia; and 27.2 percent for people with both epilepsy and schizophrenia.

“There was an exceedingly high mortality rate among people with these disorders, particularly those who suffer from the combination of epilepsy and schizophrenia. More than 25 percent of them die between the ages of 25-50,” said researcher Dr. Jakob Christensen, a clinical associate professor and DMSc at the Department of Clinical Medicine at Aarhus University and consultant at the Department of Neurology at Aarhus University Hospital.

The researchers hope to see the new findings raise awareness about the difficulties of living with both epilepsy and schizophrenia.

“The results are really intended to help healthcare professionals develop new working processes so that this group of patients can get the right treatment. We already know from previous studies that this group of patients die from a wide range of lifestyle diseases, and that some of these are preventable,” said Christensen.

“With the way things are now, this patient group can easily fall between two chairs and end up being sent back and forth between different medical specialists or between hospitals and their general practitioner.”

“It appears that people with epilepsy and schizophrenia are particularly vulnerable — and there is certainly room for improvement in the way the health care system deals with them and their treatment.”

Christensen is also a member of the national psychiatric project iPSYCH and the epilepsy project EpiPsych which carries out research into the correlation between epilepsy and mental disorders.

Source: Aarhus University


Cyberbullying Linked to Poor Sleep, Depression in Teens

Sat, 05/18/2019 - 9:46am

Teens who experience cyberbullying are more likely to suffer from poor sleep, which in turn raises levels of depression, according to a new study.

For the study, researchers at the University at Buffalo surveyed more than 800 adolescents for sleep quality, cyber aggression, and depression.

“Cyber-victimization on the Internet and social media is a unique form of peer victimization and an emerging mental health concern among teens who are digital natives,” said Misol Kwon, a doctoral student in the university’s School of Nursing.

“Understanding these associations supports the need to provide sleep hygiene education and risk prevention and interventions to mistreated kids who show signs and symptoms of depression.”

Nearly one-third of teens have experienced symptoms of depression, which, in addition to changes in sleep pattern, include persistent irritability, anger, and social withdrawal, according to the U.S. Office of Adolescent Health.

And nearly 15 percent of U.S. high school students report being bullied electronically, according to Kwon. At severe levels, depression may lead to disrupted school performance, harmed relationships, or suicide.

The risks of allowing depression to worsen highlight the need for researchers and clinicians to understand and target sleep quality and other risk factors that have the potential to exacerbate the disorder, Kwon concluded.

Kwon will present the research at SLEEP 2019, the 33rd annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in San Antonio, Texas, from June 8-12.

Source: University at Buffalo

Mindfulness App Helps to Stop Smoking by Changing Brain Activity

Sat, 05/18/2019 - 7:00am

Emerging research suggests a smartphone app that helps people stop smoking reduces activity in a brain region typically stimulated when a person experiences a craving to smoke. The app uses a mindfulness-based approach and was effective at reducing study participants’ self-reported daily cigarette consumption.

Researchers found that those who reduced their cigarette consumption the most also showed decreased brain reactivity to smoking-related images.

In the study, Dr. Jud Brewer, an associate professor of behavioral and social sciences and psychiatry at Brown University, and his team conducted a randomized controlled trial that compared smoking-cessation apps.

For four weeks, one group of 33 participants used a mindfulness-based app, while another group of 34 participants used a free smoking-cessation app from the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

“This is the first study to show that mindfulness training could specifically affect a mechanism in the brain and to show that changes in this brain mechanism were connected to improved clinical outcomes,” said Brewer.

“We’re moving in the direction of being able to screen someone before treatment and offer them the behavior-change interventions that will be most likely to help them. This will save everybody time and money.”

The findings appear in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

The mindfulness app includes daily videos and activities to help users identify their smoking triggers, become more aware of cravings and learn mindfulness methods to ride out the cravings. In contrast, the NCI app helps users track smoking triggers, provides inspirational messages and delivers distractions to help users deal with cravings.

The research team found that participants who used the mindfulness app for a month reduced their self-reported daily cigarette consumption by a wide range, with an average drop of 11 cigarettes per day.

The NCI app users also reduced cigarette consumption by a wide range, with an average decrease of nine per day. Some participants in both groups reported smoking no cigarettes by the end of the month.

Participants in both groups completed an average of 16 out of 22 stand-alone modules of the app. Participants in the mindfulness group who completed more modules were likely to have a greater reduction in their cigarette consumption; this correlation was not found for the NCI group.

Participants in the mindfulness group were also significantly more likely to say that they would recommend the app to a friend than participants in the NCI group.

As a part of the study, the researchers conducted functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans of the participants as they looked at smoking-associated images or other images not associated with smoking. These scans were conducted before and after participants used one of the two apps. This procedure helped researchers determine how the mindfulness app worked in the brain.

Specifically, the researchers looked at the changes in brain activity in the posterior cingulate cortex, a ping-pong-ball-sized brain region known to be activated when someone gets caught up in craving cigarettes, cocaine or even chocolate, Brewer said.

The posterior cingulate cortex has also been shown to be deactivated by meditation, so Brewer hypothesized that this region would play a critical role in how mindfulness-based interventions — app-based or otherwise — affect the brain and change behaviors.

When the researchers directly compared the changes in brain reactivity in the target region between the two groups before and after they used the apps, they found no statistical differences.

However, when they looked at the individual level and compared the reduction in cigarettes smoked to the changes in brain reactivity, they found that the participants in the mindfulness group who had the greatest reduction in number of cigarettes per day also showed a significant reduction in brain reactivity to smoking images.

They saw no correlation between number of cigarettes smoked and brain reactivity for the participants who used the NCI app. They also noted that the correlation between number of cigarettes smoked and brain reactivity was particularly significant for women in the mindfulness group.

Therefore, investigators concluded that for some participants — those for whom the app was most effective — the training helped decrease brain reactivity to smoking urges.

Surprisingly, 13 percent of participants were non-reactive to smoking images before they used either app, a phenomenon not encountered in previous scientific literature, Brewer said.

Other participants became more reactive to smoking images after they used either app; this has been seen before in people who craved cigarettes more while trying to quit, he added.

Source: Brown University

Teens’ Sleep Problems Can Be Corrected by Limiting Screen Use for 1 Week

Sat, 05/18/2019 - 6:30am

Sleep problems in teenagers can be improved in just one week by limiting their evening exposure to blue light-emitting screens on phones, tablets, and computers, according to new research.

Recent studies have indicated that exposure to too much evening light, particularly the blue light emitted from screens on smartphones, tablets, and computers, can affect the brain’s circadian clock and the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, resulting in disrupted sleep time and quality.

The lack of sleep doesn’t just cause immediate symptoms of tiredness and poor concentration, but can also increase the risk of more serious long-term health issues such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Other studies have suggested that sleep deprivation related to screen time may affect children and adolescents more than adults. But no studies have fully investigated how real-life exposure is affecting sleep in adolescents at home and whether it can be reversed, according to researchers at the Netherlands Institute of Neuroscience, the Amsterdam UMC and the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment.

For their study, the researchers investigated the effects of blue light exposure on adolescents at home.

They found that those who had more than four hours a day of screen time had, on average, 30 minutes later sleep onset and wake up times than those who recorded less than one hour a day of screen time.

The researchers then conducted a randomized controlled trial to assess the effects of blocking blue light with glasses and no screen time during the evening on the sleep pattern of 25 frequent screen users.

Both blocking blue light with glasses and screen abstinence resulted in sleep onset and wake up times occurring 20 minutes earlier, and a reduction in reported symptoms of sleep loss in participants, after just one week, the researchers reported.

“Adolescents increasingly spend more time on devices with screens and sleep complaints are frequent in this age group,” said Dr. Dirk Jan Stenvers from the department of Endocrinology and Metabolism of the Amsterdam UMC.

“Here we show very simply that these sleep complaints can be easily reversed by minimizing evening screen use or exposure to blue light. Based on our data, it is likely that adolescent sleep complaints and delayed sleep onset are at least partly mediated by blue light from screens.”

Stenvers said that the researchers are now interested in whether the relationship between reduced screen time and improved sleep has longer lasting effects, and whether the same effects can be detected in adults.

“Sleep disturbances start with minor symptoms of tiredness and poor concentration, but in the long-term we know that sleep loss is associated with increased risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease,” he said.

“If we can introduce simple measures now to tackle this issue, we can avoid greater health problems in years to come.”

Source: European Society of Endocrinology

Genes May Play Role in Whether You Have A Dog

Sat, 05/18/2019 - 6:00am

An individual’s genetic makeup may significantly influence his or her choice to own a dog, according to a team of Swedish and British researchers who studied the data of 35,035 twin pairs from the Swedish Twin Registry.

The findings are published in the journal Scientific Reports.

“We were surprised to see that a person’s genetic makeup appears to be a significant influence in whether they own a dog,” said Dr. Tove Fall, lead author of the study, and professor in molecular epidemiology at the Department of Medical Sciences and the Science for Life Laboratory, Uppsala University in Sweden.

“As such, these findings have major implications in several different fields related to understanding dog-human interaction throughout history and in modern times. Although dogs and other pets are common household members across the globe, little is known how they impact our daily life and health. Perhaps some people have a higher innate propensity to care for a pet than others.”

Studying twins is a well-known method for unraveling the influences of environment and genes on our biology and behavior. Since identical twins share their entire genome, and non-identical twins on average share only half of the genetic variation, comparisons of dog ownership between groups can reveal whether genetics play a role in owning a dog.

The researchers found dog ownership rates to be much larger in identical twins than in non-identical ones; supporting the view that genetics indeed plays a major role in the choice of owning a dog.

“These kind of twin studies cannot tell us exactly which genes are involved, but at least demonstrate for the first time that genetics and environment play about equal roles in determining dog ownership,” said Dr. Patrik Magnusson, senior author of the study and associate professor in epidemiology at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Karolinska Insitutet in Sweden. He is also head of the Swedish Twin Registry.

“The next obvious step is to try to identify which genetic variants affect this choice and how they relate to personality traits and other factors such as allergy.”

Dogs were the first domesticated animal and have had a close relationship with humans for at least 15,000 years. Today, dogs are extremely popular pets in our society and are considered to increase the well-being and health of their owners.

“These findings are important as they suggest that supposed health benefits of owning a dog reported in some studies may be partly explained by different genetics of the people studied,” said co-author Dr. Carri Westgarth, lecturer in Human-Animal interaction at the University of Liverpool in England.

Source: Uppsala University

Optimism, Self-Compassion, Income Tied to Better Mental Health in Older Adults

Fri, 05/17/2019 - 7:30am

Getting older is widely linked to declining cognitive, physical and psychological health. In a new study, researchers looked at how distinct factors such as wisdom, loneliness, income and sleep quality impact — for good or bad — the physical and mental functioning of older adults.

The research team from the University of California (UC) San Diego School of Medicine evaluated older adults living independently in a senior continuing care facility and found that physical health correlated with both cognitive function and mental health.

Specifically, cognitive function was significantly tied to physical mobility, wisdom and satisfaction with life. Physical health was linked to mental well-being, resilience and younger age. Mental health was linked to optimism, self-compassion, income and lower levels of loneliness and sleep disturbances.

The findings are published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

“Continuing care senior housing communities are important sites for studying and promoting health in older adults,” said Dilip Jeste, MD, principal investigator of the study, Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at UC San Diego School of Medicine and director of the UC San Diego Center for Healthy Aging,

“Most people focus on diseases and risk factors, like old age, unhealthy diet and lack of activity. These are important, of course, but we also need to focus on areas that make up the whole person.”

“Psychological traits like optimism, resilience, wisdom and self-compassion were found to be protective, while loneliness seemed to be a risk factor. An 85-year-old can be functioning better than a 65-year-old due to protective and risk factors.”

In modern society, said co-author Danielle Glorioso, LCSW, executive director of the UC San Diego Center for Healthy Aging, older people do not necessarily receive the support of younger family members who can serve as caregivers.

“Younger family members have jobs and children to take care of,” said Glorioso, “so older adults often have to choose between staying at home and feeling lonely versus moving to a more supportive and socially engaging senior housing system. This becomes an important but complex decision impacted by a large number of factors, including financial cost of the senior housing.”

A popular model of supported senior housing provides a continuum of care, from independent living to assisted living to full-time care for significant physical and cognitive impairment. For the majority of continuing care senior housing facilities, costs increase as residents transition to greater levels of assisted-living.

“Delaying these transitions through facilitating longer independent living should be an important health care goal,” said Jeste. “Our findings shed light on areas that need to be a focus for seniors to live full, enriched lives.”

The study involved 112 residents, with a mean age of 84. In total, 68 percent were female; 69 percent possessed a college education; 41 percent were married; and 72 percent reported total annual incomes exceeding $50,000.

Jeste said more research involving diverse samples of older adults is necessary to determine if psychosocial and other variables are potential risks or protective factors related to cognitive, physical and mental health and diseases.

“The eventual goal would be to develop new health-focused interventions based on such research. Senior centers in the community should incorporate activities that address physical, social and mental aspects. We can all do something to improve and strengthen the quality of life of our aging population.”

Source: University of California- San Diego

Genetic Hotspot May Drive Psychosis in Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder

Fri, 05/17/2019 - 6:29am

Scientists have identified an epigenetic hotspot which they believe is linked to the dopamine-induced psychosis found in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, may give researchers a fresh path forward for developing more effective treatments and biomarker-based screening strategies.

More than 100 million people worldwide have either schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, which are characterized by periods of hallucinations, delusions and irregular thought processes. They are both linked to an overproduction of the neurotransmitter dopamine, a key regulator of reward-seeking behavior, emotional responses, learning and movement, among other functions.

“We’ve known since the 1970s that the effectiveness of antipsychotic medications is directly related to their ability to block dopamine signaling. However, the exact mechanism that sparks excessive dopamine in the brain and that leads to psychotic symptoms has been unclear,” said Viviane Labrie, PhD, assistant professor at Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) and corresponding author of the study.

“We now have a biological explanation that could help make a real difference for people with these disorders.”

The research team discovered a cluster of epigenetic marks that pumps up dopamine production while simultaneously scrambling the brain’s synapses, the information hubs that transmit rapid-fire neural messages responsible for healthy function. The result is a catastrophic shake-up of the brain’s organization and chemical balance that fuels symptoms of psychosis.

“What we’re seeing is a one-two punch — the brain is being flooded with too much dopamine and at the same time it is losing these critical neural connections,” Labrie said.

“Like many other neurological disorders, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder often have early, or prodromal, phases that begin years before obvious symptoms. It is our hope that our findings may lead to new biomarkers to screen for risk, which would then allow for earlier intervention.”

For the study, the researchers analyzed DNA derived from brain cells of individuals with either schizophrenia or bipolar disorder and compared them to healthy controls. Their analyses revealed a cluster of epigenetic marks in an enhancer at a gene called IGF2, a critical regulator of synaptic development.

Enhancers are stretches of DNA that help activate genes and can be major players in the development of diseases in the brain and other tissues.

This enhancer also controls the activity of a nearby gene called tyrosine hydroxylase, which produces an enzyme that keeps dopamine in check. When the enhancer is epigenetically switched on, production of dopamine becomes dysregulated, resulting in too much of the chemical in the brain.

Any molecular changes at this site may explain why psychosis brought on by dopamine frequently is accompanied by a disruption of brain synapses, a devastating double-hit that promotes symptoms.

The study controlled for genetic factors, sex, ethnicity, treatment history and lifestyle influences such as smoking, and the results were validated in experimental models of the disease.

“We used cutting-edge computational strategies to understand the events occurring in brain cells that underlie psychiatric disorders,” said Shraddha Pai, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at University of Toronto and the study’s first author. “Our results were strengthened by additional studies in disease models. This comprehensive approach lends weight to our findings, which we believe will propel additional groundbreaking investigations into this enhancer at the IGF2 gene.”

Source: Van Andel Research Institute

Mental Well-Being in Early Midlife May Predict Activity Levels a Decade Later

Fri, 05/17/2019 - 6:00am

A new Finnish study finds that 42-year-olds who scored high in tests of mental well-being were more physically active at age 50 compared to those with lower well-being scores.

For the study, the researchers divided mental well-being into three dimensions: emotional well-being (overall satisfaction with life and a tendency to have positive feelings); psychological well-being (experiences of personal growth and the purpose of life); and social well-being (relationships with other people and the community).

The researchers were surprised that leisure time physical activity (LTPA) did not predict later mental well-being or subjective health, but that mental well-being did predict physical activity.

It seems that mental well-being is an important resource for maintaining a physically active lifestyle in midlife, says Dr. Tiia Kekäläinen from the Gerontology Research Center and Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland.

In addition, the researchers found that different leisure time physical activities were linked to different dimensions of well-being in 50-year-olds. Walking was related to emotional well-being, rambling in nature to social well-being and endurance training to subjective health.

“Although exercise did not predict later mental well-being or subjective health in this study, exercise is important for current mental well-being and health,” Kekäläinen says.

These associations were found among both men and women, but additionally, rambling in nature was associated with both emotional well-being and subjective health, but only among men.

“It is possible that rambling in nature means different things for men and women. For example, it correlated with the frequency of vigorous exercise only among men,” Kekäläinen says.

In today’s world, where most jobs are sedentary, leisure time physical activity — as opposed to sedentary leisure time — plays a key role in the recuperation of both body and mind, say the authors. Leisure time physical activities may include anything from walking and rambling in nature to bike riding, swimming and skiing.

The findings are published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life.

Source: University of Jyväskylä