May 23, 2014

Friday, May 23, 2014
According to researchers at Oxford University, mental illness has an effect on life expectancy that is equivalent or greater than smoking. A great deal of effort and spending has been invested into smoking cessation programs and smoking awareness campaigns. This new research should prompt the government, health care and social services to shift their focus in an effort to increase life expectancy for those living with mental illness.

Researchers reviewed 20 review papers from clinical studies that reported mortality risk among mental health problems, substance and alcohol abuse, dementia, autistic spectrum disorders, learning disability and childhood behavioral disorders. These studies included over 1.7 million individuals and over 250,000 deaths. They also used studies and reviews that reported life expectancy and risk of dying by suicide. All results were compared to data for heavy smoking.

According to their findings, “one in four people in the UK will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year” while smokers consist of roughly 21% of British men and 19% of women. 

They discovered that all diagnoses studied had an increased mortality risk similar or greater than heavy smoking. Some of the estimated reductions in life expectancy were found to be as follows:
  • Bipolar Disorder: 9 - 20 years
  • Schizophrenia: 10 – 20 years
  • Drug and Alcohol Abuse: 9 - 24 years
  • Recurrent Depression: 7 - 11 years
  • Heavy smoking: 8 - 10 years
Dr. Seena Fazel of the Department of Psychiatry at Oxford University said: "We found that many mental health diagnoses are associated with a drop in life expectancy as great as that associated with smoking 20 or more cigarettes a day."
Despite the fact that this study did not mention the prevalence of smoking among persons with mental illness, the results are still devastating.

There may be many reasons for this phenomenon. For example:
  • Psychiatric patients and those with drug and/or alcohol dependence can be more likely to engage in high-risk behaviours.
  • Physical health problems may not be taken seriously and treated properly due to the stigma attached to their mental illness.
  • Many mental illnesses can create physical health problems and/or worsen pre-existing ones.
  • People with serious mental illness may not access healthcare effectively.
  • The de-medicalization of mental illness may increase the likelihood that physical health problems go untreated or neglected.
Life expectancy may increase if only we could make mental health a priority as we have with smoking. In addition to funding and advancing research on mental illness, we should improve health and social services to ensure that persons with mental illness have better access to health care, suitable employment and supports in their community.

Many mental illnesses reduce life expectancy more than heavy smoking

© www.mentalhealthblog.com

January 24, 2014

Friday, January 24, 2014
Research suggests that you should put away your smartphone at the end of the work day in order to be more productive the following day.

Michigan State University business scholar, Russell Johnson and colleagues discovered that workers that tried to continue working on their smartphone past 9:00 p.m. were more worn out and less engaged during the following work day.
"Smartphones are almost perfectly designed to disrupt sleep," said Johnson, MSU assistant professor of management who acknowledges keeping his smartphone at his bedside at night. "Because they keep us mentally engaged late into the evening, they make it hard to detach from work so we can relax and fall asleep."
According to research, at least 50% of U.S. adults own a smartphone.  Many of them consider their phones to be critical workforce productivity tools; however the National Sleep Foundation indicates that only 40% of Americans get enough sleep on most nights.  Likewise, much of the self-reported data suggests that the lack of sleep can be attributed to smartphone usage for work. 

To study this phenomenon, researchers asked 82 upper-level managers to complete multiple surveys daily for two weeks.  They also surveyed 161 employees daily in a variety of occupations, such as nursing, manufacturing and dentistry etc.

All workers from all occupations indicated in their surveys that smartphone use for business purposes affected their sleep and drained their energy the following work day. The study also noted that smartphones more negatively impacted workers than watching television or using laptops and tablet computers.

“In addition to keeping people mentally engaged at night, smartphones emit "blue light" that seems to be the most disruptive of all colors of light. Blue light is known to hinder melatonin, a chemical in the body that promotes sleep.”

It seems that smartphone use late at night impacts the amount and quality of sleep we get, which affects our attention and abilities the following day.  That being said, this small study may be reason enough to turn that phone off after 9:00 p.m. to see how it might benefit us physiologically and psychologically.

Nighttime Smartphone Use Zaps Workers' Energy

© www.mentalhealthblog.com

January 2, 2014

Thursday, January 02, 2014
Scientists at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) have discovered that an absent father during critical growth periods can lead to social and behavioral impairments in adults. This is the first study of its kind to correlate paternal deprivation and social attributes with physical changes in the brain.
"Although we used mice, the findings are extremely relevant to humans," says senior author Dr. Gabriella Gobbi, a researcher of the Mental Illness and Addiction Axis at the RI-MUHC and an associate professor at the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University. "We used California mice which, like in some human populations, are monogamous and raise their offspring together."
Researchers were able to control the environment in which the mice were raised, including the factors among the different groups.  As a result, mice studies may be clearer than human studies claims Francis Bambico, a former student of Dr. Gobbi at McGill and now a post-doc at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto.

Researchers compared the social behaviour and brain structure of mice in different groups; those raised with both parents and those raised by their mothers. Findings show that mice raised by single mothers experienced abnormal social interactions and were more aggressive than those raised with both parents present. In addition, these findings were more prevalent among female mice.  Furthermore, females also experienced an increased sensitivity to amphetamine.
"The behavioral deficits we observed are consistent with human studies of children raised without a father," says Dr. Gobbi, who is also a psychiatrist at the MUHC. "These children have been shown to have an increased risk for deviant behavior and in particular, girls have been shown to be at risk for substance abuse. This suggests that these mice are a good model for understanding how these effects arise in humans."
Further studies may uncover a clearer reasoning for such findings.  Is it merely the presence of a male role model?  Could it be that two parents, regardless of gender, have more influence than one?  Could male mice be more sensitive to amphetamine if raised by fathers alone?  Many questions remain for future studies to uncover, however this research demonstrates that the role of the father and/or the presence of both parents during critical stages of growth appear to be relatively important in children's mental health development. 

Dads: How Important Are They? New Research Highlights Value of Fathers in Both Neurobiology and Behavior of Offspring

© www.mentalhealthblog.com

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I have an educational background is in Psychology and Sociology. In addition, I have worked with many diverse individuals of all ages, with varying degrees of mental and/or physical illness. I enjoy following current news and research that impacts my area of expertise.

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