Health and Fitness

For Depressed Workers, Stress On Job Lowers Productivity

A new study shines a light on depression in the workplace, suggesting that psychological stress at the office or wherever people earn their paychecks can make it more difficult for depressed workers to perform their jobs and be productive. "There is a large economic cost and a human cost, " said study lead author Debra Lerner, Ph.D., director, Program on Health, Work and Productivity, Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies at Tufts Medical Center. "We need to develop and test programs that directly try to address the employment of people with depression." The researchers screened 14, 268 adult employees and ultimately compared 286 depressed workers to 193 who were not depressed. They recruited participants between 2001 and 2003 from doctors' offices. The study findings appear in the January/February issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion. In many cases, the depressed employees had problems at work, Lerner said. "They're often very fatigued and have motivational issues.

Earlier Bedtimes May Help Protect Adolescents Against Depression And Suicidal Thoughts

A study in the Jan. 1 issue of the journal Sleep found that adolescents with bedtimes that were set earlier by parents were significantly less likely to suffer from depression and to think about committing suicide, suggesting that earlier bedtimes could have a protective effect by lengthening sleep duration and increasing the likelihood of getting enough sleep. Results show that adolescents with parental set bedtimes of midnight or later were 24 percent more likely to suffer from depression (odds ratio = 1.24) and 20 percent more likely to have suicidal ideation (OR=1.20) than adolescents with parental set bedtimes of 10 p.m. or earlier. This association was appreciably attenuated by self-reported sleep duration and the perception of getting enough sleep. Adolescents who reported that they usually sleep for five or fewer hours per night were 71 percent more likely to suffer from depression (OR=1.71) and 48 percent more likely to think about committing suicide (OR=1.48) than those who reported getting eight hours of nightly sleep.

What Is St. John's Wort? How Effective Is St. John's Wort?

St. John's wort, or Perforate St. John's wart, Tipton's Weed or Klamath weed, is a medication that comes from a flowering plant called Hypericum perforatum. For a long time it is believed to have medicinal qualities, especially for the treatment of depression. Recent studies appear to conclude more favorably than unfavorably regarding St. John's Wort's efficacy in treating depression. St. John's wort is also known as: Amber, Amber Touch-and-Heal, Demon Chaser, Fuga Daemonum, Goatweed, Hardhay, Hypereikon, Hyperici Herba, Klamath Weed, Millepertuis, Rosin Rose, Saynt Johannes Wort, and SJW. Studies from reputable research centers report that St. John's wort is more effective than a placebo and equally effective as tricyclic antidepressant drugs in the short-term (1 to 3 months) treatment of mild-to-moderate major depression. Experts continue to debate whether St. John's wort is as effective as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). Experts say that the active chemical in St.

Depression Saps Endurance Of The Brain's Reward Circuitry

A new study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggests that depressed patients are unable to sustain activity in brain areas related to positive emotion. The study challenges previous notions that individuals with depression show less brain activity in areas associated with positive emotion. Instead, the new data suggest similar initial levels of activity, but an inability to sustain them over time. The new work was reported online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "Anhedonia, the inability to experience pleasure in things normally rewarding, is a cardinal symptom of depression, " explains UW-Madison graduate student Aaron Heller, who led the project. "Scientists have generally thought that anhedonia is associated with a general reduction of activity in brain areas thought to be important for positive emotion and reward. In fact, we found that depressed patients showed normal levels of activity early on in the experiment. However, towards the end of the experiment, those levels of activity dropped off precipitously.

Queen's And Yale Researchers Win Award For Study That Links Health And Education

Queen's University researcher Steven Lehrer has won a prestigious international award in recognition of his contributions to health economics. A professor in Queen's School of Policy Studies and Department of Economics, Dr. Lehrer shares the RAND Corporation's Victor R. Fuchs Research Award with Jason Fletcher of Yale University. Their prize-winning paper, recently published in the journal Forum for Health Economics & Policy, examines the effects of adolescent health on educational outcomes. "Our study shows that poor mental health in children and teenagers has a large impact on the length of time they will stay in school, " says Dr. Lehrer. He notes a large number of school-based programs have recently been introduced to prevent childhood obesity through lifestyle changes, but suggests the net should be cast more widely. "It's important for policymakers to target health conditions that are not the easiest to identify - like inattention - but may have larger impacts on one's future.

Elderly Most At Risk For Major Depression Identified By Study

University of Rochester Medical Center researchers have pinpointed the prime factors identifying which elderly persons are at the highest risk for developing major depression. The researchers, led by Jeffrey M. Lyness, M.D., professor of Psychiatry at the Medical Center, reported their findings in an article in the December issue of The American Journal of Psychiatry. Preventive treatments for people in the high-risk group hold promise for providing the greatest health benefit at the lowest cost, the researchers concluded. "People with low-level depressive symptoms, who perceive that they have poor quality social support from other people, and with a past history of depression, were at particularly high risk to develop new major depression within the one-to-four year time period of the study, " Lyness said. "This is good news, as we in the field are just learning how to prevent depression in particular high-risk groups. Future work will be able to test whether any of a variety of treatments - perhaps psychotherapy, perhaps medication, perhaps other things such as exercise - will help to prevent depression in persons suffering from the risks we identified in this study.

Mood Dysfunction Improved In Gene Knockout Mice

Removing the PKCI/HINT1 gene from mice has an anti-depressant-like and anxiolytic-like effect. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Neuroscience applied a battery of behavioral tests to the PKCI/HINT1 knockout animals, concluding that the deleted gene may have an important role in mood regulation. Elisabeth Barbier and Jia Bei Wang, from the School of Pharmacy at the University of Maryland, USA, carried out the experiments to investigate the role of the gene in regulating mood function. Wang, the corresponding author of the paper, said, "The knockout mice displayed behaviors indicative of changes in mood function, such as increased perseverance and reduced anxiety in open spaces". The causes of mood dysfunction, as seen in depressive and bipolar disorders, are still not fully understood. They are believed to be multifactorial, involving heredity, changes in neurotransmitter levels, altered neuro-endocrine function, and psychosocial factors. Speaking about these results, Wang said, "Although we don't yet know why the deletion of the gene altered the mood status of the mice, what we have learned about the importance of this gene in mood function and its involvement in human mental disorders is interesting.

Depression Patients More Apt To Receive Opioids For Chronic Pain

Chronic pain patients with a history of depression are three times more likely to receive long-term prescriptions for opioid medications like Vicodin compared to pain patients who do not suffer from depression, according to new research. The study, published in the November-December issue of the journal General Hospital Psychiatry, analyzed the medical records of tens of thousands of patients enrolled in the Kaiser Permanente and Group Health plans between 1997 and 2005. Together, the insurers cover about 1 percent of the U.S. population. Long-term opioid use was defined as a patient receiving a prescription for 90 days or longer. "It's very widespread, " said Mark Sullivan, M.D., a study co-author and professor of psychiatry at the University of Washington. "It's a cause for concern because depressed patients are excluded from virtually all controlled trials of opioids as a high risk group [for addiction], so the database on which clinical practice rests doesn't include depressed patients.

Results Of 2009 Pfizer Index Show Unemployed Claim To Have Four Times Higher Rate Of Depression

The results of the 2009 Pfizer Health Index announced at the Royal College of Physicians Ireland reveal that the recently unemployed are four times more likely to claim to have depression than the general population. There is also evidence that the recession is leading to anxiety over money, is bad for self-esteem and is leading to relationship tension. The greatest impact of the recession is apparent among those between the ages of 25 and 50, who are parents and who live in urban areas. The Pfizer Health Index, now in its fourth year, details the findings of a nationally representative quantitative market research survey of the health and wellbeing of the Irish population. This year the study also looks at the impact of the recession on people's lives, with particular focus of those who had been recently unemployed. Roughly half of the adult population claim that they are finding it hard to make ends meet and similar numbers are shopping in cheaper retail outlets and socialising less.

Penn Collaboration Suggest Antidepressants May Change Personality, Leading To Reduced Depression

Examining data obtained from a University of Pennsylvania and Vanderbilt University psychology study, researchers at these universities and Northwestern University have reported the first placebo-controlled evidence that antidepressant medications - particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs - can substantially change patients' personalities. The personality changes also appeared to be linked to long-term improvements in mood. The findings counter the common assumption that personality changes during SSRI treatment occur only as a byproduct of alleviating depressive symptoms. In this study, the advantage of paroxetine over placebo in changing personality appears far more drastic than its advantage over placebo in alleviating depression. "Investigating how SSRIs affect personality characteristics like neuroticism and extraversion may thus lead toward a more refined understanding of the mechanisms of SSRIs, " said Robert DeRubeis, professor in the Department of Psychology in Penn's School of Arts and Sciences.

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