Girls more depressed & you can blame social media

stick_figure_liking_it_500_wht_9170On the face of it today’s young people have never had it so good. Teenage pregnancies are down, fewer of them smoke and they drink less than previous generations.

So what have they got to be depressed about?

Well they spend an awful lot of time on social media, posting selfies, seeking approval from others. “Like me, like me” they seem to beg.

It’s a recipe for disaster and means they are continually comparing themselves with others. And it’s all artificial.

They spend hours making themselves up for selfies. I’ve taken loads of photographs at parties and invariably the women want to check the photos to make sure they’re OK.

Whether its posting selfies or posting posed photos on Facebook using cats, cuddly toys and even their babies as accessories, it’s all about wanting approval. Over half of teenagers are said to spend more than three hours a day on social media. (I’ve posted before about my views on Facebook)

And this is the most risk-averse generation we’ve seen for ages and maybe that’s part of the problem. No-one dares misbehave any more in case it gets on social media (as it will) and is then held against them later in life e.g. at job interviews.

It’s been said that young people work harder at schools. I don’t believe that for one minute. Exams are easier, course work is often group work and there has been such grade inflation over the years (at all levels in the education system) that you can’t rely on the grading system.

Nonetheless there has been a 10% increase in girls being treated for depression and a 50% increase in self-harming. For boys there has been a decrease over the same 10 year period.

The psychological distress reported includes sleep loss, inability to concentrate, feeling unhappy and worthless. Girls report suffering these twice as much as boys (30% of girls).

Whether or not social media is totally to blame it clearly plays a part. The head of the charity Sane believes the internet has played a huge part. No longer can students get relief from school or peer pressure at home. It’s now always-on.

But lets not forget pushy parents. Kids from better off families report higher levels of stress and anxiety. Lower status children seem to suffer less – perhaps because they have lower expectations, or maybe because they are more resilient.

Schools which have banned smartphones report better results. Parents need to think about reducing screen time and switching off the wi-fi.

As I’ve posted before about smartphone users – Get a Life!

The government has promised to put £1.4 billion into providing mental health support for young people. Maybe we should start helping them closer to home.


Lateness is a form of insanity……no it isn’t, it is a sign of lack of respect!

Kindadukish's Blog - I am not a number, I am a free man (The Prisoner)

DSC_0043.jpgPeople who are constantly late may be suffering from a form of insanity, a science writer has claimed. Those who are chronically tardy to engagements struggle with how they view time and may have a ‘bizarre compulsion to defeat themselves’ by making plans that they know they cannot keep, according Tim Urban. And he has even created an acronym to describe those people he believes are suffering from the lateness compulsion: Clips, or chronically late insane people.

Being annoyed by a chronically late friend is a common grumble, but one scientist has claimed that those who are never on times for engagements could actually be suffering from a form of insanity.

The science writer claims there are three reasons why Clips are late so often: some are in denial about how time works, some ‘have an aversion to changing circumstances’ and some individuals are ‘mad’ at themselves.

While most…

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What becomes of the broken-hearted? Latest update

broken_heart_pc_1600_wht_1665Well some of them actually die it seems.

In the post below, updated a couple of times, it’s clear that there’s a real risk of someone elderly dying following a bereavement, particularly if they have a pre-existing condition.

Danish researchers have now found that younger people are also at risk of heart irregularities after the death of a partner.

People under 60 are 40% more likely to develop atrial fibrillation which has high risks of stroke and heart failure. They are more vulnerable to heart complications in the weeks following their loved one’s death or if it was unexpected. The risk is highest between 8 and 14 days after the loss of a loved one and it takes up to a year before the risks drop to normal levels.

The loss of a partner is considered one of the most stressful life events and is likely to affect most people, independently of coping mechanisms” the researchers said.

Previous posts

Researchers at St Andrews University looked at more than 58,000 couples and discovered that 40% of men and 28% of women die within 3 years of their partners – and some actually die on the same day or within a couple of weeks.

For men in particular this widowhood effect shortens their life expectancy, regardless of the actual cause of death.

After making allowances for the usual suspects ie cancer, accidents, alcohol, and even murders, they found that after the death of a partner the survivor is more likely to die as a result.

Famous examples include Johnny Cash who died 4 months after his wife, James Callaghan who died just 11 days after his wife of 67 years, and more recently a relatively young 40-year old man Simon Monjack died of a cardiac arrest 5 months after his wife Brittany Murphy and was said to have died of a broken heart.

The social effect of losing a partner means that the survivor can give up on life within 6 months. The japanese identified a condition 20 years ago known as stress cardiomyopathy, characterised by a sudden, temporary, weakening of the heart muscles, which is triggered by emotional stress or a break-up and is called the broken heart syndrome.

American doctors say the condition can be treated with heart drugs or aspirin.

But research from the Paul-Brousse Hospital in Paris – on 6,000 middle-aged adults over 5.5 years – found that people who were both depressed and had heart diseases were 5 times more likely to die than people who had only one of the diseases.

The combination tripled their chances of dying of any cause and quadrupled their chances of dying from a heart attack or stroke.

The good news is that carrots and broccoli can cut the risks of cancer and heart disease. Anti-oxidants such as carotenoids, which help fight the disease, are found in sweet potatoes, pumpkins, carrots, broccoli, green beans and spinach.

The high level of alpha-carotene found in the blood was linked to a reduced risk of death over 14 years from cardio-vascular disease and cancer. These carotenoids, alpha- and beta-,  and lycopene act as anti-oxidants which combat oxygen-related damage to DNA.

The research was carried out in Atlanta at the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention between 1988 and 2006 on over 15,000 adults from the age of 20.

And more research from America shows that middle aged men who drink a half-litre (nearly a pint) of orange juice a day can lower their blood pressure and cut heart disease.

Orange juice was known to be good for your heart but no-one was sure why. The research, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showed that it contains a naturally occurring plant chemical called hesperidin. Drinking the orange juice every day for only 4 weeks can reduce average diastolic blood pressure readings by 3 to 5 points.

Updated 6 September 2011: Interesting Times article today on microneurographer Dr Yrsa Sverrisdottir who led a Swedish team which has discovered exactly how you can die of a broken heart.

This was a familiar problem to Japanese doctors in the 90s who found that the hearts of people who suffered emotional crises changed shape constricting blood flow. Sometimes people recovered spontaneously, sometimes they died.

Two years ago Sverrisdottir began studying patients with broken hearts, patients who would not necessarily be considered at risk of heart attacks but who had the symptoms.

She measured the activity of the sympathetic nervous system and related it to brain wave patterns. She says that when someone has a big shock or suffers distress the brain sends out waves of stress hormones – the fight or flight reaction – which can be overwhelming and affects the heart; in some cases stunning it.

It may stay in a constricted state for days as the person recovers – or doesn’t. Older women seem more at risk due to loss of oestrogen and testosterone which protect the body and give people mental stability.

It just demonstrates the fine balance between the brain and the body and also confirms what people have believed for centuries – that you can die of a broken heart.

Updated 12 September 2014: Researchers at Birmingham University think that during the grieving period elderly people may suffer from lowered immunity leaving them open to infection according to a report in Immunity & Ageing.

They investigated people who had lost loved ones within the last 2 months. People aged 18-45 were more depressed and anxious and had higher levels of cortisol (a measure of stress) but their immune systems were normal. People aged 65 and over shows impaired immune responses which were less efficient at tackling bacteria.

The scientist believe that the immune deficiency may be the result of an increase in cortisol which the younger people were protected from by another hormone DHEA.

Cortisol production doesn’t change over a person’s life-time but the production of DHEA starts reducing at age 30. Professor of immune cell biology at Birmingham, Janet Lord said “We could try and rectify this by giving patients DHEA to address the imbalance or encourage people to  engage with family and friends to keep cortisol levels down“.


Excessive use of your mobile phone might mean you’re depressed

walking_while_texting_500_wht_7820Researchers have found that monitoring a person’s mobile phone for signs of depression is more accurate than asking people to complete a daily happiness questionnaire (reported in The Times).

There is a marked difference in usage between people who are depressed and those who are not with people who had been diagnosed with depression spending four time longer on their smartphones each day.

The researchers at Northwestern University near Chicago used a computer programme called Purple Robot. It kept track over two weeks of the mobile phone use (excluding phone calls) of 40 people, 14 of whom had been diagnosed with depression.

The study measured how long they spent at home, how many other places they had visited and how long their phones were active.

Those with depression used their phones used their phones an average of 68 minutes a day compared with only 17 minutes for those without the condition.

The programme was able to identify those who had been diagnosed as having depression with 87% accuracy. Researchers also thought it could also indicate how severe it was.

Psychologists have thought that excessive use of mobile phones and stressing about technology could be linked to depression but have relied on self-reporting rather than objective measures such as the Purple Robot programme (developed by computer scientist Sohrob Saeb).

Previous research has shown how much we are beginning to depend on our smart phones and how obsessed we can become.

Stephen Schueller, professor in preventatve medicine at the university, said many people used their phones to try to rid themselves of negative emotions such as boredom or anxiety.

Phones are excellent sources of distraction. I imagine that people are probably not using their phones to reach out and call people when they’re depressed

The research has been published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research and more research is planned to see if there are specific behaviours that can predict symptoms and also how exactly depressed people use their phones (the research didn’t differentiate between texting, e-mails and other uses).

Dr Saeb also wants to investigate if it’s possible to ease some aspects of depression by encouraging people with depression to use their phone differently. “We will see if we can reduce symptoms of depression by encouraging people to visit more locations throughout the day, have a more regular routine, sped more time in a variety of places, or reduce phone use

Too much screen time bad for kids

stick_figure_watching_tv_pc_1600_wht_3837-2As children spend longer and longer in front of screens, especially girls as they get older, experts think that the recommended guidelines should be re-written.

The American Academy of Pediatrics published recommendations in 2001.

They said:

  • children under 2 years of age should have no exposure to screens.
  • children over 2 years of age no more than 2 hours a day.

Researchers in Australia asked almost 3,000 children aged between 8 and 16 about their use of screens. An average of 63% used a screen for more than 2 hours a day. And screen time appeared to increase with age. 80% of children aged 14 to 15 used screens for more than 2 hours a day.

Public Health England states in its briefing note: “Children who spend more time watching TV and playing video games tend to experience higher levels of emotional distress and depression“.

It’s too easy to dump kids in front of a screen to keep them quiet instead of interacting with them.

Your face gives away your lifestyle and hides your real age

P1020307If you’re married, have fewer than four children, and come from a higher social class – you probably look younger than you actually are.

If you have lost a significant amount of weight, fallen down the social ladder, or are living as a lonely singleton – then you probably look older.

The combination of lifestyle, medical history and diet has a measurable impact on how your looks age.

Generally speaking a youthful face is an accurate indicator of good health (as is how energetically you walk).

Marriage is more beneficial for a woman knocking almost two years off her age (and if she moves up the social ladder she can look four years younger – and the same applies to men).

For men marriage generally only knocks off one year but having one to three children makes a man look a year younger while it makes no difference to a woman.

These benefits disappear in families with four children.

Looking chubbier as you get older helps men look younger as it smooths out the wrinkles. Adding 2 points to your body mass index (bmi) will take of a year whereas a woman would have to add 7 points to her bmi to get the same effect.

An affluent married man with no more than three children will took ten years younger than someone who is homeless, single and has lost weight (2 points off his bmi).

All the factors combined can lead to people in their 40s looking up to seven years younger than their contemporaries.

Public Health scientists at the Danish twin registry led the study to be published in the journal Age and Ageing.

They asked nurses to guess the ages of almost 2,000 identical and non-identical twins in their seventies. They then looked at environmental factors including marriage, parenthood and social class. Previous studies have shown that non-genetic factors account for 40% of the variation in perceived age.

The effects of heavy smoking are relatively  modest. You would have to smoke 20 a day for 20 years to gain extra wrinkles and tobacco smoke only causes half that damage to women’s skin.

However heavy drinking can add a year to both sexes as can diabetes, chronic asthma or the regular use of painkillers.

Excessive exposure to sunlight had no effect on the perception of men’s ages but added over a year to women’s faces by the time they reached seventy.

Depression makes women look a lot older than men. Almost 4 extra years compared with 2.4 for men.

One of the researchers, Dr Kaare Christensen, said “It is a lot more dangerous looking one year older than one year younger”. If you are not depressed, not lonely, not a smoker, and not too skinny, you are basically doing well”.

Dr Chris Philipson, professor of social gerontology at Keele University says “diet and exercise are crucial factors. You can do an awful lot over the age of 40 to 50 to change the way you experience growing old“.

A real Christmas Tree can make a difference

christmas_tree_pc_1600_wht_4260Having a real Christmas Tree can be good for our mental health.

Environmental Psychologist Birgitta Gatersleben, from the University of Surrey, says being near a real tree helps people to cope better with stress or mental fatigue.

She has studied the benefits of natural environments on well-being and tested how exposure to plants and trees can hasten recovery from stress and mental tiredness.

In her most recent paper she says “Perhaps evergreen Christmas decorations also have a positive effect on our health and well-being without us being aware of it. Perhaps surrounding ourselves with such signs of life subconsciously improves our moods and reduces stress”.

She believes that the smell is the key as it evokes nature and its associations with health.

There is nothing new in this belief as people have decorated their homes with evergreens such as holly, ivy, and laurel for centuries. When we put up our tree, or hang mistletoe for kisses, we are drawing from folk traditions handed down from the early Druids, Romans and Christians?

The Christmas tree might be the best known form of greenery, but is a relatively recent addition to the decorative tradition, possibly introduced into Britain in the 1840s by Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert from German tradition.

In any event the ancients thought of evergreens as the symbol of life since it was always green, even  in the depths of winter.

Research has also shown that working within sight of greenery, trees and parks, makes you feel better at work and nature walks in groups has been recognised as a good way to treat depression by the NHS

So it does seem that being close to nature is good for your well-being and especially your mental health. And going back to Gatersleben’s point about smells, aromatherapists believe pine essential oils have a number of health benefits

Soft Southerners?

stick_figure_sitting_on_pills_1600_wht_13337According to an Atlas of Mental Health created by CentreForum think tank people living in the South of England re more likely to say they are unhappy despite having lower levels of mental illness including depression.

People living in London Bedford, Milton Keynes, Brighton, and parts of Kent claim to be the unhappiest in the country – yet they have some of the lowest levels of diagnosed mental health problems.

Five of Britain’s unhappiest 20 places were in London including the borough of Barking and Dagenham which came in the top five on two measures of unhappiness and yet had the 23rd lowest level of mental health problems.

In the league table of areas with the highest long-term mental health problems only Brighton & Hove (which came 3rd in the table) and Nottingham (7th) were outside the North and North West.  The other worst areas in descending order were: Middlesborough, Blackpool, Manchester, Stockton on Tees, Knowsley, Nottingham, Liverpool, Newcastle, and Salford

Northern areas tend to receive less support for mental health issues and in some areas people are 4 times more likely to die from a mental health problem.

Poor mental health often leads to a poor diet, heavy drinking and smoking, all of which can lead to cancer or heart disease.

One in six adults suffers from mental illness such as depression or anxiety at some time in their lives.


It’s not fair – bullies do better in life!

bullying_a_kid_1600_wht_9049There is lots of research to show that being bullied in childhood can have lifelong negative effects with such victims more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression in adulthood.

You’d like to think that bullies would get their comeuppance but recent research shows that bullies can reap social benefits by dominating those around them.

This might also boost their physical and psychological health in the long term.

The research was carried out using 20 years of data from over 1,400 people by scientists at Duke University in North Carolina and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences..

The participants were interviewed during childhood, adolescence and young adulthood. The scientist also took blood samples to look for a protein marker (CRP) which is a good predictor of someone developing heart disease.

Bullies had the lowest CRP levels, even lower than those who had never been bullied.

Bullying is not the only ways to gain status and research in both the USA AND the UK showed that standing up to bullies was good for you.


Bullying can have lifelong effects

bullying_a_kid_1600_wht_9049Children who were badly bullied as children are twice as likely to be depressed or suicidal in middle age.

These are the same outcomes as for children in care.

In both cases these childhood victims are more likely to be unemployed, live alone, and earn less.

These are the results of the first study, at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, to track the impact of bullying into later adulthood which was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

The lead author Ryu Takizawa said “our study shows the effects of bullying are still visible nearly four decades later. The impact is persistent and pervasive”.

The researchers looked at almost 8,000 people born in 1958 and followed them for more than 50 years. At ages 7 and 11, 28% of them were bullied occasionally and 15% regularly. Frequent bullying was related to greater psychological distress at ages 23 and 50.

The risk of anxiety disorders was two-thirds higher for those bullied frequently as children and the risk of depression and suicidal thoughts twice as high.

This study and others emphasise the importance of having a healthy and happy childhood for people to remain so during their adult lives.