The new issue of *Psychological Science* includes an article: “Known Risk Factors for Violence Predict 12-Month-Old Infants’ Aggressiveness With Peers.” The authors are Dale F. Hay, Lisa Mundy, Siwan Roberts, Raffaella Carta, Cerith S. Waters, Oliver Perra, Roland Jones, Ian Jones, Ian Goodyear, Gordon Harold, Anita Thapar, and Stephanie van Goozen.

Here are some interesting extracts

“Observational studies of early peer interaction have similarly shown that the use of physical aggression is fairly rare in young children, but that meaningful individual differences are already present by age 3. Infants’ early interactions with peers predict later behavioral problems
Prospective longitudinal studies have identified a number of maternal risk factors associated with high levels of aggression. These risk factors include social class, level of education, and early entry into parenthood; smoking during pregnancy; and stress, anxiety, or depression during pregnancy.

“The infants’ observed aggressiveness was significantly correlated with mothers’ mood disorder during pregnancy and with mothers’ history of conduct problems.

“Our study demonstrated that systematic individual differences in aggressiveness are present by infants’ first birthday. Key risk factors for adolescent violence found in an earlier longitudinal study predicted infants’ observed use of force against peers as well as parents’ reports of infants’ anger and aggression. The precise mechanisms underlying these effects have yet to be identified; parents convey risk through processes of genetic as well as social transmission, and the mother’s mental state in pregnancy”

Another recent piece of research shows one of the ways that emotional stress can affect health. Their focus was on racism, but the part I want to pick up on is stress, taking racial discrimination as an example of a stressor.

The *International Journal of Behavioral Medicine* has scheduled an article for publication in a future issue: “Racial Discrimination Is Associated with a Measure of Red Blood Cell Oxidative Stress: A Potential Pathway for Racial Health Disparities.”

The authors are Sarah L. Szanton, Joseph M. Rifkind, Joy G. Mohanty, Edgar R. Miller, Roland J. Thorpe, Eneka Nagababu, Elissa S. Epel, Alan B. Zonderman, and Michele K. Evans.

Conditions associated with perceived racial discrimination are higher blood pressure, increased obesity, cardiovascular reactivity, worse self-reported health, and earlier morbidity

How does this happen?

From their abstract:
“Oxidative stress is the process by which “free radicals” or reactive oxygen species damage cellular components including DNA, proteins, and lipids. “Oxidative stress” is the term for the imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species and intrinsic protection mechanisms. There is a small literature suggesting that psychological stress may increase oxidative stress. ”

They conclude: “In summary, these findings suggest that there could be identifiable physiologic pathways by which psychological stress amplifies risk of cardiovascular and other age related diseases”, i.e. oxidative stress.

Again, stress-related disease is not “all in your head”, emotions really do have an impact on the body and on health, and again, it’s not all just a matter of chemistry. Biology interacts with the environment, and so-called chemical imbalances are not just a product of unfortunate genes.

The European Society of Cardiology issued the following news release
about a study published today in the *European Heart Journal*:

Don’t worry, be happy!  Positive emotions protect against heart disease

People who are usually happy, enthusiastic and content are less likely
to develop heart disease than those who tend not to be happy, according
to a major new study published today (Thursday 18 February).

The authors believe that the study, published in the Europe’s leading
cardiology journal, the European Heart Journal [1], is the first to show
such an independent relationship between positive emotions and coronary
heart disease.
(more…)

The Medical College of Wisconsin issued the following news release:

Heart Disease Patients Who Practice Transcendental Meditation Have
Nearly 50% Lower Rates of Heart Attack, Stroke, and Death

Results of first-ever study presented at annual meeting of the American
Heart Association in Orlando, Nov. 16

Patients with coronary heart disease who practiced the stress-reducing
Transcendental Meditation(R) technique had nearly 50 percent lower rates
of heart attack, stroke, and death compared to nonmeditating controls,
according to the results of a first-ever study presented during the
annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Orlando, Fla., on
Nov.16, 2009.
(more…)

From BBC News today:

Loneliness makes cancer ‘more likely and deadly’

Doctors know depressed cancer patients have poorer survival rates. Fresh evidence adds weight to suggestions that loneliness makes cancer both more likely and deadly.  Work in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science shows social isolation tips the odds in favour of aggressive cancer growth.

Rodents kept alone developed more tumours – and tumours of a more deadly type – than rats living as a group. The researchers put it down to stress and say the same may well be true in humans. Cancer experts say more work is needed to prove such a link in people. Lead investigator Gretchen Hermes, of Yale University, said: “There is growing interest in relationships between the environment, emotion and disease. “This study offers insight into how the social world gets under the skin.”

Stress

Doctors already know that cancer patients who are depressed tend to fare worse in terms of survival.  And previous research has suggested that social support can improve health outcomes for patients with breast cancer. In the latest study, the researchers found that isolation and stress trebled the risk of breast cancer in the naturally sociable Norway rats. Outcast rodents developed 84 times the amount of tumours as those living in tight-knit social groups, and the tumours also proved to be more aggressive. The isolated mammals also had higher levels of the stress hormone corticosterone and took longer to recover from a stressful situation than fellow Norway rats.  The researchers ultimately hope their work will help cancer patients.

Lifestyle

Co-researcher Martha McClintock, a psychologist at the University of Chicago, said: “We need to use these findings to identify potential targets for intervention to reduce cancer.”  Ed Yong, of Cancer Research UK, said: “This study was done in rats. “Overall, research in humans does not suggest there is a direct link between stress and breast cancer. “But it’s possible that stressful situations could indirectly affect the risk of cancer by making people more likely to take up unhealthy behaviours that increase their risk, such as overeating, heavy drinking, or smoking.”

This morning’s *USA Today* includes an article: “Why the holiday suicide
myth persists” by Kim Painter.
Here are some excerpts:
[begin excerpts]
For the past decade, Dan Romer, a researcher at the Annenberg Public
Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, has been tracking
mentions of suicide and the holiday season in stories published in U.S.
newspapers from mid-November to mid-January.
His first study, covering the 1999 holiday season, found that just 23%
of stories debunked the myth and the rest reinforced it.
By 2006, 91% of stories debunked the myth, and Romer took some credit:
Publicizing the facts had nearly killed the myth, he thought.
He was wrong.
In the 2007 season, the myth was back in half of stories, he says.
And Romer just completed his analysis of 2008 holiday coverage.
He found that 38% of stories supported the myth and 62% debunked it – an
improvement he attributes partly to a myth-busting report published last
December in the British Medical Journal.
<snip>
But the myth may harm people instead.
“It might unnecessarily put people on their guard or increase their
anxiety,” says Ronald Pies, a psychiatrist at Tufts University School of
Medicine, via e-mail.
Worse, he says, some people “on the brink” of self-harm might feel
encouraged to follow through when they read or hear that holiday
suicides are common.
The myth might become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Romer agrees: “You don’t want to convey the message that this is
acceptable or that there’s a good reason to do it.”
<snip>
But, experts say, suicide is almost always the act of someone who has
endured deep depression or another mental illness for months or years –
not someone with a passing case of the blues.
<snip>
Meanwhile, researchers continue to look for the real patterns in
suicidal behavior, says Alexander Crosby, a CDC researcher. “That can
help us in terms of finding protective factors,” he says.
And one protective factor, he says, is “connectiveness” – that is, how
connected people are to friends, families and communities.
[end excerpts]
The article is online at:
clipping courtesy of Ken Pope

BBC News released an article: “Childhood abuse ‘quickens ageing.'”

Here are some excerpts:

[begin excerpts]

Physical or emotional abuse during childhood could speed up the body’s
ageing process, US research suggests.

A team from Brown University focused on telomeres, the protective caps
on the chromosomes that keep a cell’s DNA stable but shorten with age.

They found the telomeres of 31 people who had reported abuse as children
tended to shorten more rapidly, speeding up cells’ ageing process.

Experts cautioned that the study needed to be replicated on a larger scale.

The study is featured in Biological Psychiatry.

Lead researcher Dr Audrey Tyrka said: “It gives us a hint that early
developmental experiences may have profound effects on biology that can
influence cellular mechanisms at a very basic level.” (more…)