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…)

 

The *American Journal of Preventive Medicine* issued the following news
release about a study to appear in the November issue:
Traumatic Childhood Might Take Years Off Adult Life
Many U.S. children face a terrible burden of stressors that can harm the
development of their brains and nervous systems.
These stressors can lead to health problems and diseases throughout
their lives, ultimately causing some to die prematurely, according to
the lead author of a new study.
David W. Brown., D.Sc., an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC), and colleagues found that children who
were exposed to six or more “adverse childhood experiences” or ACEs were
at double the risk of premature death compared to children who had not
suffered these experiences.
On average, the children at highest risk eventually died at age 60,
compared to low-risk children who lived to age 79.
The study appears in the November issue of the American Journal of
Preventive Medicine.

The *Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health* issued the following
news release:

People with parents who fight are more likely to have mental health
problems in later life

Exposure to interparental violence and psychosocial maladjustment in the
adult life course: Advocacy for early prevention

People with parents who were violent to each other are more likely to
have mental health problems when they grow up, reveals research
published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Researchers looked at what impact interparental violence had on people
as children by observing their mental health outcomes in adulthood.

A child being exposed to interparental violence is a form of
maltreatment with consequences for a child’s development, but in some
countries it is only seen as a risk factor for later problems with no
specific outcomes.

The authors studied 3,023 adults in the Paris metropolitan area in 2005
by carrying out at-home face to face interviews.

People who agreed to take part were found from a population based cohort
study in Paris held by the National Institute of Health and Medical Research.

The researchers measured current depression and lifetime suicide
attempts, intimate partner violence, violence against children and
alcohol dependence.

They also asked people about childhood adversities such as parental
separation, divorce, parental death or imprisonment, alcoholism and
physical and/or sexual abuse, as well as asking about social level
stressors including poor parental health, housing problems, prolonged
parental unemployment, and financial troubles.

Among the group of people interviewed, 16% said they had witnessed
interparental violence before the age of 18 and this was far more common
in certain situations. For example, it was up to eight times more likely
in cases where parents had been alcoholics.

Other factors were also relevant and witnessing violence was more common
in families with financial problems, serious parental diseases, housing
problems or unemployment.

After adjusting for family and social level stressors, the researchers
found that people who were exposed to interparental violence had a 1.4
times higher risk of having depression, were more than three times more
likely to be involved in conjugal violence, were almost five times more
likely to mistreat their own child and 1.75 times more likely to have a
dependence on alcohol.

The authors concluded: “Intensification of prevention of and screening
for domestic violence including interparental violence is a public
health issue for the well-being of future generations.”

Courtesy of Ken Pope

The Society for Research in Child Development issued the following news
release:

Why are some young victims of domestic violence resilient?

More than 10 million U.S. children witness domestic violence yearly,
resulting in a range of emotional and behavioral problems.

A new study suggests that the reason some of these children are
resilient is because of their easy temperaments and because they have
mentally healthy moms.

The longitudinal study, conducted by researchers at Michigan State
University, is published in the March/April 2009 issue of the journal
Child Development.

The researchers looked at more than 100 American children who had
witnessed violent acts against their mothers when the children were 2,
3, and 4 years old. They also looked at more than 70 children who hadn’t
witnessed violence against their mothers.

Children exposed to violence were almost four times more likely than
others to develop emotional or behavioral problems.

(more…)