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Economists Find Link Between Unemployment and Mental-Health Problems

Individuals who have suffered from long-term unemployment in the past year—those unemployed for longer than 25 weeks—are three times more likely than people employed throughout the past year to experience mental-health issues for the first time, according to new research.

The study also conclude
d that people with more than a high school education suffer greater adverse psychological impacts from long-term unemployment than do those with less education.

“People with a lot of education tend to believe that they have control of events in their lives and are self-blamers. That is really damaging to emotional well-being,” said Arthur Goldsmith, the Jackson T. Stephens Professor of Economics at Washington and Lee University.

Goldsmith conducted the study and reported its findings on Oct. 19, during a congressional briefing on the psychological benefits of employment and the impact of joblessness.

Goldsmith said the new study isolated a population of resilient people—individuals who either had never had a bout of clinically defined emotional-health issues in their lives, or had their first bout of problems in the most recent year.

“The reason we focus on this group is that if you’re 55 years old, and you’ve never had a bout of poor emotional well-being that would be described clinically in that way, and have your first bout in the past year when you are exposed to unemployment, it’s very unlikely that your poor mental health led to the unemployment rather than your unemployment leading to the poor mental health. Thus, we are able to address the issue of causality that has plagued prior studies of the link between unemployment and mental health.”

Minority groups were also found to suffer larger psychological impacts than non-minority groups in the study.

In his remarks before the congressional committee, Goldsmith emphasized that in addition to these psychological impacts on individuals, unemployment damages the social fabric of society.

“We see divorce rates are higher during recessions; marriage rates fall during recessions; children growing up in families with unemployed parents perform more poorly in school and tend to have more behavioral problems,” he said. 

“Unemployment is tearing at the very fabric of our society, and I would suggest that we look at this with a greater sense of urgency.”

Source: Excerpted from a Washington and Lee University blog by Jeffrey G. Hanna

AAP Expands Ages for Diagnosis and Treatment of ADHD in Children

ADHD is the most common neurobehavioral disorder in children, occurring in about 8 percent of children and youth. Updated guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) describe the special considerations involved in diagnosing and treating preschool children and adolescents with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). They also include interventions to help children with hyperactive/impulsive behaviors that do not meet the full diagnostic criteria for ADHD.

Emerging evidence makes it possible to diagnose and manage ADHD in children from ages 4 to 18, while the previous AAP guidelines, from 2000 and 2001, covered children ages 6 to 12. 

The report, “ADHD: Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Diagnosis, Evaluation and Treatment of Children and Adolescents with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder,” was released Oct. 16, and published in the November 2011 issue of Pediatrics (published online Oct. 16). 

According to the AAP guidelines, in preschool children (ages 4 and 5) with ADHD, doctors should first try behavioral interventions. 

Methylphenidate may be considered for preschool children with moderate to severe symptoms who do not see significant improvement after behavior therapy, starting with a lower dose. For elementary school children and adolescents, the AAP recommends both FDA-approved medications and behavior therapy. (Source)

Another ADHD treatment, neurofeedback, was the subject of a 2009 meta-analysis that included 15 studies and 1,195 clients with ADHD. That meta-analysis raised the efficacy levels for neurofeedback from the American Psychological Association (APA) guidelines from a level 3 to a level 5, the highest level. (Source)

Click here to read, "A Position Paper on Neurofeedback for the Treatment of ADHD," from the May 18, 2010,Journal of Neurotherapy.

New Data-Mining Effort Launched to Study Mental Disorders

A new $13.75 million project will apply data-mining methods to better understand genetic and environmental factors be-hind neuropsychiatric disorders.

The Silvio O. Conte Center, a multi-institutional effort based at the University of Chicago, will combine the statistical power of pre-existing genetics, pharmacogenomics, text-mining, and clinical record databases to confront diseases that have so far frustrated researchers.

For example, genetic association studies of psychiatric disorders have located gene variants associated with the disorders, but have been able to explain only a small percentage of their heritability. 

Researchers have also collected detailed clinical records on psychiatric patients and the efficacy and side effects of available treatments, but the potentially valuable information within those records remains largely untapped.

Rather than focusing on just one of these methods, the Conte Center will apply computational analysis to data from all of them to discover new network relationships between genes, environmental factors, and clinical phenotypes. The results will create novel, testable hypotheses that could alter how experts define and treat neuropsychiatric disorders.

If successful, the approach of mining existing data from several different methods could potentially be applied to other types of disorders, including the overlap between mental and physical disorders such as schizophrenia and diabetes.

The center will initially be funded by an $11.75 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health and $2 million from the Chicago Biomedical Consortium. 

Researchers and datasets from the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, University of Illinois at Chicago, Stanford University, Children’s Hospital Boston, Columbia University, and the University of Haifa will be involved in the project. (Source)

Experts Reassess Mental Health Relief for Crisis Survivors

By Kianti Roman

An international team of experts is calling for practical research to help improve mental health outcomes for survivors of crises such as armed conflict and natural disasters.

Experts in regions experiencing humanitarian crises want more research focused on generating and developing practical knowledge that could have tangible benefits in humanitarian settings rather than continuing to focus on topics, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, that have long dominated the research field.

This research is important because humanitarian crises inflict psychological distress, social problems, and mental disorders on millions of people each year. In 2009, there were 36 armed conflicts in 26 countries, and more than 119 million people were affected by natural disasters.

In the study, published the first week of October in _PLoS Medicine,_ researchers developed a consensus-based research agenda to strengthen mental health and psychosocial support in humanitarian settings with input from 82 experts (including academics, policymakers, and practitioners) representing regions where humanitarian crises occur.

The authors conclude: “Our research-priority-setting initiative—the first of its kind in this particular field—showed promising points of agreement between diverse stakeholders on research priorities for mental health and psycho-social support in humanitarian settings.” (Source) (To read the full article in PLoS Medicine, click here.)