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Chronic Stress Impairs Memory in Adolescents

Researchers showed in 2009 that acute stress helps sharpen memory, according to 2009 research. Not so with chronic stress. New research shows that chronic stress not only impairs memory, it has a more powerful effect on the brain during adolescence than in adulthood.

“We have identified a causal link between molecules and behaviors involved in stress responses,” says Zhen Yan, PhD, a professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at SUNY–Buffalo’s School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “It’s the first time that the loss of glutamate receptor has been causally linked to the negative effects of chronic or repeated stress.” See a video about the work.

The research bolsters the emerging understanding among neuroscientists that the glutamate system is a key player in mental illness and, thus, is critical to understanding how to better treat disorders such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia.

The research was conducted on male rats at an age that corresponds to adolescence in humans, a period when the brain is highly sensitive to stress. In response to repeated stress, the “teenage” male rats experienced a significant impairment in their ability to remember and recognize objects they had previously seen. The same cognitive deficit was not seen in the similarly stressed adult rats.

The research is especially significant because with some mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, onset typically occurs in late adolescence.

Source: SUNY at Buffalo news release; click here for entire article.

Caregivers of Veterans With Chronic Illnesses Are Stressed,  Yet Satisfied With Their Responsibilities

Veterans are almost twice as likely as the general public to have chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and heart failure. Therefore, veterans may require more assistance from informal caregivers, including immediate family members and particularly their wives. 

Research on the strain and satisfaction among informal caregivers of veterans with chronic illnesses shows that more than one third of veterans’ caregivers report high levels of strain as a result of taking care of their relatives. Nearly half reported they felt they had no choice when it came to caring for their relatives. On average, however, caregivers also report being satisfied with their caregiving responsibilities.

The research found that only 8 percent of caregivers reported high levels of depression, but nearly one third of caregivers reported high levels of strain. Caregivers’ depression and strain usually resulted from lack of coping strategies and from caring for veterans with lower self-reported health.

Caregivers who reported greater satisfaction tended to have more outside help, such as support from friends and relatives. Also, those with higher satisfaction levels had developed more strategies to cope, such as regular exercise.

The researchers suggested caregivers seek outside assistance through websites like, a website that provides health information and resources to veterans and their caregivers. They also suggested that clinicians, especially nurses, take time to monitor the caregivers’ stress levels and offer concrete suggestions about ways to alleviate stress.

The study, “Strain and Satisfaction in Caregivers of Veterans with Chronic Illness,” was published in Research in Nursing & Health and was funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (QUERI). 

Source: University of Missouri news release


Work-Focused Psychotherapy Can Help Employees  on Sick Leave Return to Work Sooner

Employees on sick leave with common mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety fully returned to work sooner when their therapy dealt with work-related problems and how to get back on the job, according to new research.

Employees who received this therapy and returned to work sooner did not suffer adverse effects and showed significant improvement in mental health over the course of one year, according to the research. 

The study, conducted in the Netherlands, followed 168 employees, of whom 60 percent were women, on sick leave due to psychological problems such as anxiety, adjustment disorder, and minor depression. Seventy-nine employees from a variety of jobs received standard, evidence-based cognitive-behavioral therapy, while the rest received cognitive-behavioral therapy that included a focus on work and the process of returning to work.

Clients in both groups received treatment for about 12 sessions over an average of six months. The researchers checked in with them at three-month intervals for one year, shortly before treatment began.

Those in the work-focused group fully returned to work on average 65 days earlier than the participants in the standard therapy group, and they started a partial return to work 12 days earlier. Those in the work-focused therapy engaged in more steps to fully return to work, gradually increasing their hours and duties. Almost all the participants in the study—99 percent—had at least partially returned to work at the one-year follow-up. Most participants resumed work gradually, with only 7 percent going directly from full sick leave to full-time work.

All participants had fewer mental health problems over the course of treatment, no matter which type of therapy they received, with the most dramatic decrease in symptoms occurring in the first few months.

“Being out of work has a direct effect on people’s well-being. Those who are unable to participate in work lose a valuable source of social support and interpersonal contacts,” said the study’s lead author, Suzanne Lagerveld, of the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO). “They might lose part of their income and consequently tend to develop even more psychological symptoms. We’ve demonstrated that employees on sick leave with mental disorders can benefit from interventions that enable them to return to work.”

Source: APA press release 

The article, “Work-Focused Treatment of Common Mental Disorders and Return to Work: A Comparative Outcome Study” was published online on Feb. 6, 2012, in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, Vol. 17, No. 2.

U.S. Ranks 16th of 97 Countries in Subjective Well-Being

The scores in the table below, listed from happiest to least happy, are based on reported happiness and life satisfaction, equally weighted. Negative scores indicate that a majority of the population is unhappy or dissatisfied with life. Combined data from 1995–2007 World Values Surveys. To maximize reliability, data from the last three waves are combined.

Denmark 4.24   Malaysia 2.61   Croatia 0.87
Puerto Rico
4.21   W. Germany
2.60   Morocco 0.87
Colombia 4.18   Vietnam 2.52   India 0.85
Iceland 4.15   France
2.50   Uganda 0.69
N. ireland
4.13   Philippines 2.47   Zambia 0.68
Ireland 4.12   Uruguay 2.43   Algeria 0.60
  Indonesia 2.37   Burkina Faso
3.77   Chile 2.34   Egypt 0.52
Canada 3.76   Dominican Rep
2.29   Slovakia 0.41
Austria 3.68   Japan 2.24   Hungary 0.36
El Salvador
3.67   Spain 2.16   Montenegro 0.19
Malta 3.61   Israel 2.08   Tanzania 0.13
3.61   Italy 2.06   Azerbaijan 0.13
Sweden 3.58   Portugal 2.01   Macedonia -0.06
New Zealand
3.57   Taiwan 1.83   Rwanda -0.15
3.55   E. Germany
1.78   Pakistan -0.30
Guatemala 3.53   Slovenia 1.77   Ethiopia -0.30
Mexico 3.52   Ghana 1.73   Estonia -0.36
Norway 3.50   Poland 1.66   Serbia Bosn
3.40   Czech Rep
1.66   Lithuania -0.70
Britain 3.39   China 1.64   Latvia -0.75
Aulstralia 3.26   Mali 1.62   Romania -0.88
3.25   Kyrgyzstan 1.59   Russia
Trinidad 3.25   Jordan 1.46   Georgia -1.01
Finland 3.24   Greece 1.45   Bulgaria -1.09
Saudi Arabia
3.17   S. Africa
1.39   Iraq -1.36
Thailand 3.02   Turkey 1.27   Albania -1.44
Cyprus 2.96   Peru 1.24   Ukraine -1.69
Nigeria 2.82   S. Korea
1.23   Belarus -1.74
Brazil 2.81   Hong Kong
1.16   Moldova -1.74
Singapore 2.72   Iran 1.12   Armenia -1.80
2.69   Bangladesh 1.00   Zimbabwe -1.92
Andorra 2.64   Bosnia 0.94   Mean 1.5

Source; from a link within the Greater Good piece on how the recession has affected our happiness.