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Sex Differences in Behavior—Has the Thrill Gone?

Men have become less willing to engage in physically challenging activities over the past 35 years, according to a new study by the University of St. Andrews School of Psychology and Neuroscience.

Findings from the meta-analysis on sensation-seeking support the argument that some sex differences in behavior have declined in response to recent cultural changes.

Sensation-seeking is a personality trait reflecting the desire to pursue novel or intense experiences, even if risks are involved, and is measured using questionnaires, such as the Sensation Seeking Scale, version V (SSS-V).

In the late 1970s, men answering the SSS-V were more likely than women to say that they would like to try parachuting, scuba diving, or mountaineering. However, over the past decades, men’s thrill- and adventure-seeking scores on this same questionnaire have declined, and average male scores are now more similar to average female scores.

“The decline in the sex difference in thrill- and adventure-seeking scores could reflect declines in average fitness levels, which might have reduced people’s interest in physically challenging activities,” said lead author Dr. Kate Cross. 

“Alternatively, the questions were designed in the 1970s so could now be out-of-date.” Skiing, for instance, may no longer be viewed as a novel or intense activity.

Source: The meta-analysis was published in the journal Scientific Reportson Aug. 30, 2013. The paper is available herethe press release is here.


International Study Reveals Core of Mental Illness Stigma

An international study found that despite widespread acceptance that mental illness is a disease that can be effectively treated, prejudice unfairly paints people with conditions such as depression and schizophrenia as undesirable for close personal relationships and positions of authority. This prejudice spanned the 16 diverse countries examined. 

“If the public understands that mental illnesses are medical problems, but still rejects individuals with mental illness, then educational campaigns directed toward ensuring inclusion become more salient,” the authors wrote. 

The researchers analyzed data from the Stigma in Global Context—Mental Health Study, which talked with 19,508 study participants about customized vignettes. The vignettes portrayed someone suffering either from depression, schizophrenia or, the control group, asthma. The countries represented a diverse range geographically, developmentally, and politically, with at least one country on each inhabitable continent.

Even in countries with cultures more accepting of mental illness, stigma was detected, encompassing issues involving caring for children, marriage, self-harm, and holding roles of authority or civic responsibility. The stigma was even stronger toward people with schizophrenia.

“With the prevalence of mental health problems being so high, no individuals or families will go untouched by these issues,” said Bernice Pescosolido, PhD, sociology professor in the Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences. “They need to understand that recovery is not only possible but has been documented.”

Source: The study findings appeared in “The ‘Backbone’ of Stigma: Identifying the Global Core of Public Prejudice Associated With Mental Illness,” in the May 2013 American Journal of Public Health, which had a special focus on stigma. The article was first published online ahead of print in March.


People With Mental Health Problems Say Romantic Partners Are ‘Not Fazed’ By Their Condition

Two in three people (63%) who have mental health problems and told their partners about it have said that partners “weren’t fazed” and were “really understanding.”

Survey results show that 77 percent of people with a mental health problem actively tell their partners about their mental health, and only 5 percent of those people said their partners broke up with them when they heard about their condition. 

Of a random sample of people with experience being a partner of someone with a mental health problem, 74 percent said they either weren’t fazed or wanted to understand the other person’s situation when they were told, and just 4 percent of those people said they felt afraid.

“Mind,” a UK mental health charity, and “Relate,” its largest provider of relationship support, surveyed 1,102 people who had experienced mental health problems within romantic relationships and asked them about issues relating to communication and commitment. 

  • Three quarters (74%) of people surveyed with a mental health problem said they regularly talk about their mental health with their partner, and three in five (60%) of these people said it then “made the rela-tionship easier to manage.”
  • Three in five (60%) people with mental health problems said being in a relationship has had a “positive impact” on their mental health.
  • Half (50%) of partners sur-veyed said dating someone with a mental health prob-lem wasn’t as daunting as they thought it might be.
  • Of these, nearly half (47%) said it was because they felt the mental health problem does not define the person.

However, people with mental health problems said the men-tal health problem strained the relationships more than other pressures, such as financial and employment issues. 

Four in five people (80%) with mental health problems surveyed said it had affected their sex life, with loss of libido and feeling unattractive or self-conscious as main issues, in comparison to just three in five (60%) partners who said it affected their sex life.