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Teens Who Drink Alone Are More Likely to Develop Alcohol Problems as Young Adults

Most teenagers who drink alcohol do so with their friends in social settings, but a new study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh reveals that a significant number of adolescents consume alcohol while they are alone.

The researchers found that, compared to their peers who drink only in social settings, teens who drink alone have more alcohol problems, are heavier drinkers, and are more likely to drink in response to negative emotions. Furthermore, solitary teenage drinkers are more likely to develop alcohol use disorders in early adulthood. 

“We’re learning that kids who drink alone tend to do so because they’re feeling lonely, are in a bad mood, or had an argument with a friend,” said lead author Kasey Griffin–Creswell, PhD, assistant professor of psychology in CMU’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “They seem to be using alcohol to self-medicate as a way to cope with negative emotions and, importantly, this pattern of drinking places them at high risk to escalate their alcohol use and develop alcohol problems in adulthood.”

This study is novel in that it allowed the researchers to determine whether solitary drinking during teenage years affected the development of alcohol use disorders as young adults, after controlling for other known risk factors.

For the study, the researchers first surveyed 709 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18 at the Pittsburgh Adolescent Alcohol Research Center (PAARC), asking them to report on their alcohol use in the past year. Adolescents represented youth from clinical treatment programs and the community. 

When the participants turned 25, they were again asked about their alcohol use and assessed for alcohol-use disorders.

The results showed that 38.8 percent of teens in the sample reported drinking alone during ages 12–18. This behavior was linked to unpleasant emotions, and solitary drinkers were one and a half times more likely to develop alcohol dependence at age 25.

Source: Association for Psychological Science. The findings will appear in Clinical Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Mental Health ‘Eye Test’ Breakthrough Wins Top Entrepreneurial Award

A new eye-movement test developed by researchers from the University of Aberdeen recognizes unusual eye movements to help clinicians identify major adult psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and severe depression.

The researchers claim that the simple eye-movement tests can recognize schizophrenia and other major psychiatric disorders with better than 95 percent accuracy, and within 30 minutes.

In September, the plan to commercialize the test for use in mental healthcare worldwide won a prestigious national contest, the Converge Challenge Awards, recognizing Scotland’s entrepreneurial innovations. The 2013 Awards bestowed a prize worth close to $100,000.

“It has been known for over a hundred years that individuals with psychotic symptoms are unable to smoothly track slowly moving objects with their eyes. Their gaze tends to lag behind the object and then catch up with it by making rapid skips called saccades,” said Dr. Philip Benson, of the University of Aberdeen’s School of Psychology and one of the academics behind the test.

The researchers hope the assessment will make the process of reaching an accurate diagnosis more efficient, and they plan to form a company, Saccade Diagnostics, to produce and sell the test.

Source: University of Aberdeen. Get more information about the Converge Challenge Awards.


Twelve Percent of Mid-Life Women Say They Are Satisfied With Their Body Size

A new study of women ages 50 and older examines the 12.2 percent who say they are satisfied with their body size to unlock the secrets of body satisfaction. 

This minority of mid-life women who report being satisfied with their body size appears to exert considerable effort to achieve and maintain this satisfaction. In addition, they are not impervious to dissatisfaction with other aspects of their physical appearance, especially those aspects affected by aging, according to the study. 

A significant number still reported dissatisfaction with other aspects of their appearance, including their stomach (56.2 percent), face (53.8 percent), and skin (78.8 percent).

The study, published online Oct. 11, 2013, by the Journal of Women & Aging, used a sample of 1,789 women in the United States aged 50 years and older from the Gender and Body Image (GABI) study to characterize the profile of mature women who report body-size satisfaction based on silhouettes. Respondents answered a wide array of questions about their history with dieting and weight control, current eating-disorder symptoms, current weight and shape concerns, and quality of life. 

Defined as having a current body size equal to their preferred size, body satisfaction  was associated with better overall functioning. Satisfied women had a lower body-mass index, and reported fewer eating-disorder symptoms and dieting behaviors. They also engaged in more exercise per week than dissatisfied women.

Interestingly, weight monitoring and appearance-altering behaviors (such as cosmetic surgery) did not differ between satisfied and dissatisfied groups, and weight and shape still played a considerable role in self-evaluations by women satisfied with their body size.

Source: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill