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Antidepressants and Depression

Depression in early adulthood may increase risk of dementia

Study findings point to a link between mental health struggles and cognitive decline

A new study conducted by researchers from the University of California San Francisco explored how consumers’ mental health can impact their long-term cognitive function. 

Their findings showed that depression-related symptoms in early adulthood can increase the risk of dementia. The opposite also appeared to be true -- experiencing fewer depression-related symptoms was associated with better cognitive function in older age. 

“Generally, we found that the greater depressiv...

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    Poor sleep during adolescence can increase risk of depression

    Study findings highlight how powerful sleep can be for young people

    Not getting enough sleep can be detrimental to consumers’ well-being, and now a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Ottawa has explored how sleeping habits can affect teens’ mental health.

    Their work revealed that adolescents who struggle with chronic sleep issues are more likely to also struggle with depression.

    “Our findings suggest that significant sleep delays during adolescence may increase the likelihood of depression onset in both males and females,” said researcher Nafissa Ismail, PhD. “Additionally, sleep delay may sensitize adolescent females to other stressors and increase the likelihood of mood disorder development.”  

    Less sleep leads to more stress

    To understand what effect sleep can have on depression risk, the researchers conducted a sleep experiment on 40 adolescent and 40 adult mice. While some mice slept normally for seven nights, other mice were disrupted for the first four hours of their sleep each night for seven nights. To assess their depression following this sleep cycle, the researchers exposed the mice to a stress-inducing activity.

    The researchers learned that the adult mice responded differently than the adolescent mice after losing sleep for seven consecutive nights. Despite both groups experiencing sleep disruptions, only the adolescent mice reacted poorly to a new stressor, which indicates that they could be at a greater risk for depression. 

    “When exposed to a new stressor following seven days of repeated sleep delay, only adolescent male and female mice showed increased activity in the prelimbic cortex of the brain -- not the adults,” Dr. Ismail said. “The prelimbic cortex is associated with stress coping strategies and can be damaged from overreaction following sleep deprivation.” 

    The study also revealed that the female adolescent mice produced a greater stress hormone response than the male adolescent mice. The researchers explained that female teenagers may be more susceptible to depression than their male counterparts, and poor sleep only exacerbates that issue.

    “A popular theory suggests that depression originates in adolescents overexposed to stress, and that differences between male and female depression rates are attributed to an increased female vulnerability to chronic stress,” said Dr. Ismail. 

    “Sleep disruption is a common stressor during adolescent development,” she added. “Its repeated exposure could partially be responsible for adolescent female susceptibility to depression.”

    Sleep and COVID-19

    As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect consumers’ sleep, stress, and mental health, the researchers worry about how these current circumstances will affect rates of teen depression moving forward. 

    “As COVID-19 quarantine requirements -- such as remote learning, limited in-person social interactions, and increased screen time -- have removed some pressure to adhere to regular sleep schedules, adolescents could be at a higher risk than ever before for developing depression and other mood disorders,” Dr. Ismail said.

    Not getting enough sleep can be detrimental to consumers’ well-being, and now a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Ottawa has explor...
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    Nearly two-thirds of older adults say they won't treat their depression

    Many older people try to get through their mental health issues on their own

    Depression affects consumers young and old, and now a new poll is exploring how the latter deals with mental health struggles. 

    According to responses to the GeneSight Mental Health Monitor, nearly two-thirds of older consumers reported that they wouldn’t seek professional help for their depression. 

    “The ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ mindset of some seniors and reluctance to talk about mental health are hindering them from getting the help they need -- especially now when the pandemic is having an enormous impact on the mental health of older Americans,” said researcher Dr. Mark Pollack. “People will seek treatment for conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes. Depression is no different. It is an illness that can and should be treated.” 

    Why are seniors avoiding treatment?

    The GeneSight Mental Health Monitor polled consumers aged 65 and older across the country to determine their attitudes about depression. Their findings revealed that more than 60 percent of older consumers wouldn’t seek out mental health treatment for depression. 

    Survey respondents hadn’t been formally diagnosed with depression, but they did have concerns that they were exhibiting depression-related symptoms. Despite that, they still reported that they wouldn’t get help for those concerns. Ultimately, over 30 percent of the participants believed that they could handle their depression themselves, and nearly 40 percent were confident that they didn’t need a doctor’s help. 

    More than 30 percent of the participants also reported that they noticed their depression had affected their lives in tangible ways; they struggled to enjoy activities that normally brought them joy, and they had difficulties interacting with the people closest to them. Having strong, supportive connections is an important aspect when it comes to protecting against depression. 

    “In my experience, there is a commonly held view that depression is a normal part of aging; it is not,” said researcher Dr. Parikshit Deshmukh. “I’ve found older adults have a very difficult time admitting that they have depression. When they do acknowledge it, they are still reluctant to start treatment for a wide variety of reasons.” 

    The researchers explained that there is a stigma around mental health and depression for many older consumers, and finding the right treatment can be time-consuming and ultimately ineffective. However, the researchers hope that older consumers treat their mental health concerns the same way they’d treat their physical health concerns. They encourage seniors to take time to find a treatment plan that works for them. 

    Depression affects consumers young and old, and now a new poll is exploring how the latter deals with mental health struggles. According to responses t...
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    A strong social network can protect against depression, study finds

    Forming strong connections with friends or family can help consumers manage symptoms

    As cases of depression continue to grow nationwide, researchers are always looking for ways to treat the condition. A new study conducted by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital found that having a strong social network could help protect against depression. 

    “Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, but until now researchers have focused on only a handful of risk and protective factors, often in just one or two domains,” said researcher Karmel Choi, PhD. “Our study provides the most comprehensive picture to date of modifiable factors that could impact depression risk.” 

    Staying socially engaged

    To understand potential risk factors associated with depression, the researchers evaluated data from the U.K. Biobank. This study included responses from over 100,000 participants and assessed depression-related risks like screen time, physical activity, and sleeping habits, among several others. 

    Of all of the risk factors they looked at, the researchers learned that having strong social connections was the most effective in terms of protecting against depression. Participants reported better mental health outcomes when they had cherished relationships in their lives, regardless of whether it was with friends or family. Having that network of people around for support and social engagement was crucial to reducing depression-related symptoms. 

    “Far and away the most prominent of these factors was frequency of confiding in others, but also visits with friends and family, all of which highlighted the important protective effect of social connection and social cohesion,” said researcher Dr. Jordan Smoller. “These factors are more relevant now than ever at a time of social distancing and separation from friends and family.” 

    While depression affects everyone differently, and there’s no single approach to improving such symptoms, these findings are an important piece of the puzzle when thinking about mental health. The researchers hope that more work can be done in this area to better understand the risks and protective factors associated with depression. 

    “Depression takes an enormous toll on individuals, families, and society, yet we still know very little about how to prevent it,” said Dr. Smoller. “We’ve shown that it’s now possible to address these questions of broad public health significance through a large-scale, data-based approach that wasn’t available even a few years ago. We hope this work will motivate further efforts to develop actionable strategies for preventing depression.” 

    As cases of depression continue to grow nationwide, researchers are always looking for ways to treat the condition. A new study conducted by researchers fr...
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    Burnout is closely linked to depression, researchers say

    Identifying this connection could make it easier for consumers to get help

    Burnout affects consumers in every area of the workforce, and the ripple effects can reach beyond just those feeling overworked. 

    Now, according to researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina, symptoms of burnout could be closely linked to symptoms of depression. 

    “There is a longstanding thought that burnout is associated with workplace factors and that depressive symptoms are associated with workplace factors but also heavily influenced by personal factors,” said researcher Dr. Lisa Rosenstein. “We found that the factors that drive burnout are much more closely related to the factors that drive depressive symptoms than previously realized.” 

    Understanding the connection

    To better understand the connection between feelings of depression and feelings of burnout, the researchers surveyed over 1,500 medical interns across the country. The participants answered questions about their overall mental health to give the researchers a baseline understanding of their depressive symptoms, while other questions touched on feelings of emotional exhaustion. 

    The researchers explained that it’s been hard for experts to pin down a proper set of criteria for burnout, which is why many consumers who experience it have had trouble reporting it to their employers. However, this study revealed that several similarities exist between symptoms of depression and those of burnout. 

    The researchers explain that because of this link, resources for depression can be used for those struggling with burnout, and vice versa. Overall, looking at depression and burnout side by side can be beneficial in trying to manage both conditions. 

    “Previous to this work, depression and burnout were conceptualized as separate entities with different factors contributing to these outcomes,” said Dr. Constance Guille. “This work suggests there is substantial overlap between both workplace and personal factors that contribute to an increase in both depressive symptoms and burnout.” 

    While personal factors did come into play, including the participants’ own history of depressive symptoms, the researchers hope that these findings can be beneficial for those struggling with these incredibly common feelings. Having a more concrete understanding can help create more thorough treatment plans and relieve consumers of the overwhelming stress of both daily life and work. 

    Burnout affects consumers in every area of the workforce, and the ripple effects can reach beyond just those feeling overworked. Now, according to rese...
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    Being grateful for what you have may not help with anxiety or depression symptoms

    Researchers suggest consumers seek out other methods to benefit their mental health

    Many consumers struggle with anxiety and depression, and now researchers from Ohio State University found one practice that may not be helpful for those coping with mental health issues: gratitude. 

    While incorporating a gratitude practice is certainly beneficial for other reasons, the researchers found that when it comes to anxiety and depression, gratitude may not help in improving related symptoms. 

    “For years now, we have heard in the media and elsewhere about how finding ways to increase gratitude can help make us happier and healthier in so many ways,” said researcher David Cregg. “But when it comes to one supposed benefit of these interventions -- helping with symptoms of anxiety and depression -- they really seem to have limited value.” 

    Limitations of a gratitude practice

    To better understand what effect a gratitude practice can have on anxiety or depression, the researchers analyzed nearly 30 different studies that included over 3,600 participants. 

    In the studies the researchers evaluated, participants completed a daily activity related to gratitude. Most of these activities had participants reflect on what in their lives they’re grateful for. After assessing the participants’ mental health, the researchers learned that the gratitude practices weren’t effective in helping them cope with anxiety or depression. 

    “Based on our results, telling people who are feeling depressed and anxious to be more grateful likely won’t result in the kind of reductions in depression and anxiety we would want to see,” said researcher Jennifer Cheavens. “It might be that these sort of interventions, on their own, aren’t powerful enough or that people have difficulty enacting them fully when they are feeling depressed or anxious.” 

    Better treatments

    The researchers recommend more rigorous treatments that could better benefit those struggling with anxiety and depression. Similarly, recent studies have found that remaining hopeful is a key component to coping with anxiety and depression. 

    However, the team doesn’t want to downplay the positives associated with practicing gratitude. Though it wasn’t so effective in improving anxiety and depression, there is an upside to being more grateful. 

    “It is good to be more grateful -- it has intrinsic virtue and there’s evidence that people who have gratitude as a general trait have a lower incidence of mental health problems and better relationships,” said Cregg. 

    Many consumers struggle with anxiety and depression, and now researchers from Ohio State University found one practice that may not be helpful for those co...
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    Teens' social media use does not affect depression, study finds

    Researchers say teenage girls turn to social media in times of depression

    Much research has been done recently that shows the relationship between teens’ social media use and the likelihood of a depression diagnosis.

    Now, researchers are turning that notion on its head, finding that there is no conclusive evidence that shows the correlation between social media use and depression for teenagers.

    “You have to follow the same people over in time in order to draw the conclusion that social media use predicts greater depressive symptoms,” said lead researcher Taylor Heffer. “By using two large longitudinal samples, we were able to empirically test that assumption.”

    The findings

    The researchers followed sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students for two years, having them answer questions about their social media use and time spent in front of screens. The team used the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale to measure depression symptoms.

    Additionally, the researchers had undergraduate students report their own social media and screen time use, as well as depressive symptoms, over the course of six years. The results were broken down by gender and age to get the most precise picture of whether or not social media is affecting the rate of depression.

    The researchers found that spending time on social media was not an indication of developing depression later on, though teen girls were found to seek solace in social media after experiencing depressive symptoms.

    “There may be different groups of people who use social media for different reasons,” said Heffer. “For example, there may be a group of people who use social media to make social comparisons or turn to it when they are feeling down, while another group of people may use it for more positive reasons, such as keeping in contact with friends.”

    With these findings, the researchers hope parents gain a greater understanding of what their children are going through, and don’t jump to conclusions if their teens are spending a lot of time on their phones.

    “When parents read headlines such as ‘Facebook Depression,’ there is an inherent assumption that social media leads to depression,” Heffer said. “Policymakers also have recently been debating ways to tackle the effects of social media use on mental health.”

    Contradicting research

    While people of all ages are being diagnosed with depression at higher rates, many researchers are pointing their fingers at more time being spent on electronic devices -- which young people struggle with the most.

    With suicide rates among young girls at an all-time high, researchers from Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center are also placing the blame on social media.

    According to the researchers, social media can fuel the fire for the need to be perfect at all times, which can have damaging effects on mental health.

    “There continues to be a lot of pressure on young women to be perfect,” said Melissa O’Neill, LCSW, director of the program at Timberline Knolls. “This is definitely increased due to social media and the perception that everyone has the perfect clothes, body, relationship, grades, and life.”

    Much research has been done recently that shows the relationship between teens’ social media use and the likelihood of a depression diagnosis.Now, rese...
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