A large study on more than 10,000 children born in 2000-01 reveals a significant rate of depression among teen girls and boys.
Researchers from the University of Liverpool and University College London analyzed responses from the Millennium Cohort Study and discovered a quarter of girls (24 percent) and one in 10 boys (nine percent) are depressed at age 14.
In the study, parents are asked to report on their children’s mental health at ages three, five, seven, 11 and 14. Then, when they reached 14, the children were themselves asked questions about their depressive symptoms. The research, published with the National Children’s Bureau, also investigated links between depressive symptoms and family income.
Generally, 14-year-olds from better-off families were less likely to have high levels of depressive symptoms compared to their peers from poorer homes.
Parents’ reports of emotional problems were roughly the same for boys and girls throughout childhood, increasing from seven percent of children at age seven to 12 percent at age 11.
However, by the time they reached early adolescence at age 14, emotional problems became more prevalent in girls, with 18 percent having symptoms of depression and anxiety, compared to 12 percent of boys.
Behavior problems, such as acting out, fighting and being rebellious decreased from infancy to age five, but then increased to age 14. Boys were more likely than girls to have behavior problems throughout childhood and early adolescence.
The discovery of a wide variation between parents’ perceptions of their children’s mental health and the 14-year-olds’ own reports of their emotional problems highlights the importance of considering young people’s views on their own mental health.
“In recent years, there has been a growing policy focus on children’s mental health. However, there has been a lack of nationally representative estimates of mental health problems for this generation,” said lead author Dr. Praveetha Patalay, from the University of Liverpool.
“In other research, we’ve highlighted the increasing mental health difficulties faced by girls today compared to previous generations and this study further highlights the worryingly high rates of depression.”
Professor Emla Fitzsimons, director of the Millennium Cohort Study, said, “These stark findings provide evidence that mental health problems among girls rise sharply as they enter adolescence. And while further research using this rich data is needed to understand the causes and consequences of this, this study highlights the extent of mental health problems among young adolescents in the U.K. today.”
Anna Feuchtwang, Chief Executive of the National Children’s Bureau, said, “This study of thousands of children gives us the most compelling evidence available about the extent of mental ill-health among children in the UK. With a quarter of 14-year-old girls showing signs of depression, it’s now beyond doubt that this problem is reaching crisis point.
“Worryingly, there is evidence that parents may be underestimating their daughters’ mental health needs. Conversely, parents may be picking up on symptoms in their sons, which boys don’t report themselves. It’s vital that both children and their parents can make their voices heard to maximize the chances of early identification and access to specialist support.
“The new research also suggests that signs of depression are generally more common among children from poorer families. We know that mental health doesn’t exist in a vacuum and as the government prepares to publish its plans to improve children’s well-being, it must address the overlap with other aspects of disadvantage.”
Source: University of Liverpool
Commonly known as the “love hormone,” oxytocin plays a major role in social relationships — but more isn’t always better. A new mouse study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry shows that oxytocin amplifies the effects of social experiences — both good and bad. In fact, after negative social experiences, the presence of oxytocin in a particular part of the brain results in avoidance of unfamiliar social situations.
For the study, behavioral neuroscientists Natalia Duque-Wilckens and Brian Trainor worked with female California mice. When stressed, these mice often exhibit a form of social anxiety, shying away from unfamiliar mice instead of approaching them. However, the findings show that a single dose of a drug that blocks the activity of oxytocin restored normal social behavior in stressed females.
The findings are exciting because “for antidepressants like Prozac to have this same effect, it takes a month of daily treatment,” said Trainor, a professor in the University of California (UC), Davis Department of Psychology, College of Letters and Science.
The researchers expected the mice to behave in this manner based on their previous work showing that social stress increases the activity of oxytocin-producing cells in the brain and that females given intranasal oxytocin tend to avoid new social contexts.
Postdoctoral researcher Duque-Wilckens said that these findings support the theory that oxytocin amplifies the effects of social experiences. So rather than promoting only positive social interactions, oxytocin intensifies the experience of both positive and negative social interactions.
In a positive context, such as with family or friends, oxytocin could promote social approach behavior (hence its reputation as the “cuddling” hormone). However, in a negative context, like bullying, oxytocin could promote social avoidance.
But how can the same hormone have such different effects on behavior? The researchers found that two brain regions responded to oxytocin more strongly in females than males. These regions were the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), a brain region known to control anxiety, and the nucleus accumbens, a brain region important for reward and motivation.
The team found that injecting an oxytocin blocker into the BNST, but not the nucleus accumbens, reversed the effects of stress on social behavior in females. Work by other researchers has suggested that oxytocin in the nucleus accumbens promotes rewarding aspects of social interactions.
These findings suggest that oxytocin can generate social anxiety or reward by acting in different areas of the brain. At times when oxytocin is acting in the BNST, drugs that block oxytocin could reduce social anxiety.
Trainor said a consistent theme in oxytocin research is that experience and the surrounding environment have important effects on how oxytocin affects behavior.
“Stressful social experiences appear to change which parts of the brain use oxytocin,” he said. “Understanding how this works in a mouse gives us new ideas on how we could use drugs targeting oxytocin to reduce social anxiety.”
Source: University of California, Davis
New episode of ‘Crazy Talk With…‘ the legendary NATASHA DEVON! So excited to have her as a guest on the podcast. Natasha is a warrior,…
Hello! Long time no blog. Just a VERY brief update to let you know that, yes, I am still alive, and university is finally over! I got my results a couple of weeks ago and managed to get a first class degree! I absolutely HATED my last year of uni, given how bad uni in general was for my mental health (MASSIVE “mega-rant” coming about this in the future), and I’m still feeling very pessimistic about my future job prospects with a biological sciences degree, but at least all my hard work and stressing and all-nighters have paid off to an extent.
I had intended to write a few blog posts over the last two or three weeks but I’ve unfortunately been so busy that it hasn’t happened. The reason I’ve been so busy is that I’ve been preparing for a 5-week adventure abroad, on my own, which I leave for today. This is WAAAY out of my comfort zone and I’ve felt so anxious over the last few days that I have a constant sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I honestly think I must be crazy for signing up to this. It will challenge my anxiety like never before, and I just hope that I will be able to cope. At the same time, though, I am really looking forward to this. Hopefully it will really help to boost my confidence.
I’m sorry that I’ve been so terrible at responding to emails over the past year. Thank you to everyone who has emailed me or commented on my blog, and I’m really sorry if I haven’t messaged you back yet – it’s nothing personal. I’ll try and get caught up on all of that when I return from my trip. I really have missed my blog all these months, and the cathartic/ therapeutic effect of blogging. I have A LOT of updates to write, and a lot of other things I want to write about when I get back. Anyway, I’ve rambled on long enough, and I’d better get a move on – I have a plane to catch! Thanks for reading and speak to you all in 5 weeks!
A new study from the U.K. finds that living in a neighborhood with more birds, shrubs, and trees may help to reduce the risk of depression, anxiety, and stress.
Researchers studied hundreds of people and found that being able to see birds, shrubs, and trees around the home, whether people lived in urban or more leafy suburban neighborhoods.
University of Exeter, the British Trust for Ornithology, and the University of Queensland study involved a survey of mental health in over 270 people from different ages, incomes, and ethnicities.
Researchers also found that those who spent less time out of doors than usual in the previous week were more likely to report they were anxious or depressed.
After conducting extensive surveys of the number of birds in the morning and afternoon of three communities, the study found that lower levels of depression, anxiety, and stress were associated with the number of birds people could see in the afternoon.
Researchers studied afternoon bird numbers — which tend to be lower than birds generally seen in the morning — because are more in keeping with the number of birds that people are likely to see in their neighborhood on a daily basis.
In the study, common types of birds including blackbirds, robins, blue tits, and crows were seen. However, the study did not find a relationship between the species of birds and mental health, but rather the number of birds they could see from their windows, in the garden, or in their neighborhood.
Previous studies have found that the ability of most people to identify different species is low, suggesting that for most people it is interacting with birds, not just specific birds, that provides well-being.
University of Exeter research fellow Dr. Daniel Cox, who led the study, said, “This study starts to unpick the role that some key components of nature play for our mental well-being. Birds around the home, and nature in general, show great promise in preventative health care, making cities healthier, happier places to live.”
The positive association between birds, shrubs, and trees and better mental health applied, even after controlling for variation in neighborhood deprivation, household income, age, and a wide range of other socio-demographic factors.
The current study expands an earlier which found that watching birds makes people feel relaxed and connected to nature.
Source: University of Exeter
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