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Recent research: six papers with broad social implications – inequality, health insurance, spanking, bullying, and religion

Here are half a dozen recent research papers with broad social implications (all details & abstracts to these studies are given further down this blog posting).  Kay and colleagues publish on "Inequality, discrimination, and the power of the status quo: Direct evidence for a motivation to see the way things are as the way they should be."  They report four studies showing how widely this motivation acts - with political power, public funding, gender demographics, and in attacks on those who are trying to work for change.  There's relevance here to the second paper by Wilper et al on "Health Insurance and Mortality in US Adults" estimating that, even after adjusting for income, education, health status, weight, exercise, smoking and alcohol use, lack of insurance was associated with about 45,000 excess deaths annually in the United States among people aged 18 to 64.  Still in the area of inequality and discrimination, Wexler et al publish on

Recent research: six studies on the long-term effects of abuse & deprivation

Here are half a dozen studies on the long-term effects of various forms of abuse & deprivation.  Paras et al systematically reviewed the association between a history of sexual abuse and a lifetime diagnosis of a somatic disorder.  They found significant links with functional gastrointestinal disorders, nonspecific chronic pain, psychogenic seizures, and chronic pelvic pain.  When analysis was restricted to studies where sexual abuse was defined as rape, they also found an association with fibromyalgia.  Abstracts and links, for this research paper and the further papers described, can be found lower down this page.   

Exeter conference day 3: positive psychology, imagery symposium, compassion lecture, & closing remarks

Third and last day of the full conference.  In fact we finish at lunch time today.  Up, then an interesting conversation about bipolar disorder at breakfast.  It's fun how I can chat with almost any of the well over 1,000 conference participants and almost certainly we'll have a whole lot of helpful shared experiences and insights to explore.  Then off to an in-conference workshop on Positive psychology based interventions.  Sadly there's a notice on the seminar room door saying the workshop has been cancelled due to illness.  Oh dear, I hope the would-be presenter Ilona Boniwell (or any ill members of her family) get well soon.  What a pity.  It's been a feature of this year's BABCP conference that a number of research papers on positive psychology interventions have begun to emerge.  So, flipping through the conference programme, presentations that appear to overlap into this area include: Developing the role of psychological wellbeing practitioners; If it feels go

Recent research: five papers on childhood trauma, parenting & health in adulthood

Here are five papers on childhood, the effects childhood experience can have on adulthood, and the effects adults may then have on their own children.  The first paper by Brody et al. is the encouraging one.  It demonstrates how caring parenting can combat genetic vulnerability - "involved-supportive" mothering greatly reduced the link between vulnerable genes and subsequent youth substance abuse.  The Van Meurs et al study shows the reverse - how problem behaviours in one generation of children increases the likelihood that, when these children become parents themselves, their own children will develop similar problem behaviours.

Recent research: a mixed bag of six papers on anxiety

Here are half a dozen papers with anxiety relevance.  The first couple are about the interaction between genetic vulnerability (or resilience) and childhood experience.  The Stevens et al paper is an update on the large body of research looking at psychological genetic vulnerability/resilience in macaque monkeys and how this interacts with parenting quality to lead, or not lead, to emotional and neurophysiological disturbances in adulthood.  The Battaglia paper particularises this gene/environment investigation by looking at the connections between early human childhood separation anxiety, loss of a parent, and panic disorder in adulthood.  

Handouts & questionnaires for healthy sexuality, sexual dysfunctions, and for abuse

Here are a series of handouts,questionnaires and book suggestions for healthy sexuality, for sexual dysfunctions, and for abuse screening. 

Touch, sex & caring - this two page Word handout is rather dated now, but still makes a series of very valid points.

Recent research: six studies on prevalence of depression & anxiety, and risk factors for depression, bipolar disorder & suicide

Here are a couple of studies on the prevalence of depression and anxiety, and four on risk factors for depression, bipolar disorder and suicide.  Strine et al report on a major survey of depression and anxiety in the United States.  They found "The overall prevalence of current depressive symptoms was 8.7% (range by state and territory, 5.3%-13.7%); of a lifetime diagnosis of depression, 15.7% (range, 6.8%-21.3%); and of a lifetime diagnosis of anxiety, 11.3% (range, 5.4%-17.2%)."  Smoking, lack of exercise, and excessive drinking were all associated with increased likelihood of mental disorders, as too was physical ill health.  Young et al, in a separate study, looked at the likelihood of depression and anxiety becoming persistent.  They estimated - at nearly 3 year follow-up - that the US prevalence of persistent depressive or anxiety disorder was 4.7%.  Only about a quarter of these sufferers were using appropriate medication and only about a fifth appropriate counselling.

Life review, traumatic memories & therapeutic writing

The genius of Tulku Urgyen was that he could point out the nature of mind with precision and matter-of-factness of teaching a person how to thread a needle and could get an ordinary meditator like me to recognize that consciousness is intrinsically free of self ... I came to Tulku Urgyen yearning for the experience of self-transcendence, and in a few minutes he showed me I had no self to transcend ... Tulku Urgyen simply handed me the ability to cut through the illusion of the self directly, even in ordinary states of consciousness.  This instruction was, without question, the most important thing I have ever been explicitly taught by another human being.  It has given me a way to escape the usual tides of psychological suffering - fear, anger, shame - in an instant.

- Sam Harris

This section includes charts to help clarify life history, traumatic events, childhood experiences, and therapeutic writing.  It overlaps with some of the handouts given in the linked "PTSD assessment, images, memories & information" section .  I use "therapeutic" writing as a general term covering all types of writing that have been shown to be helpful & "therapeutic".  When describing the form of therapeutic writing, developed by Jamie Pennebaker and other researchers, that focuses particularly on writing one's "deepest thoughts & feelings" about life traumas & difficulties, I tend to use the term "expressive" writing (to distinguish it, for example, from other forms of therapeutic writing focusing on diverse topics such as "best possible selves", "intensely positive

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