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Recent research: two studies on depression, one on sex, & three on positive psychology

Here are half a dozen research papers that have recently interested me (all details & abstracts to these studies are given further down this blog posting).  The first by Fournier et al is about whether to choose antidepressants or psychotherapy to treat depression.  They found that marriage, unemployment and having experienced a greater number of recent life events all predicted a better response to cognitive therapy than to antidepressants.  In the second study Luby et al looked at depression in children aged between 3 and 6 years old.  Worryingly they found forms of depression even in kids this young.  They also found over two years of follow-up that "Preschool depression, similar to childhood depression, is not a developmentally transient syndrome but rather shows chronicity and/or recurrence."  Hopefully this kind of research will mean these troubled children have a bit more chance of being identified and helped.

The health professions: selfless vocation or well-paid career?

The overlap between money and the health professions seems to involve a complex, multi-faceted set of issues.  I was triggered into thinking about this by the coincidence of three events.  One was a conversation at the recent annual BABCP psychotherapy conference, a second was reading Lewis Hyde's book "The gift", and the third was struggling to pay my most recent tax bill.

Recent research: six articles on wellbeing – meaning in life, reappraisal, positive emotions, and neighbourliness

Here are six research articles (see below for abstracts and links) loosely falling into the overall area of wellbeing.  Boyle, Barnes et al report on the association between purpose in life and mortality in older people.  They found that greater purpose in life was associated with considerably reduced mortality even when allowing for a series of possible confounders like depressive symptoms, disability, neuroticism, the number of chronic medical conditions, and income.  Also showing benefits for purpose and meaning, Maselko, Gilman, et al looked at religious involvement in the USA and and its associations with psychological health - specifically links between high, medium and low tertiles (dividing the study population into thirds) of spiritual well-being and religious service attendance and lifetime risk of depression. They found that "Religious service attendance was associated with 30% lower odds of depression. In addition, individuals in the top tertile of existential well-being had a 70% lower odds of depression compared to individuals in the bottom tertile. Contrary to our original hypotheses, however, higher levels of religious well-being were associated with 1.5 times higher odds of depression".

“Smile intensity in photographs predicts divorce later in life”

I do think that Matt Hertenstein and colleagues came up with an eye catching title here:

Hertenstein, M., C. Hansel, et al. (2009). "Smile intensity in photographs predicts divorce later in life." Motivation and Emotion 33(2): 99-105.  [Abstract/Full Text]  [Free Full Text]

The Ben Lui group (first post): the challenge of balancing planning & savouring

Tomorrow I hope to head North and West up past Stirling, Lochearnhead and Crianlarich to Strath Fillan.  I should be able to park at a little village called Dalrigh just before Tyndrum.  From there I can walk in by the River Cononish for about 7 km to get to Ben Lui (Beinn Laoigh, calf hill).  The Scottish Mountaineering Club's Munros guidebook describes it as " ... one of the finest mountains in the Southern Highlands; it stands high above its neighbours, and its splendid shape is unmistakable."  They estimate a bit under 4 hours to the summit.  From there it should be straightforward to head on to Beinn a' Chleibh (hill of the creel or chest).  The forecast is mixed - hopefully low cloud will clear somewhat as the day goes on. 

We'll see.  It's very useful having an up to date forecast, but what it's actually like on the hill can sometimes be rather different.  If all goes well and my body holds up, I'll head back over two more Munros - Ben Oss (hill of the loch outlet or elk hill) and Beinn Dubhchraig (hill of the black rock).  If it's too tough I can always pull out after just a couple of Munros or even after just Ben Lui.

New Year’s resolution – would you like to be happier?

So here's a blast from the past ... that could be fun and useful for a New Year's resolution.  I first came across Michael Fordyce's research year's ago (Fordyce 1977; Fordyce 1983).  It was probably the first serious scientific exploration of how to help people become happier that I'd ever read.  The approach involves a training called the "Fourteen Fundamentals".  These are fourteen characteristics of happy people, extracted from research, that Fordyce argued most people could develop for themselves.  The "Fundamentals" are: 1.) Be more active and keep busy.  2.) Spend more time socializing.  3.) Be productive at meaningful work.  4.) Get better organized and plan things out.  5.) Stop worrying.  6.) Lower your expectations and aspirations.  7.) Develop positive optimistic thinking.  8.) Get present orientated.  9.) WOAHP - work on a healthy personality. 10.) Develop an outgoing, social personality.  11.) Be yourself.  12.) Eliminate negative feelings and problems.  13.) Close relationships are the #1 source of happiness. 14.) VALHAP (value happiness) - the "secret fundamental".

Recent research: four happiness studies on traditional advice, health benefits, and the particular value of safety & contentment

It seemed time to post on recent research involving happiness and wellbeing.  Here are four studies from the current issues of the Journal of Happiness Studies (the September edition is open access with all full articles freely viewable) and the Journal of Positive Psychology.  Ad Bergsma discusses advice on how to be happy given across the ages.  He refers to some of the other articles in this edition of the Journal of Happiness studies, including papers on the happiness advice of Epicurus, Schopenhauer, and the ancient Chinese philosphers.  Maarten Berg looks at the possible value of ‘New Age' suggestions on happiness.  Paul Gilbert and colleagues look, very interestingly, at different types of positive emotion and suggest that it may be what they call "safe/content" feelings that are particulary protective against a variety of unhappy emotional states.  Veenhoven reviews thirty studies on happiness and longevity and argues that, although happiness does not seem to cure illness, it does a good job of reducing the chances of getting ill - with a similar effect size to the benefits of being a non-smoker rather than a smoker.

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