Mental Health Challenges for Spring 2021

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trader32176
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Re: Mental Health Challenges for Spring 2021

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Study addresses how to mitigate the mental health impact of Covid-19 lockdown

1/7/21

https://www.news-medical.net/news/20210 ... kdown.aspx


The Covid-19 pandemic is impacting people's mental health. But what helps and hinders people in getting through a lockdown? A new study led by researchers at the University of Basel addressed this question using data from 78 countries across the world. The results hint at the pivots and hinges on which the individual's psyche rests in the pandemic.

At the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic, little was known about the impact of population-wide governmental lockdowns. What was known was taken from restricted quarantines of small groups of people.

" On the one hand, such drastic changes to daily routines can be detrimental to mental health. On the other hand, because the entire population was more or less equally affected during the lockdown, it remained unclear whether this impact would occur."

- Andrew Gloster, Professor, University of Basel

Professor Andrew Gloster is the co-leader of the study now published in PLOS One.

To address this question, Gloster and his international colleagues conducted an online survey in 18 languages. Almost 10,000 people from 78 countries participated, giving information about their mental health and overall situation during the Covid-19 lockdown.

One in ten respondents reported low levels of mental health - including negative affect, stress, depressive behaviors and a pessimistic view of society. Another 50% had only moderate mental health, which has previously been found to be a risk factor for further complications. These figures are consistent with other studies addressing the impact of the pandemic on mental health.

Lowest levels of well-being in Hong Kong and Italy


Overall, the responses in the different surveyed countries were largely similar. However, although no country emerged as either consistently better or worse across all outcomes, there were some differences. Hong Kong and Turkey reported more stress than other countries; the USA reported more depressive symptoms; and well-being was lowest in Hong Kong and Italy. Participants in Austria, Germany and Switzerland, on the other hand, reported significantly fewer negative emotions (negative affect) than the average level across all countries.

These differences are likely due to a combination of chance, nation-specific responses to the pandemic, cultural differences and factors such as political unrest. Beyond that, they may in part be explained by factors the researchers found to be connected to outcomes. Loss of financial income compared to pre-lockdown levels and not having access to basic supplies were consistently associated with worse outcomes. Factors that consistently improved outcomes were having social support, higher education levels, and being able to respond and adapt flexibly to the situation.

"Public health initiatives should target people without social support and those whose finances worsen as a result of the lockdown. Based on these results, interventions that promote psychological flexibility like acceptance and commitment therapy hold promise when it comes to mitigating the impact of the pandemic and lockdowns," says Gloster. Given the continued fluid development of the pandemic and its economic consequences, attention to people's mental health remains important.

Source:

University of Basel

Journal reference:

Gloster, A.T., et al. (2020) Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on mental health: An international study. PLOS ONE. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0244809.
trader32176
Posts: 1535
Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2020 5:22 am

Re: Mental Health Challenges for Spring 2021

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Six ways to ‘reboot your brain’ after a hard year of COVID-19 – according to science

December 31, 2020


https://theconversation.com/six-ways-to ... nce-151332


There’s no doubt that 2020 was difficult for everyone and tragic for many. But now vaccines against COVID-19 are finally being administered – giving a much needed hope of a return to normality and a happy 2021.

However, months of anxiety, grief and loneliness can easily create a spiral of negativity that is hard to break out of. That’s because chronic stress changes the brain. And sometimes when we’re low we have no interest in doing the things that could actually make us feel better.

To enjoy our lives in 2021, we need to snap out of destructive habits and get our energy levels back.
In some cases, that may initially mean forcing yourself to do the things that will gradually make you feel better. If you are experiencing more severe symptoms, however, you may want to speak to a professional about therapy or medication.

Here are six evidenced-based ways to change our brains for the better.

1. Be kind and helpful


Kindness, altruism and empathy can affect the brain. One study showed that making a charitable donation activated the brain’s reward system in a similar way to actually receiving money. This also applies to helping others who have been wronged.

Volunteering can also give a sense of meaning in life, promoting happiness, health and wellbeing. Older adults who volunteer regularly also exhibit greater life satisfaction and reduced depression and anxiety. In short, making others happy is a great way to make yourself happy.

2. Exercise

Exercise has been linked with both better physical and mental health, including improved cardiovascular health and reduced depression. In childhood, exercise is associated with better school performance, while it promotes better cognition and job performance in young adults. In older adults, exercise maintains cognitive performance and provides resilience against neurodegenerative disorders, such as dementia.

What’s more, studies have shown that individuals with higher levels of fitness have increased brain volume, which is associated with better cognitive performance in older adults. People who exercise also live longer. One of the very best things that you can do to reboot your brain is in fact to go out and get some fresh air during a brisk walk, run or cycling session. Do make sure to pick something you actually enjoy to ensure you keep doing it though.

3. Eat well

Nutrition can substantially influence the development and health of brain structure and function. It provides the proper building blocks for the brain to create and maintain connections, which is critical for improved cognition and academic performance. Previous evidence has shown that long-term lack of nutrients can lead to structural and functional damage to the brain, while a good quality diet is related to larger brain volume.

One study of 20,000 participants from the UK-Biobank showed that a higher intake of cereal was associated with the long-term beneficial effects of increased volume of grey matter (a key component of the central nervous system), which is linked to improved cognition. However, diets rich in sugar, saturated fats or calories can damage neural function. They can also reduce the brain’s ability to make new neural connections, which negatively affects cognition.

Therefore, whatever your age, remember to eat a well-balanced diet, including fruits, vegetables and cereal.

4. Keep socially connected

Loneliness and social isolation is prevalent across all ages, genders and cultures – further elevated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Robust scientific evidence has indicated that social isolation is detrimental to physical, cognitive and mental health.

One recent study showed that there were negative effects of COVID-19 isolation on emotional cognition, but that this effect was smaller in those that stayed connected with others during lockdown. Developing social connections and alleviating loneliness is also associated with decreased risk of mortality as well as a range of illnesses.

Therefore, loneliness and social isolation are increasingly recognised as critical public health issues, which require effective interventions. And social interaction is associated with positive feelings and increased activation in the brain’s reward system.

In 2021, be sure to keep up with family and friends, but also expand your horizons and make some new connections.

5. Learn something new

The brain changes during critical periods of development, but is also a lifelong process. Novel experiences, such as learning new skills, can modify both brain function and the underlying brain structure. For example juggling has been shown to increase white matter (tissue composed of nerve fibers) structures in the brain associated with visuo-motor performance.

Similarly, musicians have been shown to have increased grey matter in the parts of the brain that process auditory information. Learning a new language can also change the structure of the human brain.

A large review of the literature suggested that mentally stimulating leisure activities increase brain-reserve, which can instil resilience and be protective of cognitive decline in older adults – be it chess or cognitive games.

6. Sleep properly

Sleep is an essential component of human life, yet many people do not understand the relationship between good brain health and the process of sleeping. During sleep, the brain reorganises and recharges itself and removes toxic waste byproducts, which helps to maintain normal brain functioning.

Sleep is very important for transforming experiences into our long-term memory, maintaining cognitive and emotional function and reducing mental fatigue. Studies of sleep deprivation have demonstrated deficits in memory and attention as well as changes in the reward system, which often disrupts emotional functioning. Sleep also exerts a strong regulatory influence on the immune system. If you have the optimal quantity and quality of sleep, you will find that you have more energy, better wellbeing and are able to develop your creativity and thinking.

So have a Happy New Year! And let’s make the most of ourselves in 2021 and help others to do the same.
trader32176
Posts: 1535
Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2020 5:22 am

Re: Mental Health Challenges for Spring 2021

Post by trader32176 »

Study shows a 25% increase in food insufficiency during COVID-19 pandemic

1/12/21


https://www.news-medical.net/news/20210 ... demic.aspx


A new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found a 25% increase in food insufficiency during the COVID-19 pandemic. Food insufficiency, the most extreme form of food insecurity, occurs when families do not have enough food to eat. Among the nationally representative sample of 63,674 adults in the US, Black and Latino Americans had over twice the risk of food insufficiency compared to White Americans.

" People of color are disproportionately affected by both food insufficiency and COVID-19. Many of these individuals have experienced job loss and higher rates of poverty during the pandemic."

- Jason Nagata, MD, MSc, Study Lead Author, Assistant Professor, Pediatrics, University of California, San Francisco

Overall, 65% of Americans reported anxiety symptoms and 52% reported depressive symptoms in the week prior to completing the survey. Those who did not have enough to eat during that week reported worse mental health, with 89% of food-insufficient Americans reporting anxiety symptoms compared to 63% of food-sufficient Americans. Similarly, 83% of food-insufficient Americans, compared to 49% of food-sufficient, Americans reported depressive symptoms.

"Hunger, exhaustion, and worrying about not getting enough food to eat may worsen depression and anxiety symptoms," said Nagata.

Researchers found that receipt of free groceries or meals alleviated some of the mental health burden of food insufficiency.

"Policymakers should expand benefits and eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other programs to address both food insecurity and mental health," said Kyle Ganson, PhD, MSW, assistant professor at the University of Toronto, a co-author of the study.

Source:


University of Toronto

Journal reference:


Nagata, J.M., et al. (2021) Food Insufficiency and Mental Health in the U.S. During the COVID-19 Pandemic. American Journal of Preventative Medicine. doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2020.12.004.
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