Tuesday January 22, 2019

Mindfulness meditation may lower major depression risk

The researchers recruited adult patients aged 18 and above with sub-threshold depression from public primary care clinics and randomly assigned them to a BAM intervention group

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A new study suggests meditation can reduce stress and anxiety. VOA
  • Mindfulness meditation may reduce depression risk
  • It can also help in curing the depression
  • Mediation has several other benefits as well

Mindfulness meditation training may improve depression symptoms and reduce the incidence of major depression, a new study suggests.

Patients with clinically significant symptoms of depression who do not meet the criteria for major depressive disorder or dysthymic disorder are considered to have sub-threshold depression.

Practice of yoga is believed to heighten the spirit and the body.
Mindfulness meditation can reduce the risk of depression. Wikimedia Commons

According to the researchers from The Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care in Hong Kong, sub-threshold depression can cause functional impairment and considerable economic costs, and it is a strong risk factor for developing major depressive disorder.

The study, published in the journal Annals of Family Medicine, undertook a randomised controlled trial to assess the efficacy of group-based behavioural activation with mindfulness (BAM) for treating sub-threshold depression.

Also Read: Online intervention helps teenage moms deal with depression

The researchers recruited adult patients aged 18 and above with sub-threshold depression from public primary care clinics and randomly assigned them to a BAM intervention group or a usual care group.

They randomly allocated 115 patients to the BAM intervention and 116 patients to usual care. The BAM group was provided with eight two-hour weekly BAM sessions by trained allied health care workers. Patients in the usual care group received usual medical care with no additional psychological interventions.

The primary outcome was depressive symptoms measured by the Beck Depression Inventory-II at 12 months. Secondary outcomes included incidence of major depressive disorder at 12 months. We assessed quality of life, activity and circumstances change, functional impairment, and anxiety at baseline, end of the intervention, 5 months, and 12 months, the researchers said.

Practice of yoga is believed to heighten the spirit and the body.
The group which meditated had lesser risk of depression. Wikimedia Commons

At 12 months, compared with usual care peers, BAM patients had a slightly more favourable change in levels of depressive symptoms on the Beck Depression Inventory-II. The incidence of major depressive disorder was lower with BAM, whereas groups did not differ significantly on other secondary outcomes at 12 months.

The researchers, including Samuel Y. S. Wong, suggested that BAM group appears to be efficacious for decreasing depressive symptoms and reducing the incidence of major depression among patients with sub-threshold depression in primary care. IANS

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Smartphones Using Artificial Intelligence Can Predict User’s Mental Well-Being

At the University of Illinois' Chicago campus, researchers are using crowdsourcing to test their experimental phone app.

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Students, smartphones
Students walk across a campus in Portland, Oregon. VOA

Could the devices being blamed for teen depression be useful in revealing it?

Studies have linked heavy smartphone use with worsening teen mental health. But as teens spend time on sites like Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube, they also leave digital trails that may offer signs about their mental well-being.

Experts say possible warning signs include changes in writing speed, voice quality, word choice and how often a student stays home from school.

There are more than 1,000 smartphone “biomarkers,” said Dr. Thomas Insel, former head of the National Institute of Mental Health, which is the largest mental health research organization in the world. Insel is a leader in the smartphone psychiatry movement.

Snapchat, smartphones
An image of the Snapchat logo created with Post-it notes is seen in lower Manhattan, New York, May 18, 2016. VOA

Researchers are testing smartphone apps that use artificial intelligence, or AI, to predict depression and possible self-harm. Using smartphones as mental health detectors require permission from users to download an app, and permission could be revoked any time.

Nick Allen, a psychologist at the University of Oregon, has created an app being tested on young people who have attempted suicide. Allen says the biggest barrier is discerning the mental health crisis signals in the information on people’s phones.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 34 in the United States. By 2015, suicide rates among teen boys rose to 14 in every 100,000 and five in every 100,000 people, among girls. A recent study suggested a rise in smartphone use has probably worsened the crisis.

People with mental illness, Insel said, usually get treatment “when they’re in crisis and very late. … We want to have a method to identify the earliest signs.”

Smartphones
iPhones on display at an Apple store in Virginia, USA, April 4, 2016. VOA

If smartphones can become effective predictors, app developers say the goal might be to offer automated text messages and links to assistance, or digital messages to parents, doctors and first responders.

Facebook employs “proactive detection.” Last year, after a suicide was broadcast on Facebook Live, the company trained its AI systems to look for words in online posts that could predict possible self-harm. Friends’ comments expressing concern about the user’s well-being are part of that detection system.

Facebook has helped first responders quickly reach around 3,500 people in the past year. But the company did not offer followup details on those people.

Ongoing research includes a Stanford University study of about 200 teens. Many of them are at risk for depression because of bullying, family issues or other problems. Teens who have been studied since grade school get an experimental phone app that asks them questions about their mood three times a day for two weeks.

Students, smartphones
In this Feb. 26, 2015, file photo, a UCLA campus tour guide leads prospective college-bound high school seniors on a campus tour in Los Angeles. VOA

Laurel Foster, 15, is part of the study. Foster said she is stressed about school and friendships. Depression is common at her San Francisco high school, she said. The smartphone app felt a little like being spied on, she said, but many websites are already following users’ behaviors.

Alyssa Lizarraga, 19, is also part of the study. Lizarraga said she has had depression since high school, and worries about her heavy use of smartphones and social media. She said comparing herself with others online sometimes causes her sadness. But she believes using smartphones to identify mental health problems might help push people to seek early treatment.

At the University of California, Los Angeles, researchers offer online counseling and an experimental phone app to students who show signs of at least minor depression on a test. It is part of a larger effort launched in 2017 by the university to battle depression in its students. About 250 UCLA students agreed to use the app during their first year.

Also Read: Depression In Girls Linked To Higher Use Of Social Media: Study

At the University of Illinois’ Chicago campus, researchers are using crowdsourcing to test their experimental phone app. Nearly 2,000 people have downloaded the app and agreed to let researchers follow typing behaviors. Alex Leow, a professor of psychiatry and bioengineering at the university, helped develop the app.

The study is for people 18 and older, but Leow said it could also be used for children if successful.

Along with studies at universities, technology companies such as Mindstrong and Verily — the tech health division of Google — are testing their own experimental apps. (VOA)