Despite a downward trend in the number of Americans who smoke, individuals with mental illness are still as likely to smoke today as they were in 2004, according to data from the federal Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. The study looked at the time period of 2004 to 2011, when smoking rates in the general population fell 14%, though the rate of smokers with mental illness remained unchanged.

In 2011, about 25% of individuals with mental illnesses reported being smokers, while only about 16.5% of the general population reported smoking.

Individuals with mental illnesses who were undergoing treatment, however, showed greater quit rates than those who were not receiving treatment (37% versus 33%).

The full report appears in the January 8 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Can’t stop checking your e-mail? Feel phantom vibrations even when your phone isn’t in your pocket? You aren’t alone. Occupational psychologist Emma Russell has released new research that indicates workers obsessed with checking e-mail may actually be damaging their mental health.

Dr. Russell, of London’s Kingston University, analyzed the e-mail of employees across many different types of companies to see which habits had positive or negative influences on their work lives. Many of the habits were thought to be positive traits by the employees, yet had negative effects, as well.

“This research reminds us that even though we think we are using strategies for dealing with our e-mail at work, many of them can be detrimental to other goals and the people we work with,” said Dr. Russell, who presented her Seven Deadly E-mail Sins at the British Psychological Society’s Annual Conference. According to Dr. Russell, the Seven Deadly E-mail Sins, when used in moderation, are fine, but can have a negative impact if they are not handled correctly. For example, while workers may check e-mail outside of business hours to stay on top of work, it may also mean they have trouble switching between work and home life. While responding immediately to e-mails may show concern and interest, it may take the sender away from other tasks needing concentration.

The seven sins include: ping pong (constant e-mails back and forth, creating long chains), e-mailing outside of work hours, e-mailing around others, ignoring e-mails, requesting read receipts, responding immediately to an e-mail alert, and sending automated replies.

Among PAR’s newest and most innovative products, the Vocabulary Assessment Scales (VAS) present highly realistic, full-color digital photographs to measure the breadth of an individual’s vocabulary and oral language development. This complementary pair of assessments measure both expressive (VAS-E) and receptive (VAS-R) vocabulary.  Norm-referenced and designed for simple administration and scoring, the VAS-E and VAS-R can be used individually or in combination throughout an individual’s life span.


Click the video link above to view a short interview with VAS author Rebecca Gerhardstein-Nader, PhD, and learn more about the features and benefits of this exciting new product!

https://vimeo.com/82204714
It’s that time of year….

During the winter months, people are more likely to report feeling tired, depressed, or sad. For many of us, these feelings are a normal response to less sunlight, and an occasional case of the “winter blues” is mild and manageable. Others, however, are struggling with the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a clinical form of depression. What is the difference between the two?

In a recent interview published by the American Psychological Association, SAD expert Kelly Rohan, PhD, explains the signs of the disorder and potential treatments. Rohan is an associate professor of psychology at the University of Vermont who specializes in cognitive-behavioral therapy, theory of depression, and SAD.

According to Rohan, SAD is a pattern of major depressive episodes during the fall and winter months, with periods of full improvement in the winter and spring. “The symptoms of SAD are exactly the same as non-seasonal depression symptoms, which can include a loss of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyed activities, excessive fatigue, difficulty concentrating, a significant change in sleep length and thoughts about death or suicide. The only difference with SAD is the seasonal pattern it follows,” says Rohan in the APA interview.

Widely used treatments for SAD include light therapy, that is, daily exposure to bright artificial light during the months when depressive episodes occur; anti-depressant medications are sometimes prescribed, as well. In recent years, however, Rohan’s lab has been researching the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for SAD. “CBT is a type of talk therapy used and researched extensively for non-seasonal depression since the 1960s, but we are the first group to apply the treatment to SAD,” Rowan says. “The CBT for SAD treatment we have been testing includes 12 structured sessions, delivered two times per week over six weeks in the winter. The sessions focus on developing skills to improve coping with the seasons. The therapist works with the patient to foster two types of skills: behavioral (doing) skills and cognitive (thinking) skills. The behavioral skills involve identifying, scheduling and doing pleasurable, engaging activities every day in the winter. Over time, these proactive behaviors are meant to counteract the down, lethargic mood and the tendency to give in to ‘hibernation’ urges that are so common in SAD. The cognitive skills involve learning to identify and challenge negative thoughts when experiencing SAD symptoms.”

In Rohan’s clinical trial, patients who had been treated with CBT generally had better outcomes than those who had been treated with light therapy alone. “These results suggest that treating someone initially with just CBT may be more effective in the long term,” says Rohan. “My lab is completing a study to find out if these results hold in a larger, more definitive study funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health.”

What do you think? Could CBT be a promising treatment option for clients with SAD? PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!
Too shy to order your extra cheese, hold-the-ketchup, no onion, double bacon burger? No need to feel alone. According to new research, people tend to keep their orders simple – not because that’s what they want, but to avoid embarrassment (whether that’s the judgment of the salesperson or the disapproving eye of other customers).

A group of professors researched the methods in which a shift in retail practices reduced human interaction and found that there was a change in purchasing behavior when there was less interaction during the ordering process. Even in situations where there was a low potential for social embarrassment, people would redirect their ordering behaviors in order to limit potential for embarrassment.

Using true-life cases, the researchers first looked at a Swedish liquor retailer. When the stores switched from a model where a clerk had to retrieve bottles for the customer to a self-service model, sales increased 20 percent. Furthermore, sales shifted – with difficult-to-pronounce beverages seeing an increase in sales. Sales of difficultly named drinks increased 7 percent once people did not have to worry about mispronunciation (and the embarrassment that comes along with that).

Next, the researchers looked at a pizza chain. Customers who ordered online weren’t ashamed to load up on additional toppings or ask for complex orders. Pizzas ordered online were 15 percent more complex than those the same customers ordered over the phone (coincidentally, these orders were also more expensive and higher in calories).

Researchers believe that these changes in ordering behavior are due to the fact that social pressure usually pushes people toward the norm. But remove that layer of human interaction and judgment, and people are free to explore new options as well as express their more finicky (or embarrassing) tastes.

Would you be more willing to place a picky order if no one was watching?
A new study by researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia shows that rates of depression vary significantly from country to country—and patterns of depression worldwide can be quite surprising. The highest rates were reported in the Middle East, North Africa, and Eastern Europe, where more than 5 percent of the population suffers from depression. The lowest rates were in East Asia, Southeast Asia, and Australia/New Zealand. The least depressed country is Japan, with a rate of less than 2.5 percent. On average, approximately 4 percent of the world’s population has been diagnosed with depression. The study also calculated the “burden of depression” for each country, that is, the number of healthy years lost to depression or depression-related premature death. Using this metric, depression becomes the second-leading cause of disability worldwide.

The authors of the study caution that their findings were based on preexisting data on the prevalence, incidence, and duration of depression; therefore, factors such as access to diagnosis and cultural attitudes about mental illness may have skewed results. The authors of the study also said that reliable surveys from some poorer countries were not available.

The Washington Post created a map of clinical depression rates based on the Queensland study; click on the link to learn more about these findings.
If you want to be happy, new research indicates that it may simply be a matter of trying to be happier.

Yuna L. Ferguson and Kennon M. Sheldon published the results of two studies in The Journal of Positive Psychology that present the results of two experiments on this topic. In the first study, participants listened to “happy” music. Those who actively attempted feeling happier reported higher levels of positive mood after the study. In a second study, participants listened to “happy” music over a two-week period. Half of the participants were instructed to try to improve their levels of happiness. The other half were told to simply focus on the music. Those who attempted to improve their happiness levels reported a greater increase in happiness at the end of the study.

These studies challenge earlier research that suggested trying to become happier was counterproductive. According to the researchers, what made the happier group so much happier was both a combination of trying to be happier and using the right methods, suggesting that people interested in becoming happier might need to take a more active role in improving their mindset.

This study supports an assertion by Martin Seligman—one of the psychologists at the heart of the positive psychology movement—who theorized that 60 percent of happiness is genetically determined, while 40 percent is up to the individual.
We have all heard the adage that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. But maybe gossip has gotten a bad rap. According to new research, gossip at work can be seen as a virtue.

Shimul Melwani of the University of North Carolina has researched the consequences of gossip in the workplace. If an individual gossips about someone on his or her team, the research contends that that person is viewed as being less trustworthy. However, an individual who gossips about someone on another team can be seen as someone who is building trust, promoting cooperation, and creating a social glue for their own team. The gossipers themselves, though, experience higher levels of positive emotions than those who abstain, and also report higher levels of energy and motivation, but lower levels of self-esteem.

Researcher Matthew Feinberg has even found a way that gossip makes people better off. Researchers gave participants $10, and they were told they could share as much as they want to another player. That player’s amount would be tripled, and then that player would be able to share as much as he wanted with the participant. Most people gave the entire $10 to the other player, so he would have $30. Instead of sharing this amount, that player decided to keep all $30, leaving the participant with nothing. The participant was then told that now the nefarious player is going to play this game with another person. The participants were told they have the opportunity to pass this new person a note – and 96% of participants chose to use the note as a way to gossip, writing that the player is selfish, not likely to share, out for his own interests, and more.

Once they had gossiped, participants’ heart rates dropped (most increased once they realized they had been treated unfairly). Furthermore, the more the individual valued fairness, the more likely they were to participate in this form of gossip, called prosocial gossip. In fact, in another of Feinberg’s studies, 76% of participants were willing to pay their own money just for the opportunity to gossip in an attempt to create an even playing field for others! Researchers believe that prosocial gossip may have a valuable purpose – making the community more aware of an individual’s reputation and keeping individuals from behaving in selfish and dishonest ways in order to keep their reputation intact.

Do you think gossip helps or hurts in the workplace? What is the role of gossip where you work?

 
A new exhibit called “The Changing Face of What is Normal: Mental Health” opened recently at the Exploratorium in San Francisco. A world-renowned science museum, the Exploratorium features a new gallery that focuses on human behavior. The mental health exhibit is designed to explore the ways society defines, perceives, and responds to those whose behavior is considered “abnormal.” Visitors are encouraged to consider that normality is a fluid concept with a range of definitions that change depending on contexts such as time and place.

The Exploratorium Web site describes three elements that make up the exhibit:

  • Artifacts from the suitcases and trunks of 14 patients who were confined at the Willard Psychiatric Center, a New York mental institution that was decommissioned in 1995. The personal items provide insight into the lives of residents before they were institutionalized.

  • A display tracing the evolution of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a guide used by psychiatric professionals to diagnose and treat cognitive, emotional, and behavioral disorders. This part of the exhibit also includes videotaped interviews with clinicians and clients speaking about their experiences and commenting on the difficulty of categorizing human behavior.

  • An interactive installation called “Restraint,” which explores the ways psychiatric patients have been restrained over time. Visitors can view, experience, and comment on various types of restraints, including the ways societies and cultures constrain everyday behavior and the ways we must often restrain our own impulses.


“The Changing Face of What Is Normal: Mental Health” will be on display at the Exploratorium until spring 2014. Have you seen it? PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!
Have you ever marveled at a coworker’s unprofessional remarks, cringe-worthy pictures, or embarrassing comments made on social media sites? New research delves into how employees manage boundaries on sites such as Facebook and Twitter, revealing how these behaviors effect the way they are viewed by professional contacts.

Researchers Ariane Ollier-Malaterre, Nancy Rothbard, and Justin Berg believe there are two key factors that govern an individual’s social media choices—whether they are integrators or segmentors and whether they are aiming to impress or express.

Integrators intend to create connections between their professional and personal lives, blending the two spheres. Segmentors, however, prefer to keep these roles separate. On social media, this may mean using privacy controls, keeping LinkedIn connections for professional contacts and Facebook for personal friends, or simply making their profile unsearchable.

Impressers see social media as way to build a reputation and a base of followers, sharing positive information such as achievements or articles that make them look intelligent. Impressers avoid controversial posts and are careful to share information that paints them in a flattering light. Expressers, however, see social media as a way to be viewed more accurately by others, sharing experiences (both good and bad), writing about unpopular opinions, and posting pictures and articles that may not appeal to everyone on their friend list.

Bringing both boundary preferences and image motives together, the researchers were able to gain insight into how others may view and respect you. For example, an integrator with a high motivation to express may sacrifice respect from colleagues as they gain a reputation for revealing too much or sharing inappropriate information. However, keeping too much private or not accepting a friend request from a coworker is also regarded negatively by those at work. The researchers believe that mirroring the tailored nature of offline relationships may be a wise choice for professional relationships, though this may be the most time consuming way to manage social media profiles.

To read more, visit the Academy of Management Review.