If you are looking to exercise both your body and your mind, then you may be interested in some new research conducted at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Neha Gothe, a graduate student at Illinois who is now a professor of kinesiology at Wayne State University, led a research team to uncover data that shows a 20-minute session of hatha yoga significantly improved participants’ speed and accuracy on tests of working memory and inhibitory control. Participants showed significantly better results on these tests of retention of new information after a yoga session than after completing a moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise.

Participants underwent a 20-minute progression of seated, standing, and supine yoga postures, concluding with a meditative posture and deep breathing. They also completed a 20-minute aerobic exercise where they walked or jogged on a treadmill for 20 minutes, with each subject maintaining 60 to 70 percent of her maximum heart rate throughout the workout. All subjects in the study were female undergraduates. No significant improvements in working memory or inhibitory control were found after the aerobic exercise.

Researchers believe that following a yoga practice, participants were better able to focus because the breathing and meditation exercises aim to calm the mind and body, possibly translating into better mental performance beyond the yoga practice. Furthermore, meditation and breathing exercises are known to reduce anxiety and stress, which may help improve scores on some cognitive tests.

The full study is available in the May issue of the Journal of Physical Activity and Health.
The class of 2013 doesn’t have it easy when it comes to finding a job. The recession has resulted in cut-backs, layoffs, and hiring freezes at many U.S. companies—and, although the recession has technically ended, recovery is slow. A recent Reuters article forecast a tough road for students hoping to join the workforce this summer: Employers will hire just 2.1% more new graduates this year than they did last year, and of 500 hiring managers surveyed by staffing firm Adecco, 58% said they won’t hire any new grads at all.

Meanwhile, it costs more than ever to get that degree: College costs have risen by 6-7% per year for the last few decades—twice the rate of inflation—and, according to the New York Federal Reserve Bank, more than 40% of 25-year-olds have student loan debt—in 2004, that rate was 25%.

“In addition to the substantial share who are officially unemployed, a large swath of these young, highly educated workers have either a job but cannot attain the hours they need or want a job but have given up looking for work,” said Heidi Shierholz, a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington. The numbers back her up: Among college graduates ages 21-24 who aren’t enrolled in grad school, the unemployment rate is 8.8% and the underemployed rate is a staggering 18.3%.

So what’s a bright, eager 22-year-old armed with a diploma to do? Be detailed, be prepared, and look into every option. Some people find that their chosen field, which may have had a decent hiring rate four years ago, has undergone a change in terms of worker saturation. Others may graduate not fully knowing how their degree will translate into the real world. Grads should think creatively about how the skills and knowledge gained during college—including things learned outside of class—could be applied to unexpected fields or careers.  (PAR’s Self-Directed Search family of career inventory tools, designed to match personality types with career fields, can help with this step.)

Resumes should include any experience that might apply to the position, including internships, leadership positions in clubs, and volunteer work. And that resume should be nearly flawless—43 percent of hiring managers surveyed by Adecco said resume spelling errors resulted in “automatic disqualification.” Most colleges have career centers staffed with people who will look over a resume and provide constructive feedback. Grads should prepare for interviews by researching the company exhaustively and knowing how they’ll respond to standard interview questions. Likewise, they should have some questions ready for the interviewer. “The worst thing you can do, if they ask you if you have any questions, is to say ‘no,’” said Vicki Hardin, associate director of Career Services at University of West Georgia.

And one more thing: Young grads should be realistic, both about the length of their job search and about the job they’ll end up with. Grads probably will not be hired by the first company they send their resume to, and they’re “not going to be making $100,000 on [their] first job. Any kind of experience is better than none,” said Hardin. Patience and a healthy dose of humility are required for this journey.

Did you have a hard time finding a job out of college? Or do you have children who will soon encounter this problem? How have you found jobs in the past? Leave a comment and let us know what you think.

 
Figures on the rate of unemployment among veterans can be confusing as media outlets report only parts of the story. Although the overall unemployment rate among vets has dropped slightly in recent months, a March 2013 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that for U.S. veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the rate is 9.9%, about 2% higher than for the general population. In short, more than 200,000 veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are now unemployed (see the Harvard Kennedy School’s Research Roundup for a summary of recent studies on veterans and unemployment).

As a result of their military service, veterans often face additional obstacles that contribute to difficulties as they look for work. Conditions such as posttraumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and other physical and mental disorders are common among veterans. A recent study found a direct correlation between depression and unemployment rates among veterans; the good news is that improved depression status (following treatment at VA hospitals) was associated with an increased likelihood of becoming employed.

The U.S. government, the Department of Defense, and other public and private institutions offer some support for veterans seeking civilian careers. For example, the revised G.I. Bill focuses on retraining, and tax credits are now available for employers who hire veterans. However, many veterans’ organizations are calling for more help for young vets transitioning from active duty.

For veterans, active-duty military personnel, and the career counselors who work with them, PAR is developing a new component of the popular Self-Directed Search® (SDS®) designed specifically to support the transition from a military career to a civilian career. Scheduled to release in July, the Veterans and Military Occupations Finder™ matches an individual’s military occupation code with civilian career possibilities. Used with the SDS, this new tool will help veterans explore their interests and capitalize on the skills they developed in the military. Finding a good job is one of the most important factors in a veteran’s successful transition to civilian life, and the Veterans and Military Occupations Finder provides a starting point for that search. To learn more, visit the SDS Web site and look for updates about the release of this new addition to the SDS product line.
A million hours a year are being spent waiting for approval from insurance companies before doctors can hospitalize suicidal or mentally ill patients, according to the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Unlike medical emergencies, psychiatric emergencies require permission from a patient’s insurance company before an individual can be admitted. Dr. Amy Funkenstein, a child and adolescent psychiatry resident at Brown University, coauthored the study that produced this number after becoming increasingly frustrated with the amount of time she was spending on the insurance approval process. The study found that the approval process takes 38 minutes per patient on average – meaning that the 1.6 million psychiatric admissions per year translate into 1 million hours of time described by Dr. Funkenstein as “wasted.” Although half of the insurance approvals were obtained in less than 20 minutes, 10 percent of authorizations took longer than one hour, and one authorization took five hours. The patients in need of admittance most commonly presented with suicidal ideation, though a few were diagnosed as being homicidal.

Despite the amount of time spent on the authorization process, very few cases are being denied (just one case of the 53 included in this study was not authorized by the insurance company). The study evaluated a sample of 53 patients at the Cambridge Health Alliance Psychiatric Emergency Department in Massachusetts over a three-month period.
Researchers have found that college roommates of students who demonstrate vulnerability to depression are more likely to develop that vulnerability themselves over time. The research, conducted by psychologists Gerald Haeffel and Jennifer Hames of the University of Notre Dame, was published in the April issue of Clinical Psychological Science.

Haeffel and Hames examined “cognitive vulnerability,” which they call “a potent risk factor for depression.” Those with cognitive vulnerability tend to interpret stressful life events as the result of factors over which they have no control; they see these events as a reflection of their own deficiencies. Cognitive vulnerability is normally quite stable in adulthood; however, the researchers wanted to examine whether it might be “contagious” during periods of major life transitions—like starting college.

The research involved 103 randomly assigned roommate pairs who had started college as freshmen. When they arrived on campus, the participants completed an online questionnaire that included measures of cognitive vulnerability and depressive symptoms; they completed the same survey twice more, at 3-month and 6-month intervals, when they also answered questions about stressful life events.

The results showed that freshmen who were assigned to roommates with high levels of cognitive vulnerability were likely to “catch” their roommates’ vulnerability to depression. Perhaps even more significant, when the vulnerable mindset “rubbed off” on these students, it affected their rates of future depressive symptoms. Students whose cognitive vulnerability increased over the first 3 months of college had nearly twice the level of depressive symptoms at 6 months than those whose vulnerability didn’t change.

On a more positive note, the study also found that a healthy mindset was also contagious. “Those assigned to a roommate with a more positive thinking style developed a more positive style themselves whereas those assigned to a roommate with a negative style became more negative,” Haeffel said in a recent interview with Time.com. The research does not suggest factors that make one roommate’s style more likely to influence the other.

“Our findings suggest that it may be possible to use an individual’s social environment as part of the intervention process, either as a supplement to existing cognitive interventions or possibly as a stand-alone intervention,” the authors say in press release from the Association for Psychological Science, the publisher of the journal in which the study appears. “Surrounding a person with others who exhibit an adaptive cognitive style should help to facilitate cognitive change in therapy.”
Think Google is simply a tool for information searches? It’s becoming an increasingly thought-provoking instrument for researchers, especially when search patterns are analyzed.

A team of researchers led by John Ayers at San Diego State University examined Google search data from 2006 to 2010 and found an intriguing pattern linking mental illness queries and seasons. After combing through search data for mental-health terms like schizophrenia, bulimia, bipolar, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and others, they found that all mental health queries followed seasonal patterns, with peaks in the winter and troughs in the summer.

When comparing search data in the United States to search data in Australia, where the seasons are reversed, the seasonal data held up – both Americans and Australians searched for information on these terms more during their respective winters than summers. In fact, mental health queries in the U.S. were found to be 14 percent higher in the winter and 11 percent higher in Australia during its winter.

Queries about specific disorders also had their own seasonality – queries about eating disorders, schizophrenia, and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder were higher in winter, while searches for anxiety seem least affected by seasons, varying just 7 percent in the U.S. and 15 percent in Australia between summer and winter months.

Although the researchers emphasize that Google searches are just searches for information and do not necessarily reflect a diagnosis, this may shed important light onto how the prevalence of mental illnesses change during seasons. Furthermore, while most studies rely on participants to answer truthfully, Web searches do not have that same hurdle – they may have the advantage of reflecting patterns, providing real-time monitoring of mental health problems, and surveying population trends.

For more information about this study, see the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Chronic infection—already known to be associated with heart disease—has been linked to cognitive impairment, according to a recent study by Dr. Mira Katan and colleagues from the department of neurology at Columbia University.  The researchers tested 1,625 subjects, with an average age of 69, using the Mini-mental State Examination (MMSE); they also tested each member of the group for their infectious burden (IB), that is, their degree of exposure to five common viruses and bacteria.  The researchers conclude that “A measure of IB associated with stroke risk and atherosclerosis was independently associated with cognitive performance in this multiethnic cohort. Past infections may contribute to cognitive impairment” (Neurology, March 26, 2013).

The link between IB and cognitive impairment was stronger among women, those with lower levels of education, those without health insurance or Medicare, and those who did not exercise.  The reasons for the association are less clear, according the Dr. Katan.  “Another mechanism might be that these pathogens are neurotoxic, directly affecting the nerves,” she said in March 29 New York Times interview.  “We’ve found a common pattern but we cannot prove causality.”

Although further study is needed, the results could lead to identifying individuals who are at risk of cognitive impairment—and taking action to lower that risk.
Although the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (Parity Act) increased access to mental health and substance use services in hospitals, according to new research from the Health Care Cost Institute, individuals continued to pay more out of pocket for substance use admissions than for other types of hospital admissions.

The Parity Act requires large group health plans to make behavioral health coverage rules similar to those that cover medical/surgical benefits. Large group plans were also required to make copays, deductibles, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket maximums for behavioral health care equivalent with the most common medical/surgical treatments.

The report, the first of its kind to look at hospital spending, utilization, prices, and out-of-pocket payments for mental health and substance use admissions, studied people who were 65 and under and had employer-sponsored health insurance. It found that spending on hospital admissions for mental health and substance use grew faster than spending on medical/surgical admissions between 2007 and 2011. Furthermore, patients with mental health conditions paid 10 percent of their hospital bill in 2011 and patients with substance use disorders paid 12 percent of their hospital bill. Medical or surgical patients paid just 4 percent of the total bill in comparison.
According to new research, new mothers are far more likely than others to report mild-to-moderate symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) after childbirth. The study, published in the March/April issue of the Journal of Reproductive Medicine, found that 11 percent of women reported significant obsessive-compulsive symptoms at two weeks and six months after delivery, compared to the 2 to 3 percent of individuals in the general population diagnosed with OCD.

This, the first large-scale study of post-partum OCD, found that affected mothers reported classic signs of the disease – intrusive thoughts, compulsive behaviors, and fears and rituals related to the baby. Though the survey used self-reported data from 461 moms (329 of which provided information six-months after childbirth), none were clinically diagnosed with OCD. In more than half of the mothers, symptoms of OCD went away after six months.

Researchers posit that being obsessive and compulsive when caring for a newborn may actually be an appropriate psychological development, saying that problems only develop when the symptoms start interfering with the mother’s daily life.

About 70 percent of the women who had OCD symptoms also suffered from depression, supporting the idea that postpartum depression is its own disease, as the anxiety and obsessive symptoms are not typical for a major depressive episode.

Though several sources agree that attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is is on the rise, new numbers question how much. According to a recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics, diagnoses of ADHD increased 24 percent in Southern California over the past 10 years, bringing to issue previous estimates.

 As part of the study, doctors reviewed the charts of children treated at the Kaiser Permanante Southern California physician’s group from 2001 to 2010 – 842,830 children in all. They found that in 2001, 2.5 percent of children age 5 to 11 were diagnosed with ADHD, but that number increased to 3.1 percent in 2010.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 9.5 percent of children age 4 to 17 have ADHD. Researchers in the California study believe their estimate gives a more accurate picture of the rate of ADHD in Southern California because they reviewed actual medical records, rather than relying on parents to respond to telephone surveys, which is how the CDC got its number. Furthermore, the majority of ADHD diagnoses in the California study were made by specialists using strict Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) diagnoses. This complicates previous estimates, as new research found that only 38 percent of primary care physicians actually use the DSM-IV for diagnosing ADHD.