According to researchers, motherhood is no longer seen as an obligatory part of female identity and fulfillment. It is no longer automatically expected that mothers will give up paid work, and it is becoming increasingly normal for fathers to have a more active role in raising and caring for children.
Researchers from the UZH along with sociologists from Germany investigated how these new societal expectations altered the life satisfaction of mothers and fathers. For their empirical work, investigators evaluated information garnered from a long-term study of individuals living in Germany.
The database provides information on more than 18,000 women and almost 12,000 men who were surveyed between 1984 and 2015. “While in the last few years the prevailing message in the media is that modern parents are under great stress or even regret having become parents, our analysis shows the opposite,” said first author Dr. Klaus Preisner from the UZH Institute of Sociology.
In surveys in the 1980s, most mothers were less satisfied with their lives than women without children. The idea of having a “little bundle of joy” that would bring great happiness — which stemmed in part from the taboo against speaking negatively of motherhood in any way — did not translate to reality for many women.
“With the increasing freedom to choose whether or not to have a child and to shape parenthood more individually, the ‘maternal happiness gap’ has closed. Today we no longer find a difference in the life satisfaction of mothers and of women without children,” Preisner said.
Researchers discovered the picture is different for men: In the past, in contrast to women, men were not expected to take an active role in childcare, to take parental leave or to reduce their working hours after having children.
Although that situation is different today, the life satisfaction of men has barely changed as a result. What’s more, there is no difference in life satisfaction between fathers and men without children.
“Fathers who step up to meet the new expectations placed on them are increasingly rewarded with public praise for their commitment,” said Preisner.
Alongside changed normative expectations in Germany, new political measures have been introduced, such as support for parental leave after the birth of a child and childcare for small children outside the family.
On the one hand, such changes mean mothers and fathers can choose more freely how they want to arrange their family lives with regard to childcare. On the other, the roles and responsibilities are more equally distributed between mothers and fathers nowadays. Both these aspects have a positive effect on parents’ life satisfaction.
Researchers report that the greater freedom of choice and the increased equality of mothers’ and fathers’ roles has been encouraged — and in some cases even made possible at all — by modern policies for families.
Parental leave enables mothers and fathers to share childcare responsibilities and to be involved in their children’s upbringing. In addition, subsidized childcare outside the home, such as that in Germany, also makes it easier for families to combine parenthood and employment.
Preisner also sees another advantage: “These family-friendly political measures are not only significant for equality between the sexes. They are just as important for their role in improving life satisfaction of parents, and thus ultimately of children.”
Source: University of Zurich
A person’s overall pattern of employment, including pay, hours, schedule flexibility and job security, influence mental and physical health as well as the risk of being injured on the job, according to new research.
“This research is part of a growing body of evidence that the work people do — and the way it is organized and paid for — is fundamental to producing not only wealth, but health,” said senior author Noah Seixas, a professor of environmental and occupational health at the University of Washington.
According to researchers, technology and other forces are changing the nature of work. The traditional model of ongoing, full-time employment with regular hours and job security is giving way to gig-economy jobs, short-term contracts, nonstandard work hours, and flexible employer-worker relationships.
Current models for understanding this work are too simplistic, according to first author Trevor Peckham, a UW doctoral student in environmental and occupational health sciences. Studies of a single aspect of employment may not capture important elements of jobs that influence health, he noted.
“Employment relationships are complex,” he said. “They determine everything from how much you get paid, to how much control you have over your work schedule, your opportunities for advancement, and how much protection you have against adverse working conditions, like harassment.”
For the study, the researchers used data from the General Social Survey collected between 2002 to 2014 to create a multidimensional measure of how self-reported health, mental health, and occupational injury were associated with the quality of employment among approximately 6,000 US adults.
“There are many different forms of employment in the modern economy,” Peckham said. “Our study suggests that it is the different combinations of employment characteristics, which workers experience together as a package, that is important for their health.”
- People employed in “dead-end” jobs — for example, manufacturing assembly line workers who are often well-paid and unionized but with little empowerment or opportunity — and “precarious” job holders — janitors or retail workers who work on short-term contracts and struggle to get full-time hours — were more likely to report poor general and mental health, as well as occupational injury compared to people with more traditional forms of employment.
- “Inflexible skilled” workers, such as physicians and military personnel, who have generally high-quality jobs but with long, inflexible hours, and “job-to-job” workers, such as Uber drivers, gig workers or the self-employed doing odd jobs, had worse mental health and increased injury experience compared to those with standard employment.
One of the most surprising findings, according to the researchers, was for “optimistic precarious” job holders, which includes service-sector workers with high empowerment, such as florists. The researchers found these workers had similar health to those in standard employment, despite having jobs characterized by insecurity, low pay, and irregular hours. However, these workers report high control over their schedules, opportunities to develop, and involvement in decision-making.
“Our research has direct implications for policy,” said co-author Anjum Hajat, a UW assistant professor of epidemiology. “As we have seen at the local level, Seattle City Council has been actively promoting policy solutions to improve workers’ lives.”
Those solutions include the secure scheduling ordinance, minimum wage, and family leave policies. These approaches show “the interest and appetite for change,” she said.
Researchers and policymakers must continue the dialogue with employers “to demonstrate the benefits of increased worker security and stability on employee turnover, productivity and, ultimately, their bottom line,” she said.
“Using policy and legal levers to influence how people are hired and treated at work can have profound effects on improving the health of workers and their communities,” Seixas added.
The study was published in the Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences.
Source: University of Washington
A new study has discovered that individuals with greater optimism are more likely to live longer and to achieve “exceptional longevity,” living to age 85 or older.
The study was based on 69,744 women and 1,429 men. Both groups completed survey measures to assess their level of optimism, as well as their overall health and health habits such as diet, smoking, and alcohol use, according to researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), National Center for PTSD at VA Boston Healthcare System, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Women were followed for 10 years, while the men were followed for 30 years, the researchers reported.
When individuals were compared based on their initial levels of optimism, the researchers found that the most optimistic men and women demonstrated, on average, an 11 to 15 percent longer lifespan, and had 50 to 70 percent greater odds of reaching 85 years old compared to the least optimistic groups.
The results were maintained after accounting for age, demographic factors, such as educational attainment, chronic diseases, depression and also health behaviors, such as alcohol use, exercise, diet, and primary care visits.
“While research has identified many risk factors for diseases and premature death, we know relatively less about positive psychosocial factors that can promote healthy aging,” said corresponding author Lewina Lee, PhD, a clinical research psychologist at the National Center for PTSD at VA Boston and assistant professor of psychiatry at BUSM.
“This study has strong public health relevance because it suggests that optimism is one such psychosocial asset that has the potential to extend the human lifespan. Interestingly, optimism may be modifiable using relatively simple techniques or therapies.”
It is unclear how optimism helps people attain longer life, the researchers note.
“Other research suggests that more optimistic people may be able to regulate emotions and behavior, as well as bounce back from stressors and difficulties, more effectively,” said senior author Laura Kubzansky, Ph.D., M.P.H., Lee Kum Kee Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences and co-director, Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness at the Chan school.
The researchers also consider that more optimistic people tend to have healthier habits, such as being more likely to engage in more exercise and less likely to smoke, which could extend lifespan.
“Research on the reason why optimism matters so much remains to be done, but the link between optimism and health is becoming more evident,” said senior author Fran Grodstein, Sc.D., a professor of epidemiology at the Chan school and professor of medicine at the Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Source: Boston University School of Medicine
Of the five senses, impairments in vision and hearing, especially in combination, may have the greatest impact on the health of older adults, according to a new study by researchers from Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore.
These impairments are linked to poor physical and mental health outcomes, such as limitations in physical function and activities of daily living (ADLs), social isolation, cognitive decline, depression, poor self-rated health (SRH), communication difficulties, and even death.
The findings are published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
“We investigated how vision and hearing impairments impact life expectancy and health expectancy among older adults,” said Dr Rahul Malhotra, Head of Research, Centre for Ageing Research and Education, Duke-NUS, and senior author of the study.
“We were specifically interested in understanding how these impairments affect health expectancy when health is defined by a) physical function and b) the ability to perform activities of daily living (ADLs) — two important health indicators among older adults.”
For the study, participants rated their own vision and hearing abilities and also reported whether they had trouble with tasks involving their arms and legs, such as walking 200-300 meters (650-980 feet), climbing ten steps without resting, or raising their hands above their heads.
The participants also reported whether they had difficulties completing basic ADLs, including bathing, dressing or eating, or instrumental ADLs, such as doing housework, managing their medications or taking public transport.
The findings show that, at ages 60, 70 and 80, people with either or both vision and hearing impairments could expect more years of remaining life with limited physical function as well as with limitations in ADLs, compared to those without impairments.
Participants with both hearing and vision impairments showed the biggest declines in health expectancy, as well as overall lower life expectancy. For example, at age 60, people with both impairments could expect not only a life expectancy that was about four years shorter than unencumbered participants, but also about three more years of life with limitation in physical function.
Older adults with both impairments could expect to spend 62% of their remaining life with limitation to physical function, while the estimated figure for those with neither impairment was 38%.
In addition, older adults with both hearing and vision impairments could expect to spend nearly one-third (31%) of their remaining life with limitation in ADLs, while those with neither impairment could expect only 16%.
“What’s unique about our study is that we allowed vision and hearing impairment status to vary over time in the analysis. This is reflective of real-life cases, where some people would progress in their impairment over time, while others would remain stable or improve upon treatment of the underlying cause. We also accounted for the respondents’ existing chronic diseases,” said Dr. Chan Wei-Ming Angelique, Executive Director, Centre for Ageing Research and Education, Duke-NUS, and co-author of the study.
The team is planning to compare this study’s findings with objectively measured impairment status by other groups in Singapore and around the world.
“Vision and hearing impairments are often perceived as an unfortunate but inconsequential part of ageing, and in many cases, remain undetected or untreated,” said Professor Patrick Casey, Senior Vice Dean for Research at Duke-NUS.
“This important study by our researchers shows that early detection and timely management of vision and hearing impairments by older adults, their families and health systems are key to increasing the quality of life for older adults.”
Source: Duke-NUS Medical School
“Talking about veterinarian suicide certainly gets people to pay attention, but it does not tell the whole, nuanced story about what may be contributing to poor well-being in this population,” said Katherine Goldberg, DVM, LMSW, community consultation and intervention specialist at Cornell Health and founder of Whole Animal Veterinary Geriatrics and Palliative Care Services, who also presented at the meeting. “More research is under way to help better understand why veterinarians might be at an increased risk, but a combination of personality traits, professional demands and the veterinary learning environment all likely contribute.”
Economic challenges could be a contributing factor, according to Goldberg, who noted that the average veterinary school graduate reported having more than $143,000 of school loan debt while earning a starting salary of around $73,000 in 2016.
“Personal finance concerns are stressful for many veterinarians, especially recent graduates, and at the same time, many clients regularly question the cost of care for their animals and may be suspicious that their vet is trying to ‘push’ services that their pet doesn’t need,” she said.
Goldberg also described a multi-center study that looked at rates of adverse childhood experiences — a term used to describe all types of abuse, neglect and other traumatic experiences — in veterinary students, in an effort to understand what may be causing their poor mental health.
However, veterinarians just starting their practice were not more predisposed to poor mental health than the general population as a result of adverse childhood experiences, she said.
“This indicates that something is happening over the course of veterinary student training or once veterinarians are working to cause poor well-being outcomes,” she said. “Well-being education should be integrated into the veterinary curriculum, emphasizing resiliency behaviors and cultivating professional partnerships between veterinary medicine and mental health care.”
Substance use among veterinarians is also an understudied area, she noted. Veterinary medicine is the only medical profession in the U.S. that does not have a national monitoring program for substance use and mental health issues, she added.
While veterinarians who are dealing with mental health issues may exhibit symptoms common to all populations, such as sadness that interferes with daily activities or changes in appetite, there are a few specific warning signs to watch for in a clinical veterinary setting, according to Goldberg.
“Increased medical errors, absenteeism, client complaints and spending too little or too much time at work” are factors to watch for, she said. “For potential substance use issues, warning signs could include missing drugs or missing prescription pads.”
Goldberg said there needs to be a shift in veterinary training to better prepare veterinarians not only for the animal-related aspects of their jobs, but the human elements as well.
“We need core curricular material that focuses on coping with the emotional demands of the profession,” she said. “Mindfulness, moral stress, ethics literacy, grief and bereavement, mental health first aid and suicide awareness all have a role in veterinary education. Colleges of veterinary medicine that have embedded mental health professionals are a step ahead of those that do not, and I would like to see this become a requirement for all schools accredited by the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges.”
Meanwhile, Fournier’s presentation looked at employees and volunteers in animal shelters, and animal welfare and animal rights activists, who are at risk for compassion fatigue and psychological distress.
“Animal welfare agents, as these people are often called, are exposed to animal abuse, neglect and oppression on a regular basis, as well as routine euthanasia that is common in these settings,” said Fournier.
More than 2.4 million healthy cats and dogs are euthanized each year in the U.S., most often homeless animals in shelters, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
“Shelter workers are then caught in a dilemma because they are charged with caring for an animal and they may ultimately end that animal’s life,” she said. “Research suggests that this causes significant guilt, which can lead to depression, anxiety and insomnia, as well as greater family-work conflict and low job satisfaction.”
Animal welfare agents may also hear gruesome stories of animal abuse or witness the consequences firsthand when they are rehabilitating the animals, which can cause a lot of distress and lead to compassion fatigue, said Fournier.
“Experts suggest that animal welfare agents carry an even heavier burden than those in other helping professions who are susceptible to compassion fatigue because of the issues unique to working with animals, such as euthanasia and caring for living beings who have experienced pain and suffering, but cannot articulate their needs and experiences,” said Fournier.
She suggests that psychotherapists who work with animal welfare agents offer patients strategies to reframe negative experiences, identify ways in which they get fulfillment and gratification from the work they do, and establish healthy boundaries between their work and personal lives.
“There are certainly positive and negative aspects of the job and over time or during times of acute stress, it can be difficult to see the positive,” she said. “It may be necessary to help someone focus on the big picture that overall they are making a difference and animals have been saved, rather than ruminating on individual stories of crisis and loss. Self-care is also critical to ensuring the best mental health outcomes for those who work and volunteer with animals.”
Source: The American Psychological Association
Eating dark chocolate may ease depressive symptoms and have a positive effect on mood, according to a new study led by University College London (UCL).
The study, published in the journal Depression and Anxiety, looked at whether different types of chocolate might be linked to reduced depressive symptoms.
UCL researchers worked with scientists from the University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services Canada to evaluate data from 13,626 adults from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Participants’ chocolate consumption was compared to their scores on the Patient Health Questionnaire, which assesses depressive symptoms.
The team took into account a range of other factors including height, weight, marital status, ethnicity, education, household income, physical activity, smoking and chronic health problems to ensure the study only measured chocolate’s effect on depressive symptoms.
After adjusting for these factors, the researchers found that participants who reported eating any dark chocolate in two 24-hour periods had 70 percent lower odds of reporting clinically relevant depressive symptoms than those who reported not eating chocolate at all.
The 25 percent of chocolate consumers who ate the most chocolate (of any kind, not just dark) were also less likely to report depressive symptoms than those who didn’t eat chocolate at all. However researchers found no significant link between any non‐dark chocolate consumption and clinically relevant depressive symptoms.
“This study provides some evidence that consumption of chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, may be associated with reduced odds of clinically relevant depressive symptoms,” said lead author Dr. Sarah Jackson from UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care.
“However further research is required to clarify the direction of causation — it could be the case that depression causes people to lose their interest in eating chocolate, or there could be other factors that make people both less likely to eat dark chocolate and to be depressed.
“Should a causal relationship demonstrating a protective effect of chocolate consumption on depressive symptoms be established, the biological mechanism needs to be understood to determine the type and amount of chocolate consumption for optimal depression prevention and management.”
Chocolate is widely reported to have mood‐enhancing properties and several mechanisms for this link have been proposed.
First, chocolate contains a number of psychoactive ingredients which produce a feeling of euphoria similar to that of cannabinoids, found in cannabis. It also contains phenylethylamine, a neuromodulator believed to be important for regulating moods.
Some evidence also suggests that mood improvements only take place if the chocolate is palatable and pleasant to eat, which suggests that the experience of enjoying chocolate is an important factor in itself, and not just the ingredients present.
While the above is true of all types of chocolate, dark chocolate has a higher concentration of flavonoids, antioxidant chemicals which can help improve inflammatory profiles, which have been shown to play a role in depression.
Source: University College London