Physical Activity During Lessons Can Boost Learning

Students who take part in physical exercises like running in place during school lessons do better in tests than students who stick to sedentary learning.

A meta-analysis of 42 studies around the world conducted by researchers at the University College London, Leiden University, the National University of Singapore, and the University of Sydney, aimed to assess the benefits of incorporating physical activity in academic lessons. This approach has been adopted by schools that want to increase activity levels among students without reducing academic teaching time.

Typical activities include using movement to signify whether a fact is true or false, or jumping on the spot a certain number of times to answer a math question, the researchers explained.

The study concluded that incorporating physical activity had a large, significant effect on educational outcomes during the lesson, assessed through tests or by observing pupils’ attention to a given task. It also had a smaller effect on overall educational outcomes, as well as increasing the students’ overall levels of physical activity.

“Physical activity is good for children’s health, and the biggest contributor of sedentary time in children’s lives is the seven or eight hours a day they spend in classrooms,” said lead author Dr. Emma Norris of University College London. “Our study shows that physically active lessons are a useful addition to the curriculum. They can create a memorable learning experience, helping children to learn more effectively.”

“These improvements in physical activity levels and educational outcomes are the result of quite basic physical exercises,” added co-author Dr. Tommy van Steen of Leiden University in The Netherlands. “Teachers can easily incorporate these physical active lessons in the existing curriculum to improve the learning experience of students.”

For the study, researchers looked at data from 12,663 students between the ages of three and 14. Nearly half of the studies took place in the United States, with seven conducted in Australia, five in the UK, four in the Netherlands, and one in China, Croatia, Ireland, Israel, Portugal, and Sweden.

In one of the 42 studies analyzed, eight- and nine-year-olds simulated traveling the world by running in place in between answering questions relating to different countries.

The research team, also led by Norris at UCL, concluded that the children were more active and more focused on the task than peers in a control group, following teachers’ instructions more closely.

In another study in the Netherlands, primary school children who took part in physically active lessons three times a week over two years made significantly better progress in spelling and mathematics than their peers, equating to four months of extra learning gains, according to researchers.

The  study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Source: University College London

Brain Scans May Predict Suicide Risk

New research has identified brain circuitry differences that might be associated with suicidal behavior in individuals with mood disorders.

The study provides a promising lead toward tools that can predict which individuals are at the highest risk for suicide, according to researchers at the University of Utah Health and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Suicide rates are rising steadily among young adults, especially those with mood disorders, such as depression. More than half of individuals who commit suicide saw a health professional within the past 30 days, but they did not necessarily seek care for mood problems, the researchers note.

“At present, we have very few tools to identify individuals who may be at high risk for suicide-related behavior,” said Dr. Scott Langenecker, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Utah Health and senior author on the study. “Right now, we go on self-report and clinician judgment. Those are good, but they’re not great.”

Previous studies identified brain circuits associated with mood disorders: The cognitive control network (CCN), which is involved in executive function, problem-solving and impulsivity; the salience and emotional network (SEN), which is involved in emotion processing and regulation; and the default mode network (DMN), which is active when individuals are engaged in self-focused thought.

However, these studies focused primarily on depression, according to the researchers.

“This is one of the first studies to try to understand brain mechanisms that may be relevant to suicide risk,” said Dr. Jonathan Stange, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago and first author on the study.

The study used resting-state functional MRI (fMRI), which captured brain images while participants were rested and calm, to assess the connectivity of these circuits in 212 young adults at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Michigan.

“For risk factors involved in suicide, the tasks we have to measure are pretty nonspecific and inexact,” Langenecker said. “If we go to the level of the resting-state networks, we’re actually asking the brain to tell us which brain networks and connections are most relevant.”

The study included individuals with mood disorders and a history of suicide attempts, those with mood disorders and a history of suicidal thoughts, those with mood disorders and no history of suicidal behavior or thoughts, and healthy controls. All study participants with mood disorders were in remission, the researchers noted.

Compared with other study participants — even those with mood disorders and a history of suicidal thoughts — people with a history of suicide attempts showed less connectivity in the CCN and between the CCN and DMN, neural circuitry associated with cognitive control and impulsivity, according to the study’s findings.

These differences could present a target for treatment, according to the researchers.

“If we could figure out how to improve connectivity within this brain circuit, we might be able to reduce suicide risk in the future,” Stange said.

Stange and Langenecker emphasize the research is still in its early stages. This was a small study, with only 18 participants with mood disorders and a history of suicide attempts. It will have to be replicated in a larger number of participants, they said.

In addition, the researchers note it is not yet clear whether individuals with mood disorders and at risk for suicide have a different disease from those without such risk, or whether all individuals with mood disorders are at varying degrees of risk for suicide.

The study was published in Psychological Medicine.

Source: The University of Illinois at Chicago

Kids Bullied by Siblings May Have Mental Health Issues in Early 20s

UK researchers have discovered that kids bullied at home and at school are more likely to have mental health issues in young adulthood. Investigators found that depression, self-harm and suicidal ideation are more prominent in young adults if they were bullied.

Notably, even sibling bullying can be harmful as it often leads to peer bullying and then issues later in life. Experts stress that education of parents and mental health professionals is necessary to mitigate what may have previously been viewed as harmless banter between siblings.

The new findings are not without precedent as previous studies have identified that sibling bullying has an effect on mental health in adolescence. However, University of Warwick researchers Professor Dieter Wolke and Dr. Slava Dantchev have now found that children who were bullied by siblings and friends are more likely to harm themselves.

The paper appears in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry. The research shows that sibling bullying can lead to on self-harm, suicide attempts and depression at 24 years of age.

Using the Children of the 90s study, they were able to show that children who were bullied by siblings had more mental health issues in adulthood. If they were also bullied by peers this risk increased further.

The participants were asked to self-report bullying when they were 12 years old; depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and self-harm were assessed at 24 years old.

Of 3,881 youths studied it was found that 31.2% experienced bullying by a sibling. Of those who both became victims and bullied siblings 15.1% were diagnosed with clinical depression, 35.7% experienced suicidal ideation and 16.1% self-harmed with a further 4.9% with the intent of suicide.

Those who experienced sibling bullying and peer bullying had double the odds of developing clinical depression and consider suicide.

Dantchev said this is the first study to show that being bullied by siblings has adverse effects on mental health into adulthood, when the siblings are not living together anymore. “Those bullied at home are also more likely to be bullied by peers and have no safe space at school or at home. This further increased their torment and affected their mental health.”

Wolke also commented, “As sibling bullying often starts when children are young it will be important to educate and help parents to deal and reduce bullying between siblings in early childhood. This is an area which has been completely overlooked in mental health provision and parent support.”

Source: University of Warwick

Common Household Drugs Often Used By Youth in Suicide Attempts

A new study finds that adolescent suicide attempts by self-poisoning often involve common household medications, such as ibuprofen or antidepressants.

The findings, published online in the journal Clinical Toxicology, also reveal that self-poisoning suicide attempts are more common in rural communities, particularly during the academic school year.

The study expands on previous research that looked at the incidence and outcomes from intentional suspected-suicide self-poisoning in children and young adults ages 10 to 24 years old from 2000-2018.

In that 19-year time frame, there were more than 1.6 million intentional suspected-suicide self-poisoning cases in youth and young adults reported to U.S. poison centers. The majority of cases were female (71%), and involved a pharmaceutical (92%).

“While most of these cases involved medications, with adolescents, any available medication can be a potential hazard,” said Henry Spiller, M.S., D.ABAT, director of the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and co-author of the study.

“It’s not so much a matter of substance type, but rather a matter of access to the substance. Any type of medication can be misused and abused in ways that can unfortunately lead to very severe outcomes, including death.”

The two most common substance groups in all age groups were over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen and aspirin, followed by antidepressants. In youth (ages 10-12) and adolescents (ages 13-15), ADHD medications were common, and had the highest risk of serious medical outcomes. Opiates only accounted for 7% of cases with serious medical outcomes.

“Because medications are so readily available in homes, many families do not take precautions to store them safely. Our findings suggest this is a big problem,” said John Ackerman, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and suicide prevention coordinator for the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at Nationwide Children’s, and co-author of the study.

“Medications can be part of effective treatment, but they require an extra layer of care. The answer is not to stop prescribing medications to those who stand to benefit, but rather to emphasize the practice of safe storage and vigilance when administering any kind of medicine, especially when children and teens live in the home.”

The findings also show that states with a lower population per square mile (rural areas) had a greater number of reported cases with all outcomes and serious medical outcomes.

Results also revealed there was a significant decrease in the number of cases in school-aged individuals during non-school months of June through August (27.5% decrease in 10-12-year-olds; 27.3% decrease in 13-15-year-olds; and 18.3% decrease in 16-18-year-olds), compared with school months September through May.

Nationwide Children’s Big Lots Behavioral Health experts recommend that parents check in with their children regularly, and ask them directly how they are doing and if they have ever had thoughts about ending their life. These direct questions are even more critical if warning signs of suicide are observed.

Medications should be stored up, away and out of sight, preferably in a locked cabinet. Administration of medicine should always be supervised.

“It should concern us that youth in rural areas are about twice as likely as those living in urban areas to die by suicide. Although we are in dire need of more research to help us understand what places some people at more risk than others, available evidence indicates that include increased social isolation, stigma, access to lethal means and lack of appropriate mental health resources may play a role in this disparity,” said Ackerman.

His suicide prevention team provides comprehensive training to more than 140 central and southeast Ohio schools with the SOS Signs of Suicide program.

“It is vital that parents, teachers and other trusted adults start conversations about mental health early, and pay even closer attention during the school year, as rates of anxiety and depression are shown to increase during that time. Warning signs can often be detected and support is available for young people in crisis.”

Source: Nationwide Children’s Hospital

When Abuse Involves Controlling a Partner’s Education

A new study offers a closer look at a lesser-known form of psychological abuse: educational sabotage. This type of abuse involves behaviors aimed at hindering or stopping another person’s educational efforts.

“This form of violence is used by one of the partners as a means for furthering their own power and control over the other partner,” said Dr. Rachel Voth Schrag, a domestic violence expert and assistant professor in the School of Social Work at The University of Texas at Arlington. “Pursuing higher education can be perceived as a threat by the abusing party.”

Educational sabotage is a form of coercive control that directly affects a survivor’s efforts to obtain educational credentials, said Voth Schrag. Tactics may include disruption of financial aid or academic efforts, physical violence and/or inducing guilt related to academic efforts.

These strategies are a serious hindrance to the successful completion of educational programs and, ultimately, the economic independence and safety of survivors, she said.

For the study, the researchers conducted 20 interviews with community college students who reported current or recent intimate partner violence  (IPV). The participants identified several ways in which educational sabotage had impacted their lives. Impacts included reduced academic achievement, emotional or mental health challenges, but on a more positive note, an increased desire to overcome such obstacles.

Educational sabotage is considered a form of IPV, which is a factor in 16.5% of all homicides in the U.S., according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency estimates one in four women and nearly one in 10 men have experienced intimate partner violence during their lifetime.

Pursuing higher education can be a catalyst for breaking out of the isolation and cycles of dependency that often accompany IPV. According to Voth Schrag’s study, “by understanding, addressing, and preventing school sabotage, scholars, institutions of higher education, and their community partners have an opportunity to make an important contribution to the well-being and safety of students.”

The study is published in the journal Violence Against Women.

Source: University of Texas at Arlington

 

Kids with Asthma and Mental Health Issues Need Close Follow-Up

A new study finds that children with asthma have a higher likelihood of also suffering from anxiety and depression. Moreover, when all three conditions are present, patients are almost twice as likely as those with asthma alone to seek care in the Emergency Room.

ER visits are frequently avoidable and sometimes unnecessary, say researchers at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals, who led the study. ER visits, together with the hospital stays that may follow, account for 61.7% of all asthma-related expenditures for U.S. children, according to the National Medical Expenditure Survey.

UCSF researchers followed more than 65,000 children and youth with asthma, ages 6 to 21. They found that 7.7% of participants with both depression and anxiety had a rate of 28 ER visits per 100 child years. This is almost twice the rate — 16 ER visits per 100 child years — of those without depression and anxiety.

For asthma patients who just had depression, the rate was lower, with 22 visits per 100 child years, and for those asthma patients who just had anxiety, the rate was 19 visits per 100 child years.

“Asthma self-management is complex, requiring recognition of symptoms, adherence to medication and avoidance of triggers,” said first author Naomi Bardach, MD, MAS.

“The symptoms of anxiety and depression can make it more challenging to follow treatment, leading to more ER visits,” she said. “There also may be a greater tendency to use the ER for supportive services, even in the absence of a serious asthma attack.”

The authors noted that anxiety and depression are more common in children with asthma. In their study, 11.2% had anxiety and 5.8% had depression, versus 7.1% and 3.2%, respectively, for children ages 3 to 17, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To qualify for the study, the 65,342 participants needed to have had asthma-related doctor visits or hospitalizations, or prior use of preventive medications with an asthma-related doctor visit. They were identified with anxiety and depression if they had at least one inpatient, outpatient or ER visit for either condition.

“The study highlights a population of children and youth who may benefit from more intensive care coordination,” said Bardach.

“This may mean more careful counseling to improve medication compliance and symptom recognition. It may also mean improved mental health care for children in whom untreated depression or anxiety may hinder asthma self-management.”

In some children with asthma, depression and anxiety, it can be difficult to tease out which symptom is attributed to which condition, said senior author Michael Cabana, MD, MPH, formerly of UCSF and currently with Children’s Hospital at Montefiore.

“Children with these conditions may seek care not only for asthma attacks, but for symptoms like shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat and chest pain, of which the causes may be ambiguous.”

The research results confirm studies in adults with asthma who also had depression and anxiety. This group of patients was also found to have a higher likelihood of visits to the ER, urgent care clinics and unscheduled visits with their providers, compared to adults with asthma alone.

Source: UCSF