Children Raised in Religious Environment Better Protected From Depression, Substance Abuse and Risky Behavior

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Tyler J. VanderWeele

Dr. VanderWeele

Dr. Tyler J. VanderWeele PhD
Department of Epidemiology, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health,
Boston, MA

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: There have been a number of prior studies on religious practices of adolescents, but this study is a relatively big step forward because it is considerably more rigorous than the vast majority of prior studies. The study uses a large sample of over 5,000 adolescents, it follows them up for more than eight years, it controls for many other variables to try to isolate the effect of religious upbringing, and it looks at many outcomes.

In our analysis, we found that children who were raised in a religious or spiritual environment were subsequently better protected from the “big three” dangers of adolescence – depression, substance abuse and risky behaviors. For example, those who attended religious services regularly were subsequently:

  • 12% less likely to have high depressive symptoms
  • 33% less likely to use illicit drugs

Those who prayed or meditated frequently were:

  • 30% less likely to start having sex at a young age
  • 40% less likely to subsequently have a sexually transmitted infection.

Moreover, a religious upbringing also contributed towards to a number of positive outcomes as well such greater happiness, more volunteering in the community, a greater sense of mission and purpose, and higher levels of forgiveness. For example,those who attended religious services were subsequently:

  • 18% more likely to report high levels of happiness
  • 87% more likely to have high levels of forgivenessThose who prayed or meditated frequently were subsequently:
  • 38% more likely to volunteer in their community
  • 47% more likely to have a high sense of mission and purpose

These are relatively large effects across a variety of health and well-being outcomes.  Continue reading

Driving Skills May Be Harder to Master with ASD

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“Driving” by Martin Alvarez Espinar is licensed under CC BY 2.0Kristina Elise Patrick, Ph.D

Nationwide Children’s Hospital
Columbus, OH 43205

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: Many families of young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are concerned that they may have difficulty acquiring driver’s licenses and driving safely because of symptoms of ASD. However, the ability to drive opens the door to a variety of social, occupational, and educational experiences. We aimed to assess differences in simulated driving behaviors of young adults with ASD and those with typical development and to evaluate whether differences depended on level of driving experience and complexity of the driving task.

On average, young adults with ASD had more difficulty regulating their speed and position within their lane compared with typically developing individuals even on a very basic rural route. After completing the basic route, drivers were required to engage in more complex tasks such as changing the radio or engaging in conversation while driving, driving through a construction zone, and following behind a truck. On complex driving tasks, drivers with ASD who had acquired licensure drove similarly to typically developing drivers who had acquired licensure. However, novice drivers with ASD had more difficulty than typically developing drivers regulating their speed and position within the lane.

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Traumatic Brain Injury Laws Reduce Rate of Recurrent Concussions in High School Athletes

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Jingzhen (Ginger) Yang, PhD, MPH Principal Investigator Associate Professor, Center for Injury Research and Policy The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital Dept. of Pediatrics, College of Medicine, The Ohio State University Columbus, Ohio 43205

Dr. Yang

Jingzhen (Ginger) Yang, PhD, MPH
Principal Investigator
Associate Professor, Center for Injury Research and Policy
The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital
Dept. of Pediatrics, College of Medicine, The Ohio State University
Columbus, Ohio 43205 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: From 2009-2014, all 50 states and the District of Columbia passed their state TBI laws, more commonly known as concussion laws, to mitigate severe consequences of concussions.

These laws often include 3 core components:

(1) mandatory removal from play following actual or suspected concussions,
(2) requirements to receive clearance to return to play from a licensed health professional, and
(3) education of coaches, parents, and athletes regarding concussion symptoms and signs.

Our study aimed to evaluate whether the laws achieve the intended impact.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response: The main findings showed that:

  • The rates of new and recurrent concussions initially increase significantly after a law goes into effect. This is likely due to more people – athletes, athletic trainers, coaches, and parents – becoming aware of the signs and symptoms of concussion and actually reporting a potential or actual concussion. Lack of knowledge about concussion signs and symptoms may have resulted in underreporting of concussions during the prelaw period. This trend is consistent across sports in our study and other studies looking at youth sports-related concussions.
  • The rate of recurrent concussions shows a significant decline approximately 2 ½ years after the law is in place. This demonstrates that the laws are having an impact. One of the core function of these laws is to reduce the immediate risk of health consequences caused by continued play with concussion or returning to play too soon without full recovery. The decline in recurrent concussion rates in our study is likely the results of the laws requirements of mandatory removal from play or permission requirements to return to play.
  • Football had the highest average annual concussion rate, followed by girls’ soccer and boys’ wrestling. Males had a higher average annual concussion rate than females. However, when comparing the rates in gender comparable sports (basketball, soccer, baseball/softball), females had almost double the annual rate of concussions as males. These results are consistent with findings from other studies. It is possible that girls have higher risk of concussions than boys or are more likely to report injuries. Future studies are needed to look specifically at these disparities.

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Adolescent Obesity Linked to Later Increased Risk of Heart Failure

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Annika Rosengren MD Department of Molecular and Clinical Medicine, Institute of Medicine Sahlgrenska Academy University of Gothenburg,  Gothenburg, Sweden

Dr. Annika Rosengren

Annika Rosengren MD
Department of Molecular and Clinical Medicine, Institute of Medicine
Sahlgrenska Academy
University of Gothenburg,
Gothenburg, Sweden

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: In an earlier study we found that while hospitalizations for heart failure decreased among people aged 55 and older in Sweden 1987-2006, there was a clear increase among those younger than 45 years, particularly in young men. We thought that increasing body weight in the population might be a factor behind this.

We used anonymized data from more than 1.6 million Swedish men from the Swedish conscript registry aged on average 18 and followed them from adolescence onwards. Those who were overweight as teenagers were markedly more likely to develop heart failure in early middle age. The increased risk of heart failure was found already in men who were within the normal body weight range (a body mass index of 18.5 to 25) in adolescence, with an increased risk starting in those with a BMI of 20 and rising steeply to a nearly ten-fold increased risk in those who were very obese, with a BMI of 35 or over.

Among men with a BMI of 20 and over, the risk of heart failure increased by 16% with every BMI unit, after adjustments for factors that could affect the findings, such as age, year of enlistment into the Swedish armed forces, other diseases, parental education, blood pressure, IQ, muscle strength and fitness.

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Could Busy Streets and Improved Environment Reduce Teen Homicides?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Alison Culyba, MD MPH Adolescent Medicine Advanced Research Fellow Craig-Dalsimer Division of Adolescent Medicine Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia PhD Candidate, Epidemiology Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

Dr.Alison Culyba

Alison Culyba, MD MPH
Adolescent Medicine Advanced Research Fellow
Craig-Dalsimer Division of Adolescent Medicine
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
PhD Candidate, Epidemiology
Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Dr. Culyba: Youth violence is a major public health problem. Homicide is the second leading cause of death among all adolescents in the U.S., and the number one cause of death among African American adolescents. Prom prior research, we know that where you live and where you spend time has a major impact on health, and that making changes to environments, such as greening vacant lots and remediating abandoned buildings, can significantly reduce crime. However, much less is known about the relationship between adolescent’s immediate surroundings and the risk of homicide. The goal of this study was to examine associations between neighborhood environmental features, such as streets, buildings, and natural surroundings and adolescent homicide. We conducted a population-based case control study of 143 adolescents, ages 13 to 20, who were victims of homicides in Philadelphia and 155 matched controls in the same range, who were outdoors in Philadelphia at the same time that the homicides occurred. To assess features in the immediate environments of homicide victims and control individuals, trained field staff stood on the street corner of each homicide and control location and took a series of photographs that we stitched together into 360-degree high resolution panoramas, which we assessed for environmental features. After accounting for many individual and neighborhood contextual factors, we found that the odds of homicide was significantly lower in locations with street lighting, pedestrian infrastructure, public transportation, parks, and maintained vacant lots.

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Parental Depression Is Strong Predictor of Depression in Youth

Dr. David Brent MD Department of Psychiatry Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. David Brent MD

Department of Psychiatry
Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Medical Research: What is the background for this study?

Dr. Brent: Youth with a parent with a history of depression are at increased risk for having a depressive episode themselves.

Medical Research: What are the main findings?

Dr. Brent: Those who received a cognitive behavioral educational group program were less likely to have had a depressive episode, and were functioning better than those who did to receive the program 6 years later, especially if their parent was NOT depressed at the time that they received the program. If the parent was depressed then the program was no better than usual care.
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Rural Teens More Likely To Abuse Prescription Opioids

Shannon M. Monnat, PhD Assistant Professor of Rural Sociology, Demography, and Sociology Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education The Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA 16802MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Shannon M. Monnat, PhD
Assistant Professor of Rural Sociology, Demography, and Sociology
Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education
The Pennsylvania State University
University Park, PA 16802 

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Monnat: Given concurrent rapid increases in opioid prescribing and adolescent prescription opioid misuse since the 1990s and historical problems with opioid abuse in rural areas, we were interested in whether adolescents in rural areas were more likely to abuse prescription opioids than their peers in urban areas. Adolescence is a really crucial time to study substance abuse disorders because most abuse begins during adolescence, and individuals who begin use before age 18 are more likely to develop a long-term disorder as an adult compared to those who first try a substance later in life. The active ingredient in prescription opioids and heroin is the same. Prescription opioids are highly addictive and can be dangerous if utilized incorrectly. Prescription opioid abuse is currently responsible for over 16,000 deaths in the US annually and has an estimated annual cost of nearly $56 billion dollars. Therefore, it is correctly viewed as a major public health problem.

We found that teens living in rural areas are more likely to abuse prescription opioids compared to teens living in large urban areas. Several important factors increased rural teens’ risk of abusing prescription opioids, including that they are more likely to rely on emergency department treatment than their urban peers, they have less risky attitudes and perceptions about substance abuse than their urban peers, and they are less likely to be exposed to drug/alcohol prevention messages outside of the school environment than their urban peers. Rural teens are also buffered by several factors that help to reduce opioid abuse, including stronger religious beliefs, less depression, less peer substance abuse, and less access to illicit drugs. If not for these protective factors, the current epidemic we see in rural areas could be even worse.

We also found that both rural and urban adolescents were most likely to report obtaining the prescriptions they abused from friends or family. However, rural adolescents were less likely than urban adolescents to obtain the pills this way. Rural adolescents were more likely than urban adolescents to report getting the pills they abuse directly from physicians.  Continue reading

Daylight Saving Time Affects High School Students’ Sleep

Ana C. Krieger, MD, MPH, FCCP, FAASM Medical Director, Center for Sleep Medicine Associate Clinical Professor Departments of Medicine, Neurology and Genetic Medicine Weill Cornell Medical College - Cornell University Associate Attending NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital Rockefeller University HospitalMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Ana C. Krieger, MD, MPH, FCCP, FAASM

Medical Director, Center for Sleep Medicine
Associate Clinical Professor
Departments of Medicine, Neurology and Genetic Medicine
Weill Cornell Medical College – Cornell University
Associate Attending
NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital
Rockefeller University Hospital
 

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Krieger: For many years, sleep researchers have been concerned about sleep deprivation in adolescents. Our study shows that high school students have shorter sleep duration on the nights following the spring Daylight Saving Time adjustment. This sleep loss was associated with a decline in daytime vigilance and cognitive performance on the week following DST.

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Meth Even More Toxic To Adolescent Than Adult Brain

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Kyoon Lyoo, M.D., Ph.D
Ewha W. University
Seoul, South Korea

MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Lyoo: Recent studies increasingly suggested that the developing brain shows unique characteristics of neuroplasticity to environmental stimuli. Still, it remains unclear whether the adolescent brain would undergo adaptive or dysfunctional changes when exposed to highly neurotoxic substances including methamphetamine. However, despite an increasing prevalence of methamphetamine use in this population, human studies have not yet found clear answers to these questions regarding the effects of methamphetamine exposure on the adolescent brain.

This study reports novel in vivo findings in adolescent methamphetamine users, and thus provides a new perspective regarding adolescent-specific brain correlates of methamphetamine-induced neurotoxicity. Using cortical thickness and diffusion tensor image analyses, we found greater and more widespread gray and white matter alterations, particularly affecting the frontostriatal system, in adolescent methamphetamine users compared with adult users. Our findings highlight that the adolescent brain, which undergoes active myelination and maturation, is much more vulnerable to methamphetamine-induced neurotoxicity than the adult brain. This may help explain why adolescent-onset methamphetamine users show more severe and chronic clinical course than adult-onset users.
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Psychopathic Traits: Trajectories in Adolescence

MedicalResearch.com Interview with

Selma Salihovic, Doctoral student
Center for Developmental Research
Örebro University

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Salihovic: Although previous research has examined the stability of psychopathic traits, our study offer a more nuanced perspective on development. Rather than asking whether psychopathic traits simply increase or decrease in adolescence, we asked about patterns of change for youths with different initial level of psychopathic traits. In this way, we could tease apart those youths with extreme levels from those with low and more transient levels, and follow their unique trajectories over four years. We could see that even among the youths with the highest levels there was a decreasing trend in two out of three core aspects of psychopathy. Although the degree of change was small, it was still a naturally occurring pattern for these youths, which raises the question whether an intervention designed to reduce these levels would have provided even a steeper decrease.

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