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A summary of the latest health-related research in the news. This issue covers studies on mental health, heart disease, and stress.


Mental Health Programs in the Workplace

A recent review has revealed that mental health programs provided in the workplace have a significant effect on reducing depression. A review of nine workplace mental health intervention trials and their effects on depression was carried out by the University of New South Wales, Australia. In all, the studies included approximately 2300 people, across sectors, including: government, sales, and manufacturing. A comparison of the different methods used in the mental health programs found that the initiatives based on cognitive behavioral therapy were the most effective. These trials used an approach that helped the participants to have a greater understanding of their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors, in contrast to other programs that were centered on increasing knowledge and mental health promotion. The study suggests that mental health programs in the workplace achieve a positive effect on mental health and depression, supporting their implementation in an effort to curb depression.

Tan L, Wang M-J, Modini M, Joyce S, Mykeltun A, Christensen H, et al. ”Preventing the development of depression at work: a systematic review and meta-analysis of universal interventions in the workplace.”BMC Medicine2014;12:74.

BMJ 2014;348:g3196


Lack of Exercise and Increased Risk of Heart Disease

A new study has now shown that the greatest risk factor for a woman developing heart disease is lack of exercise, independent of being overweight. The Australian study looked at the four known risk factors for heart disease: smoking, high BMI, high blood pressure, and lack of physical activity. The study included 32 154 participants who were followed since 1996. The study found that the risk factors that had the most influence on development of heart disease differed between age groups. In women up to the age of 30, the greatest risk factor was smoking. However, from age groups spanning 30 to 80 years of age, the greatest risk for developing heart disease was lack of physical activity. The researchers therefore suggest that physical inactivity should become a major public health focus in the prevention of heart disease in women.

Brown W, Pavey T, Bauman A. “Comparing population attributable risks for heart disease across the adult lifespan in women.”Br J Sports Med May 2014.

BMJ 2014;348:g3182


The Effect of Social Stress on Mortality

A new study from the University of Copenhagen has shown that the risk of premature death is increased in those who argue frequently. A total of 9875 people were involved in the study, aged between 36 and 52 years. The social relationships of the participants were monitored and the participants were tracked from the year 2000 to 2011. Of the participants that died during the study period, causes were attributed to cancer (47%), cardiovascular disease (14%), liver disease (8%), and accident or suicide (7%). An assessment of the participants revealed that 6% frequently argued with their partner or children, 2% frequently argued with their relatives, while 1% frequently argued with friends or neighbors. An analysis of the data revealed that the risk of death for participants who were involved in frequent arguments with their partner was doubled compared to participants who did not report frequent arguing. The study also revealed that constant worry or demands imposed from partners or children were also associated with a 50-100% increased risk in death from any cause. In addition, frequent arguing with neighbors tripled the risk of mortality in the group. Other factors that increased the effects of social stress included being male or being unemployed. The authors suggest that conflict resolution skills and stress management skills might therefore be beneficial in reducing stress and reducing the adverse effects of social stress on health and well-being, thereby reducing the risk of premature death.

Lund R, Christensen U, Nilsson C, Kriegbaum M, Rod N. “Stressful social relations and mortality: a prospective cohort study.”J Epidemiol Community Health May 2014.

BMJ 2014;348:g3183


Written by Deborah Tallarigo, PhD

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