By Colby Cosh - Saturday, April 20, 2013 - 0 Comments
“Organized religion” hasn’t enjoyed very good press for the last 50 years. People only use the phrase when they mean to speak ill, as with “organized crime.” A lot of people remain quite keen on religion, or even unbelievingly convinced there are benefits from its existence; they are not so happy with the hint of menace and control that comes with the “organization” part.
But what if the “organized” bit in “organized religion” is actually the useful half? What if, as the philosopher Alain de Botton has been arguing lately, we would be better off dispensing with supernatural or mystical ideas but keeping the activities, the buildings, and the other external forms?
A weird but important new study out of the University of Saskatchewan’s psychiatry shop may serve to endorse this Bottonite impulse. The research on religion and mental health is a vast, contradictory mess that you can ransack for evidence of almost any hypothetical relationship. But doctors Lloyd Balbuena, Marilyn Baetz and Rudy Bowen have extracted new longitudinal data from a huge sample. They used repeated interviews of 12,583 people in the National Population Health Survey (NPHS), made over a period of 14 years, to check whether religion had any effect on the future incidence of major depression.
By Anne Kingston - Saturday, April 20, 2013 at 8:00 PM - 0 Comments
Class-action suit puts a spotlight on the rising use of SSRIs among expectant mothers
Last December, the Supreme Court of British Columbia set a bold precedent: it green-lit the first class action suit in Canada alleging that an antidepressant taken by a woman during pregnancy caused a birth defect in her child. Faith Gibson of Surrey, B.C., named “representative plaintiff,” had been prescribed Paxil, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), in December 2002. Her daughter, Meah Bartram, was born in September 2005 with a hole in her heart. The defect was repaired months later, but Meah remains a “sickly” child, prone to infection. Two weeks after her birth, Health Canada and Paxil’s manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline Inc. (GSK), issued an advisory stating that paroxetine (Paxil’s generic name) taken in the first trimester may pose “an increased risk” of cardiovascular defects.
Gibson’s lawyers allege GSK knew or should have known about the risks and that it failed to apprise Gibson or her physicians. Gibson had asked her doctor if she should go off the drug during pregnancy; she was told it was “100 per cent safe.” More than two dozen women have applied to be screened for class membership since December, says Vancouver lawyer David Rosenberg, who is representing Gibson.
GSK has appealed the decision to register the case as a class action; it contends it acted appropriately in its clinical trials, as well as in the safety monitoring and marketing of Paxil, updating pregnancy information as data became available, spokeswoman Michelle Smolenaars Hunter told Maclean’s.
By Rosemary Counter - Saturday, April 13, 2013 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
New online games offer an alternative to the therapy couch
Imagine you’re a mid-twenties human with a partner named Alex. It’s Monday morning and you didn’t sleep well. You struggle with motivation issues at a boring job. By Friday you’re exhausted, but Alex wants to take you to a party. Your choices: 1) shake off your funk and go have a blast; 2) agree to go, reluctantly; 3) say you’re not feeling well and can’t make it. Positive thinkers might want to choose 1), but in the online game Depression Quest, you cannot. Since you haven’t been seeing a therapist or taking your meds, having a blast just isn’t an option.
Launched on Valentine’s Day—a hat tip to the most depressing day of the year—Depression Quest makes it clear it is not a game like most others. “This game is not meant to be a fun or lighthearted experience,” it begins, sad piano music playing over a grey background. Instead, it presents 150 unique encounters to the 200,000-odd gamers who’ve played it online. Content is generated by your decisions, which affect your depression level, which then limits your choices. Its creators, Boston-based developers Zoë Quinn and Patrick Lindsey, are both serious gamers who struggle with depression. Neither saw their experiences reflected in the community. “It’s a topic most games don’t explore, and those that do dress it up with layers of metaphor and imagery,” says 26-year-old Lindsey, a transplanted writer from Toronto.
Their game is one of a slew of recent ones aimed at exploring issues of identity and mental health. Richard Hofmeier’s Cart Life, an exploration of poverty among food-cart workers, won top prize last month at San Francisco’s Independent Game Festival. Dys4ia, developed by a gamer who calls herself Anna Anthropy, is an autobiographical game about the experiences of a transgender woman. And Actual Sunlight, from Toronto creator Will O’Neill, explores “depression and the corporation.”
By Leah McLaren - Sunday, November 11, 2012 at 7:30 AM - 0 Comments
Post-partum depression knows no prejudice—race, class or otherwise
On the face of it, expat Canadians Felicia and Jeff Boots were the sort of shiny, privileged couple many Londoners are pre-programmed to envy. They had two beautiful young children (Lily Skye, 14 months, and 10-week-old Mason) and had just moved into a $1.9-million five-bedroom house on a quiet street in a part of south London known as “Nappy Valley”—named for its upper-middle-class café culture of stay-home mummies pushing prams while their husbands rake in bonuses in the city. They had emigrated from the Toronto area so Mr. Boots could pursue his high-finance career in London. They were the last sort of family who would be classified as “at risk.” And yet they most certainly were.
When Jeff Boots came home from the office one evening last May, he found his wife sitting in the dark on the staircase rocking and hugging herself. She asked him not to go upstairs but he did. There, on the floor of a walk-in closet he found the tiny bodies of his suffocated children and a handwritten note from their mother.
Before the paramedics arrived, Jeff Boots was heard wailing in the street. “My lovely son, my beautiful daughter,” his raw anguish shattering the evening air. Felicia Boots was led from the house. She was later charged with their murders. Continue…
By Bob Ramsay - Monday, September 24, 2012 at 11:40 AM - 0 Comments
One man’s frank account of how heart problems sent him into a physical and psychological free fall
“Look, lady, the last time I was in this hospital, I died.”
That was the God’s truth—at least the dying part was. Actually, I’d been back to Toronto General’s emergency unit three times since my heart stopped, the day after I had open-heart surgery in May 2011.
But on this particular morning, three months later, I was lying on a gurney waiting to go into an operating room for yet another heart procedure when the anaesthetist said: “Mr. Ramsay, we’re going to give you something to relax you.” She unwrapped the needle before inserting it into a vein in my wrist. But she missed the vein, and since I was on blood thinners, my wrist began to bleed all over the sheets. The doctor quickly stepped back and asked a nurse to get my “line” going. By now, the sedative was having its effect and I began to feel light-headed. But I was ever watchful. That’s when I told her about dying the last time I was here. It was an inauspicious start.
By Kate Lunau - Wednesday, September 5, 2012 at 11:27 AM - 0 Comments
Why so many of our best and brightest students report feeling hopeless, depressed, even suicidal
In late August, as the first leaves changed from green to red and gold, university ghost towns were coming back to life. Residences were dusted out. Classrooms were readied. Textbooks were purchased—and new outfits, new computers, new posters to decorate dorm room walls. Amid this bustle, construction workers at Cornell University began installing steel mesh nets under seven bridges around campus. They overlook the scenic gorges for which Ithaca, N.Y., is known; in early 2010, they were the sites of three Cornell student suicides of a total of six that year. Students cross the bridges daily on their way to class.
Cornell’s bridge nets are the latest and most visible sign that the best and brightest are struggling. In an editorial in the Cornell Daily Sun following the 2010 suicides, president David J. Skorton acknowledged these deaths are just “the tip of the iceberg, indicative of a much larger spectrum of mental health challenges faced by many on our campus and on campuses everywhere.”
Last year, Ryerson University’s centre for student development and counselling in Toronto saw a 200 per cent increase in demand from students in crisis situations: “homeless, suicidal, really sick,” says Dr. Su-Ting Teo, director of student health and wellness. Colleagues at other schools noticed the same. “I’ve met with different key people. They’re saying last year was the worst they’ve ever seen,” says psychologist Gail Hutchinson, director of Western University’s student development centre in London. “The past few years, it’s been growing exponentially.” Fully a quarter of university-age Canadians will experience a mental health problem, most often stress, anxiety or depression.
By Jason Kirby - Monday, May 14, 2012 at 11:35 AM - 0 Comments
Our semi-regular roundup of findings from the world of academia
British Columbia: Older women who perform physical exercises like lifting weights may be able to slow the onset of dementia, according to researchers at the Univeristy of British Columbia. After studying women aged 70 to 80 who were divided into three exercise groups—balance training, aerobics and resistance training—those in the latter group showed “significant” cognitive improvement.
Alberta: The way consumers respond to good or bad service or products comes down to whether they are pleasure seekers or pain avoiders, according to research from the University of Alberta. Pleasure seekers are hurt more when a product doesn’t work well, but also get more joy out of positive consumer experiences. Pain avoiders, on the other hand, don’t take it so badly when a product or service is poor, but they don’t enjoy good consumer experiences as much, either.
Ontario: Researchers at the University of Toronto have found that after playing action video games, even for brief periods, people experience changes in their brain activity and improved visual attention. The results arose from brainwave tests on subjects who had never played video games before.
By Alex Ballingall - Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at 12:39 PM - 0 Comments
Workplace mental health is as important as physical safety, say experts
Monday morning—time for another work week. But it’s raining. You feel numb, sluggish and burnt out. The days roll by without lustre, and, at the worst of times, you feel alienated and powerless in your job.
Sound familiar? Don’t be surprised. These are common feelings associated with work-related mental health issues, symptoms of a problem that is much more widespread in Canada than you may think. A survey of employees and managers published last summer by the Conference Board of Canada found that 44 per cent of respondents had personally experienced a mental health illness, whether it be anxiety, depression or work-related stress. In 2007, Ipsos Reid released a study showing that 26 per cent of Canadian workers suffer from depression.
It’s a problem that, until recently, hasn’t received adequate attention, says Ian Arnold, professor of occupational medicine at McGill University and an expert on psychological health in the workplace. ”Very few workplaces in Canada have systems in place to deal with mental health,” he says.
That’s something many hope to change. Michael Kirby, a former senator and past chair of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, helped launch a campaign this month called Not Myself Today. The campaign’s website calls on Canadians to share stories of how mental illnesses have affected them or their loved ones, and invites them to sign a pledge to push for improvements in mental health. More than 13,000 people have signed on so far, and the organization behind the campaign, Partners for Mental Health, has raised $5 million in the past six months, mostly from private sector donations, says Kirby. His ultimate goal is to mimic the success of campaigns to fight breast cancer by creating a grassroots initiative to combat mental illness.
By Julia Belluz - Thursday, April 12, 2012 at 11:00 AM - 0 Comments
It’s seems to be a truth universally acknowledged in the scientific literature that women are the sadder sex. Women are twice as likely as men to suffer depression, and recent reports out of Canada add to the body of evidence on the collective female funk. According to Public Health Agency of Canada researchers, suicide rates are on the rise among teenage girls while they are dropping among young men. Another recent survey of 26,000 students across Canada found a higher prevalence of “emotional problems” among girls. In particular, while girls and boys reported feelings of depression at about the same rate in grade six, by grade 10, an inequality emerges: Thirty-eight per cent of girls reported feeling blue on a weekly basis, compared to 25 per cent of boys.
As one epidemiologist summed it up for Science-ish, “There is a saying among researchers at the population level: ‘Women live longer but they suffer more.’”
Theories about this gender gap in depression abound. There’s the biological explanation: Some say swinging sex hormones during a woman’s “window of vulnerability”—or her reproductive years—explain why females are twice as likely as males to develop depression starting around puberty. As this review put it, “Women are at a particularly high risk for depression during periods of hormonal fluctuation, such as during the premenstrual period, pregnancy, the postpartum period, the transition to menopause, and the early postmenopausal years.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 1, 2011 at 11:59 AM - 1 Comment
Bob Rae talks about his experience with mental illness.
The recent debate in the House of Commons on the need for a national suicide strategy was an eye-opening experience for all of us. Members came forward and shared their own experiences, there was no name calling, partisan chippiness or the usual antics that go with a House debate. There was a sense that we are all in this together.
So that was progress. The next step is to match the words with even more deeds. There is a desperate shortage of help out there, and families with children all too often feel they are on their own. It will take a greater commitment of dollars and resources to make things happen, and that’s harder to do in tough times. But it can and must be done. The problems won’t go away on their own. My grandmother Nell had a wonderful expression whenever she encountered a mountain of a problem. “Take the human footsteps”. That’s what we can and must do.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, September 26, 2011 at 9:46 AM - 4 Comments
Douglas Porter quibbles with the Prime Minister’s prescription for economic woe.
“We could be making some of the same mistakes. Certainly, there are echoes of 1937,” agreed Douglas Porter, deputy chief economist at the Bank of Montreal. Last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and British Prime Minister formed an unusual alliance of debt hawks, coming down firmly on the side of stricter austerity as the way out of the crisis – at least in Europe …
Mr. Porter said Mr. Harper’s call for global austerity is “precisely the wrong medicine at this time.” Government bond yields in Canada, and in most other countries, have sunk to multi-year lows in recent days. That’s a sign that financial markets are stressed about economic growth prospects, not government deficits or inflation, according to Mr. Porter. “Governments shouldn’t be aggressively cutting spending when the economy is gasping for air,” he said. “That’s certainly the wrong prescription.”
By Jason Kirby - Wednesday, September 21, 2011 at 6:20 AM - 12 Comments
What to call the current crisis has always been a difficult task
Everywhere Darren Enns looks these days he sees the devastation wrought by America’s grinding employment crisis. As the treasurer of a construction union in southern Nevada, the state with the highest unemployment in the country, Enns has watched as friends and colleagues—the bricklayers, electricians and drywallers who thrived during Las Vegas’s housing boom—struggle to move on to other careers. Few succeed. Many have simply given up hope. “When you look at the unemployment rate during the Great Depression, we’re beyond that in the construction industry here in Las Vegas,” he says. “We’ve got close to 70 per cent unemployment, so for us, the economy is extremely depressed.”
When the financial crisis tipped America into a deep recession in 2007, it was tempting to draw comparisons to the Great Depression of the 1930s. Those fears subsided once the stock market pulled out of its nosedive and America’s economy began to grow again, albeit at a crawl. It was a brief respite. Four years later, American towns and cities remain overrun with millions of unemployed workers even as the economy risks slipping back into reverse. It raises the question whether the U.S. ever really emerged from recession in the first place. Instead, some are suggesting those early fears may have been justified after all: the United States appears to be in the throes of an outright jobs depression.
Earlier this month, Robert Reich, a professor of public policy at Berkeley and the secretary of labour in the Clinton administration, said the current crisis is an extension of the “depression” that began in December 2007. Meanwhile, Richard Posner, a high-proﬁle judge in the United States Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and regular political and economic commentator, said it’s time for America to give up any false hopes that the economy is on a path to recovery. “If we were being honest with ourselves, we would call this a depression,” he wrote in the New Republic. “That would certainly better convey both the severity of our problems, and the fact that those problems have no evident solutions.”
By Emma Teitel - Monday, September 12, 2011 at 10:15 AM - 6 Comments
The NHL enforcer’s career is nasty, brutish, and often short
Imagine a job has become available at the office of your dreams. The description is straightforward: all you have to do is pick a fight every day with someone you’re not angry at and you don’t necessarily dislike. You make a fraction of what your co-workers make and every fourth day or so you incur an injury that could culminate in a degenerative brain disease conducive to depression—or worse. But there’s a perk: you get to work in the office.
Meet the NHL enforcer—an unpopular position of late, and the subject of innumerable Canadian media debates following the “apparent suicides” or “accidental deaths” of hockey tough guys Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and, most recently, 35-year-old Wade Belak. New York Ranger Derek Boogaard was just shy of his 29th birthday when a lethal mix of alcohol and oxycodone took his life in May. Winnipeg Jet Rick Rypien, 27, was found dead in his Alberta home in August, after more than 10 years of battling depression. Wade Belak, retired enforcer and father of two, apparently committed suicide in a Toronto hotel/condominium on Aug. 31.
The majority of people in sports, from broadcasters to bloggers and NHL players themselves, are loath to concede a connection linking the deaths. Any three people in any profession, they argue, could have ended their lives within a few months of one another for reasons unrelated to their line of work. As usual, they contend, the media’s impulse to equate hockey violence with depression is sensational journalism at its worst.
By Charlie Gillis - Friday, September 9, 2011 at 10:00 AM - 17 Comments
The night before he was found dead of a suspected suicide, the former NHL enforcer was out on the town and in good spirits
In broadcasting, as in hockey, reliability ranks high on the list of professional virtues. Dead air or squandered studio time are radio sins on par with an empty dressing-room stall before practice. The responsible party can expect retribution and, if he keeps it up, a ticket to the bush leagues.
Some athletes-cum-commentators take a while to grasp that, so the text Wade Belak sent Jeremy Bennefield last Tuesday night came as reassurance to the Nashville radio producer, who had been tasked with grooming the former NHL tough guy to host a weekly show on an all-sports FM station. “I’ll be there on Friday night,” wrote Belak, who was in Toronto at the time. “Staying until Sunday. Any way we can tape a show in that time slot?” The time signature on the message read 11:29 p.m. ET. Bennefield didn’t pick it up until 9:15 a.m. the following day, and he made sure to fire off a quick reply: “Yes, we’ll make it work.”
Three hours later, Belak was found hanging in his hotel room in downtown Toronto, the victim of an apparent suicide (though authorities have not confirmed the cause of death). And Bennefield has been pondering that text exchange ever since.“Somebody actually asked me whether I thought this was a reach-out,” he says from Nashville. “You know: whether Wade was seeking some sort of reassurance that he had something to live for.” But that doesn’t square with the man he had seen at a taping just days earlier, ribbing staff at 102.5 The Game, cracking jokes at his own expense. While recording the inaugural episode of his weekly show and podcast “The Game Changer,” the 35-year-old had enthused about setting down roots in Nashville, where he’d just wound down his playing career. “Based on my conversations with him, based on the texts that I got hours before the fact,” he says, “my impression is this wasn’t a guy looking for a way out.”
By Julia Belluz - Wednesday, September 7, 2011 at 5:26 PM - 5 Comments
The Statement: “On antidepressants but still in a funk? Try hitting the gym. [A new study] has found that exercise is just as good as a second antidepressant in conquering the blues.”—Toronto Star, 08/25/2011
Our collective bafflement at the tragic deaths of NHL players Wade Belak and Rick Rypien, whom both reportedly committed suicide recently, and Derek Boogaard, who accidentally overdosed on booze and painkillers in May, had Science-ish wondering about the link between depression and sports. As the Globe and Mail’s André Picard penned rhetorically, “Surely a trio of tough guys dying at their own hand in a short period can’t be a coincidence, right?”
Indeed, the notion that athletes in peak physical condition could succumb to what Winston Churchill used to call the black dog doesn’t square with what we thought we knew. Besides the fact that jocks (unlike artists) aren’t typically associated with depression, the well-documented health benefits of playing sports don’t seem to align with the blues. There are the mood-boosting physiological effects of working out—it raises endorphin levels and reduces the stress hormone cortisol. There are intangible benefits, too: the increased self-esteem that comes with feeling and looking fit. Being athletic in our society is virtuous, and some have even linked too little physical activity to depressive moods.
So it seems easy to believe that exercise would inhibit depression.
Those who have wrestled the black dog may have been interested in the news stories last week about a new study that supposedly found the “treadmill can act as second antidepressant,” as the Toronto Star put it. That a jog could help treat depression—with fewer side-effects and costs than blockbuster antidepressants—sounded immediately appealing, especially when considering people tend to have poor adherence to antidepressants (the dropout rate within the first weeks of treatment can run as high as 40%), and even when they stick to their treatment, they often just don’t feel better. (A 2003 Cochrane review found only marginal differences between antidepressant medications and active placebos.)
Naturally, Science-ish was inclined to look at the evidence behind physical activity as a treatment for depression. The most recent Cochrane systematic review on the subject—”Exercise for depression“—examined randomized controlled trials in which exercise was compared to standard treatment, no treatment, or a placebo in adults with depression. Exercise, the investigators concluded, seemed to improve depressive symptoms in people—but the effects were statistically insignificant when only methodologically robust trials were considered.
The lead author on the study, Dr. Gillian Mead of the University of Edinburgh, told Science-ish, “There was also uncertainty about the optimum exercise prescription, which individual patients might benefit, how best to motivate people with depression to start to exercise, and how to optimize adherence.”
Dr. James Blumenthal (PhD), a leading researcher on exercise and depression at Duke University, weighed in, too. He has found that, while promising, there is no definitive link between exercise and depression. “Data are more limited in children, and most studies of adults have focused on aerobic exercise. But there is some—albeit limited—data supporting the potential value of anaerobic strength training,” he noted. Though, again, the exact dose of exercise needed to boost low moods is not yet known. (Duke research suggests 30 minutes three times each week for 16 weeks may be adequate).
As for the recent headline-grabbing study, “Exercise as an augmentation treatment for nonremitted major depressive disorder,” the researchers looked at people who had not responded to antidepressants, and split them into two groups: one went on a gentle exercise regime (walking ten minutes per day, for example) and the other took more vigorous aerobic exercise (a jog on the treadmill). All participants remained on antidepressants; but exercise—not another drug—was their co-treatment.
After the four-month trial, more people on the higher ‘dose’ of exercise experienced remission of symptoms than the gentle exercisers, but more of those on the brisk routine dropped out of the trial. Dr. Mead observed, “The difference between the two doses of exercise was not statistically significant. So while these data are not inconsistent with the literature that suggests that exercise is of benefit for depression, further research is still needed to answer important questions about how effective exercise might be.”
Still, in her systematic review, Dr. Mead and her co-authors did suggest physicians consider prescribing exercise for depressed patients. “It would be reasonable for doctors to give them the same advice that they would give healthy people about the long-term benefits of exercise. And also say that exercise may have short-term beneficial effects on mood,” she said. “As you know, there is a vast, robust literature on the benefits of exercise in the general population.”
So will we see doctors prescribe exercise for depression anytime soon? “Possibly,” said Dr. Blumenthal, “especially physicians who feel comfortable recommending exercise for their patients. However, if physicians don’t normally prescribe exercise—and many don’t—they will likely continue to prescribe what they usually do: antidepressants.”
Science-ish is a joint project of Maclean’s, The Medical Post, and the McMaster Health Forum. Julia Belluz is the associate editor at The Medical Post. Got a tip? Seen something that’s Science-ish? Message her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @juliaoftoronto
By macleans.ca - Friday, August 12, 2011 at 2:20 PM - 0 Comments
New study shows depression increases risk by 29 per cent
Women with a history of depression have a 29 per cent increased risk of suffering a stroke, according to a report in the BBC. The new study looked at over 80,000 women aged 54 to 79, and found that depressed women were more likely to be single, smokers, and less physically active, as well as being slightly younger with a higher body mass index. They also suffered from conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Depression seems to stop some women from curbing other medical problems, taking their medications and following a healthy lifestyle, they said.
By Rebecca Eckler - Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 3:55 PM - 30 Comments
Some can’t wait for that extra day; for others it feels like there’s a big party going on and they weren’t invited
Though the condition isn’t in any medical book, it could unofficially be called the “Long Weekend Blues,” or, perhaps, LWAD (Long Weekend Affective Disorder). Many people, it turns out, do not look forward to long weekends. In fact, they dread them.
As a 37-year-old Vancouver lawyer says, “Every long weekend feels to me like everyone else has big, unusual fun plans. I dread it. It’s a reminder that my life is a little slow or empty or something. The last long weekend, there was a truck of people dressed up with brass instruments having the time of their lives. As I watched them drive by, I was like, ‘Where are all you people going and how come I don’t know about it?’ It just feels like a long weekend is one big party I had no idea about.”
Another woman, 41, from Toronto, says long weekends depress her because she ends up doing chores; she also feels like she’s missing out on some sort of party, which makes her feel lonely. “I just try and get ahead for the week, making my lunches, doing groceries, going to the dry cleaner. Long weekends aren’t attached to anything meaningful except maybe some dead queen.” Still, she jokes, “They should call it ‘No Suicide Long Weekends.’ ” She adds, “I get really sad because my daughter is all grown up and isn’t around and all my friends seem to go visit their families. One of my friends said, ‘We’re going to visit my in-laws so my husband can fix their roof.’ They weren’t looking forward to it, but on my end I thought, ‘That’s nice that you have something to do.’ Not that I would want to fix their roof either. But what was I going to do? Buy another book?”
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, March 1, 2011 at 1:57 PM - 37 Comments
Traditional sources of male self-esteem are disappearing
The number of men with depression is expected to rise due to large-scale changes in Western society, the BBC reports. According to an article in the British Journal of Psychiatry, economic and social changes are quickly destroying traditional sources of male self-esteem, and men are expected to struggle with the shift away from traditional gender roles. The men’s health forum said male identity is closely connected to employment. Traditionally “male” jobs like manufacturing and pysical labour are disappearing, and as women are now more likely to go to university, the number of households where the main breadwinner is expected to rise. “Women are almost twice as likely to develop major depressive disorder in their lifetime as men, but we believe this difference may well change in the coming decades,” said one of the authors, Dr. Boadie Dunlop of the Emory University School of Medicine.
By Julia Belluz - Thursday, November 18, 2010 at 11:40 AM - 0 Comments
The generation now entering university is the most anxious since the 1930s
By the time Victoria Ciciretto left her family’s home in Kleinburg, Ont., to live and study at the University of Toronto, the 18-year-old was already a seasoned world traveller. “I’d gone away for a month in Europe for summer school in Grade 10,” she says. “I took a Grade 12 course in Greece,” she adds. “And the year before last, I studied English in England.”
Presumably, moving 40 km away from home would be easy, but instead the arts and science student was filled with anxiety. “For my first week, I was like, ‘Oh my god, why would people say this is the most amazing time of your life?’ ”
She was nervous about living in a dorm, about classes and homework, about what major to choose and if she would make friends. There was a reason she could handle summers overseas, but was scared of university. “I had really good friends with me when I went travelling,” she says. “When I went to university, I didn’t know anybody.”
By macleans.ca - Friday, October 15, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Arnold Schwarzenegger has advice for Russia, Naomi Campbell’s unwitting good deed, and Kim Jong Il’s other son
The prince gets down
Prince Charles, donning a red bindi, charmed locals with a charmingly poor dancing form while visiting the northern Indian city of Jodhpur during India’s Commonwealth Games. After some cajoling, he began to follow the movements of the elderly farmers, and began to smile as he twirled about.
And long may you run
Omemee, Ont., a wide spot on the highway between Lindsay and Peterborough, is the early childhood home of rock icon Neil Young. It’s also the site of Youngtown, a museum packed to the rafters with rock memorabilia of every sort, and a tribute to the Young family, including Neil’s late father, storied sportswriter and author Scott Young. Last week Neil and his older brother, Bob, visited the museum for the first time since it opened in 2008. “The hour-long visit was simply an awesome experience for this writer,” museum founder and collector in chief, Trevor Hosier, wrote on Youngtown’s Facebook page, “and I’m glad to report that we passed the audition.”
By Kate Lunau - Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 12 Comments
The consequences of non-stop job stress include depression, weight gain and heart disease
Dr. Diana Fernandez, an epidemiologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center, spent two years studying what she calls a “typical American workplace” and its health effects on employees. Her findings were stark: pressures at work are linked to cardiovascular disease, depression, anxiety, and self-reported poor health, she noted in a recent study of one U.S. company, and chronic job stress is strongly associated with being overweight or obese. What some would call the company’s most important assets—its workers—were in very poor shape.
These employees didn’t lack the resources to eat well and exercise, her findings suggest; most were middle-aged, married, and highly educated, making more than $60,000 a year. They’d worked at the company an average of almost 22 years. Still, about three-quarters of the 2,782 subjects were overweight or obese. Job strain had a lot to do with it. “People didn’t want to be perceived as working less than others,” so they’d spend long hours at their desks, she says, eating up time that could be spent relaxing at home, or getting some exercise at the gym. In especially stressful times, they told her, they also turned to junk food. Anecdotally, “when the next round of layoffs came, the first thing that disappeared from the vending machine were the brownies,” she says. When employees got home, more than 65 per cent of them watched two hours or more of television a day.
By Colby Cosh - Tuesday, May 4, 2010 at 2:26 PM - 80 Comments
Here’s the lede of a science story from Saturday’s Winnipeg Free Press:
WINNIPEG — Depression and substance abuse plague about half of American women who reported having an abortion, according to a new University of Manitoba study.
The study, published in the current issue of the Canadian Journal of Psychology, suggests there’s an association between mental disorders and abortion…
Eager to investigate this shocking headline claim—the Edmonton Journal, picking up the story, literally gave it the headline “Depression or drug abuse found in half of women who aborted”—I set out to find the study. This presented something of a problem, since there has not been a “Canadian Journal of Psychology” since 1993. I spent a little while rifling through Canadian Psychology and the Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology until a helpful reader on Twitter clued me in. Yes, you guessed it: it can be found in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. First place I should have looked, really.
That’s an understandable mistake. It’s a bit more of a problem that the first sentence of the article—an article that includes a warning from the lead author to the effect that it is “important the study is not misinterpreted”—is totally false. Because of, y’know, misinterpretation.
The paper, entitled “Associations Between Abortion, Mental Disorders, and Suicidal Behaviour in a Nationally Representative Sample”, does what it says on the tin: the data are taken from interviews with a demographically representative subset of the U.S.’s National Comorbidity Survey Replication project. It is hard to know what numbers the reporter added or multiplied or pulled out of a hat to reach the conclusion that “Depression and substance abuse plague about half of American women who reported having an abortion.” (I spoke to the lead author of the study, and she can’t figure it out either.) But a good guess would be that she looked at this section from the article’s main chart—
—and simply added together the estimated lifetime incidence of depression among women who had had an abortion (29.3%) and the lifetime incidence of substance-use disorders (24.6%). It will probably have occurred to you that there might be some overlap there between depression and substance abuse, which go together like poached eggs and hollandaise. You don’t need a Ph.D. to know that the depression group is likely to contain almost all of the women in the substance-abuse group.
And this naïve math (which is hardly attributable to a failure to grasp hyper-advanced statistics) is compounded by the wording of the offending sentence, which doesn’t say that “some percentage of abortion recipients have, at some point before or after getting an abortion, experienced depression or substance abuse or both.” It uses present tense, unjustifiably implying that all the women in question are plagued by both problems now.
This mess is already being picked up, “carelessly” garbled even further, and circulated around the globe by pro-lifers, despite the personal entreaties of the scientist who helped the newspaper with its reporting and the many, many methodological and interpretive caveats in the original study. This kind of thing is exactly why a lot of scientists hate talking to reporters. Nor does it make sincere research into therapeutic abortion any easier. The UM study can’t be used to attribute psychiatric morbidity to abortion, but it could be used by fair-minded pro-lifers (let’s assume for the sake of argument that there were some) to raise questions about abortion’s place in our society and argue for a research program.
Oh, I know: we’re a hundred years away from that kind of discussion being possible. But the inadvertent propagation of urban legends only pushes that day further into the future.
By Colby Cosh - Wednesday, November 25, 2009 at 2:39 AM - 38 Comments
I realize nobody has all that much interest in being strictly fair to insurance companies, but I’m sort of horrified by the way the Nathalie Blanchard story is being handled in the press and electronic media. The evidence for the notion that Ms. Blanchard lost her long-term disability benefits “over Facebook photos” appears to amount entirely to “She says she was told that’s what happened.” Now, she could be quite right. Manulife admits it does use Facebook to investigate disability claims, as anyone would expect them to do. Here’s a news flash for particularly naïve children and desert-dwelling stylites: an insurance company following up a suspicion of a false claim uses every kind of evidence it can scrape up. Its hirelings will quiz your neighbours, co-workers, and friends! They will rummage through your garbage! They will engage in photo and video surveillance! They’ll Google you until the cows come home!
In short, this is, like this spring’s “Craigslist killer” news story, a narrative to which the supposed cynosure of attention really has no special relevance. At all. It would be nice if news organizations could get together, run one last banner headline announcing that THE INTERNET EXISTS, and be done with these trumped-up technology angles for all time.
Anyway, since we don’t know what other evidence Manulife’s investigation turned up, and they are bound not to tell us, it seems inappropriate for the headlines and the secondary commentary on the story to take Blanchard’s version as the gospel. Which is exactly what everybody is doing, even though Manulife may have had a dozen other reasons for cancelling the claim.
I’m not suggesting, mind you, that they necessarily do. An insurer makes decisions like this with hypothetical litigation in mind. That’s not necessarily conducive to clear thinking: it’s conducive to thinking like a juror, which may well be the diametrical opposite. It would not be surprising if some excitable junior associate had been shown Blanchard’s Facebook pictures of fun in the sun and thought “Well, well, well. These will be awfully hard to for her to explain to a jury.” You would have to be an idiot to think that such pictures are, in themselves, good evidence that Blanchard is not depressed. And, unfortunately, the world is full of idiots.
The key question for an insurer, however, is not whether Blanchard has depression, but whether she is making bona fide efforts to return to her job. Her duty isn’t to stop being ill, but to do what she can to get as well as she can and start earning her paycheques again. There are plenty of seriously depressed people who still manage to drag their butts out of bed and punch the clock most days. Blanchard’s statements to the CBC leave me wondering a little about her self-understanding, and since thousands of bloggers and editors apparently have no trouble questioning Manulife’s credibility, I feel quite licensed to wonder.
She says, for instance, “that on her doctor’s advice, she tried to have fun, including nights out at her local bar with friends and short getaways to sun destinations, as a way to forget her problems.” I suppose that a physician treating depression would recommend, in a general way, that his patient should try to get exercise, seek pleasant new experiences, maintain strong social networks, etc., etc. On the other hand, I can’t see any doctor having a display of travel brochures on the wall of his office, or publishing a guide to Eastern Townships nightlife. Again, pictures of Blanchard at a bar cannot possibly demonstrate that she is not depressed. But they could show that she was defying a doctor’s advice concerning the safe use of psychiatric medication, or the consumption of alcohol itself, if she were at risk of co-morbidity from substance-abuse problems.
Blanchard also says, by the way, that she “doesn’t understand how Manulife accessed her photos because her Facebook profile is locked and only people she approves can look at what she posts.” I hope that since this interview, someone has taken her aside and gently explained the Sherlockian maxim that “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” In this case, the compelling conclusion is that somebody Blanchard trusted snitched on her to the insurer, perhaps in a spasm of dudgeon over her insurance-subsidized lifestyle. It happens. In fact, it was known to happen before there was such a thing as Facebook.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, August 11, 2009 at 11:19 AM - 21 Comments
Last month, Lawrence Martin wrote about Stephen Harper’s grandfather and the possibility that Harris Harper had taken his own life. Harris Harper’s son now steps forward to dispute that version of events in a lengthy response.
On Monday, the police got a credible report that a person matching his description had spent Saturday night (and maybe even Sunday night) at the Saint John Salvation Army Hostel. Three or four weeks later, the police distributed missing-person flyers throughout Canada and the United States – I helped stuff the envelopes – and there were several reports of sightings but none could be verified. Another distribution of missing-person flyers was carried out the next year with the same results.
After a year, there was a petition filed with the courts to have him declared dead, but it was pointed out that at that time, there was more evidence suggesting he was still alive, possibly a victim of amnesia. This, however, was never proved nor disproved.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 11:35 AM - 19 Comments
A few more points from the Prime Minister’s obviously satirical interview with ATV.
1. Asked if a Depression could be in the offing, the Prime Minister responded, “It could be.” This new projection comes three months to the day after he assured Canadians that if we were going to experience a Recession, “we probably would have had it by now” and just over two months after he told Canadians the stock market was rife with “great buying opportunities.”
Non-rhetorical question: Would you let this man manage your personal finances? Continue…