This Is Your Child’s Brain on Video Games

The following is a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how gaming impacts a child’s nervous system.

On the eve of his big sister Liz’s high school graduation, nine-year-old Aiden sits with his parents and relatives at a celebration dinner, bored by their “adult” conversation and irritated at all the attention showered upon Liz. He can’t wait to get back to his video game!

Before dinner, Mom had (annoyingly) called him away to join the family, and then she got mad when he spent a few minutes getting to the next level and saving his game. So many people in the house make him restless; he squirms uncomfortably and drums his fingers on the table, waiting to be excused.

Finally, he is allowed to escape the dinner table, and he settles into a corner of the living room couch to play his Nintendo DS. For the next hour or so, he is completely oblivious to the company in the house. Although he’s already played much longer than his mother likes, she lets him continue, knowing these family situations are a little overwhelming for him. And besides, the game keeps him occupied. What’s the harm? she thinks. It’s just for today.

However, in the meantime, a perfect storm is brewing. As the play continues, Aiden’s brain and psyche become overstimulated and excited — on fire! His nervous system shifts into high gear and settles there while he attempts to master different situations, strategizing, surviving, accumulating weapons, and defending his turf. His heart rate increases from 80 to over 100 beats per minute, and his blood pressure rises from a normal 90/60 to 140/90 — he’s ready to do battle, except that he’s just sitting on the couch, not moving much more than his eyes and thumbs.

The DS screen virtually locks his eyes into position and sends signal after signal: “It’s bright daylight out, nowhere near time for bed!” Levels of the feel-good chemical dopamine rise in his brain, sustaining his interest, keeping him focused on the task at hand, and elevating his mood. The intense visual stimulation and activity flood his brain, which adapts to the heightened level of stimulation by shutting off other parts it considers nonessential.

The visual-motor areas of his brain light up. Blood flows away from his gut, kidneys, liver, and bladder and toward his limbs and heart — he’s ready to fight or escape! The reward pathways in his brain also light up and are reinforced by the flood of dopamine. He is so absorbed in the game, he doesn’t notice when his little sister, Arianna, comes over until she puts her chubby hand on the screen, trying to get his attention.

“DooOOON’T!!” he shouts and roughly shoves her out of the way. Arianna falls backward, bursts into tears, and runs to their mother, who silently curses herself for letting Aiden play this long.

“All right, that’s it. Time to start getting ready for bed. Get your pajamas on and you can have a snack before you go to bed,” she says, pulling the DS out of Aiden’s hands and turning it off in one fell swoop. Aiden looks at his mother with rage. How dare she ruin his game because of his stupid sister!

“Fine!” he shouts, runs up the stairs, and slams his bedroom door. His primitive brain is fully engaged now, turning him into an enraged animal ready to fight off all challengers. He rips all the sheets off his bed and then throws his lamp on the floor, providing a satisfactory crash and shatter. Thinking about how wronged he’s been and filled with visions of revenge, he kicks the wall a few times and then pounds on his bedroom door, putting a big hole in it.

Downstairs, his relatives sit in quiet shock and murmur to each other how they’ve never seen him act like this. Dad runs up the stairs to contain his son. Calmly, his dad holds him in a bear hug from behind, waiting for the rage to subside.

As the dopamine in his brain and the adrenaline in his body begin to ebb, his rage loses its focus. Now, the pent-up energy takes on a disorganized, amorphous form. Aiden feels like he can’t think straight or get himself together. While he spaces out, his dad helps him put his pajamas on and they go back downstairs.

Stress hormones remain high, however, making it difficult for him to relax or think clearly. He seems a little confused, actually. His relatives look at him with a mixture of concern and love, but they also wonder why his parents let him “get away with” this kind of behavior. His mother intuitively knows that direct eye contact will overstimulate him again, so she approaches him slowly from the side, and rubs his back gently.

When his favorite aunt looks him in the face sympathetically, he immediately distrusts her intentions. Eye-to-eye interaction is interpreted by his primitive-mode brain as a challenge, and he starts getting revved up again. His mother intervenes and takes him up to his room. She lowers the light, settles him into bed, and starts to read him a soothing story. His nervous system attempts to regulate itself back to normal, but it seems to still be held hostage by his hyped-up emotions.

That night, after he does finally fall to sleep, Aiden awakens repeatedly with panic attacks — his heart races and blood pounds in his ears. He’s scared of the dark and worried that his angry outburst has upset and alienated his parents. His mother, meanwhile, confiscates the DS and decides to take it with her to work on Monday. (She really wants to throw it in the trash, but it was expensive!)

The following morning, the fight in Aiden has subsided, but the aftermath leaves him in a fog, listless, weepy, and exhausted. He experiences an increased craving for sweets while cortisol, the stress hormone, drives his blood sugar up and down erratically. It will take weeks before his body, brain, and mind return to some sense of balance. Meanwhile, his mother reaffirms her commitment “to get rid of those damn video games.”

Perceived Threat and the Fight-or-Flight Response

Does Aiden’s story sound familiar? Why would a seemingly normal, loving child become so enraged and difficult after playing video games? Though his response may seem extreme, there’s actually a completely natural explanation for Aiden’s behavior.

Playing video games mimics the kinds of sensory assaults humans are programmed to associate with danger. When the brain senses danger, primitive survival mechanisms swiftly kick in to provide protection from harm. This response is instantaneous; it is hardwired in our genes and necessary for survival. Keep in mind that the threat does not have to be real — it only needs to be a perceived danger for the brain and body to react.

When this instinct gets triggered, our nervous system and hormones influence our state of arousal, jumping instantly to a state of hyperarousal — the fight-or-flight response. These feelings can be hard to shake off even after the provoking incident is over and the threat — real or perceived — is gone.

In medical school, our instructors referred to this state as “running from the tiger,” since during ancient times humans protected themselves from predators by literally fighting or fleeing. Today, we still need this rapid stress response for emergency situations, and on a day-to-day basis mild stress reactions help us get things done. But for the most part, repeatedly enduring fight-or-flight responses when survival is not an issue does more harm than good.

When the fight-or-flight state occurs too often, or too intensely, the brain and body have trouble regulating themselves back to a calm state, leading to a state of chronic stress. Chronic stress is also produced when there is a “mismatch” between fight-or-flight reactions and energy expenditure, as occurs with screen time. Indeed, the build-up of energy is meant to be physically discharged to allow the nervous system to re-regulate. However, research suggests screen time induces stress reactions even in children who exercise regularly.

Once chronic stress sets in, blood flow is directed away from the higher thinking part of the brain (the frontal lobe) and toward the more primitive, deeper areas necessary for survival, causing impairment in functioning. With children, whose nervous systems are still developing, this sequence of events occurs much faster than it does for adults, and the chronically stressed child soon starts to struggle.

It’s easy to imagine how an exciting video game can cause hyperarousal. But in fact, numerous mechanisms act synergistically to raise arousal levels with all types of interactive screen time. And contrary to popular belief, many of them occur irrespective of content.

Because chronic stress effectively “short circuits” the frontal lobe, a hyperaroused and mentally depleted child will have trouble paying attention, managing emotions, suppressing impulses, following directions, tolerating frustration, accessing creativity and compassion, and executing tasks.

All of these effects are compounded by screen time disrupting the body clock and hindering deep sleep. In fact, the effects on sleep alone can explain many of the mood, cognitive, and behavior issues associated with screens, and also explain how screen effects can build over time, making them easy to miss.

When people say my strict screen time recommendations—which are based not just on clinical experience and research but also on how the brain works—are “not realistic,” and that children “must learn to manage technology,” my response is this: It’s not realistic to expect the brain to adapt to intense and artificial stimulation it was never meant to handle.

It’s also not realistic to expect a child with a still-developing frontal lobe to control their screen time, whether that means managing how long they play a game, how they use or misuse social media, or how they behave afterward.

Parents need to learn the science behind how screen time overstimulates the nervous system, how this manifests as an array of symptoms and dysfunction, and what that looks like in their own child.

Learning this information can literally change the course of a child’s life; it helps parents to make informed and mindful screen management decisions and steadies them from being swayed by cultural trends and misleading headlines. It puts parents in the driver’s seat. While the world may have changed, how the brain responds to stress and what it needs to thrive has not.

By: Victoria L. Dunckley M.D.

Victoria L. Dunckley, M.D. is an integrative child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist, the author of Reset Your Child’s Brain, and an expert on the effects of screen-time on the developing nervous system.  

Source: This Is Your Child’s Brain on Video Games | Psychology Today

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Coping with Grief During a Pandemic

Since the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic, many of us have experienced loss, sadness, anxiety, and grief. You will often hear how losing a loved one changes you for the rest of your life.

You learn to move forward in life carrying with you the cherished memories of this person and the love they brought into this world, into their relationship with you. For many, this is one of the hardest things they will ever experience in their life. It’s never easy, whether you have experienced a sudden loss of a loved one or losing a loved one due to an illness or cancer, that may have included stays in a hospital or hospice setting.

Pre-pandemic, one vital aspect of this process that helped us grieve was being surrounded by our loved ones and friends. Being present with your loved ones as they were in the hospital, being present with loved ones at a viewing or mass, being present with your family and friends at a luncheon after the funeral, just being physically present with others helped us to cope.

Currently, we are almost a year into the isolating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and unfortunately, like everyone, I have felt loss. Like others worldwide, I missed casual visits with friends and family, holiday gatherings, having my children’s education interrupted, struggling to adapt to zoom and other online video tools, fear of contracting COVID-19, etc.

The list can go on! My family also experienced two personal losses within a very short time frame. Both were my uncles; both were my mother’s brothers. One uncle contracted COVID-19 and passed away in under a month, and my other uncle lost his lengthy battle with cancer.

How the Pandemic Impacts the Grieving Process

In any time period, losing a loved one is a very difficult experience. You will hear individuals experience stages of grief and loss, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Maneuvering through these stages is often supported in part by aspects that we are missing because of the pandemic. One of the elements that are different is not being able to hug someone, to give or receive a simple embrace!

People often say that you might not remember what people say, but you will remember how they made you feel. An embrace of love, support, and I am here for you without saying a word is missing these days. Further, visitation limitations in hospitals and nursing homes due to the pandemic have strongly impacted the grieving process.

This deepens the void felt in the time with a loved one who is sick leading up to their passing. This may cause us to feel like we missed out on being there, caring for, and helping our sick loved ones feel like they are not alone. Also, some people are nervous about attending the viewing and funerals. Constraints on large gatherings impact how many people can attend, and even those who attend are spaced far apart.

The purposeful distancing helps to keep it safe in the pandemic but takes away some of the comfort in gathering together to mourn. Some wanted to attend but also wanted to make sure they were safe. In regards to my uncle, one family friend explained, “I really wanted to go, have closure, pay my respects and love to him and all of his loved ones,” but due to COVID-19 and his physical health concerns, was not able to attend.

Recommendations to Help with Loss During a Pandemic

This pandemic has had a huge impact on how we cope with grief, and it may lead us to use some new methods to help us through the tough times. If you or someone you know is dealing with a loss, the recommendations below may help to ease the pain and additional loneliness felt when losing a loved one.

Therapy. Seeing a therapist can help you process your grief and sadness.

Group Therapy (Bereavement groups). Attending a bereavement group can help you connect with others who have lost loved ones. It also may help with feeling like you are not alone and learn coping strategies from others that may better support this extremely difficult time for you.

NAMI or other support groups. Joining a group like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or other support groups such as those offered on social media platforms. This will help you broaden your scope of supportive networks. These groups and support networks are often at zero cost and can be extremely beneficial.

Support and Time. There is no specific way to mourn a loved one. For some, it may take a long time to pass through the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). For those supporting someone who lost a loved one, just being present with them (virtually or physically distanced) and encouraging them to talk about their loved one is extremely beneficial.

They may not remember what you said, but surely will remember how you made them feel. This is especially true with grief – just knowing that you are there, listening, and offering comfort means so much!

Talk. Continue to talk about your thoughts and feelings related to the frustrations, anxiety, sadness, and grief due to the loss of the loved one. Shutting down, avoiding, and isolating can be an instinctual response with grief and understandable due to the significant loss.

Talk about the good times you had with the person, talk about the anger you have related to your situation, talk about the sadness that you have about the loss. The most important thing is to express yourself.

Pictures of your loved one. Looking through pictures of my uncles really helped me and my family. Remembering good times, funny moments, and speaking about their character, values, and personality was extremely beneficial to my family.

Memorialize the loved one. There are various ways you can memorialize your loved one. Some ideas are dedicating and planting a tree, flower, or garden for your loved one, contributing to a local charity, creating an online memorial, or creating a picture box.

Engage in Self-Care. Take care of yourself. Yoga, meditation, walks, music, exercise, gym, and eating right are a few things that can help you during a time of grieving.

Be kind to yourself. Losing a loved one is one of the hardest situations a person can experience. Self-compassion throughout this experience is one aspect that may help you process your grief. This is also easier said than done.

A beautiful quote by Rick Hanson from his book Just One Thing is “you can have compassion for yourself- which is not self-pity. You’re simply recognizing that ‘this is tough, this hurts,’ and bringing the same warmhearted wish for suffering to lessen or end that you would bring to any dear friend grappling with the same pain, upset, or challenges as you.”

By: Patrick McElwaine Psy.D.

Patrick McElwaine is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and also Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). He is an Assistant Professor of Counseling Psychology at Holy Family University and a faculty member at the Beck Institute.

Source: Coping with Grief During a Pandemic | Psychology Today

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Mental Health Startup Uses Voice ‘Biomarkers’ To Detect Signs Of Depression And Anxiety

Young female character having a panic attack, an imaginary monster shadow silhouette, mental health issues, psychology

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog,” Rima Seiilova-Olson says slowly and emphatically over Zoom.

The simple sentence holds enormous value for mental health care, she explains, smiling as if to acknowledge that it might be less than obvious how a silly phrase could be so meaningful to a computer programmer and leader of an artificial intelligence startup.

The short saying contains every letter of the alphabet and phoneme in the English language, says Seiilova-Olson, an immigrant from Kazakhstan who is cofounder and chief scientist of Kintsugi Mindful Wellness. Kintsugi believes these sounds offer invaluable insight that can help mental health providers better support people with depression and anxiety.

The Bay Area-based company is building AI software that analyzes short clips of speech to detect depression and anxiety. This so-called voice biomarker software is being integrated into clinical call centers, telehealth services and remote monitoring apps to screen and triage patients reaching out for support, helping providers more quickly and easily assess their needs and respond.

“There’s just not a lot of visibility as to who is severely depressed or anxious.”

Kintsugi CEO and co-founder Grace Chang

Seiilova-Olson, 36, first met co-founder and CEO Grace Chang, 40, a Taiwanese immigrant now based in Berkeley, in 2019 at an open AI hackathon in San Francisco. Surprised to cross paths at a male-dominated event, the women began comparing notes about their respective personal challenges trying to access mental health care:

Seiilova-Olson had struggled to secure a therapist during postpartum depression with her first child, and when Chang had needed her own support, she said it had taken months for anyone from Kaiser to call her back.

“Living in the Bay Area, you can push a button and a car can come to you or food can come to you,” Chang says. “But this was really a challenge.” As engineers, they viewed the dilemma differently than clinicians might.

“We saw this as an infrastructure problem, where you have so many people trying to jam through that front door,” Chang explains. “But there’s just not a lot of visibility as to who is severely depressed or anxious, who is low-to-moderate. And if we could provide this information to those frontline practitioners, then we’d maybe have an opportunity to greatly alleviate that bottleneck.”

Kintsugi was born out of that idea in 2019. It sits in a competitive space of health tech startups like Ellipsis Health and Winter Light Labs that are using voice biomarkers to detect mental health or cognitive issues, built on research showing that certain linguistic patterns and characteristics of a person’s voice can be correlated with psychiatric or neurological conditions.

Kintsugi last year raised $8 million in seed funding led by Acrew Capital, and in February, announced it had closed a $20 million Series A round led by Insight Partners, which valued the company at nearly $85 million, according to PitchBook.

In-person mental health facilities typically use questionnaires to gauge the severity of patients’ anxiety or depression, measures known as PHQ-9 and GAD-7 scores. But during telehealth visits or phone consults — where face-to-face interaction is lost, making it harder to pick up on symptoms — Kintsugi’s technology helps to fill that gap.

Nicha Cumberbatch, assistant director of public health at Spora Health, a provider focused on health equity and people of color, uses Kintsugi’s software to assess women in its all-virtual, doula-led maternal health program, Spora Mommas.

The voice analysis tool, which Spora began using for patient consultations a few weeks ago, has helped Cumberbatch identify women who are, or may be at risk of, experiencing anxiety and depression before, during or after their pregnancies. When a patient starts speaking to a Spora clinician or doula on Zoom, Kintsugi’s AI begins listening to and analyzing her voice.

After processing 20 seconds of speech, the AI will then spit out the patient’s PHQ-9 and GAD-7. The employee can then use that mental health score to decide what additional testing may be needed and how best to advise or direct the patient to resources — like a psychiatrist, cognitive behavioral therapist or obstetrician.

Cumberbatch says Kintsugi’s technology is allowing her to “​​keep a more watchful eye” on her patients “and then move forward with proactive recommendations around mitigating their symptoms.” And while it’s not meant to replace clinicians or formal medical evaluations, she adds, it can be used as a screening tool to “allow us to have a more well-rounded, 360-view of the patient when we don’t have them in front of our face.”

“That technology… [allows] us to have a more well-rounded, 360-view of the patient when we don’t have them in front of our face.”

Nicha Cumberbatch, assistant director of public health at Spora Health

Dr. ​​Jaskanwal Deep Singh Sara, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist who has collaborated with Ellipsis and led research on potential uses of voice biomarkers for cardiology, cautions that while the technology is promising for health care, the field has a long way to go to ensure that it’s accurate, safe and beneficial for patients and clinicians alike.

“It’s not ready for primetime by any stretch of the imagination yet,” Dr. Sara says. Studies in psychiatry, neurology, cardiology and other areas have shown an association between voice biomarkers and various conditions or diseases, but they haven’t shown how this relationship can be used to improve clinical outcomes, he says.

Such research is “not the same as saying, ‘How can we instrumentalize it in clinical practice, and how feasible is it? How effective is it in gauging an individual’s medical trajectory?’” he explains. “If it doesn’t provide any benefits in terms of how we manage them, then the question is: why would you do it?”

He says addressing those questions is “one of many next steps that we have to undertake on this” and that larger clinical trials are needed to answer them. “If it makes health care delivery cheaper or more efficient, or if it improves outcomes for patients, then that’s great,” he adds. “But I think we need to demonstrate that first with clinical trials, and that hasn’t been done.”

To address these issues and validate its software, Kintsugi is conducting clinical studies, including with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and the National Science Foundation has awarded Kintsugi multiple grants to ramp up its research. The company is also pursuing FDA “de novo” clearance and continuing to build its own dataset to improve its machine learning models.

(Data and insights from Kintsugi’s voice journaling app, as well as conversations with call centers or telehealth providers and clinical collaborations with various hospitals, all become part of an enormous dataset that feeds Kintsugi’s AI.) Seiilova-Olson says this self-generated, unfettered proprietary dataset is what sets Kintsugi apart in the AI health care space — where many technologies are reliant on outside data from electronic health records.

That collection of troves of data on individuals’ speech can be concerning — particularly in the mental health and wellness space, which is widely considered a regulatory Wild West. (These products and services are often not subject to the same laws and stringent standards that govern how licensed clinicians provide formal medical care to patients.)

But Kintsugi’s founders say that patient privacy is protected because what matters for its technology is not what people are saying, but how they are saying it. Patients are also asked for their consent to be recorded and care is not affected by their decision to opt in or opt out, according to the founders.

Kintsugi says it has served an estimated 34,000 patients. The company is currently working with a large health system with 90 hospitals and clinics across 22 states, and they are active in a care management call center that services roughly 20 million calls per year. It is also partnering with Pegasystems, which offers customer service tools for health care and other industries, to help payers and providers handle inbound calls.

Chang says other customers include Fortune 10 enterprise payers, pharmaceutical organizations and digital health applications focused on remote patient monitoring, but that she could not yet share their names. Kintsugi’s clinical partners include Children’s Hospital Colorado, Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Florida, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London and SJD Barcelona Children’s Hospital in Spain, Chang said.

Prentice Tom, Kintsugi’s chief medical officer, adds that it’s working with the University of Arkansas to explore how the tool can be used to possibly identify patients with suicidal ideation, or increased or severe suicide risk, as well as with Loma Linda University, to look at how the technology can be used to spot burnout amongst clinicians.

The team is also looking for ways to expand availability and uses for younger and elderly patients, as well as for maternal and postpartum populations. And beyond patients themselves, it’s perhaps nurses who are benefiting most from Kintsugi’s work, according to the founding team: having a triage tool that helps reduce administrative work or the time spent asking generic questions enables nurses to more seamlessly move patients in their journey.

But Tom, a Harvard-trained emergency medicine physician and former faculty member at Stanford University’s Department of Emergency Medicine, says Kintsugi is now doing far more than addressing infrastructure issues alone. It’s democratizing access to mental health care, Tom said, moving away from a physician-centric paradigm that caters more to people with significant enough depression that they require medical evaluation.

“This tool actually creates a view of mental health in terms of mental wellness,” Tom said, “where everyone has the opportunity to understand where they sit on the spectrum and that actually stratifies treatment options well beyond the current infrastructure.”

I’m a Senior Writer at Forbes covering the intersection of technology and society. Before joining Forbes, I spent three years as a tech reporter at Politico, where I covered

Source: Mental Health Startup Uses Voice ‘Biomarkers’ To Detect Signs Of Depression And Anxiety

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Social Media Break Can Significantly Improve Mental Health

A social media break could significantly improve overall well-being and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, according to a new study from the University of Bath.

The researchers examined the mental health effects of stepping away from social media for one week. For some participants, the break freed up about nine hours that they would have normally spent on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok.

“Social media (SM) has revolutionized how we communicate with each other, allowing users to interact with friends and family and meet others based on shared interests by creating virtual public profiles,” wrote the study authors. “In the United Kingdom, the number of adults using SM has increased from 45 percent in 2011 to 71 percent in 2021.”

The researchers noted that previous studies have found negative relationships between social media use and various mental health indices. For example, a study of US adults showed that participants who used social media the most frequently had much greater odds of suffering from depression.

To investigate the benefits of a social media break, the researchers focused on people between the ages of 18 and 72 who used social media every day. The individuals were randomly assigned to either stop using social media platforms altogether for seven days or to continue their social media engagement as usual.

At the beginning of the study, the participants had reported spending an average of eight hours per week on social media. Those who took a break showed significant improvements in well-being, depression, and anxiety.

“Scrolling social media is so ubiquitous that many of us do it almost without thinking from the moment we wake up to when we close our eyes at night,” said lead researcher Dr. Jeff Lambert.

“We know that social media usage is huge and that there are increasing concerns about its mental health effects, so with this study, we wanted to see whether simply asking people to take a week’s break could yield mental health benefits.”

“Many of our participants reported positive effects from being off social media with improved mood and less anxiety overall. This suggests that even just a small break can have an impact.”

“Of course, social media is a part of life and for many people, it’s an indispensable part of who they are and how they interact with others. But if you are spending hours each week scrolling and you feel it is negatively impacting you, it could be worth cutting down on your usage to see if it helps.”

By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer

Source: Social media break can significantly improve mental health • Earth.com

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Critics:

By: Zia Sherrell

Social media has associations with depression, anxiety, and feelings of isolation, particularly among heavy users. A 2015 Common Sense survey found that teenagers may spend as much as 9 hours of each day online. Many of these individuals are themselves concerned that they spend too much time browsing social networks. This wave of concern suggests that social media could affect the mental health of its users.

The researchers behind a 2017 Canadian study confirmed this finding. They noted that students who use social media for more than 2 hours daily are considerably more likely to rate their mental health as fair or poor than occasional users. A 2019 studyTrusted Source tied social media use to disrupted and delayed sleep. Regular, high quality sleep is essential for well-being, and evidence shows that sleeping problems contribute to adverse mental health effects, such as depression and memory loss.

Aside from the adverse effects on sleep, social media may trigger mental health struggles by exposing individuals to cyberbullying. In a 2020 survey of more than 6,000 individuals aged 10–18 years, researchers found that about half of them had experienced cyberbullying. One of the downsides of social media platforms is that they give individuals the opportunity to start or spread harmful rumors and use abusive words that can leave people with lasting emotional scars.

Although social media may not play a role in each of these incidences, the time frame correlates with the growing use of these platforms. A 2021 study confirms this effect. The researchers reported that while social media use had a minimal impact on boys’ risk of suicide, girls who used social media for at least 2 hours each day from the age of 13 years had a higher clinical risk of suicide as adults. Furthermore, findings from a population-based study show a decline in mental health in the U.S., with a 37% increase in the likelihood of major depressive episodes among adolescents.

A 2019 studyTrusted Source suggested that teenagers who use social media for more than 3 hours daily are more likely to experience mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, aggression, and antisocial behavior.

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Healthy Lifestyle May Increase Life Expectancy, Research Suggests

A healthy lifestyle may allow older people to live longer, with women adding three years and men six to their life expectancy, suggests research published in the journal BMJ. In addition, more of those years may be dementia-free. More than 6 million Americans 65 and older have the most common type of dementia, Alzheimer’s, for which there is no cure.

The study found that, at age 65, women with the healthiest lifestyle had an average life expectancy of about 24 years, compared with 21 years for women whose lifestyle was deemed less healthy. Life expectancy for men with the healthiest lifestyle was 23 years, vs. 17 years for men who were less healthy.

The findings came from research that involved 2,449 people who were 65 and older and part of the Chicago Health and Aging Project, which first enrolled participants in 1993.

The current researchers developed a healthy lifestyle scoring system for their participants that encompassed five factors: diet, cognitive activity, physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption. People were given one point for each area if they met healthy standards, yielding a final summed score of 0 to 5, with higher scores indicating a healthier lifestyle.

As for living with dementia, those with a score of 4 or 5 healthy factors at age 65 lived with Alzheimer’s for a smaller proportion of their remaining years than did those with a score of 0 or 1. For women, the difference for those with a healthier lifestyle was having Alzheimer’s for 11 percent of their final years vs. 19 percent for those with a less healthy lifestyle; for men, it was 6 percent of their remaining time vs. 12 percent.

The researchers concluded that “prolonged life expectancy owing to a healthy lifestyle is not accompanied by an increased number of years living with Alzheimer’s dementia” but rather by “a larger proportion of remaining years lived without Alzheimer’s dementia.”

People who engage in a healthy lifestyle, such as eating a balanced diet, taking regular exercise, and avoiding smoking and excess alcohol consumption, incur many health benefits, including a longer lifespan.

It was not previously known if this benefit was also seen in people living with multiple conditions. Multimorbidity is the presence of two or more long-term conditions, ranging from anxiety and eczema to cancer and schizophrenia. It has become a major worldwide epidemic. People with multiple conditions have poorer health and a higher risk of death compared with others in the population.

Researchers compared the impact of a healthy lifestyle on life expectancy in people with and without multiple conditions. It was the first study to be able to look at the impact of different lifestyle factors.

The key finding is that a healthy lifestyle is equally important for everyone, whether they have multiple conditions or not. Age is a strong risk factor; even so, young and middle-aged adults who live in deprived areas are the most likely to have multiple conditions. Engaging in a healthy lifestyle could be more difficult for people in this group.

The study also found that certain lifestyle factors, such as smoking and physical activity, were more damaging than others. Public health policies and healthcare professionals could therefore focus on these lifestyle habits. This study suggests this approach would have more impact than costly strategies to address multiple risk factors.

By Linda Searing

Source: Healthy lifestyle may increase life expectancy, research suggests – The Washington Post

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