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April 29, 2011 Argely B.


Secondhand Smoke Associated With Psychiatric Distress, Illness

ScienceDaily (June 8, 2010) Exposure to secondhand smoke appears to be associated with psychological distress and the risk of future psychiatric hospitalization among healthy adults, according to a report posted online that will appear in the August print issue of Archives of General Psychiatry. "A growing body of literature has demonstrated the harmful physical health effects of secondhand smoke exposure," the authors write as background information in the article. "Given the highly prevalent exposure to secondhand smoke -- in the United States, an estimated 60 percent of American non-smokers had biological evidence of exposure to secondhand smoke -- even a low level of risk may have a major public health impact." Mark Hamer, Ph.D., of University College London, and colleagues studied 5,560 nonsmoking adults (average age 49.8) and 2,595 smokers (average age 44.8) who did not have a history of mental illness and participated in the Scottish Health Survey in 1998 or 2003. Participants were assessed with a questionnaire about psychological distress, and admissions to psychiatric hospitals were tracked over six years of follow-up. Exposure to secondhand smoke among non-smokers was assessed using saliva levels of cotinine -- the main product formed when nicotine is broken down by the body -- "a reliable and valid circulating biochemical marker of nicotine exposure," the authors write. A total of 14.5 percent of the participants reported psychological distress. Nonsmokers with a high exposure to secondhand smoke (cotinine levels between 0.70 and 15 micrograms per liter) had higher odds of psychological distress when compared with those who had no detectable cotinine. Over the six-year follow-up, 41 individuals were newly admitted to psychiatric hospitals. Smokers and non-smokers with high exposure to secondhand smoke were both more likely than non-smokers with low levels of secondhand smoke exposure to be hospitalized for depression, schizophrenia, delirium or other psychiatric conditions. Animal data have suggested that tobacco may induce a negative mood, and some human studies have also identified a potential association between smoking and depression. "Taken together, therefore, our data are consistent with other emerging evidence to suggest a causal role of nicotine exposure in mental health," the authors write. "To our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate a prospective association between objectively assessed secondhand smoke exposure and mental health in a representative sample of a general population," they conclude.


April 29, 2011

Joyce Ann Cacho

College Students Exhibiting More Severe Mental Illness, Study Finds
ScienceDaily (Aug. 13, 2010) Severe mental illness is more common among college students than it was a decade ago, with more young people arriving on campus with pre -existing conditions and a willingness to seek help for emotional distress, according to a study presented at the 118th annual convention of the American Psychological Association. The data support what college mental health professionals have noted for some time. "In the last 10 years, a shift in the needs of students seeking counseling services is becoming apparent," said John Guthman, PhD, author of the study and director of student counseling services at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY. "University and college counseling services around the country are reporting that the needs of students seeking services are escalating toward more severe psychological problems. While the condition of students seeking counseling doesn't necessarily reflect the experience of the average college student, our findings may suggest that students with severe emotional stress are getting better education, outreach and support during childhood that makes them more likely to attend college than in the past." Guthman and his co-authors looked at the records of 3,256 college students who accessed college counseling support between September 1997 and August 2009 at a mid-sized private university. Students, both undergraduate and graduate, were screened for mental disorders, suicidal thoughts and self-injurious behavior. Several tools were employed to make a diagnosis, including clinical evaluations, structured interviews, and two widely used tests of mood -- the Beck Depression Inventory and the Beck Anxiety Inventory. In 1998, 93 percent of the students coming into the clinic were diagnosed with one mental disorder, said Guthman. That number rose to 96 percent in 2009. In 2009, 96 percent of students seeking treatment met criteria for diagnosis with at least one mental disorder. Most students were diagnosed with mood and anxiety disorders as well as adjustment disorders or problems associated with significant impairment in functioning. There were no significant class or age differences. "Overall, the average quality of depression and anxiety experienced by students in counseling has remained constant and relatively mild during the last decade," Guthman said. "However, the percentage of students with moderate to severe depression has gone up from 34 to 41 percent. "These outliers often require significantly more resources and may contribute greatly to the misperception that the average student is in distress." The rise in the more severe cases of depression and anxiety in college students may be because more students are coming to college with pre-existing mental health difficulties, said Guthman. "There are also more students who are not socially connected. The average college student is not having this problem, but the students who are seeking help are frequently socially isolated, depressed and may be on medication." The study also found that the number of students on psychiatric medicines increased more than 10 percentage points. In 1998, 11 percent of the clinical sampl reported using psychiatric e medications, mostly for depression, anxiety and ADHD. In 2009, 24 percent of those attending counseling reported using psychiatric medications. On a more positive note, Guthman found that the number of students who acknowledged that they had thought about suicide within two weeks of counseling intake declined from 26 percent in 1998 to 11 percent in 2009. This decrease may reflect general improvements in suicide prevention education and outreach and greater awareness of available assistance, he said. "It used to be that students would come to university counseling centers because they broke up with their partner or failed a test," Guthman said. "Now, they are coming with emotional distress and requesting mental health treatment for the same reasons that other adult populations seeks out treatment."