Women stay mentally sharp farther into old age than men typically do, and scientists now think they know why. It all has to do with how the brain burns energy. A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that women’s brains burn energy in a much more youthful way throughout adulthood. Women’s brains appear to be about three years younger than men’s of the same chronological age, even in their 20’s, and that difference holds for the rest of their lives.
Binge drinking and prolonged heavy drinking may trigger a permanent change in a person’s DNA, which results in an even greater desire for alcohol. A study in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research shows that among binge and heavy drinkers, two genes are modified that influence drinking behavior—one that influences the body clock and another regulating the stress-response system. Scientists hope the findings may eventually help identify biomarkers for people at risk for alcoholic changes.
And finally, more than half of all American workers say they’ve suffered from job burnout, but most of them won’t take a “mental health day” away from the job to deal with it. The University of Phoenix survey shows only a third of workers have taken time off for mental health, mostly because they say their companies don’t view it as an acceptable reason to be off work.
A new CDC report shows that suicide among veterinarians is much higher than in the general population. Experts discuss the unique stresses that affect these professionals, including financial, compassion fatigue, euthanasia, and online harassment. They also discuss measures being taken to prevent mental health struggles and suicide.
Dr. Jason Sweitzer, veterinarian, Thousand Oaks, CA and board member, Not One More Vet
Dr. Debbie Stoewen, Director of Veterinary Affairs, Lifelearn Animal Health
Schools would be a good place for programs to screen for mental health issues in students, and to educate about mental health to lessen the pervasive stigma. Some states are making programs mandatory, but elsewhere schools and personnel may resist, seeing mental health as outside the normal role of teachers. Experts discuss how inventive programs are overcoming obstacles.
Dr. Kimberly Kendziora, Managing Researcher, American Institutes for Research
Dr. Michael Murphy, psychologist, Massachusetts General Hospital and Associate Professor of Psychology, Harvard Medical School
Studies show that college students are America’s loneliest people—even more so than the elderly—even though they’re surrounded by people and activities. The role of technology is discussed in isolating students, and the role of changing culture toward children and adolescents having a constantly structured schedule with few breaks for downtime or spontaneity. Experts also discuss how parents, schools and students themselves can overcome social isolation.
Rachel Simmons, Leadership Development Specialist, Smith College
Dr. Victor Schwartz, Chief Medical Officer, JED Foundation
Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, Brigham Young University
A silent epidemic is at work in doctors around the world: depression. An estimated 400 physicians are lost each year to suicide, often because of unacknowledged and untreated mental illnesses. Dr. Pamela Wible, founder of the Ideal Medical Care movement and author of Physician Suicide Letters, Answered, and Dr. Louise Andrew, founder of MD Mentor, explain why doctors are committing suicide at a higher rate than the general population and why others are covering it up.
Starting from medical school, through residency, and then in their professional practices, doctors face a harsh and often unhealthy school and work environment that leaves many of them frustrated and disappointed. In turn, the suicide rate for doctors is two to five times higher than that of the general population, Dr. Wible says. Furthermore, doctors have a greater knowledge of drugs and the human body, which leads their suicide attempts to result in death more often.
The root of these high suicide rates is often left undiscovered or covered up. Many doctors will not be able to diagnose themselves or will not be approached by concerned colleagues or family members. If the mental illness is discovered, doctors often avoid acknowledging it for fear of losing their medical license or insurance. Finally, if doctors do try to get treatment, they are faced with an additional challenge; many doctors feel uncomfortable treating other doctors.
With the odds stacked against them, Dr. Wible and Dr. Andrew say that the responsibility falls to all of us to bring this issue to light and to acknowledge that our physicians are people too.
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Dr. Pamela Wible, founder of the Ideal Medical Care movement and author of Physician Suicide Letters, Answered
How safe is vaping? A new study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives says it’s not. Researchers say people using e-cigarettes are likely to inhale significant amounts of lead, chromium, manganese and other toxic metals. The problem apparently isn’t in the e-liquids the devices use. It’s the heating coils that leak heavy metals. Scientists say that nearly half of the aerosol vapers tested had lead concentrations higher than health limits defined by the epa.
A lot of people, including doctors, mistakenly judge a person’s health by their weight. But a new study in the journal BMC Obesity finds that it’s very possible to be healthy and fit even if you’re obese. Scientists tested more than 800 people and found that more than 40 percent of those with mild obesity still had high fitness levels. Twenty-five percent of those with moderate obesity had high fitness and 11 percent of those with severe obesity still had high fitness. Researchers say it takes a lot less physical activity to improve health than to lose weight.
And finally, scientists have determined that money can, indeed, buy happiness but it takes the right amount of cash. Too much can be as bad as too little. A global study in the journal Nature Human Behavior finds that 60-to-95 thousand dollars per year is the ideal income for a single person. Researchers say income greater than that is likely to prompt the pursuit of more material gains and social comparisons, which make people less happy.