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Election results may trigger depression for some, study finds

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American presidential elections are clearly divisive, but a new analysis suggests they may trigger depression in residents of states that favored the losing candidate.

The investigators gauged the mental health of roughly half a million Americans after the 2016 presidential election. The upshot: Stress and depression risk went up significantly in those states that had gone for Hillary Clinton.

“We found that the number of poor mental health days that adults in Clinton states experienced rose 15% from October to December 2016,” said study author Brandon Yan. “That’s half a day more per adult — and 55 million more days of stress, depressed mood, and emotional distress in total — for adults living in Clinton-voting states in December alone.”

And that rise continued through the first half of 2017, added Yan, who is a medical student and health policy researcher with the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies and School of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

None of those findings are surprising, said clinical psychologist Lynn Bufka. Though not involved in the study, she’s a member of the American Psychological Association’s “Stress in America” team.

“People had a lot of emotional investment in the 2016 election, and the current outcome as well,” Bufka noted. “They really want certain outcomes, and if they don’t get what they want it can be very, very disappointing.”

That disappointment is not without foundation, she added. “There may be truth in anticipating that a certain outcome could mean x, y or z, in terms of having a real and perhaps negative impact on a voter’s life,” Bufka noted. “Final decisions really do mean certain things. And for certain voters, it may be reasonable that they would be concerned about those things.”

To explore the topic, Yan and his colleagues pored over survey data collected across all 50 states between May 2016 and May 2017.

Among the 20 states that went for Clinton, residents indicated that the number of days during which they experienced stress, depression or emotional problems rose from nearly 3.4 days in October 2016 to nearly 3.9 days in December 2016.

The team also found a 2-percentage-point rise in the number of Clinton state residents who said they experienced “poor mental health” — an indicator of clinical depression — for two weeks or more a month post-election.

In Trump-voting states the opposite unfolded: Poor mental health risk dipped from an average of just over 3.9 days per month in October 2016 to just under 3.8 days in November 2016.

Yan pointed out that living in an election-losing state doesn’t mean you’re at very high risk for post-election stress, only that your risk may rise.

But the degree of that risk may go up, depending the margin of loss.

For example, in states with a 10-percentage-point greater margin of Clinton support there were 0.41 more days of worse mental health per adult in December 2016.

In Trump states, the reverse was true: A 10-percentage-pont higher margin of support predicted 0.41 fewer days in worse mental health risk.

The bottom line: “Elections matter, including for health,” Yan said.

“Elections may not seem like events that would themselves impact public health,” Yan noted, “but this study shows us that we should pay attention to their health effects.”

In the face of a fresh Joe Biden victory, what can Trump voters do to lessen their post-election risk?

“Remembering that you’re not alone in feeling stress and anxiety, and that there are people, health care providers included, who could offer support and resources,” Yan suggested.

“And focus on what you can control,” Bufka added. “Turn off the TV. Set boundaries. Be selective in where you get your news and information. Social media may not be the best place for it. And it’s really important to pay attention to your well-being. Of course, you can’t suddenly do that on Election Day. You need to pay attention to it all the time in order to develop healthy habits, so you get the sleep you need and are able to moderate stress.

“I also think it’s going to be critical to stop demonizing people who think differently than us,” she added. “Everyone wants a job, to enjoy time with friends and family. We might have different ideas as to how to get there. But we can and should focus on that goals we perhaps share in common and all want to achieve.”

The study findings were published recently in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

More information

There’s more on the link between stress and poor health at American Psychological Association.

Copyright 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.



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‘Green prescriptions’ could cancel mental health benefits for some

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So-called “green prescriptions” may end up being counterproductive for people with mental health conditions, researchers say.

Spending time in nature is believed to benefit mental health, so some doctors are beginning to “prescribe” outdoor time for their patients.

That led researchers to investigate whether being in nature helps actually does help people with issues such as anxiety and depression. They collected data from more than 18,000 people in 18 countries.

The takeaway: Time in nature does provide several benefits for people with mental health conditions, but only if they choose on their own to visit green spaces.

While being advised to spend time outdoors can encourage such activity, it can also undermine the potential emotional benefits, according to the authors of the study published this month in the journal Scientific Reports.

The researchers said they were surprised to find that people with depression were spending time in nature as often as folks with no mental health issues, and that people with anxiety were doing so much more often.

While in nature, those with depression and anxiety tended to feel happy and reported low anxiety. But those benefits appeared to be undermined when the visits were done at others’ urging, the investigators found.

The more external pressure people with depression and anxiety felt to visit nature, the less motivated they were to do so and the more anxious they felt.

“These findings are consistent with wider research that suggests that urban natural environments provide spaces for people to relax and recover from stress,” said study leader Michelle Tester-Jones, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom.

But the findings also show that health care practitioners and loved ones should be sensitive about recommending time in nature for people who have mental health issues.

“It could be helpful to encourage them to spend more time in places that people already enjoy visiting, so they feel comfortable and can make the most of the experience,” Tester-Jones said in a university news release.

More information

For more on the benefits of green spaces, go to the National Recreation and Park Association.

Copyright 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.



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Study: Nearly half of ‘essential workers’ in U.S. at risk for severe COVID-19

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Nov. 9 (UPI) — Nearly half of those classified as “essential workers” in the United States are at increased risk for severe COVID-19, according to an analysis published Monday by JAMA Internal Medicine.

This means that more than 74 million workers and those with whom they live could be at risk for serious illness, based on disease risk guidelines developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the researchers said.

“Many parts of the country face high and rising infection rates, [and] we should not think about work exposure and health risks in isolation, given that workers and persons at increased risk often live in the same households,” study co-author Thomas M. Selden told UPI.

“Insofar as we can reduce the prevalence of COVID-19 in our communities, we can reduce the extent to which policymakers have to choose between the economy and keeping the population safe,” said Selden, an economist with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic spread to the United States in March, states and cities across the country have instituted lockdown measures designed to limit the spread of the disease.

Many of these measures entailed closing schools and non-essential businesses, with only banks, grocery stores, pharmacies and other businesses deemed to provide vital services allowed to stay open.

For this study, Selden and his colleagues analyzed data on the U.S. workforce to examine how many people were in essential jobs, how often they were able to work at home, their risk for severe COVID-19 and the potential health risks for their household members.

Of the more than 157 million workers across the country, 72% are in jobs deemed essential — based on U.S. Department of Homeland Security criteria — and more than three-fourths of all essential workers are unable to work at home, Selden said.

Essential workers include those in the medical and healthcare, telecommunications, information technology systems, defense, food and agriculture, transportation and logistics and energy, water and wastewater industries, as well as those in law enforcement and public works, the DHS criteria stipulates.

The study notes that up to 60% of these workers have underlying health issues, placing them at increased risk for severe COVID-19 if they get infected, as defined by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Those with diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and chronic respiratory conditions like asthma are considered to be at high risk for serious illness, the CDC says.

Based on these findings, between roughly 57 million and 74 million adults working in on-site essential jobs — and their families — are at increased risk for serious illness, Selden and his colleagues estimated.

“Policymakers face important decisions about how to balance the economic benefits of keeping workers employed and the public health benefits of protecting those with increased risk of severe COVID-19,” Selden said.

“These issues arise in the context of decisions to close segments of the economy and decisions about how to distribute vaccines, which will initially be available only with limited supply, [and] become all the more difficult when the prevalence of infection rises in parts of the country,” he said.



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Study: Hydroxychloroquine no better than placebo for hospitalized COVID-19 patients

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Nov. 9 (UPI) — COVID-19 patients treated with hydroxychloroquine showed no signs of significant improvement in “clinical status” compared with those given a placebo, a study published Monday by JAMA found.

Patients given a five-day course of the drug were scored as “category six” based on the World Health Organization’s seven-category COVID Ordinal Outcomes Scale, the same as those given a placebo, the researchers said.

Also, 28 days after they started treatment, 10.4% of those treated with hydroxychloroquine died, just slightly lower than the 10.6% fatality rate in the placebo group.

“The results show that hydroxychloroquine did not help patients recover from COVID-19,” study co-author Dr. Wesley H. Self told UPI.

“In the study, patients treated with hydroxychloroquine and those treated with a placebo had nearly identical outcomes, [so] I do not foresee any role for hydroxychloroquine in acutely ill patients hospitalized with COVID-19,” said Self, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Hydroxychloroquine is an immunosuppressive and anti-parasitic drug that is used to treat malaria.

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, it was touted by President Donald Trump and others as a potential treatment for the virus, despite the lack of any scientific data supporting its use.

Given its effectiveness helping those sickened with malaria — a mosquito-borne infection — to recover, “there was a strong rationale for why hydroxychloroquine may have been beneficial for patients with COVID-19,” according to Self.

However, in July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned against the drug’s use in the treatment of those infected with the new coronavirus, due to potentially serious heart-related side effects.

For this study, Self and his colleagues treated 433 COVID-19 patients at 34 hospitals across the United States with either the drug or a placebo for a period of five days.

Patients assigned to the hydroxychloroquine group received 400 milligrams of the drug in pill form twice a day for the first two doses and then 200 mg. in pill form twice a day for the next eight doses, for a total of 10 doses over the five days.

All of the patients were then assessed based on the WHO’s COVID Ordinal Outcomes Scale, which categorizes those infected according to disease severity.

Most of the patients in both the hydroxycholorquine group and the placebo group were in “category six,” meaning they were hospitalized and receiving extracorporeal membrane oxygenation or invasive mechanical ventilation to maintain their breathing, the researchers said.

“Our results, especially when combined from other studies conducted in the United Kingdom and Brazil, are good evidence that hydroxychloroquine does not provide benefit for patients hospitalized with COVID-19,” Self said.



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