David Kirkpatrick

September 7, 2010

From the department of, “no duh” …

… I’ll let this bit from KurzweilAI.net speak for itself:

Magic mushrooms reduce anxiety over cancer

September 7, 2010

Source: New Scientist Health, Sep 6, 2010

The active ingredient of magic mushrooms,  psilocybin, has been shown to reduce anxiety and improve mood in people with cancer. researchers from Harbor-UCLA Medical Center have found.

Volunteers reported feeling less depressed and anxious two weeks after receiving psilocybin. Six months later, the level of depression was significantly lower in all volunteers than it had been before the treatments began.

(Dohduhdah/Wikipedia Commons)

Read original article

August 19, 2010

Yoga improves your mood

I have no doubt about this research. This year I’ve become a huge pusher of Wii Fit Plus, and I regularly do about a thirty minute yoga workout on the balance board. I’m as flexible as I’ve ever been, and according to this research my mood is better and I have less anxiety for my efforts. All I know is it’s pretty fun and more than a little bit cool to work out with an on-screen trainer putting you through the paces.

From the second link, the release:

New study finds new connection between yoga and mood

Boston, MA—Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have found that yoga may be superior to other forms of exercise in its positive effect on mood and anxiety. The findings, which currently appear on-line at Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, is the first to demonstrate an association between yoga postures, increased GABA levels and decreased anxiety.

The researchers set out to contrast the brain gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels of yoga subjects with those of participants who spent time walking. Low GABA levels are associated with depression and other widespread anxiety disorders.

The researchers followed two randomized groups of healthy individuals over a 12-week long period. One group practiced yoga three times a week for one hour, while the remaining subjects walked for the same period of time. Using magnetic resonance spectroscopic (MRS) imaging, the participants’ brains were scanned before the study began. At week 12, the researchers compared the GABA levels of both groups before and after their final 60-minute session.

Each subject was also asked to assess his or her psychological state at several points throughout the study, and those who practiced yoga reported a more significant decrease in anxiety and greater improvements in mood than those who walked. “Over time, positive changes in these reports were associated with climbing GABA levels,” said lead author Chris Streeter, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry and neurology at BUSM.

According to Streeter, this promising research warrants further study of the relationship between yoga and mood, and suggests that the practice of yoga be considered as a potential therapy for certain mental disorders.

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Funding for this study was provided by the National Institutes of Health.

July 14, 2010

Exercise improves your mental health

Via KurzweilAI.net — regular exercise provides many, many benefits and it’s not surprising improved mental health is among them. Since you’re reading this in front of a computer, take a few minutes sometime today to at least go on a brisk walk. Personally I do a bit of physical exercise, but nothing like I did when I was much younger. Now I completely swear by a 30 minute to hour daily workout on the Wii Fit Plus. For some reason I enjoy the idea of having a virtual trainer guiding my workout. It has something of “the future has arrived” science-fictiony feel to it for me.

Exercise reduces anxiety and depression

Exercise can ameliorate anxiety and depression-like behaviors induced by an adverse early-life environment by altering the chemistry of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that regulates stress responses, researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) have found.

In the study, rats were divided into groups and either isolated from their mothers for controlled periods of time to induce stress or given normal maternal contact. Half were given access to a running wheel. In addition to being more anxious, animals that were subjected to stress early in life had higher levels of stress hormones and fewer steroid receptors in the part of the brain controlling behaviour.

“Both the anxious behaviour and the levels of hormones in these rats were reversed with access to the exercise wheel,” said UNSW Professor of Pharmacology Margaret Morris.

“We know that exercise can elevate mood, but here we are seeing chemical changes that may underpin this improvement. One of these is increases in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which helps nerve cells grow.

“Many neurological diseases appear to have their origins early in life. Stress hormones affect the way nerve cells grow in the brain. This discovery may be giving us a clue about a different way to tackle a range of conditions that affect mood and behaviour,” she said.

More info: University of New South Wales news

Here’s the PhysOrg take on this story.

November 18, 2009

Just in time for the holiday season …

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:45 pm

… tidings of, er, red flags and economic warnings.

From the Brad DeLong link:

For 2 1/4 years now I have been saying that there is no chance of a repeat of the Great Depression or anything like it–that we know what to do and how to do it and will do it if things turn south.

I don’t think I can say that anymore. In my estimation the chances of another big downward shock to the U.S. economy–a shock that would carry us from the 1/3-of-a-Great-Depression we have now to 2/3 or more–are about 5%. And it now looks very much as if if such a shock hits the U.S. government will be unable to do a d—– thing about it.

August 18, 2009

Study finds foreclosure leads to depression

This isn’t a topic to make light of, but a study finding people whose homes have been foreclosed on show signs of clinical depression should suprise no one.

It does point out the larger picture that the toll of this ongoing economic downturn/recession/financial crisis goes far beyond the economics.

The release:

More than 1/3 of homeowners in foreclosure suffer from major depression, Penn study shows

Findings reveal looming health crisis tied to nation’s housing woes

(PHILADELPHIA) – The nation’s home foreclosure epidemic may be taking its toll on Americans’ health as well as their wallets. Nearly half of people studied while undergoing foreclosure reported depressive symptoms, and 37 percent met screening criteria for major depression, according to new University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine research published online this week in the American Journal of Public Health. Many also reported an inability to afford prescription drugs, and skipping meals. The authors say their findings should serve as a call for policy makers to tie health interventions into their response to the nation’s ongoing housing crisis.

“The foreclosure crisis is also a health crisis,” says lead author Craig E. Pollack, MD, MHS, who conducted the research while working as an internist and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar at Penn. “We need to do more to ensure that if people lose their homes, they don’t also lose their health.”

In addition to the high number of participants reporting depression symptoms, the study of 250 Philadelphia homeowners undergoing foreclosure also shed light on other health care problems that may be spurred by difficulties keeping up with housing costs. The study participants were recruited with the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Delaware Valley, a non-profit, U.S. Housing and Urban Development-approved mortgage counselor. The authors found that compared to a sample of residents in the general public, those in foreclosure were more likely to be uninsured (22 percent compared to 8 percent), though similar health problems were seen among both the insured and uninsured. Nearly 60 percent reported that they had skipped or delayed meals because they couldn’t afford food, and people undergoing foreclosure were also more likely to have forgone filling a prescription because of the expense during the preceding year (48 percent vs. 15 percent). The study also revealed that for 9 percent of respondents, a medical condition in their family was the primary reason for the home foreclosure, and more than a quarter of those surveyed said they had significant unpaid medical bills.

Because the financial hardships of foreclosure may lead homeowners to cut back on health care spending that they consider “discretionary” – preventive care visits, healthy foods or drugs for chronic conditions like hypertension – Pollack theorizes that the prolonged period of time that most homeowners spend in foreclosure could have a serious effect on health outcomes. In addition, the stress of undergoing foreclosure may exacerbate health-undermining behaviors. Among the participants who smoke, for instance, 65 percent said they had been smoking more since they received notice of foreclosure.

The “exceptionally high” rate of depressive symptoms found in the study is especially concerning, Pollack says, compared to previous research showing that only about 12.8 percent of people living in poverty meet criteria for major depressive disorder.

“When people purchase homes, they are buying a piece of the American Dream,” says co-author Julia Lynch, PhD, the Janice and Julian Bers Assistant Professor in the Social Sciences in Penn’s department of political science. “Losing a home can be especially devastating because it means the loss of this dream. When this happens, there is reason to worry not only about the health of the home owner but also that of family members and the broader community they live in.”

The authors say that the data collected in Philadelphia may be only the tip of the iceberg when compared to other cities that have experienced a sharp spike in housing foreclosures. Although foreclosure filings nearly doubled between 2007 and 2008 in Philadelphia, other large cities have higher unemployment and foreclosure rates.

To combat the health problems revealed in the study, Pollack and Lynch suggest that health care workers and mortgage counseling agencies coordinate their efforts to help people at risk of foreclosure access both medical and housing help. Doctors, they suggest, should ask their patients about their housing situation and steer them towards mortgage relief resources. Mortgage counselors, meanwhile, can provide information about how to access safety net health care, enroll in public insurance programs like SCHIP or Medicaid, or apply for nutritional assistance programs for pregnant and nursing mothers and their children. The implications for policy, too, are vast.

“This study raises the stakes of the housing crisis,” Pollack says. “The policy push to get people into mortgage counseling should be combined with health outreach in order to fully help people during this tremendously difficult period in their lives.”

 

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PENN Medicine is a $3.6 billion enterprise dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. PENN Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

Penn’s School of Medicine is currently ranked #3 in the nation in U.S.News & World Report’s survey of top research-oriented medical schools; and, according to the National Institutes of Health, received over $366 million in NIH grants (excluding contracts) in the 2008 fiscal year. Supporting 1,700 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior education and training of the next generation of physician-scientists and leaders of academic medicine.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS) includes its flagship hospital, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, rated one of the nation’s top ten “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S.News & World Report; Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation’s first hospital; and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, named one of the nation’s “100 Top Hospitals” for cardiovascular care by Thomson Reuters. In addition UPHS includes a primary-care provider network; a faculty practice plan; home care, hospice, and nursing home; three multispecialty satellite facilities; as well as the Penn Medicine at Rittenhouse campus, which offers comprehensive inpatient rehabilitation facilities and outpatient services in multiple specialties.

March 9, 2009

Is this a depression or recession?

Probably a little of both, and could turn into a full-blown depression. Fun topic, huh?

From the link:

way to search for turnaround signals is to watch contingency, contract and temporary hiring. That’s a harbinger of payroll action because employers hire temps when business begins to increase instead of immediately adding employees.

Unfortunately, the American Staffing Association charted a sharp decline in temporary-help hiring. Fourth-quarter staffing company employment was down 19.5 percent from the same quarter a year earlier.

When “the bottom fell out of the economy,” said the staffing association’s president, Richard Wahlquist, “demand for temporary and contract employees shrank at an unprecedented rated.”

Dave McDowell, president of Mid-America Personnel and Staffing Services, noted that regional demand for hourly industrial placements is off as much as 40 percent from this time last year.

Another job market indicator, the Society for Human Resource Management’s Leading Indicators of National Employment report, also issued Friday, was “bleak” for March.

More than twice as many human resource managers told the survey that they will cut payrolls in March (34.9 percent) than hire (15.3 percent).

So, how certain are we that the economy will get worse before it gets better?

Robert Barro, a fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and an economics professor at Harvard University, researched 209 worldwide stock market crashes and 59 depressions and concluded that the United States has a 20 percent chance of depression.

How to keep the recession from being a depression is one point of the Obama administration’s recovery package.

“So far, monetary policy has been stimulative. Now we hope, by midyear, that fiscal policy will make a difference,” said Charles Krider, a business professor at the University of Kansas. “The real key is making a difference in consumer confidence. We need confidence along with correct policies.”

But few expect any sign of a turnaround before the end of this year.

And Anirvan Banerji, with the Economic Cycle Research Institute, said there’s always a possibility that cures from the past won’t work in today’s “fast-moving, highly leveraged, highly networked economy.”

Like Morici, Banerji said we’ll need to wait and see what to ultimately call this economic cycle.

“The Great Depression didn’t start out as a depression,” Banerji said. “It started out as a recession.”

March 6, 2009

Jobless rate highest in quarter century

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:35 am

Not unexpected, but still daunting. Unemployment rises to over eight percent, the highest since the end of 1983. Like I blogged earlier this week, I was talking to a group of executives who all predict the rate of increase in unemployment will slow considerably, but the number will continue to rise through 2010.

This is only a prediction, but let that sink in for a minute — the percentage of unemployed Americans will continue to rise for at least 22 more months. Now that’s daunting.

From the link:

Another 651,000 jobs were lost in February, adding to the millions of people who have been thrown out of work as the economic downturn deepens.

In a stark measure of the recession’s toll, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday that the national unemployment rate surged to 8.1 percent last month, its highest in 25 years. The economy has now shed more than 4.4 million jobs since the recession started in December 2007.

And economists expect that unemployment will continue to rise for the rest of the year and into early 2010, with the unemployment rate reaching 9 to 10 percent by the time a recovery begins. But even then, with so many job losses centered in manufacturing, economists say that many positions devoured during this recession will not be coming back.

“This is not people being on furlough for six weeks or a month or two — this is permanent job losses, and that is what makes this so difficult,” said John Silvia, chief economist at Wachovia. “That is very telling in terms of how we’re really restructuring the overall economy.”

March 5, 2009

Because this worked so well in the 90s …

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:27 pm

the GOP is blocking a spending bill forcing stopgap budgetary measures. Good way to stop looking obstructionist during a financial crisis that currently surpasses 1929 there.

From the first link:

Senate Republicans blocked a $410 billion omnibus spending measure on Thursday night, forcing Congressional Democrats to prepare a stopgap budget resolution to keep the federal government from shutting down.

Worse than the Crash of 1929

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 8:32 pm

Sobering numbers indeed.

From the link:

Floyd Norris, NYT:

It has been 513 calendar days since the stock market peaked on Oct. 9, 2007. Since then, the S.&P. 500 is down 56 percent and the Dow is off 53 percent.

On Jan. 29, 1931 — the identical number of days after the 1929 market peak — the S.&P. 500 was down 49 percent and the Dow was down 56 percent. The 1929 crash got off to a much faster start, but we have now more or less caught up.

And here’s a chart by Doug Short at dshort.com that illustrates the point.  In case you’re obsessed, Doug updates the chart every day:

(Hat tip: lfschwartz)

December 29, 2008

Wall Street is in the tank

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:57 pm

Ouch.

From the link:

Investors are preparing to close out the last three trading days of 2008 with Wall Street’s worst performance since Herbert Hoover was president.

The ongoing recession and global economic shock pummeled stocks this year, with the Dow Jones industrial average slumping 36.2 percent. That’s the biggest drop since 1931 when the Great Depression sent stocks reeling 40.6 percent.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index is set to record the biggest drop since its creation in 1957. The index of America’s biggest companies is down 40.9 percent for the year.

With these statistics ready to play out this week, it is little wonder why investors are all too happy to close the books on 2008. Analysts are already looking toward January as a crucial period for the market as it tries to recover some of the $7.3 trillion wiped from the Dow Jones Wilshire 5000 index, the broadest measure of U.S. stocks.

“It is hard to gauge a recovery because there’s so many things out there that are interactive with each other,” said Scott Fullman, director of derivatives investment strategy for WJB Capital Group in New York. “Nothing is in a vacuum. Anybody who is managing money has to be on the cautious side for at least the first six months of 2009.”