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American Psychological Association, Aug. 12-15, 2010

Last Updated: August 18, 2010.


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The 118th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association

The 118th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association took place Aug. 12 to 15 in San Diego, and attracted over 12,000 participants from around the world. The conference focused on advances in the identification, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of psychological conditions. Highlights included presentations focusing on the increased prevalence of severe mental illness among college students and their willingness to seek treatment; the impact of adversity during childhood on the risk of cardiovascular disease; and the effects of sleep, aging, and brain chemistry on memory.

In one study, Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, Ph.D., of The Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus, and colleagues found that childhood trauma negatively impacted immune function and contributed to a variety of age-related health problems later in life, as well as premature death. The researchers evaluated 58 caregivers for a spouse or parent with Alzheimer's disease or another progressive dementia and 74 demographically similar non-caregiver controls to assess how negative emotions and stressful experiences may affect known biochemical markers of stress.

"We evaluated a sample of caregivers and non-caregivers and, even when controlling for caregiver status and various other factors, including age, gender, body mass index, exercise and sleep, we found that childhood adversity was associated with shorter telomeres and increased levels of inflammatory markers interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha," Kiecolt-Glaser said.

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In another study, Karen A. Matthews, Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues found that adverse childhood experiences linked to lower socioeconomic status, social isolation, or abuse can lead to cardiovascular disease. In Project Pressure, the researchers evaluated 212 teenagers, aged 14 to 16 years, living in areas of low socioeconomic status to assess the association between poorer economic status, stress, and cardiovascular disease.

The researchers found that children of families with lower socioeconomic status had stiffer arteries in adulthood. In addition, those living in poor neighborhoods had higher blood pressure when assessed for two days during school. Black individuals living in lower socioeconomic neighborhoods were also found to have increased thickening of the carotid arteries.

"It seems that parents' socioeconomic status affects young adolescents' later risk for cardiovascular disease more than younger children and older teenagers," Matthews said in a statement. "Our data [suggest] that this age group is more vulnerable to cardiovascular risks if they are exposed to various stressors because of their hormonal changes and their sensitivity to peer rejection, acceptance and how they interpret others' attitudes towards themselves."

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John Guthman, Ph.D., of Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., and colleagues found that severe mental illness has become more common among college students, with an increased number of students willing to seek counseling on campus. The researchers evaluated the records of 3,256 college students who accessed college counseling support between September 1997 and August 2009 at a midsized private school.

While the data revealed that the average quality of depression and anxiety experienced by students remained relatively flat over time, the percentage of college students presenting with moderate to severe depression increased from 34 to 41 percent. However, the number of students who reported suicidal thoughts within 14 days of counseling declined from 26 percent in 1998 to 11 percent in 2009, with anxiety also decreasing over time. In addition, the percentage of students reporting use of psychiatric medication increased from 11 percent in 1998 to 24 percent in 2009.

"The results of the study showed mixed support for mental health concerns on the rise among college students," Guthman said. "The implication of the study is that practicing clinicians need to understand that the needs of this patient population are changing."

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Several studies presented at the conference focused on the effects of sleep, aging, and brain chemistry on memory. In one study, presented by Sara C. Mednick, Ph.D., of the University of California in San Diego, researchers found that specific stages of sleep may play different roles in an individual's memory capacity. Using a creativity task called a Remote Associates Test, the researchers evaluated participants' memory once in the morning and then in the afternoon, after a nap with REM sleep, a nap without REM sleep, or a quiet rest period.

While the group that had a nap with REM sleep showed improvements in memory capacity of nearly 40 percent in the afternoon compared to the morning, those individuals in the groups that had a nap without REM sleep or a quiet rest showed no improvements in memory from the morning to the afternoon.

"REM sleep is important for pulling together all the information we process on a daily basis and turning it into memories we can use later," Mednick said in a statement. "This helps us to understand more about the benefits of sleep and to help people maximize their sleep schedules for optimal productivity and memory retrieval."

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APA: Father-Son Relationship Tied to Emotional Stability

FRIDAY, Aug. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Men who remember having a good relationship with their father during childhood are more likely to be emotionally stable when responding to stressful events in their current daily lives, according to research presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association, held from Aug. 12 to 15 in San Diego.

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APA: Grown Children's Issues Impact Parents' Mental Health

FRIDAY, Aug. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Parents who have more than one highly successful grown child are more likely to experience better well-being, but having even one grown child with problems has an adverse effect on parents' mental health, according to research presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association, held from Aug. 12 to 15 in San Diego.

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APA: Gender Differences Exist in Chronic Pain

FRIDAY, Aug. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Women are more likely to experience chronic pain than men, and they generally experience it for longer periods of time, more frequently, and more intensely than men, according to research presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association, held from Aug. 12 to 15 in San Diego.

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