News round-up (12 April 2024)

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11th April 2024 about a 6 minute read

Exercising during your teenage years can help you become a mentally healthy adult, research has found – but it also delivered the bad news that today’s teenagers are exercising less than previous generations. A separate study has found that the traditional U shape of mental wellbeing (rising in youth, dipping in middle age, and rising again in old age) is disappearing, as younger people, particularly girls, are increasingly depressed and anxious.

Exercising during adolescence boosts adult mental health

Exercise during teenage years leads to better mental health and greater activity in adulthood, a study has found.

The research, which looked at 26,000 people across the world, found that those who dropped out of exercise before the age of 15 showed lower activity levels and worse mental health later in life.

The study, ASICS 2024 State of Mind, also showed that young people were less active than previous generations. It said that millennial and Gen Z women had the most to gain from exercising more, as they are the groups whose mental wellbeing is most improved as a result of exercising.

Professor Brendon Stubbs of King’s College London, who led the study, said: “It is worrying to see this decline in activity levels from younger respondents at such a critical age, particularly as the study uncovered an association with lower wellbeing in adulthood.”

Law firms urged to introduce overworking ‘trigger warnings’ to protect mental health 

Law firms should introduce trigger warnings to protect lawyers’ mental health when working extreme hours, the chairman of the City of London Law Society has said.

Colin Passmore, a former senior partner of Simmons & Simmons, said that he had experienced an “epiphany” after the death of Vanessa Ford, a senior partner at Pinsent Masons who, according to a coroner’s inquest was suffering from an “acute mental health crisis”.

At some City firms lawyers are working more than 3,000 hours a year, with some not finishing until 11pm after starting at 9am. Passmore said: “That is a massive amount of work on any basis. That is an amount of work that should send a trigger warning and that person needs to be spoken to and looked after as appropriate.”

He added: “While a number of lawyers may feel sufficiently resilient and sufficiently supported to get by, it is not good enough to assume that this is the case for everybody.”

Study aims to break link between brain injury and depression

A new 18-month UK trial by King’s College, London will examine the early use of common antidepressants following brain trauma.

Depression and other mental disorders are far more likely to develop following head trauma, so the study will measure depression, quality of life and cognitive functioning among 500 patients, with results expected in 2027.

“Up until now, most of the research has been on the treatment of depression once it’s set in, which we know can be difficult,” said Khalida Ismail, professor of psychiatry and medicine at King’s College London. “This is the first large-scale study in the world that is actually trying to prevent it from happening in the first place.”

The trial is being held across nine major trauma centres in England and is being funded by a £2.2m grant from the National Institute for Health and Care Research.

Girls’ mental health is in decline

Youth mental health is in sharp decline, with girls and women leading the surge in depression, anxiety and worry, a new study from Dartmouth College has found.

Mental wellbeing over time traditionally follows a U-shape — rising in youth, declining in middle age and rising once more later in life — a finding that has been replicated more than 600 times. But that trend is quickly disappearing due to a decline in youth mental health, particularly for girls, that began about 15 years ago, the study found.

The study fits with a growing body of research suggesting that social media and internet usage is behind declining youth mental health, particularly for young women. It noted that randomised trials restricting smart phone access demonstrated increased wellbeing.

The researchers, who include Professor Danny Blanchflower, said that the impact of Covid, the recession and social media together appear to have hit young people particularly hard.

Review calls for better mental health treatment for children with gender dysphoria

A review into the NHS’s gender services for children has proposed that young people referred to the services should have their mental health problems addressed, rather than being put on a medical pathway.

The Cass Review said that medical interventions such as puberty blockers would not necessarily be the best option for children with gender dysphoria, and should not be provided “without also addressing wider mental health and/or psychosocially challenging problems”. The review suggests this “should include screening for neurodevelopmental conditions, including autism spectrum disorder, and a mental health assessment.”

The report has largely been welcomed by the medical profession. Dr Lade Smith, the president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “Children who are gender questioning also commonly experience mental illness. It is extremely important that every child who is gender questioning has timely access to services that are holistic and respond to their individual needs.”

Biomedical model of mental illness fosters social rejection

The belief that mental illness is caused by genetics leads people to distance themselves socially from individuals with a mental health diagnosis, a study has found.

The research, published in Psychiatric Services, looked at how explanations of the origins of mental illness, treatability and type of disorder impact the general public’s perception of the person with the diagnosis. The study’s results contradict a traditional assumption that biological explanations of mental illness reduce stigma. In fact, they exacerbate it.

The University of Nevada authors, led by Marta Elliott, write that attributing mental illness solely to genetics “predicts social rejection of people diagnosed as having psychiatric disorders. Efforts to reduce stigma, increase social acceptance, and protect the mental health of individuals diagnosed as having a mental illness should include not framing mental illness exclusively in genetic terms.”

They also say that a desire for social distance was greater for alcohol use disorder, opioid use disorder, or schizophrenia compared with major depression or subclinical distress.