Middle-Age Women Have Highest Rate Of Depression, Study Finds

By Bahar Gholipour, Staff Writer
Published: December 03, 2014 12:01 AM EST on LiveScience

One  in eight middle-age women in the United States has depression, a new report finds.

This means that women ages 40 to 59 have the highest rate of depression (12.3 percent) of any group based on age and gender in the U.S., according to the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In all other age groups as well, women had higher rates of depression than men did. Among Americans ages 12 and older, 9.5 percent of females and 5.6 percent of males had moderate or severe depression during the previous two-week period, according to the report, which is based on data gathered from 2009 through 2012.

Depression is a serious medical condition that can affect not only people’s mood, but also their cognitive functions, such as concentration and decision-making abilities, and even their physical well-being. The symptoms can range from mild to severe.

Although there are various approaches for treating depression, studies have shown that a combination of medication and psychological therapy may work best to treat severe depression. However, many people with depression do not get any treatment, studies have shown. Only 35 percent of people who had severe depression reported having seen a mental health professional in the past year, the researchers said in the new report.

In the study, the researchers evaluated whether the participants had depression by conducting in-person interviews and questioning about symptoms of depression.

Depression can affect both the personal and professional areas of a person’s life. In the study, nearly 90 percent of people with severe depressive symptoms reported having difficulty at home, with work or in their social activities. Almost half of the people who had mild depression reported having such difficulties.

The report also found that 15 percent of people who live in poverty had depression, meaning that they were more than twice as likely to have depression as people living above the federal poverty level, who have a depression rate of 6.2 percent.

The rate of depression generally increased with age, with 5.7 percent of youth ages 12 to 17 reporting having the condition, but 9.8 percent of adults ages 40 to 59 saying the same. However, people ages 60 and over had a lower rate of depression (5.4 percent) than people in other age groups.

These estimated depression rates may even be lower than the actual rates. That’s because people with depression might be slightly more likely to decline to participate in the surveys used for the report, the researchers said. Moreover, people who live in mental health facilities, who may have higher rates of depression, were not included in the study, and people who are being successfully treated for depression were not identified as depressed

Email Bahar Gholipour or follow her @alterwired. Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Originally published on Live Science.

Source:  Huffington Post

Twelve Simple Tips to Improve Your Sleep

Source:  healthysleep.med.harvard.edu

Falling asleep may seem like an impossible dream when you’re awake at 3 a.m., but good sleep is more under your control than you might think. Following healthy sleep habits can make the difference between restlessness and restful slumber. Researchers have identified a variety of practices and habits—known as “sleep hygiene”—that can help anyone maximize the hours they spend sleeping, even those whose sleep is affected by insomnia, jet lag, or shift work.

Sleep hygiene may sound unimaginative, but it just may be the best way to get the sleep you need in this 24/7 age. Here are some simple tips for making the sleep of your dreams a nightly reality:

#1 Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol, Nicotine, and Other Chemicals that Interfere with Sleep



Aging while female is not your worst nightmare

MARCH 10, 2015 by LORI DAY

I’m going to tell you a story that is so common and so troubling it is effectively split off from the emotional lives of young women, tucked away into whatever neural recesses exist for the purpose of shelving information that feels irrelevant yet distantly threatening. I wonder if young women will read this? The irony is that they probably won’t, and the silently nodding heads will be ones that are graying, like mine.

After passing out of childhood and into puberty, I, like most women, entered a three-decade phase of my life that included an adolescence and young adulthood that was peppered with the sexual harassment, sexism in the workplace, mommy wars, pay gaps, and gendered put-downs that few females escape. It was a huge chunk of time. The issues feminism took up during those years were critical, and they continue to be. I am grateful to all of the women and men who fought and continue to fight for women’s equality, reproductive rights, and freedom from violence and harassment. It is brave and necessary work.

But then something happened, and if not for the mirrors in my house, I would be very confused about what changed and why. Young women, you’ll experience this too, some day. You’ll catch your reflection and your breath at the same time and be abruptly reminded that your exterior no longer matches how you feel inside, and that it now undermines the power of your voice, the voice that took decades to build up. I was talking about this to a friend recently who is 50, one year younger than I am. She said, “Oh wow. I remember my grandmother telling me the exact same thing about being shocked by her reflection in the mirror because she still felt like a young woman inside, and she was 80.” So this probably will not end for me, nor for any of us given the gift of not dying young. It bears remembering.

Men do not catcall me anymore, and I’m happy to have aged out of that, although some of my friends are not. My daughter is grown, so the mommy wars rage on without me. I’m now happy to be self-employed—an escape hatch from workplace sexism that is not available to all women, and one that I fully appreciate. I charge what I want as a consultant and will never again stumble across information at the office that a male co-worker who is younger, less educated and less experienced than me makes more money than me simply because he belongs to the penis-owning gender. I am not free of the physical and sexual dangers all women live with, but they have receded somewhat for me at this stage of my life.

All of this liberation, however, is not entirely freeing. I have simply been transported into the next phase of sexism that comes with middle age, and it’s a dramatic change well illustrated metaphorically by the female body that is ogled and objectified transforming into the female body that is invisible. If the loudest and most heralded voices of contemporary feminism most often belong to the youngest and most sexually appealing women, is this not a hypocritical replication within feminism of what happens in our patriarchal society at large?

I’m looking at perhaps three more decades of my life that will be shaped to some degree by not only misogyny, but by the intersection of misogyny and ageism. That’s a whole bunch of years I never gave the slightest thought to when I was younger. No older woman ever demanded that I think about the fact that it would eventually happen to me. No one asked that I care about it, respond to it, and recognize the unfairness of what can sometimes feel like a one-way feminist street. I temporarily stopped the oncoming freight train of ageism right in its tracks with my indifference, like everyone else my age did. Even in my late-30’s, middle age seemed light years away. I did not read articles like this. They were not about me.

When I recall how I thought about middle-aged and older women when I was younger, I realize I bought into American stereotypes and did so mindlessly. I ascribed to older women a lack of relevance and an inability to contribute meaningfully to a world and a dialogue that was no longer “theirs,” as if ownership of culture rationally belongs to any particular age group over others. My ideas came from where? Television? Movies? Magazines? How silly.

Must this lesson only be learned woman by woman, with the passage of time, and not by the perspicacious use of ones eyes and ears? Because women like me are writing and talking. Trees in the forest are falling. I ask that young women hear. Elective deafness will not stop the train. It will keep rolling down the track, silently and dispassionately. It always arrives.

For me, aging as a woman in America is less about injustices done to me than it is about a subtle undermining of my place within this society and a not-so-subtle disrespect that pops up more with each passing year. For example, if I condemn pornography as systemically damaging to women, it is my age that provokes my labeling as a prude and a pearl-clutcher. It cannot be that I base my opinion on studies and statistics and the understanding that feminism is a movement—one that supports the liberation of all women, not to be confused with individual women who choose to reduce their identities to the sexual uses and abuses of their bodies, calling that empowerment. My age sets me up for a kind of disdain only partially experienced by younger women with the same views. The wisdom that comes with age has little value to anyone but those possessing it, because wisdom is another word for old, and old is what no one wants to be.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I can tell you what it isn’t, at least for me. It isn’t to try to look or act younger. It isn’t to write blog posts about how hot/thin/beautiful/sexy middle-aged women are. They are, but wasting my written voice on championing shallow efforts at continued conformity to what is expected of women in a patriarchal society does not feel productive. It is an insidious capitulation. It entices women my age to trade away opportunities to weigh in on important matters for a chance to be among the “seen” again. I won’t play a game I despise, and that I did not create and cannot win.

To be an aging woman in America is to be constantly bombarded by imagery and media that distance your younger feminist sisters from you, because the idea of no longer resembling those youthful images of femininity and becoming invisible terrifies them. I look like a typical 51-year-old, and it is just bizarre realizing that my appearance is something many young women dread.

Ageism is a life-altering injustice affecting women in ways that are different than the effects on men — different in age of onset and degree and personal consequence. If we continue to be erased in the second half of our lives, we will remain stuck in a perpetual cycle of conflating youth with greater social relevance in the first half of our lives, and the patriarchal axiom that women are only valuable when they are young, hot and fertile will continue unchallenged.

Let’s stick together. Let’s make a conscious effort to stop putting down older women to set oneself apart from them and from an inevitable form of bigotry that cannot presently be escaped. Whatever you think of Madonna at 56, or Jamie Lee Curtis at 56, let’s acknowledge that most of us will one day be 56, if we aren’t already, and we’ll want to define for ourselves what that means.

Surely it will involve relevance and influence, whether we are singers, actors, writers, activists, or any other identity we have chosen and loved. As feminists we are stronger together than apart—women of all races, of all gender expressions, of all sexual orientations, of all socioeconomic classes, of all religions, of all ethnicities, and yes, of all ages, too.

Lori Day is an educational psychologist, consultant, and parenting coach with Lori Day Consulting in Newburyport, MA. She is the author of Her Next Chapter: How Mother-Daughter Book Clubs Can Help Girls Navigate Malicious Media, Risky Relationships, Girl Gossip, and So Much More and speaks on the topic of raising confident girls in a disempowering marketing and media culture. You can connect with Lori on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.


Coping with Depression

Depression is more common than we think.  A study in 2014 revealed that one in eight middle-aged women in the United States is suffering from depression.

I myself go through a mild form of depression once in a while, particularly around my monthly menstrual period.  It’s something I haven’t discussed openly with anybody, even with my husband.

At first I struggled to give meaning to this strange black moods.  They weren’t there all the time, rather they seemed to just come and go.  I’d just feel lethargic and then would begin to think sad thoughts.  The slightest thing, perhaps an old memory or a particularly tragic news on TV, could get me into a crying spell even while I’m in the office.

I didn’t realize it yet then that it came with my monthly cycle.  But when I started to admit to myself that I may be going through depression, or at least getting in touch with deep-seated emotions, I began to observe it.   That’s when I knew.

The next thing I did was to allow the emotions to surface and not try to repress them as that seemed to exacerbate the problem.  I allowed memories to bubble up and talked to them, asking them what I should learn from them and how I could somehow ease their pain.  Yes, that means going through lot of crying, but I would also visualize myself as a grown up woman of wisdom consoling that younger person who experienced the pain, promising that younger version of myself that it’s okay and that everything turned up fine.  And then I let myself take lots of rest and sleep.  I might also indulge in chocolates sometimes (just a bit, though, since I’m really not a big fan of sweet foods).

I also noticed a vast improvement in my mood when I began a regular exercise routine when I’m not feeling depressed.  I’d take advantage of those moments when my energy is a up because I know that when depression sets in I wouldn’t have the motivation to move.

Getting a massage also seemed to help somewhat as (1) I’d feel pampered when somebody massages me, lifting up my mood immediately, and (2) it would ease some of the anxieties and stress I feel.

But, don’t take my word for it.  I’m just simply sharing with you my own ways of coping with depression.

Here is an article from helpguide.org that outlines some ways of dealing with this mood issue.  And the below summarizes the highlights of the article, which, by the way, also has a downloadable version.

COPING WITH DEPRESSION (Self-help Tips to Deal with and Overcome Depression)

Authors:  Melinda Smith, M.A., Robert Segal, M.A., And Jeanne Segal, Ph.D.

(The content of this article is for informational purposes only and NOT a substitute for professional medical or mental health advice, diagnosis, or treatment.)

  1. Reach out and stay connected.
    • Talk to one person about your feelings
    • Help someone else by volunteering
    • Have lunch or coffee with a friend
    • Ask a  loved one to check in with you regularly
    • Accompany someone to the movies, concert, or a small get-together
    • Call or email an old friend
    • Go for a walk with a workout buddy
    • Schedule a weekly dinner date
    • Meet new people by taking a class or joining a club
    • Confide in a clergy member, teacher, or sports coach
  2. Do things that make you feel good.
    • Pick up a former hobby or a sport you used to like
    • Express yourself creatively through music, art, or writing
    • Go out with friends
    • Take a day trip to a museum, the mountains, or the ballpark
    • Spend time in nature
    • Read a good book
    • Watch a funny movie or TV show
    • Take a long, hot bath
    • Take care of a few small tasks
    • Play with a pet
    • Listen to music
    • Do something spontaneous
  3. Move vigorously during the day
  4. Eat a healthy, mood-boosting diet
    • Don’t skip meals
    • Minimize sugar and refined carbs
    • Boost your B vitamins
    • Omega-3 fatty acids can also help stabilize your mood
  5. Get a daily dose of sunlight
    • Sunlight boosts serotonin levels and improve your mood.  Aim for at least 15 minutes of sunlight a day.  Remove sunglasses (but never stare directly at the sun) and use sunscreen as needed.
  6. Challenge negative thinking
    • When negative thoughts overwhelm you, it’s important to remind yourself that this is the depression talking.  These irrational, pessimistic attitudes — known as cognitive distortions — aren’t realistic.  When you really examine them they don’t hold up.  But even so, they can be touch to give up.  Just telling yourself to “think positive” won’t cut it.  Often, they’re part of a lifelong pattern of thinking that’s become so automatic you’re not even completely aware of it.
    • Once you identify the destructive thought patterns that you default to, you can start to challenge them with questions such as:  “What’s the evidence that this thought is true? Not true?”  “What would I tell a friend who had this thought?”  “Is there another way of looking at the situation or an alternate explanation?”

When to get professional help

If you’ve taken self-help steps and made positive lifestyle changes and still find your depression getting worse, seek professional help.  Needing additional help doesn’t mean your weak.


A Tiny Spot In Mouse Brains May Explain How Breathing Calms The Mind

By: Jessica Boddy

Source:  npr.org

Take a deep breath in through your nose, and slowly let it out through your mouth. Do you feel calmer?

Controlled breathing like this can combat anxiety, panic attacks and depression. It’s one reason so many people experience tranquility after meditation or a pranayama yoga class. How exactly the brain associates slow breathing with calmness and quick breathing with nervousness, though, has been a mystery. Now, researchers say they’ve found the link, at least in mice.

The key is a smattering of about 175 neurons in a part of the brain the researchers call the breathing pacemaker, which is a cluster of nearly 3,000 neurons that sit in the brainstem and control autonomic breathing. Through their research is in mice, the researchers found that those 175 neurons are the communication highway between the breathing pacemaker and the part of the brain responsible for attention, arousal and panic. So breathing rate could directly affect feeling calm or anxious, and vice versa.

If that mouse pathway works the same way in humans, it would explain why we get so chilled out after slowing down our breathing.

To figure this out, researchers first divvied up the 3,000 neurons in the breathing pacemaker by their genetics, as neurons with similar genes might have similar roles in the brain. That’s how they zeroed in on that 175.

The next challenge was to uncover their function. Sometimes the best way to see what something does is to see what happens when it’s gone, so the researchers inactivated those neurons.

To do so, they first genetically engineered mice to have receptors to a toxin only on the neurons of interest. That let them kill off only those neurons by injecting the mice with the toxin, which is made by bacteria called diphtheria.

Diphtheria can cause serious respiratory illness in humans, but doesn’t normally affect mice. In the engineered mice, though, the toxin could kill the cells it attached to: the 175 neurons. That way, those neurons were knocked out and the rest were left intact and fully functional, as the researchers explain in their study, published Thursday in Science.

Finally, researchers looked at how the loss of those neurons affected the breathing and behavior of the mice by putting them in a pressurized chamber that’s sensitive enough to measure the size and frequency of even the tiniest mouse breath.

“We expected that [inactivating the neurons] might completely eliminate or dramatically alter the breathing pattern of the mice,” like making them gasp or cough, says Mark Krasnow, a professor of biochemistry at Stanford University School of Medicine and an author on the study. But there wasn’t a change in the breathing pattern. For a few days, the researchers thought they had made a mistake in their experiment and failed altogether.

After retesting the mice in the chamber under various conditions—during sleep, with elevated carbon dioxide levels and more — Krasnow finally realized that “there was a change in these animals,” he says. “They had become chill. Mellow fellows.”

Before losing the 175 neurons, the mice did in the chamber “what mice love to do,” Krasnow says: explore and sniff. After the neurons were gone, the mice spent much more time engaging in classic calm mouse behavior, including relaxing and grooming themselves. Upon closer examination, they also breathed more slowly.

That chill behavior reminded Kevin Yackle, lead author on the study and Sandler Fellow at the University of California San Francisco, of animals—humans included—who had lost function in the arousal center of the brain that induces alertness and panic. They too were mellow fellows, giving Yackle the idea that the arousal centers in the brains of his mice weren’t getting any input from the breathing centers, so they didn’t act alert. At the same time, those breathing centers weren’t getting any panic or alert messages from the arousal center, so their breathing stayed slow. The connection between the two brain areas, the 175 neurons, had been removed.

And that connection is key, Krasnow says. “If you’re choking, or if you have a plastic bag that’s suffocating you, you better be awake and alert and dealing with that crisis because there is nothing more serious than a disruption to your breathing pattern.”

Krasnow and Yackle think that if this mouse pathway also exists in humans, it could be useful in treating people with anxiety, where the pathway may be overactivated. Controlled breathing or medication could help lower activity in the pathway, he speculates, by lowering feelings of panic and the rate of breath. Krasnow notes that human brains have breathing and arousal centers, and that he’s hopeful for similarity between species.

“The two-way connection between emotion and breathing is important and puzzling,” Robert Banzett, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School told Shots in an email. Banzett didn’t work on the new study. “It’s a long way from this to human emotion and behavior, but one must start someplace.”

Alicia Meuret, an associate professor of psychology at Southern Methodist University who also wasn’t involved in the study, wasn’t sure if what the authors described as calm mouse behavior could be described as such. “It’s hard to determine what calm behavior is [in mice],” Meuret says. “We can see their behavior, but we don’t know what effect the loss of neurons has on their emotions.”

Banzett echoed that concern, noting the authors inferred emotion because “they equate the increase in grooming behavior with the emotional state of calmness.”

There’s plenty of peer-reviewed research out there to show that the slow, deep, controlled breathing done in yoga and meditation does help alleviate anxiety and depression. The authors say that identifying the human neurons that connect breathing and arousal centers is the next step for their research.

“This connection between breathing and higher-order brain function is an idea that’s been around for millennia,” Krasnow says, “at least dating back to the time of development of pranayama yoga practices. The way that pranayama yoga and these other approaches try to calm the mind is to simply take control of your breathing by taking… slow… regular… breaths.”

With this in mind, Krasnow and his colleagues have named the 175 neurons and their corresponding pathway after the ancient practice: the pranayama neurons and pranayama pathway.

Source:  http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/03/30/522033368/a-tiny-spot-in-mouse-brains-may-explain-how-breathing-calms-the-mind

Giving Up Old Roles

By:  Ram Dass

Posted January 30, 2013. 

One of the reasons that old age is so disconcerting to many people is that they feel as if they’re stripped of their roles. As we enter old age and face physical frailty, the departure of children, retirement, and the deaths of loved ones, we see the lights fading, the audience dwindles, and we are overwhelmed by a loss of purpose, and by the fear of not knowing how to behave or where we now fit in this play. The Ego, whose very sustenance has been the roles it played in the public eye, becomes irate, despairing, or numb, in the face of its own obsolescence. It may harken back to roles in its past to assert itself, but these strategies bring only more suffering as the Ego fights a losing battle.

As we learn to distinguish between our Egos — marked by our mind and thoughts — and the witness Soul — who’s not subject to them — we begin to see the opportunity that aging offers. We begin to separate who we are from the roles that we play, and to recognize why the Ego clings as it does to behaviors and images that no longer suit us. Stripped of its roles, the Ego is revealed as fiction. But for the person without a spiritual context, this is pure tragedy, for seekers of truth who are aware of the Soul, it is only the beginning.

Rather than wonder what new “role” we can invent for ourselves in the world then, the question that concerns us might be better put this way: How can we, as aging people, make our wisdom felt in the world? By embodying wisdom. We can find a happy balance between participation and retreat, remembering that while it is our duty to be of service if possible, it is also important that we prepare for our own journeys into death, through contemplation, quiet time, and deepening knowledge of ourselves.