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Eight-decade study: Stress from hard work can keep you happy and healthy

Adapted from Howard S. Fried­man and Leslie R. Martin’s The Longevity Project: Sur­pris­ing Dis­cov­er­ies for Health and Long Life From the Land­mark Eight-Decade Study (Hud­son Street).

Con­verg­ing evi­dence from a num­ber of stud­ies sug­gest that the dam­ag­ing sort of work­place stress arises from con­flicts with other peo­ple rather than from the chal­lenges and demands of the work itself. Hav­ing a poor rela­tion­ship with your over­bear­ing boss can lead to health prob­lems, and not get­ting along with your cowork­ers can be quite harm­ful. This is espe­cially true if you have lots of respon­si­bil­i­ties that depend on the coop­er­a­tion of oth­ers but you do not have the resources or the lead­er­ship qual­i­ties to make things hap­pen. On the other hand, if you have resources and a good deal of influ­ence over out­comes, demand­ing tasks will be less stress­ful for you. It makes sense that those agency heads, sym­phony con­duc­tors, and com­pany pres­i­dents who have both power and lead­er­ship skills will tend to remain healthy despite very demand­ing careers.

Read more here.

More about the book and avail­abil­ity: The Longevity Project: Sur­pris­ing Dis­cov­er­ies for Health and Long Life From the Land­mark Eight-Decade Study (Hud­son Street).

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Surgeon General’s Healthy Apps Challenge: The Winning Apps

The results of the Sur­geon General’s Healthy App Chal­lenge high­light the abil­ity of inno­v­a­tive new tech­nolo­gies to pro­vide health infor­ma­tion tai­lored to the needs of the user, and empower the pub­lic to reg­u­larly engage in and enjoy health-promoting behaviors.

Healthy Eat­ing / Nutrition

GoodGuide (avail­able for both iOS and Android). This app makes it easy to get the infor­ma­tion you need about your food, per­sonal care, and house­hold prod­ucts to help you make healthy (and green and eth­i­cal) choices.  You can use the bar code scan­ner to get this infor­ma­tion while you shop and select prod­ucts based on your preferences.

Food­u­cate (avail­able for both iOS and Android). This app helps you make healthy food choices.  When shop­ping you can scan the prod­uct bar code for a quick read on a food’s health value, rep­re­sented by a let­ter grade from A to D, plus addi­tional infor­ma­tion such as nutri­ents and addi­tives. The app can offer health­ier alter­na­tives and com­pare two prod­ucts side-by-side.

Phys­i­cal Fit­ness / Activity

Lose It! (avail­able for iOS; it can also be used on the web). This app helps you achieve your diet and exer­cise goals.  It allows you to set a daily calo­rie bud­get and then prompts you to record your food intake and exer­cise to meet that bud­get.  You also can invite your friends to view your logs on Face­book to boost your moti­va­tion and encour­age one another.
Fit Friendzy (avail­able for iOS). This app encour­ages every­one to be more active by high­light­ing the ben­e­fits of not just tra­di­tional exer­cise but also of tasks like gar­den­ing, danc­ing, house­clean­ing, and snow shov­el­ing.  You can chal­lenge your­self or join in chal­lenges with your friends.  There is also the option to share your exer­cise data with your health care provider.

Map­My­Fit­ness (avail­able for iOS, Black­Berry and Android). This app encom­passes both fit­ness and nutri­tion edu­ca­tion.  It lets you use the built-in GPS of your mobile device to track your fit­ness activ­i­ties. You can estab­lish a train­ing log, record your activ­ity, keep track of calo­ries con­sumed, and share your infor­ma­tion with friends.

Inte­gra­tive Health / Well-being

Healthy Habits (avail­able for iOS). This app rec­og­nizes that good health is not just about keep­ing active and eat­ing health­ily, but also about get­ting a good night’s sleep, think­ing pos­i­tively, and spend­ing time with fam­ily and friends.  It also addresses health issues such as smok­ing, wear­ing sun­screen, tak­ing time for cre­ative activ­i­ties, and reduc­ing stress. You can choose which healthy habits you want to track. .

For Chil­dren

Max’s Plate (avail­able for iOS). This app edu­cates young chil­dren (and their par­ents) about healthy eat­ing. It pro­vides a fun and enter­tain­ing way to learn about good nutrition.

Short Sequence: Kids’ Yoga Jour­ney (avail­able for iOS, Android and Nook). This app has sim­ple instruc­tions for yoga poses for chil­dren and beau­ti­ful illustrations.

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iPads In Health And Medicine: More Than An Information Revolution?

Apple’s iPad is increas­ingly find­ing use in health and med­i­cine, with appli­ca­tions rang­ing from giv­ing indi­vid­u­als instant access to a wealth of ref­er­ence, edu­ca­tional and per­sonal health infor­ma­tion, to help­ing hos­pi­tals stream­line their oper­a­tions, reduce labor costs, improve effi­ciency, and help­ing health pro­fes­sion­als with analy­sis and diagnosis.

How­ever, recent reports sug­gest iPads and other touch tablet devices could be doing more than was orig­i­nally intended as health care providers seize the new tool with renewed pas­sion, and con­sumers demand more from these technologies.

  • Staff at New York Methodist Hos­pi­tal uses their kiosk-mounted iPads as diag­nos­tic aids in elec­tro­car­dio­gram and other systems.
  • Yale School of Med­i­cine gave each of their 520 med­ical stu­dents an iPad and an exter­nal wire­less key­board. They will no longer receive printed course mate­ri­als. iPads will be the pri­mary source of med­ical teaching.
  • One of the new fea­tures of the lat­est iPad release should raise inter­est among those inter­ested in med­ical appli­ca­tions : a higher res­o­lu­tion, high-definition screen, com­pris­ing 2,048 x 1,536, or 3.1 mil­lion pix­els, which is not only bet­ter than any other tablet cur­rently on the mar­ket, it even rivals some HD TVs. This opens the door to more med­ical imag­ing uses for the iPad which, pre­vi­ously, had been a hurdle.

Sources:

Sources: “iPads show the way for­ward for med­ical imag­ing”, 21 Feb 2012, press release from The Uni­ver­sity of Syd­ney; “Apple’s iPad Aims to be a Hos­pi­tal Helper”, 7 Dec 2011, video from Mash­able; “Ottawa Rebel: Hos­pi­tal CIO suc­cess­fully deploys 3,000 iPads — and improves health­care”, 28 Nov 2011, fea­ture in Tab­Times; “Stu­dents begin new semes­ter with iPads”, fea­ture in Win­ter 2012 issue of Yale Med­i­cine; “Top 20 Free iPhone Med­ical Apps For Health Care Pro­fes­sion­als”, 14 Dec 2010, “Yale med­ical school switch­ing to iPad cur­ricu­lum, Har­vard med­ical school cre­at­ing cus­tom apps”, 30 Aug 2011, “Apple’s top five iPhone & iPad med­ical apps of 2011″, 31 Dec 2011, all three fea­tures from iMed­icalApps; Apple Insider; “What you need to know about the new iPad (FAQ)”, 9 Mar 2012, fea­tured in Asia CNET CRAVE.

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Stress increases 40% during recessions

A study con­ducted by researchers at the Uni­ver­sity of Not­ting­ham and Uni­ver­sity of Ulster, reports work related stress increases by 40% dur­ing a reces­sion, affect­ing 1 in 4 work­ers. Fur­ther­more, researchers found that the num­ber of work­ers who take time off, as a result of work-related stress, increased by 25%, and that total time off, as result of this type of stress, rose by more than one third dur­ing an eco­nomic down­turn. The study is pub­lished today in the sci­en­tific jour­nal, Occu­pa­tional Med­i­cine.

Dr. Henry Goodall, Pres­i­dent of the Soci­ety of Occu­pa­tional Med­i­cine, explained:

Occu­pa­tional health pro­vi­sion is even more impor­tant in times of reces­sion as spe­cial­ists can help with the stress caused by mount­ing work­loads, orga­ni­za­tional change and job uncer­tainty. We can help busi­nesses look at how they man­age stress lev­els and improve the work­ing envi­ron­ment for workers.

Source: Grace Rattue. (2012, Feb­ru­ary 21). “Stress Increases 40% Dur­ing Reces­sions.” Med­ical News Today. Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/241966.php.

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Study: Psychosocial factors and economic recession

This research explored changes in work­ers’ psy­choso­cial haz­ard expo­sures, work-related stress and stress-related absence asso­ci­ated with the onset of severe eco­nomic recessions.

Notable among the findings:

  1. Expo­sure to psy­choso­cial haz­ards is greater dur­ing eco­nomic reces­sion com­pared to before-hand.
  2. Per­ceived work-related stress was sig­nif­i­cantly greater dur­ing the eco­nomic reces­sion than beforehand.
  3. The per­cent­age of employ­ees who had taken time off from work in the last year owing to work-related stress were sig­nif­i­cantly greater dur­ing eco­nomic recession.

The authors conclude:

[Our] find­ings indi­cate the need for a con­certed focus on psy­choso­cial risk man­age­ment activ­i­ties dur­ing aus­tere eco­nomic times as a means by which to pro­mote worker health and min­i­mize sick­ness absence.

Source: Houd­mont, J., Kerr, R., & Addley, K. (2012). Psy­choso­cial fac­tors and eco­nomic reces­sion: the Stor­mont Study. Occu­pa­tional Med­i­cine; 62: 98–104.

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Intervention options for work-focused CBT

Suzanne Lagerveld, PhD and lead author of “Work-Focused Treat­ment of Com­mon Men­tal Dis­or­ders and Return to Work: A Com­par­a­tive Out­come Study“notes:

In reg­u­lar CBT…a focus on work and RTW is often lack­ing. The effec­tive­ness of psy­chother­apy on RTW may, there­fore, be enhanced when work (or RTW) is more explic­ity addressed dur­ing treat­ment and [CBT experts] are trained in work­place issues.

Cen­tral to the stan­dard CBT pro­to­col is a focus on iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of the problem(s) and reduc­tion of symp­toms (e.g. enhanc­ing mood). A return-to-work focused CBT pro­to­col addresses work issues in an early phase and uses work, and the work­place, as a mech­a­nism or con­text to reach treat­ment goals. Options include:

  • inte­grat­ing spe­cific work-related (home­work) exer­cises (e.g. cre­at­ing a RTW plan)
  • frame activ­i­ties as much as pos­si­ble in the work context;
  • even when treat­ment is focused on non-work issues (e.g. mar­i­tal) ther­a­pist encour­age relat­ing these non-work issues, at least partly, to work (e.g. “how can work help you worry less about your rela­tion­ship problems?”).

Final action steps include craft­ing a step-wise, grad­u­ated RTW plan:

  • activ­i­ties to be performed
  • how many house each task is performed
  • whether alter­ing of work­place char­ac­ter­is­tics is necessary.

Source: “Work-Focused Treat­ment of Com­mon Men­tal Dis­or­ders and Return to Work: A Com­par­a­tive Out­come Study,” Suzanne E. Lagerveld, MS, and Roland W. B. Blonk, PhD, TNO Qual­ity of Life/Work & Employ­ment Hoofd­dorp, The Nether­lands; Veerle Bren­ninkmei­jer, PhD, Leoniek Wijngaards-de Meij, PhD, and Wilmar B. Schaufeli, PhD, Utrecht Uni­ver­sity; Jour­nal of Occu­pa­tional Health Psy­chol­ogy, online.

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Is work-focused CBT economically superior?

Suzanne Lagerveld, PhD and lead author of “Work-Focused Treat­ment of Com­mon Men­tal Dis­or­ders and Return to Work: A Com­par­a­tive Out­come Study“notes:

In reg­u­lar CBT…a focus on work and RTW is often lack­ing. The effec­tive­ness of psy­chother­apy on RTW may, there­fore, be enhanced when work (or RTW) is more explic­ity addressed dur­ing treat­ment and [CBT experts] are trained in work­place issues.

The results of the study, in terms of eco­nomic con­se­quences for the employer, demonstrated:

  • a shorter dura­tion until full RTW in the work-focused CBT group;
  • a 20% cost reduc­tion for employ­ers whose employ­ees received work-focused CBT group (based on an aver­age of $24,000 in wages per employee dur­ing the entire sick leave period from the start of the inter­ven­tion until full RTW ver­sus $19,000 in the work-focused ther­apy group.

Source: “Work-Focused Treat­ment of Com­mon Men­tal Dis­or­ders and Return to Work: A Com­par­a­tive Out­come Study,” Suzanne E. Lagerveld, MS, and Roland W. B. Blonk, PhD, TNO Qual­ity of Life/Work & Employ­ment Hoofd­dorp, The Nether­lands; Veerle Bren­ninkmei­jer, PhD, Leoniek Wijngaards-de Meij, PhD, and Wilmar B. Schaufeli, PhD, Utrecht Uni­ver­sity; Jour­nal of Occu­pa­tional Health Psy­chol­ogy, online.

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Integrating return-to-work strategies into therapy

Suzanne Lagerveld, PhD and lead author of “Work-Focused Treat­ment of Com­mon Men­tal Dis­or­ders and Return to Work: A Com­par­a­tive Out­come Study“notes:

Peo­ple with depres­sion or anx­i­ety may take a lot of sick leave to address their problems…”However, focus­ing on how to return to work is not a stan­dard part of ther­apy. This study shows that inte­grat­ing return-to-work strate­gies into ther­apy leads to less time out of work with lit­tle to no com­pro­mise in people’s psy­cho­log­i­cal well-being over the course of one year.”

The study, con­ducted in the Nether­lands, fol­lowed 168 employ­ees on sick leave due to psy­cho­log­i­cal prob­lems (e.g. anx­i­ety, adjust­ment dis­or­der and minor depres­sion). Seventy-nine employ­ees received stan­dard, evidence-based cognitive-behavioral ther­apy; the remain­der, cognitive-behavioral ther­apy that included a focus on work and the process of return­ing to work.

Among the notable find­ings were that employ­ees in the work-focused group, com­pared to those in the stan­dard non-work focused CBT:

  • fully returned to work on aver­age 65 days ear­lier than the par­tic­i­pants in the stan­dard ther­apy group;
  • com­menced a par­tial return to work 12 days ear­lier than those in the stan­dard, non-work focused CBT. whose ther­apy expe­ri­ence included no work focus;
  • engaged in more steps to fully return to work, grad­u­ally increas­ing their hours and duties;
  • all par­tic­i­pants had fewer men­tal health prob­lems over the course of treat­ment, no mat­ter which type of ther­apy they received, with the most dra­matic decrease in symp­toms occur­ring in the first few months;

Said Lagerveld:

Being out of work has a direct effect on people’s well-being. Those who are unable to par­tic­i­pate in work lose a valu­able source of social sup­port and inter­per­sonal con­tacts,” said Lagerveld. “They might lose part of their income and con­se­quently tend to develop even more psy­cho­log­i­cal symp­toms. We’ve demon­strated that employ­ees on sick leave with men­tal dis­or­ders can ben­e­fit from inter­ven­tions that enable them to return to work.

Source: “Work-Focused Treat­ment of Com­mon Men­tal Dis­or­ders and Return to Work: A Com­par­a­tive Out­come Study,” Suzanne E. Lagerveld, MS, and Roland W. B. Blonk, PhD, TNO Qual­ity of Life/Work & Employ­ment Hoofd­dorp, The Nether­lands; Veerle Bren­ninkmei­jer, PhD, Leoniek Wijngaards-de Meij, PhD, and Wilmar B. Schaufeli, PhD, Utrecht Uni­ver­sity; Jour­nal of Occu­pa­tional Health Psy­chol­ogy, online.

For a copy of the report, click here.

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