Research

Social Connectedness and Public Health

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                    [post_date] => 2018-12-18 07:00:33
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                    [post_content] => Social networks shape many aspects of human life, from influencing preferences and labor market outcomes, to facilitating trade and supporting informal markets in developing economies. A number of researchers have studied the relationship between social interactions and health outcomes, with many concluding the positive influence of relationships.

One of the challenges for researchers studying the relationship between social connectedness and public health outcomes is the absence of large-scale, representative data that measure individuals’ social links. We collaborated with Facebook to help overcome this measurement challenge. In particular, we constructed a new Social Connectedness Index that measures the relative strength of Facebook friendship ties between US county pairs.

Given Facebook’s scale, with 2.3 billion active users globally and 242 million active users in the United States and Canada, as well as the relative representativeness of Facebook’s user body, our findings provide the first comprehensive measure of friendship networks at a national level.

In our paper, we explored both the determinants and the effects of social connectedness. For example, Figure 1 shows a heat map depicting the likelihood that a resident of Cook County, IL (largely the city of Chicago), is friends with a resident in all other US counties.

Map of the US showing liklihood of friendships

A number of patterns emerge. First, most connections are to geographically close individuals. Second, past migration movements, such as the Great Migration of African Americans from southern states to the North between 1916 and 1970, have lasting effects on today’s social connectedness, as evidenced by the strong links between Cook County and the South. Many other interesting patterns emerge across the United States, linking today’s social networks to past and present migration patterns, and to the social, political, and economic composition of different locations.

While we found that, on average, social connections are primarily local, the geographic concentration of social networks differs substantially across the United States. In some counties, more than 70% of friends live within 50 miles. In others, fewer than 35% of friends live within 50 miles. Figure 2 highlights how the share of friends living within 50 miles varies across the United States.

Map of US showing share of friends who live within 50 miles

We find that the geographic concentration of friendship links correlates strongly with a number of important outcomes. Counties with more dispersed friendship networks have populations that are richer and more educated. Interestingly, we also found that the residents of these counties also have longer life expectancies, and lower rates of teen pregnancies.

While these correlations do not necessarily imply a causal relationship between social connectedness and public health outcomes, they do highlight the potential value of using the Social Connectedness Index data to study important research and policy questions. For example, one particularly promising direction for research is to study whether these data can help researchers better predict the spread of contagious diseases.

To facilitate such research efforts, we are eager to share these data with the broader research community. Other researchers interested in working with these data are therefore strongly encouraged to send a one-page research proposal to sci_data@fb.com. For an initial exploration of the patterns, please take a look at the recent visualization by the Upshot team at the New York Times. We hope that the broad accessibility of these data will allow researchers across the social and physical sciences to better understand the many dimensions and implications of social connectedness.

Feature image: StationaryTraveller/iStock.  Maps from the New York Times, The Upshot, "How Connected Is Your Community to Everywhere Else in America?, by Emily Badger and Quo Trug Bui, September 19, 2018
                    [post_title] => Social Connectedness and Public Health
                    [post_excerpt] => Researchers studying the relationship between social connectedness and public health outcomes need large-scale, representative data that measure individuals’ social links. The authors collaborated with Facebook to help overcome this measurement challenge.
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Researchers studying the relationship between social connectedness and public health outcomes need large-scale, representative data that measure individuals’ social links. The authors collaborated with Facebook to help overcome this measurement challenge.

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Research

Conducting Market Research to Improve Behavioral Health Policy

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                    [post_content] => Advocates who strive to improve public health can learn a lot from advertisers who strive to sell products. To sell products, advertisers follow a systematic “audience research” process to understand their consumers. First, they conduct formative research to understand consumers’ opinions about a product. Then, recognizing that people’s opinions vary, they conduct audience segmentation analysis to identify groups of people (i.e., audience segments) who share similar opinions. Finally, with this information, advertisers develop persuasive messages tailored for each audience segment. These tailored messages are generally more effective than “one-size-fits-all” messages.

In an ongoing project, we’ve adopted this audience research approach to figure out how to more effectively communicate evidence about mental health and substance use (i.e., behavioral health) issues to state legislators. In a prior study, we documented what legislators want to know about behavioral health issues and where they turn for this information. We found that they want data on cost-effectiveness and budget impact, and that they primarily get information about behavioral health from advocacy organizations, state agencies, and legislative staff. Universities were not a primary information source.

In a more recent study, we conducted an audience segmentation analysis to determine if and how opinions about behavioral health vary across groups of legislators. The study used data from a 2017 survey of 475 state legislators representing all 50 states. The survey asked legislators their opinions about behavioral health (e.g., beliefs about whether treatments can be effective, attitudes towards people with mental illness), what influences their support for behavioral health bills, and whether they have introduced behavioral health bills.

Circles showing behavioral health audience segments of state legislators

We found that three distinct audience segments emerged, and named each according to its most salient characteristics. Their largest segment of legislators we named Budget-Oriented Skeptics with Stigma (47% of legislators). These legislators had the least faith in behavioral health treatment effectiveness, had the most stigma towards people with mental illness, and were most influenced by budget impact when deciding whether to support a behavioral health bill. This segment was predominantly male, Republican, and ideologically conservative.

Action-Oriented Supporters (24% of legislators) was the smallest segment. These legislators were most likely to have introduced a behavioral health bill and to identify behavioral health issues as policy priorities. Their support for a behavioral health bill was substantially influenced by the extent to which it was evidence-based. This was the most ideologically diverse segment.

The third segment, Passive Supporters (29% of legislators) had the most faith in behavioral health treatment effectiveness and the least stigma towards people with mental illness. But they were the least likely to have introduced a behavioral health bill.

Knowing about these audience segments gives us a better understanding of how we might tailor messages for legislators with different characteristics. For example, for Budget-Oriented Skeptics with Stigma, we might want to emphasize information about how behavioral health treatments can foster recovery and data about the cost-effectiveness of these treatments. We might also adapt messaging strategies that have been shown to reduce stigma towards people with mental illness among the general public. For Action-Oriented Supporters, we might emphasize evidence about laws that have been shown to improve population behavioral health outcomes.

By adopting a market research approach, we hope to generate information that can enhance how we communicate evidence about behavioral health issues to state legislators. The ultimate goal is to cultivate bipartisan support for evidence-supported policies that are likely to improve the lives of people affected by mental health and substance use disorders.

Feature image: Andrii Yalanskyi/iStock. Graphic from the author. 
                    [post_title] => Conducting Market Research to Improve Behavioral Health Policy
                    [post_excerpt] => Advocates who strive to improve public health can learn a lot from advertisers who strive to sell products by conducting systematic “audience research.”
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Advocates who strive to improve public health can learn a lot from advertisers who strive to sell products by conducting systematic “audience research.”

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Research

The Problems with Plastics

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                    [post_date] => 2018-12-14 05:30:51
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                    [post_content] => As of 2017, the world has produced 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic. That’s more than 52 million blue whales, 1.5 billion African elephants, or 112 billion people. Eighty percent of that plastic has wound up in landfills, in the ocean, in the guts of birds and animals, everywhere in our environment. Less than one tenth of plastic is recycled. In Plastic Pollution and Potential Solutions, Dr. Christopher Rhodes reviewed plastic production, plastic’s impacts on human and ecosystem health, and waste reduction efforts.

Plastics are primarily produced from crude oil, gas, or coal, and forty percent are discarded after a single use. Nearly half of all plastic products are discarded after a single use and take up to 1000 years to disintegrate. Larger items, such as plastic bags and straws, can choke and starve marine life, while smaller fragments (microplastics) can cause liver, reproductive, and gastrointestinal damage in animals. Humans are also vulnerable because we eat fish and other animals rife with microplastics. Rhodes reports that plastic particles also have been found in water, honey, beer, salt. Plastic toxicity in humans can lead to hormonal disruption and adverse reproductive and birth outcomes.
Humans are also vulnerable because we eat fish and other animals rife with microplastics.  
Dr. Rhodes highlights five efforts to reduce plastic waste in our environment: 1) reduction-of-use, 2) recycling, 3) creation of a circular economy, 4) breaking down plastic waste, and 5) manufacturing plastics that can be easily broken down. Reduction-of-use and recycling are two common efforts that involve discouraging people from purchasing plastics or encouraging re-use. Efforts to create a Circular Economy involve reducing and reusing plastic by supporting economies which focus more on regenerative systems that reduce waste and reuse materials. Somewhat less conventional efforts include breaking down plastic waste. Plastic-eating bacteria, discovered in Japan, have been cultivated and modified to digest polyester plastics (food packaging and plastic bottles). Although created for industrial recycling settings, the bacteria’s speed of digestion is extremely slow, and the potential effects from spraying it directly into our environment make scientists wary.
According to Rhodes, at our current rates of production and pollution, the plastic in our oceans will outweigh the fish by 2050.  
Oxo-biodegradable plastics (or, oxo-degradable) plastics are manufactured to be broken down by ultra-violet radiation and heat, more quickly than regular plastics. Even though oxo-biodegradable plastics can degrade up to 1000 times faster than traditional plastics, their tiny fragments persist in our environment as microplastics. Bioplastics, on the other hand, are formed from natural materials like corn starch that can be digested by bacteria and reabsorbed back into the environment. Although bioplastic waste is better for the environment, their production process is not. Researchers calculate that the agricultural and chemical processing involved in manufacturing bioplastics creates more pollution than regular plastics. According to Rhodes, at our current rates of production and pollution, the plastic in our oceans will outweigh the fish by 2050. Although 28 countries have legislated packaging mandates to reduce plastic packaging, the US government has not. Some states and local governments have stepped up to implement packaging policies aimed at reducing waste. California has set an ambitious goal to reduce packaging waste by 50% by 2020. But as with climate change, the problem is vast and global efforts at amelioration will be difficult. Feature image: Chesapeake Bay ProgramMicroplastics in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Microplastics from the Patapsco River are pictured at the laboratory of Dr. Lance Yonkos in the Department of Environmental Science & Technology at the University of Maryland in College Park, Md., on Feb. 6, 2015, used under CC BY-NC 2.0 [post_title] => The Problems with Plastics [post_excerpt] => As of 2017, the world has produced 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic. A report by Christopher Rhodes highlights five efforts to reduce plastic waste in our environment. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => problems-with-plastics [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-12-14 05:40:53 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-12-14 10:40:53 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.publichealthpost.org/?post_type=bu_research&p=6035 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => bu_research [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [extra_args] => Array ( ) [owner] => BUPHP_Post Object *RECURSION* [_trigger_error:WPLib_Base:private] => 1 ) [view] => BUPHP_Post_View Object ( [multipage] => [extra_args] => Array ( ) [owner] => BUPHP_Post Object *RECURSION* [_trigger_error:WPLib_Base:private] => 1 ) [extra_args] => Array ( ) [owner] => [_trigger_error:WPLib_Base:private] => 1 )

As of 2017, the world has produced 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic. A report by Christopher Rhodes highlights five efforts to reduce plastic waste in our environment.

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Research

Fertility Preservation among Transgender Youth

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                    [post_content] => Emerging evidence indicates that transgender youth are ineffectively counseled on fertility preservation prior to beginning cross-sex hormone therapy. As transgender individuals grow into adulthood, many are unable to conceive a biological child, which is associated with psychological distress. The paradox of conserving reproductive sex hormones that do not align with an individual’s affirmed gender is an additional source of stress on transgender youth navigating the decision to preserve their fertility.

Nahata et al. conducted a retrospective review of electronic medical records of adolescent youth experiencing gender dysphoria, who were referred to pediatric endocrinology. They found that 72 out of 73 adolescents in the sample were made aware of their option for fertility preservation and given the option to pursue it in concordance with cross-sex hormone therapy. Only two participants pursued the option, despite receiving information for either sperm banking or a referral to a reproductive endocrinologist.

Participants reported being interested in adoption over having biological children (38.1% of transgender females; 50% of transgender males) among their reasons for not wanting to attempt fertility preservation. Other reasons included discomfort in producing a semen sample through masturbation, or concern that attempting fertility preservation would further delay cross-sex hormone therapy.
The pressure of deciding to transition, coupled with the prospect of preserving the very sex hormones that do not align with one’s perceived gender is one reason that fertility preservation is currently underutilized.  
While results from this study indicate that transgender adolescents may not be interested in fertility preservation, other studies have highlighted that interest in conceiving biological children increases in adulthood. One study found that, out of a sample of 121 individuals from the United States and Europe, 51% of transgender females would have considered sperm banking if given the option. Another study found that, out of a sample of 50 transgender males, 54% reported a desire for biological children, while 37.5% would have considered freezing their eggs. The results from studies like these are difficult to infer generalizability to the US transgender population as a whole. Many studies on transgender populations are small in sample size and/or conducted cross-sectionally at a single site. Additionally, transgender individuals fall along a spectrum throughout the transition process, making it difficult to capture perceptions associated with transgender status. Individuals sampled in the De Sutter et al. study expressed increased interest in fertility preservation if they had also undergone gender re-assignment surgery, and were under 40 years of age, compared to individuals who identified as trans, but had not undergone surgery. It seems that, as transgender adolescents develop into adults, their perceptions surrounding fertility preservation may change as well. Healthcare providers are introducing the topic at a sensitive time, when transgender youth are still considering cross-hormone therapy. The pressure of deciding to transition, coupled with the prospect of preserving the very sex hormones that do not align with one’s perceived gender is one reason that fertility preservation is currently underutilized. As transgender individuals mature in adulthood, the potential for having biological children can become a challenge, as years of undergoing cross-sex hormone therapy can compromise an individual’s sexual reproductive organs, particularly in trans men. Healthcare practitioners within reproductive endocrinology are making strides to incorporate fertility preservation as part of the continuum of care for transgender individuals. It is important, however, for those providing care to trans patients to become educated on guiding them through the transition process, while also making youth aware of fertility preservation options in a sensitive manner. Further research on this topic is necessary to illuminate the complexities of reproductive health needs among the transgender population. Feature image: ugurhan/iStock [post_title] => Fertility Preservation among Transgender Youth [post_excerpt] => Emerging evidence indicates that transgender youth are ineffectively counseled on fertility preservation prior to beginning cross-sex hormone therapy. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => fertility-preservation-among-transgender-youth [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-12-12 15:14:11 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-12-12 20:14:11 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.publichealthpost.org/?post_type=bu_research&p=5987 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => bu_research [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [extra_args] => Array ( ) [owner] => BUPHP_Post Object *RECURSION* [_trigger_error:WPLib_Base:private] => 1 ) [view] => BUPHP_Post_View Object ( [multipage] => [extra_args] => Array ( ) [owner] => BUPHP_Post Object *RECURSION* [_trigger_error:WPLib_Base:private] => 1 ) [extra_args] => Array ( ) [owner] => [_trigger_error:WPLib_Base:private] => 1 )

Emerging evidence indicates that transgender youth are ineffectively counseled on fertility preservation prior to beginning cross-sex hormone therapy.

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Research

Unaccompanied Immigrant Children Are Highly Vulnerable

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                    [post_content] => Migration from Central America to the United States has steadily increased over the past ten years and has reached crisis levels. Migrants include thousands of children without a parent or guardian. Contrary to the Trump Administration’s claims that these children are gang members, most are fleeing record levels of gang violence and poverty in their home countries or are seeking to rejoin  family members. Since 2012, border patrol has apprehended over 300,000 unaccompanied children, many are placed with family members or other sponsors, and, increasingly, in indefinite detention. A smaller number are placed in foster care under the oversight of the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Research on the wellbeing of unaccompanied immigrant children can be difficult because they are often an “invisible” population. Through our partnership with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), a major provider of foster care and family reunification services for these children, we were able to learn about the unique needs of unaccompanied children in foster care, and how to improve services to meet these needs.
Children who experienced violence in their home countries prior to migrating, and children with significant behavior problems, were significantly more likely to change placements.  
In one study, we analyzed LIRS administrative data to explore predictors of disrupted foster care placements for 256 children. Foster placement disruption is an important measure of child wellbeing and functioning. Our study found that 68 of these children (26.5%) experienced one or more changes in placements. Children who experienced violence in their home countries prior to migrating, and children with significant behavior problems, were significantly more likely to change placements. Health professionals should be aware that many of these children have faced unusual adversities. Addressing children’s behavior problems, through a trauma-informed approach, may improve their placement stability and overall wellbeing. Another aspect of our partnership with LIRS involved identifying unaccompanied children’s needs in foster care, and how practitioners respond to these needs.  We conducted 22 focus groups with caseworkers, clinicians, administrators, and foster parents caring for unaccompanied children in two sites, one in the Midwest, and one in the Northeast. Practitioners said that children do best when they have strong relationships with mentors in the community: teachers, coaches, foster parents, or peer mentors.
Foster parents said they are “ambassadors” for their foster children, by educating and humanizing people’s perceptions of these children and helping tone down political rhetoric.  
Education came up often because many children from Central America only have a primary school education. Some children don’t speak English or even Spanish, particularly if they are from Guatemala where 21 different Mayan languages are spoken. Helpful educational supports include GED trainings, tutoring services, special education, support from guidance counselors, and vocational training. Practitioners also identified the need for culturally sensitive, trauma-informed mental health care. Foster parents said they are “ambassadors” for their foster children, by educating and humanizing people’s perceptions of these children and helping tone down political rhetoric. We are entering a new phase in our country, where the federal government is placing many more unaccompanied children in detention centers rather than releasing them to family members or sponsors. Detaining children indefinitely runs directly counter to child welfare principles of placement in the least restrictive environment and has been denounced by the American Association of Pediatrics. The UN Convention on Rights of the Child specifies that detention be “used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time” (Article 37b). The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Advisory Committee on Family Residential Centers concluded that “detention or the separation of families for purposes of immigration enforcement or management are never in the best interest of children.” The national conversation about asylum-seeking children and families needs to shift from a perspective of a threat to our national sovereignty, to one simple question: how can we best respond to a deepening humanitarian crisis? The quality of our national character depends on it. Feature image: linephoto/iStock [post_title] => Unaccompanied Immigrant Children Are Highly Vulnerable [post_excerpt] => Understanding the unique needs of unaccompanied immigrant children who have been placed in foster care is a crucial part of the US response to a deepening humanitarian crisis. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => unaccompanied-immigrant-children-are-highly-vulnerable [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-12-10 06:29:34 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-12-10 11:29:34 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.publichealthpost.org/?post_type=bu_research&p=5976 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => bu_research [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [extra_args] => Array ( ) [owner] => BUPHP_Post Object *RECURSION* [_trigger_error:WPLib_Base:private] => 1 ) [view] => BUPHP_Post_View Object ( [multipage] => [extra_args] => Array ( ) [owner] => BUPHP_Post Object *RECURSION* [_trigger_error:WPLib_Base:private] => 1 ) [extra_args] => Array ( ) [owner] => [_trigger_error:WPLib_Base:private] => 1 )

Understanding the unique needs of unaccompanied immigrant children who have been placed in foster care is a crucial part of the US response to a deepening humanitarian crisis.

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Research

Driving While Sleeping

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                    [post_content] => Drowsy driving causes over 32,000 automobile accidents and 64,000 deaths every year in the United States. Racial minorities are 2.4 times more likely to have a sleepiness-related accident than White drivers. The causes of these racial discrepancies are not clearly understood. A research team from the University of Pittsburgh studied the underlying personal and social health factors that influence drowsy driving. The researchers used survey from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) to estimate how sleep quality and other health-based behaviors influence drowsy driving accidents.

BFRSS is an annual random-digit telephone survey conducted by the CDC that collects a wide range of population health data. Genuardi and colleagues analyzed responses to the following question: “During the past 30 days, have you ever nodded off or fallen asleep, even just for a moment, while driving?” They analyzed data from 193,776 White, Black, and Hispanic adults who participated in the survey between 2009 and 2012. Responses were then analyzed looking at six factors that might influence the relationship between race and drowsy driving: health care access, alcohol consumption, risk-taking behaviors, and sleep quality on the race/drowsy driving relationship.

Four percent of respondents reported falling asleep while driving. Black and Hispanic respondents were two times more likely to report falling asleep at the wheel than White respondents. Being male, obese, and snoring were also significantly associated with drowsy driving. Accidents related to poor sleep quality were higher among Black respondents. Access to health care, alcohol use, and risk-taking behaviors (such as seat belt use) did not change the odds of falling asleep while driving.

Some of the findings were in keeping with past research. Men are more likely to engage in risk-taking behavior, and drive when feeling sleepy. The relationships between snoring and heavy weight was also not surprising given that both are both linked to obstructive sleep apnea, which can cause daytime sleepiness due to restless sleep.

At a neighborhood level, there are measurable differences of quality of sleep between Black and White communities. From a community level, Black and Hispanic individuals are referred to sleep centers at lower rates than White peoples, which can prevent or delay a person’s ability to get treatment for sleep apnea. Excess weight and obesity are also tightly bound to food insecurity and low income, which disproportionately impact communities of color, in part due to systemic racism present in the USA.

Photo by Anton Darius | @theSollers on Unsplash
                    [post_title] => Driving While Sleeping
                    [post_excerpt] => Racial minorities are 2.4 times more likely to have sleepiness-related accidents than White drivers. Researchers studied the underlying personal and social health factors that influence drowsy driving.
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Racial minorities are 2.4 times more likely to have sleepiness-related accidents than White drivers. Researchers studied the underlying personal and social health factors that influence drowsy driving.

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Research

What’s Stopping LGBTQ Progress in Schools?

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                    [post_date] => 2018-12-05 07:00:12
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                    [post_content] => The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend six school policies and practices to support LGBTQ students. These include: student-led organizations focused on welcoming all students regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, safe spaces where LGBTQ students can receive support from staff, prohibiting harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity, professional development for staff, assistance in connecting LGBTQ students with health care providers, and assistance with connecting LGBTQ students with social and psychological services. A recent study found that few schools were implementing the full panel of recommended policies.

Researchers interviewed school administrators and school health professionals in New Mexico to understand why these policies were not being implemented. They found eleven “outer context” and “inner context” factors related to the implementation of these policies. Outer-context factors are influences originating outside of the school, and inner-context factors are those that evolve from within a school.
As one principal said, “The political climate of the nation…[is]…trickling down.”  
One of the outer-context factors was political climate. For instance, the Trump administration has shown anti-LGBTQ bias with policies such as the transgender military ban. As one principal said, “The political climate of the nation…[is]…trickling down.” The researchers point out that the media can play a role in shaping these fears at a local level. Another outer-context factor was the influence of community beliefs. According to a 2015 survey from the Pew Research Center, over 40% of Americans feel that people choose to be gay. A school nurse is quoted saying, “There’s a lot of our community that still feels like you can just learn how to be a different way because they just don’t understand.” Another nurse indicated that parents held “old school” beliefs causing many students to feel comfortable being “out” at school but not at home.
An important inner-context factor was a belief among teachers and administrators that policies supporting LGBTQ students are “special treatment.”  
An important inner-context factor was a belief among teachers and administrators that policies supporting LGBTQ students are “special treatment.” Some indicated that schools should “treat all students the same,” meaning that these policies are not fair to other students. The existence of de facto safe spaces turned up in the interviews as a reason for not having specified safe spaces. De facto safe spaces, identified by word-of-mouth but not formally recognized, included the offices of school nurses and counselors. Some principals said that their offices were also safe spaces but admitted that students were not coming to them to discuss LGBTQ-specific topics. The researchers also found that schools in metropolitan areas were more likely to have resources for LGBTQ students. And according to the interviews conducted, students are thought to have more positive views of the LGBTQ community than school staff members. Based on this latter finding, the researchers note that students may have a role to play in implementing LGBTQ-supportive policies in their schools. Students as advocates can hasten change toward more supportive and safer schools and the provision of referral to appropriate health and behavioral health resources beyond school walls. Feature image: Ted Eytan, 2018.04.14 TeamDC Night of Champions, Washington, DC USA 01298, Supporting the Team DC College Scholarship Program for LGBT student-athletes, used under CC BY-SA 2.0. [post_title] => What’s Stopping LGBTQ Progress in Schools? [post_excerpt] => Few schools are implementing the full panel of CDC-recommended policies to support LGBTQ students. Researchers interviewed school administrators and school health professionals to find out why. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => whats-stopping-lgbtq-progress-in-schools [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-12-05 07:05:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-12-05 12:05:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.publichealthpost.org/?post_type=bu_research&p=5959 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => bu_research [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [extra_args] => Array ( ) [owner] => BUPHP_Post Object *RECURSION* [_trigger_error:WPLib_Base:private] => 1 ) [view] => BUPHP_Post_View Object ( [multipage] => [extra_args] => Array ( ) [owner] => BUPHP_Post Object *RECURSION* [_trigger_error:WPLib_Base:private] => 1 ) [extra_args] => Array ( ) [owner] => [_trigger_error:WPLib_Base:private] => 1 )

Few schools are implementing the full panel of CDC-recommended policies to support LGBTQ students. Researchers interviewed school administrators and school health professionals to find out why.

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Research

Sharing (Anxiety and Depression) is Caring

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                    [ID] => 5954
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                    [post_date] => 2018-12-03 06:50:30
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-12-03 11:50:30
                    [post_content] => When an adolescent struggles with anxiety and depression symptoms, but their friend does not, it may be bad news for that friendship. The emotions and behaviors associated with anxiety and depression are referred to as internalizing symptoms. Unlike externalizing symptoms, which include aggression, internalizing symptoms have to do with fearful, worried, nervous, and self-conscious feelings.

A recent study in the Journal of Research on Adolescence assessed the relationship between these internalizing symptoms, or emotions, that a young individual experiences, and the strength of their friendships. Previous research found associations between these emotions and unstable friendships. Expanding on this, Guimond and colleagues considered two distinct ideas about how negative emotions might predict the end of adolescent friendships in this study of seventh graders followed over time.

One idea explores the level of stress on a friendship when one adolescent in the relationship has anxiety or depression. When one friend is struggling with their mental health and self-worth, the friendship may dissolve; a tense friendship can also feed into the negative emotions, exacerbating them. But the results of this study did not provide much support for this concept, indicating that something else may be at play in predicting friendship dissolution.
Two friends who experience and anxiety- and depression-related symptoms to similar degrees may have more solid friendships than those who do not match emotionally.  
The second concept the researchers assessed involves compatibility. Two friends who experience and anxiety- and depression-related symptoms to similar degrees may have more solid friendships than those who do not match emotionally. This concept was more strongly supported by the study findings; the seventh-grade friends who had differing levels of internalizing symptoms were more likely to break up as time passed. Further, boys were more likely to end their friendships if one of them found it more difficult to be assertive than the other over time. In a report last year, researchers explored how having close friendships compared to having large friend groups, and how each influenced young adults’ wellness. They found that youth who preferred having a few close-knit friends were more likely to have a healthy sense of self-worth, with lower anxiety and depression. But as Guimond and colleagues make clear, it’s not always easy to keep up good friendships. Still, these close relationships play a key role in social networks both in adolescence and adulthood, and reflect well on one’s emotional wellbeing. Feature image: Luke Ellis-Craven on Unsplash, used for illustrative purposes only.  [post_title] => Sharing (Anxiety and Depression) is Caring [post_excerpt] => In a study of seventh graders followed over time, researchers considered how negative emotions might predict the end of adolescent friendships.  [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => sharing-anxiety-depression-is-caring [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-12-05 07:15:03 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-12-05 12:15:03 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.publichealthpost.org/?post_type=bu_research&p=5954 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => bu_research [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [extra_args] => Array ( ) [owner] => BUPHP_Post Object *RECURSION* [_trigger_error:WPLib_Base:private] => 1 ) [view] => BUPHP_Post_View Object ( [multipage] => [extra_args] => Array ( ) [owner] => BUPHP_Post Object *RECURSION* [_trigger_error:WPLib_Base:private] => 1 ) [extra_args] => Array ( ) [owner] => [_trigger_error:WPLib_Base:private] => 1 )

In a study of seventh graders followed over time, researchers considered how negative emotions might predict the end of adolescent friendships. 

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Research

Who Cares for Our Children?

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                    [ID] => 5925
                    [post_author] => 8
                    [post_date] => 2018-11-29 07:00:25
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-11-29 12:00:25
                    [post_content] => When parents drop their daughters and sons off at a childcare facility, they are engaging in an act of trust. They assume their child will be treated fairly and with respect. However, children of color may be experiencing bias from the adults caring for them.

A recent study assessed racial and ethnic stereotypes held by 1,000 White adults who work or volunteer with children. Nearly two-thirds of the respondents were women, and all were located in the United States. The researchers asked how laziness, proneness to violence, intelligence, and healthy habits differed by racial/ethnic groups at varying ages (children, teens, and adults).

Survey respondents held higher levels of negative stereotypes for Black adults than adults in other racial/ethnic groups. Over 50% said Black adults were prone to committing violent acts. Nearly one-fifth said Black adults were unintelligent, and over one-third said that Black adults practice unhealthy habits.

Respondents perceived Black teenagers just as negatively. Over 40% responded that Black teens were lazy. American Indian and Alaska Native teens, as well as Hispanic teens, were viewed poorly as well.

White children, teens, and adults were consistently viewed more positively than those that are Black, Hispanic, or American Indian and Alaska Native.

Though young Black children were viewed more positively than adults or teens, they were still viewed more negatively than children from other racial/ethnic groups. A quarter of respondents said that Black children were prone to committing violence. American Indian, Alaska Native, and Hispanic children were viewed even more negatively than Black children.
Although this study did not describe how study participants actually treated children under their care, the results of this study confirm other findings of racial bias in schools.  
Although this study did not describe how study participants actually treated children under their care, the results of this study confirm other findings of racial bias in schools. A study from Yale found that implicit biases against Black students lead them to be disciplined more severely than other students. Another study found that teachers who are not Black have lower expectations of their Black students. Internal biases are associated with neglectful behavior and distrust of those who are different. Being the target of negative social perceptions and resulting discrimination can negatively affect the health of people of color throughout their lives. Children who experience racism are at higher risk for depressive symptoms, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance. The researchers recommend anti-bias and racism training for adults who work or volunteer with children. Some schools are already doing this. Organizations like Teaching Tolerance provide professional development tools for learning how to educate without bias, and New York City is funding anti-bias training for the city’s educators. These trainings are focused exclusively on teachers, but could be adapted for childcare workers more generally. Feature image: kate_sept2004/iStock [post_title] => Who Cares for Our Children? [post_excerpt] => Parents assume their child will be treated fairly and with respect at childcare facilities, but children of color may be experiencing bias from the adults caring for them. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => who-cares-for-our-children [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-11-27 23:10:34 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-11-28 04:10:34 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.publichealthpost.org/?post_type=bu_research&p=5925 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => bu_research [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [extra_args] => Array ( ) [owner] => BUPHP_Post Object *RECURSION* [_trigger_error:WPLib_Base:private] => 1 ) [view] => BUPHP_Post_View Object ( [multipage] => [extra_args] => Array ( ) [owner] => BUPHP_Post Object *RECURSION* [_trigger_error:WPLib_Base:private] => 1 ) [extra_args] => Array ( ) [owner] => [_trigger_error:WPLib_Base:private] => 1 )

Parents assume their child will be treated fairly and with respect at childcare facilities, but children of color may be experiencing bias from the adults caring for them.

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Research

Longevity Secrets of Utah Centenarians

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                    [post_date] => 2018-11-28 07:00:25
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-11-28 12:00:25
                    [post_content] => As a result of over 70 million people born during the Baby Boom, older adults are the fastest growing segment of the population in the United States. Centenarians, those who live to age 100 or older, are a rapidly expanding subgroup of the older adult population.

Researchers are naturally interested in biological factors that account for the unusual longevity of this group. In our recent study of 268 centenarians from Utah, psychological and social factors were considered alongside the biological to determine how experiences from all three areas might work together in extending the lives of the very old. Responses were collected from 24 living centenarians and 244 close relatives or caregivers of the recently deceased to determine what the oldest among Utah’s centenarian population have in common.

Most of the centenarians in our study were female (77%), which is somewhat expected given that females tend to live longer than males. While still a significant minority, the number of centenarian men in our study (23%) is a step up from the 15% proportion of centenarian men found in the New England Centenarian Study. Of interest, although women are more likely than men to see their one hundredth birthday, there is no indication that females live any longer than males once both have crossed the 100-year threshold.
Key findings from our biological data suggest that decreased sleep latency, or taking a shorter time to fall asleep, is associated with increased longevity among centenarians.  
Key findings from our biological data suggest that decreased sleep latency, or taking a shorter time to fall asleep, is associated with increased longevity among centenarians. Specifically, centenarians who typically fell asleep in less than 30 minutes at night saw more days past their 100th birthday than those who lay awake for half an hour or more. Other studies have suggested that poor sleep quality and not feeling well-rested during the day are associated with higher mortality. Those who sleep too long or not long enough are also at greater risk. Psychological factors were also found to be correlated with longer life among Utah centenarians. Centenarians or a proxy family member were asked to indicate how satisfied the centenarians were with their life overall. Centenarians with higher life satisfaction tended to live longer than those with lower satisfaction scores. Life satisfaction is also related to health in later life. Previous research has suggested that although happiness as a psychological factor does not tend to cure illness, it can serve to prevent the onset of sickness in older adults, potentially extending life.
When considered independently, close attachment to another adult was a predictor of longer life.  
Social relationships also appear to help extend longevity among centenarians. As individuals age they often become more selective about how they expend their social energy, yet the relationships that do remain are typically strong. When considered independently, close attachment to another adult was a predictor of longer life. When considered together with biological and psychological factors, this association became less relevant. Other studies indicate that male centenarians who are married tend to live longer and thus benefit from the companionship of a spouse, while females over 100 tend to live longer when they are single. The impact of better sleep, higher life satisfaction, and quality adult relationships on active life expectancy (the duration of a person’s life without significant disability) is not yet known. Our hope is that insights from our research will help the growing number of centenarians who wish to make the most of their second century on earth. Feature image: aluxum/iStock [post_title] => Longevity Secrets of Utah Centenarians [post_excerpt] => People live to age 100 or older are a rapidly expanding subgroup of the older adult population. The answer to their longevity might be sleep, satisfaction, and support. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => longevity-of-utah-centenarians [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-11-29 07:24:50 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-11-29 12:24:50 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.publichealthpost.org/?post_type=bu_research&p=5922 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => bu_research [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [extra_args] => Array ( ) [owner] => BUPHP_Post Object *RECURSION* [_trigger_error:WPLib_Base:private] => 1 ) [view] => BUPHP_Post_View Object ( [multipage] => [extra_args] => Array ( ) [owner] => BUPHP_Post Object *RECURSION* [_trigger_error:WPLib_Base:private] => 1 ) [extra_args] => Array ( ) [owner] => [_trigger_error:WPLib_Base:private] => 1 )

People live to age 100 or older are a rapidly expanding subgroup of the older adult population. The answer to their longevity might be sleep, satisfaction, and support.

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