Turned down for federal disability payments, thousands die waiting for appeals to be heard

MILWAUKEE – It isn’t easy to be patient when you can’t work and you’re in pain, as Christine Morgan knows all too well.

Her chronic pain comes from fibromyalgia. Morgan, 60, also has spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spaces within the spine that pinches the nerves, most often in the lower back and neck. To top it off, she is diabetic, has kidney disease, high blood pressure and depression.

Yet Morgan has been turned down for Social Security Disability Insurance –  twice. “They sent me a letter that said I wasn’t disabled,” she said.

Full story at Science Daily

8 Ways to Ease Holiday Isolation for Older Adults

Holidays can heighten loneliness.

The household baker who loaded platters with red-and-green frosted cookies. The grandfather who proudly carved the massive turkey. The mom who was a wrapping-paper whiz. The neighbor whose outdoor decorations outshone the entire block. The dad who carefully lit the menorah. The parents who planned amazing family trips for winter breaks. The jovial host who filled guests’ glasses with eggnog or champagne. As they grow older, the people in your life who once made holidays special could use some cheer and attention themselves. Here’s how you can help them celebrate and feel connected.

Full story at US News

Mind over matter: Amygdala circuit counteracts pain-driven emotion

Two pathways in the brain converging at the amygdala regulate the anxiety and depression that often accompanies chronic pain, suggests research in male rats published in JNeurosci. One of these pathways may represent a top-down mechanism that controls negative emotion under stress.

Using optogenetic stimulation, Zhizhong Pan and colleagues identify two opposing neural pathways — one that carries pain signals from the parabrachial nucleus to the central nucleus of amygdala (PBN-CeA) and another from the basolateral amygdala to CeA (BLA-CeA) — that integrate negative and positive emotion.

Full story at Science Daily

Why Mental Illness Is So Hard to Spot in Seniors

THE INSTITUTE OF Medicine (now the National Academy of Medicine) issued a report in 2012, “The Mental Health and Substance Use Workforce for Older Adults: In Whose Hands?” that said 14 to 20 percent of U.S. adults over age 65 have one or more mental health or substance use conditions. That’s about 8 million people. Yet a number of studies also indicate that mental illness in older adults is underrecognized and underdiagnosed.

For instance, a telephone survey of nearly 10,000 adult households, published in 2003 in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, found that half of adults over age 65 with a probable mental illness were significantly less likely to be receiving any mental health treatment than younger adults. Of those, only 7 percent had used specialty mental health care.

“Indeed, compared with younger adults and middle-aged adults, adults over age 65 were much less likely to be asked by their primary care physician if they felt tense or anxious and were much less likely to be referred by their primary care physician for mental health specialty care,” says Dr. Susan W. Lehmann, clinical director of the division of geriatric psychiatry and neuropsychiatry and director of the Geriatric Psychiatry Day Hospital at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. A more recent study of seniors receiving home health services found that 23 percent screened positive for depression, yet less than 40 percent of those people were receiving treatment for depression, she says.

Full story at US News

To treat pain, you need to treat the patient

People in chronic pain are some of the most difficult patients to treat. They have complex circumstances that medicine can’t always remedy. Pain can be amplified, by depression and anxiety, genetics and quality of life. Genetics can also play a role in how people experience pain.

Physicians are less prone to prescribe opioid medication to patients with long-term pain — but they need more treatment options.

Clinicians and researchers at UW Medicine’s Center for Pain Relief found that an in-depth questionnaire can help immensely. Their work to create a pain assessment adaptable to any primary care clinic was recently published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Full story at Science Daily

Could a History of Childhood Abuse Be Contributing to Your Depression?

The ripple effects of childhood abuse extend well beyond the immediate time surrounding the abuse and can continue to cause significant disruption throughout a person’s life, even if on the surface things seem calm.

Studies show that so-called adverse childhood experiences – stressful or traumatic events including physical, emotional or sexual abuse and physical or emotional neglect – can raise the risk of everything from substance abuse and mental health issues to sleep disruption, obesity, heart attack and diabetes and even shortened lifespan. Research has found childhood abuse is associated with depression not only in kids, adolescents and young adults, but in later life as well.

“Time just doesn’t magically heal,” says Adria Pearson-Mauro, an assistant professor of family medical and psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, and a clinical psychologist at CU’s Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Depression Center in Aurora. She says these kinds of threats and the impact they can have on neurodevelopment of someone who is abused as a child physically or sexually always matter. “It doesn’t become less important with age,” Pearson-Mauro says.

Full story at US News

Antidepressant use increases hip fracture risk among elderly

Antidepressant use nearly doubles the risk of hip fracture among community-dwelling persons with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study from the University of Eastern Finland. The increased risk was highest at the beginning of antidepressant use and remained elevated even 4 years later. The findings were published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

For each person with Alzheimer’s disease, two controls without the disease were matched by age and sex. Antidepressant use was associated with two times higher risk of hip fracture among controls. However, the relative number of hip fractures was higher among persons with Alzheimer’s disease compared to controls.

The increased risk was associated with all of the most frequently used antidepressant groups, which were selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI drugs), mirtazapine and selective noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRI drugs). The association between antidepressant use and the increased risk of hip fracture persisted even after adjusting the results for use of other medication increasing the risk of fall, osteoporosis, socioeconomic status, history of psychiatric diseases, and chronic diseases increasing the risk of fall or fracture.

Full story of antidepressants and hip fracture risk at Science Daily

Stroke: Study examines risk, risk factors for depression

During the first three months after stroke, the risk for depression was eight times higher than in a reference population of people without stroke, according to an article published online by JAMA Psychiatry.

More than 10 million people had a stroke in 2013 and more than 30 million people worldwide live with a stroke diagnosis.

Merete Osler, M.D., D.M.Sc., Ph.D., of Copenhagen University, Denmark, and coauthors used data linked from seven Danish nationwide registers to examine how risk and risk factors for depression differ between patients with stroke and a reference population without stroke, as well as how depression influences death.

Full story of stroke and risk factors of depression at Science Daily

Health-care costs are bad medicine

New research shows one in four chronically ill Australians is skipping healthcare because of high costs.

Dr Emily Callander, Senior Research Fellow in Health Economics at James Cook University said the situation was significantly worse in Australia than in Canada, the United Kingdom and Germany.

“It’s particularly worrying because these are people with chronic illnesses, not just people with a sniffle,” she said.

Dr Callander, from JCU’s Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine (AITHM), said people with mental health conditions were particularly affected.

“Over 40% of people with depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions stated that they skipped healthcare treatment because of the cost.”

Full story of skipping health care due to high costs at Science Daily

Depression linked to disease activity and disability in adolescents with arthritis

The results of a study presented today at the European League Against Rheumatism Annual Congress (EULAR 2016) confirmed a clear association between depression symptom severity and the level of disease activity and disability in adolescent patients with juvenile inflammatory arthritis (JIA). These findings highlight the importance of psychological health assessment for adolescents with JIA and underline the need for psychological support to be fully integrated into their routine care.

“We already know there is an association between depression and disease severity in rheumatoid arthritis. Children with JIA have also been shown to have depression, and this is associated with disability,” said Dr John Ioannou lead author from University College London, UK. “However, there has been much less work looking at depression in adolescents with JIA. Specifically, the association between depression and disease severity from initial assessment over a 48 month follow-up period has never been explored in this vulnerable age group with JIA,” Dr Ioannou explained.

Inflammatory arthritis is a chronic debilitating disease of childhood and adolescence. In the UK each year, an estimated 10 out of every 100,000 children will develop an inflammatory arthritis, with many subsequently being diagnosed with JIA, the most common chronic paediatric rheumatic disease. Although the disease course can be variable, with periods of activity followed by remission, previous studies have shown that up to 70% of children continue to report disability and limitation of their activities into adulthood, and the proportion is likely to be higher in those with adolescent-onset JIA.4.

Full story of depression linked to adolescents with arthritis at Science Daily