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Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

Humanitarian Aid Work Increases Risk of Mental Health Problems

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A new study found humanitarian aid workers are at greater risk of developing anxiety and depression, both while in the field and after returning home.

Funded by Netherlands-based Antares Foundation, the study was conducted by researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and collaborators, including Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

According to the findings, of the 212 international humanitarian aid workers surveyed, almost 4 percent had symptoms of anxiety and more than 10% had symptoms of depression before deployment. After completing deployment, nearly 12 percent had anxiety and about 19 percent had depression. The participants at 19 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were also assessed within 3–6 months after deployment, and while the rate of anxiety declined to less than 8 percent, an increased in the rate of depression had been observed by up to over 20 percent.

“It is quite common for people returning from deployment to be overwhelmed by the comforts and choices available, but unable to discuss their feelings with friends and family,” said Alastair Ager, PhD, study co-author and Professor of Clinical Population & Family Health at the Mailman School, in a ScienceDaily.com report.

The research, though, had noted that there are several things humanitarian organizations can do to diminish the risk for experiencing mental illness or burnout during deployment; such as screen candidates for a history of mental illness; provide humanitarian workers with best possible living accommodations, workspace, and reliable transportation; and encourage workers’ involvement in social support and peer networks.

Health & Wellness

Depression Can Affect Children as Young as 3

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toddler depression article

Though once children under the age of 6 were thought to be too emotionally immature to experience this form of mood change, a recent study may have proven that idea wrong. While previous research had proven that 2 percent of preschool age children experienced temporary depression at one time or another no conclusive evidence had proven whether they could experience chronic depression as adults and older children do.

The study, which tested 200 preschoolers (75 of which had been diagnosed with depression prior to research) 3-6 years old for up to 2 years, found that among children with prior diagnosis 64% were still depressed or had had a relapse within 6 months of the initial depression. Depression was found to be most common in children who had experienced a loss or physical or sexual abuse or who had a parent who also suffered from depression.

This research raises the question of how to treat depression at this young of an age. Especially at a time when treatment with medications is controversial in any child under the age if 18 and could have major side effects.