Category: Mental health

Can’t Get Over Your Ex? Blame The Algorithm

By Emily Reynolds

Breaking up is never easy, particularly when you’re confronted with memories of happier times. A smell, an old photograph, a note somebody left you — weeks or even months after a break-up and you can still be reminded of your ex-partner, whether you like it or not.

On social media, this can be even worse. If you’re still friends with your ex, you’re likely to still see their posts on your feed; if you’re not, you can still rub salt into the wound by checking their profile anyway. ‘On this Day’ features are also notoriously bad for bringing up unhappy memories at the worst possible time.

According to a new study published in Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction, we also see our exes so much because of the so-called “social periphery” — the networks of people we know tangentially through our ex-partners. So why not design an algorithm that causes us less pain? The new work suggests that this could be the answer to our online break-up woes.

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Taking Selfies Is Probably Fine For Your Self-Esteem. Editing Them Might Not Be

By Emily Reynolds

There’s been a lot of back and forth about the psychological effects of taking and sharing selfies. Some research suggests that taking pictures of yourself can dent your self-esteem and increase anxiety, while other studies have found that selfies can be a source of empowerment; one 2017 paper even found a combination of the two, suggesting that sharing selfies online can mitigate the damage to self-image often inflicted when a selfie is actually taken.

The hundreds of op-eds, articles and TV features that continue to focus on the issue also suggest that our interest in the phenomenon is unlikely to abate any time soon. And now a new study published in the Journal of Children and Media has added to the debate.

It suggests that taking selfies may not be as damaging as other research has claimed. Instead, it’s what you do after you’ve taken the photo that matters: it’s editing images that really hurts our self-esteem.

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Siblings Who Believe Their Family Has A Lower Social Standing Are More Likely To Experience Mental Health Difficulties

By guest blogger Sofia Deleniv

Most of us are not surprised to hear that a child’s chances of achieving success, physical health, and mental well-being depend heavily on the socioeconomic status of the family into which they are born. A large-scale global study commissioned by the World Health Organisation found that the lower the income of a family, the more likely their child is to suffer physical and mental health issues later in life, run into problems with the legal system, and die early.

But a physical lack of resources may not be the only factor driving poor outcomes. Last month, a study published in PNAS revealed that children’s perceptions of their family’s socioeconomic standing might matter more than how well their families are actually doing — at least when it comes to their mental health.

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People With Depression May Find Sad Memes Funnier And More Uplifting

By Matthew Warren

Memes have become an integral part of online communication — and a ripe area for research. Underlying the simplicity of a grainy picture and a few words of text are countless more complex psychological questions. What determines why some memes go viral? How do they shape people’s political or social views? And in what ways do our perceptions of memes change depending on our personalities — or even on our mental health?

To this latter question, at least, a new study in Scientific Reports has some answers. Researchers have found that depressed people seem to enjoy memes with depression-related themes more than non-depressed individuals — a finding that points at differences in how people with mental health difficulties use humour as a coping mechanism.

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Public Wouldn’t Trust Companies To Scan Social Media Posts For Signs Of Depression, Survey Finds

Woman Typing Phone Message On Social Network At NightBy guest blogger Jack Barton

Since the exposure of Cambridge Analytica in 2018 it is no longer surprising that tech giants are using our information in ways we may not be explicitly aware of. Companies such as Facebook are already using computer algorithms to identify individuals expressing thoughts of suicide and provide targeted support, such as displaying information about mental health services or even contacting first responders.

However, the visibility of these features is poor at best — and it remains unclear if the public even wants them in the first place. Now a study in JMIR Mental Health has asked whether the general public would be happy for tech companies to use their social media posts to look for signs of depression. The study found that although the public sees the benefit of using algorithms to identify at-risk individuals, privacy concerns still surround the use of this technology.

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Researchers Asked Older Adults About The Strategies They Use For Combatting Loneliness. Here’s What They Said

Seniors hiking through the foerstBy Emily Reynolds

In an ever-more connected world, it would be easy to assume that loneliness was on its way out — after all, we now have unlimited opportunity to communicate with almost anyone we want at any time we please.

But, in fact, it’s still rife: according to the Campaign To End Loneliness, over nine million people in the UK describe themselves as “always or often lonely”. Age has an impact here, too: an Age UK report suggested that the number of over-50s experiencing loneliness will reach two million by 2025 — a 49% increase from 2016.

And with researchers suggesting that loneliness can be seen as a disease that changes the brain’s structure and function, this is a significant public health issue, too. You are more likely to have high blood pressure, depression and even face an early death if you’re lonely, so finding strategies with which to combat the experience is vital.

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Episode 19: Should We Worry About Screen Time?

There's so much to learn onlineThis is Episode 19 of PsychCrunch, the podcast from the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest, sponsored by Routledge Psychology. Download here.

 

Do we worry too much about screen time? The issue of screen use by children and teenagers is rarely out of the headlines, and institutions including the World Health Organization have recommended specific limits on screen time for the youngest age groups. But what does the science actually say about the effects of screen time?

To find out, our presenter Ella Rhodes talks to Dr Amy Orben, Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge and winner of the 2019 BPS award for Outstanding Doctoral Research, who has explored the psychological effects of screen time in her research. 

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The Psychological Impacts Of Poverty, Digested

street of long abandoned and derelict collapsing houses and commercial buildings

By Emma Young

For a “rich” country, by global standards, the UK has an awful lot of people who are not. Fourteen million people — one fifth of the population — live in poverty. Of these, four million are more than 50% below the poverty line, and 1.5 million are classed as destitute, unable to afford even basic life essentials.

For children who grow up in poverty, there are impacts that go way beyond the fact of material shortages. “Children experience poverty as an environment that is damaging to their mental, physical, emotional and spiritual development,” notes UNICEF. Clearly, there’s a critical role for psychological research in this area, first in revealing just what poverty does to children and adults — but also in developing strategies to ameliorate those impacts.

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Digital Therapy For Insomnia Shows How Technology Can Be Harnessed To Improve Sleep And Mental Health

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By guest blogger Jack Barton

Technology and screens are supposedly the enemy of health. They ruin our sleep, mental health and we’re slaves to their constant need for attention. At least that’s what seems to be the consensus in the news. However, the reality is much more two-sided. In fact, a new study demonstrates that our blue light emitting devices can be a force for good — by providing a novel way to deliver mental health interventions.

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Our Golden Years? Research Into The Ups And Downs Of Retirement, Digested

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By Emma Young

If you ever daydream about retirement, what do you picture? Lie-ins, instead of being woken by an alarm? Walks on a beach, in place of the morning commute? More time for beloved hobbies? Or perhaps endless open, solitary days, with nothing much to do…?

Retirement is what psychologists term a “major life transition”. As such, it’s regarded as a stressor that carries risks as well as potential rewards. Now that the number of retirees in many countries is soaring, so too is the number of studies into whether retirement is good for your mental and physical health — or not. This work certainly suggests that it can be, but there are a few warnings lurking in the results, too.

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