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In brief: Postpartum depression, air pollution, exam stress, and more

An image of a person about to take a pill
danilo.alvesd | Unsplash

News round-up by Conor D'Andrade

First oral treatment for postpartum depression approved by FDA

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted approval for the use of Zurzuvae (zuranolone) as a once-daily oral treatment for postpartum depression.

The drug is set to be launched in the US during the last quarter of 2023 and was developed as part of a collaboration between Sage Therapeutics and Biogen.

Zurzuvae is a neuroactive steroid that operates on the GABA-inhibiting pathway to regulate brain function.

Two randomised placebo-controlled phase III clinical trials have shown that Zurzuvae can reduce symptoms of depression in postpartum women, with somnolence (drowsiness), dizziness, fatigue, and urinary tract infections identified as the most common side effects.

Reducing London air pollution could significantly ease pressure on mental health services

Research conducted by a team at King's College London suggests that reducing air pollution levels could lead to a significant decrease in the number of dementia patients using community mental health services in London.

The study analysed the usage of mental health services by 5,024 individuals with dementia over a nine-year period.

The research revealed that patients residing in areas with higher levels of air pollution were 33% more likely to use such services compared with those in less polluted areas.

The study's authors suggest that reducing pollution in London could potentially lead to a 13% reduction in the use of mental health services by dementia patients.

However, the researchers also acknowledged that as the study is observational it does not establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship between air pollution and mental health service usage.

Research links problematic social media use and depression

A study conducted by researchers from University College London (UCL) suggests that receiving therapy for problematic social media use can be effective in improving the mental wellbeing of individuals with depression.

The research highlights that interventions targeting social media use could be beneficial for adults whose social media engagement has become problematic or negatively affects their mental health.

Problematic use refers to instances where social media preoccupation distracts from primary tasks and neglects responsibilities in other areas of life.

The study analysed 23 research papers spanning from 2004 to 2022 and found that therapy-based interventions, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), were most effective in improving mental wellbeing, with 83% of studies showing positive results.

Improvements were particularly prominent in reducing depression, with 70% of studies demonstrating significant improvements in this aspect.

Lead researcher, Dr Ruth Placket, said:

“Mental health issues are on the rise, as is the number of people who use social media.

"Health and care professionals should be aware that reducing time spent on social media is unlikely to benefit mental wellbeing on its own.

"Instead, taking a more therapy-based approach and reflecting on how and why we are interacting with social media and managing those behaviours could help improve mental health."

Employers failing to meet mental health needs contribute to rising anxiety

A study conducted by Jeremy Lee Associates (JLA) has revealed that UK employers are falling short in meeting the mental health needs of their workers.

The study surveyed staff from 150 companies and found that only 16% felt they received sufficient mental health support at work.

The results identified a significant amount of anxiety towards public speaking which is impacting career progression for many, with 31% avoiding leading team meetings, 39% avoiding leadership roles in meetings, 29% admitting they would pass on promotion to avoid public speaking, and 19% admitting they would avoid asking for a raise due to the same concerns.

Despite the fact employees are calling for improvements as 46% seek greater flexibility in managing workloads and commitments, the results found that 28% of employees believe there is no open culture regarding mental health at their workplace, and 18% of UK employers have not implemented a clear mental health policy and standard practices.

Pupils’ mental health at risk due to exam stress

Children and teenagers are at a heightened risk of experiencing mental health issues during periods of exam-related stress, according to a study by researchers at UCL.

The research involved a review of 52 studies conducted between 1991 and 2022, including students from primary schools, secondary schools, and sixth-form colleges around the world.

In 48 of the studies, there was a link between academic pressure during the school year and the development of anxiety and depressive symptoms in students, with mental health-related hospital admissions being higher during school months and lower during school holidays.

While the study acknowledges strong limitations in its methodology, including inconsistencies in the definition of "academic pressure," it provides valuable insights into the potential impact of academic stress on the mental health of young individuals.

Digital inclusion in mental health and housing backed by Scottish Government

The Scottish Government has allocated £600,000 in funding to support 13 projects under its Digital Inclusion Programme, with a focus on mental health and housing.

The programme aims to enhance digital confidence among individuals, enabling them to access online services.

The funded projects cover a range of initiatives, including providing digital support for young people at risk of homelessness; offering digital inclusion assistance for homeless individuals; setting up digital drop-ins for people with disabilities or long-term health conditions; and supporting marginalised women to improve their digital skills.

The projects aim to address various aspects of digital inclusion and mental health support, with funding ranging from £31,310 to £55,000 per project.

Over a two-year period, the programme aims to assist more than 1,500 people, fostering a better understanding of how to effectively support digital inclusion in mental health and housing.


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