Thursday, December 15, 2011

More Smoking and Depression

Smoking isn't something that comes to mind for most people as an important risk factor for depression. However, studies have shown that smoking increases the risk of depression, and that is aggravates the course of depression. Although smokers often develop the impression that smoking is improving the mental well-being, in the longer term it seems to make things much worse.

See comments in this blog.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Smoking and Depression

Dr. Ian Colman at the University of Ottawa has carried out a sophisticated analysis of predictors of a negative course using data collected in a longitudinal Canadian study. The intention was to identify indicators of negative outcome, as determined by subsequent recurrences of depression. Not surprisingly, past episodes were predictive of future ones and a psychological construct "mastery" was also predictive, however, a very strong association was found between smoking and negative course. This adds to mounting evidence linking smoking to depression. In the past there has been a tendency, for some reason, to treat the association between depression and smoking as an epiphenomenon, perhaps reflecting shared genetic vulnerability. But, this study adds weight to the idea that depression and smoking are a bad mix. Contrary to the beliefs of some smokers, who feel that smoking makes them feel better, smoking may be contributing to deterioration in mental health over the longer term. A copy of the paper may be found here.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Depression and Chronic Illness

The association between depression and chronic illness and depression persists across the lifetime - the strongest connection is with painful conditions. A graduate student at the University of Calgary has examined this issue in elderly persons, the age category where chronic conditions are most common. Her results indicated that these associations are strong and important in elderly members of the general population - here is a media summary of her report.


Depression dramatically increases the risk of suicide, although many suicides occur in non-depressed persons. Schizophrenia and substance-use disorders are also associated with dramatically elevated risk. Canadians were recently reminded of these realities with the suicide of a professional hockey player that had long struggled with depression. Toronto Star link here.

Mental Health Commission - Opening Minds

One of the things that creates a barrier between depressed people and treatment is stigma. Reducing stigma is one of the priorities of the Mental Health Commission of Canada. They have a lot of information about this issue on their website, which can be accessed here.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Vancouver Riots

After the last Vancouver riot, we did a project looking at the applicability of an epidemic model to explain these superficially unexplainable outbursts. While it has become routine to blame criminal elements or political operatives, it is also true that crowd violence may have a contagious aspect. Many of the principles of crowd control can be understood in ways that fit with this "behavioral contagion" idea: e.g. separating (quarantine) trouble-makers, influencing factors that may affect the predilection or spread of violence (alcohol), one factor that stems largely from the epidemic model is the idea of an epidemic threshold - which implies that the size of a crowd will be an important predictor of a riot. This is perhaps a mathematical reality rather than an intuitively obvious one, such that it tends to be ignored to a greater extent than other factors. The abstract for this paper is here and here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Frontiers: Perspective -Towards an anti-inflammatory strategy for depression.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that links exist between inflammation and depression.
This may explain some of the epidemiological linkages between inflammatory conditions and depressive disorders.
An intriguing possibility is that this may also open up new avenues of treatment, see link.

Frontiers: Perspective -Towards an anti-inflammatory strategy for depression.

Friday, February 25, 2011

MDD During a Time of Economic Hardship

My colleague at the University of Calgary, Dr. Jian Li Wang, is the lead investigator on a large prospective cohort study (a study that follows a large group of respondents forward in time). The main goal of this study is to evaluate the workplace and their role in mental health. However, his study happened to be ongoing at the time when the current economic crisis hit. In his cohort, the prevalence of major depression increased from 5.1% to 7.6%, a significant change. The prevalence of dysthymic disorder (chronic, low grade depression) also increased significantly. This is one of the first studies to demonstrate the sensitivity of this condition to environmental conditions, in this case socio-economic conditions.

A link to the abstract for the paper may be found

Full text of the paper here.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Predictors of the Long Term Course of Major Depression

In Canada (as in other countries), approximately 20% of those developing an episode of MDE have a decidedly negative course. In a recent study, we examined what factors may help to predict, or determine, a more favourable from a less favourable long-term outcome. The most important predictors of a negative course were: having a family history of depression, having a comorbid condition along with the depressive episode, having a more negative cognitive style, stress, smoking and pain. In some cases, these may be factors that both result from depression and which make the depression worse - in other words, dynamic factors that may contribute to depression becoming entrenched. In other cases, e.g. having a family history, these may simply be factors that identify a greater vulnerability to depression.