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Mental Health and Biomarkers Andrew Oswald IZA and Warwick.

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Presentation on theme: "Mental Health and Biomarkers Andrew Oswald IZA and Warwick."— Presentation transcript:

1 Mental Health and Biomarkers Andrew Oswald IZA and Warwick

2 Now lets broaden the idea of human well-being (beyond happiness).

3 Well discuss biomarkers

4 Heart rate Systolic blood pressure Diastolic blood pressure C-reactive protein Fibrinogen

5 But lets start with mental health.

6 I will say almost nothing about really serious mental illness.

7 Psychosis occurs in about 1% of the population.

8 Instead we can think of mental ill- health (depression, anxiety, and mental strain).

9 Happiness and life-satisfaction equations typically have similar structures to mental-health equations.

10 A psychological-ill-health measure used a lot in the psychiatry literature is a GHQ score (which stands for General Health Questionnaire).

11 Typical GHQ mental-strain questions Have you: Lost much sleep over worry?

12 Typical GHQ mental-strain questions Have you: Lost much sleep over worry? Felt constantly under strain?

13 Typical GHQ mental-strain questions Have you: Lost much sleep over worry? Felt constantly under strain? Felt you could not overcome your difficulties?

14 Typical GHQ mental-strain questions Have you: Lost much sleep over worry? Felt constantly under strain? Felt you could not overcome your difficulties? Been feeling unhappy and depressed?

15 It was developed as a way to judge who needs psychiatric treatment.

16 The exact 12 questions that make up a GHQ score Have you lost much sleep over worry?; Been able to concentrate on things?; Felt you are playing a useful part in things?; Felt capable of making decisions about things?; Felt constantly under strain?; Felt you could not overcome your difficulties?;

17 Been able to enjoy your normal day-to- day activities; Been able to face up to your problems; Been feeling unhappy and depressed?; Been losing confidence in yourself?; Been thinking of yourself as a worthless person?; Been feeling reasonably happy all things considered?.

18 Each of the 12 questions is scored out of 3.

19 On a 36-point scale Mean of GHQ Standard deviation4.89

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21 You will remember:

22 The pattern of a typical persons happiness through life

23 This holds in various settings

24 For example, we see the same age pattern in mental health among a recent sample of 800,000 UK citizens: [Blanchflower and Oswald, Social Science & Medicine, 2008]

25 The probability of depression by age Males, LFS data set Year of birth Regression coefficient

26 Depression by age among females: LFS data Q2 Year of birth Regression coefficient

27 An important border is between happiness and medicine

28 Is it possible that we could find physiological correlates with human well-being? Perhaps to broaden the standard policy goal of GDP?

29 We are studying mental well-being and physiological data on a random sample of 100,000 English citizens.

30 We are interested in equations for

31 Heart rate Systolic blood pressure Diastolic blood pressure C-reactive protein Fibrinogen

32 Blood pressure = cardiac output X peripheral resistance.cardiac outputperipheral resistance

33 Systolic pressure is the force of blood in the arteries as the heart beats. It is shown as the top number in a blood pressure reading. High blood pressure is 140 and higher for systolic pressure.

34 Diastolic pressure is the force of blood in the arteries as the heart relaxes between beats. It's shown as the bottom number in a blood pressure reading.

35 C-reactive protein (CRP) is a protein found in the blood, the levels of which rise in response to inflammation (i.e. C- reactive protein is an acute-phase protein). It is synthesized in the liver.acute-phase protein

36 Fibrinogen is a protein that plays a key role in blood clotting. Fibrinogen is a sticky, fibrous coagulant in the blood that increases the risk of experiencing one of the leading causes of death and disability - stroke.

37 Why would we care?

38 It is known that heart rate rises under stress.

39 Stress comes in different forms

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51 Nicolas Troubat et al (2009) European Journal of Applied Physiology 20 chess players – international and national-level players. They all played against a computer.

52 The computer standard was deliberately set one level higher.

53 So all the players lost against the computer.

54 What happened? Average heart-rate rose 11 beats a minute On average, players used up 140 calories playing the game Overall, the physiological changes were similar…those … in moderate physical exercise.

55 Question Could physiological measures -- biomarkers -- be used as proxies for well- being?

56 Good time for points or questions?

57 Or maybe in the long run in western society we can blend well- being survey responses with biomarker data.

58 For example Cortisol is produced by the adrenal gland in the zona fasciculata, the second of three layers comprising the outer adrenal cortex. This release is controlled by the hypothalamus, a part of the brain.adrenal glandadrenal cortexhypothalamus

59 Main functions of cortisol in the body increasing blood sugar through glycogenolysis and reduction of glucose uptake into cells. glycogenolysis suppressing the immune system aiding in fat, protein, and carbohydrate metabolism

60 The amount of cortisol present in the blood undergoes diurnal variation; the level peaks in the early morning (approximately 8 am) and reaches its lowest level at about midnight-4 am, or three to five hours after the onset of sleep.diurnal

61 Important work by Andrew Steptoe of UCL: Whitehall II data

62 Salivary cortisol (Steptoe data) 8 samples (08:00 – 22:30) Adjusted for gender, age, occupational grade, smoking, bmi, and GHQ P =.009

63 Heart rate Adjusted for age, occupational grade, concurrent physical activity, smoking, bmi, and GHQ score P =.017 in men Steptoe et al, 2005 PNAS

64 Some of our latest work: Joint with Nicholas Christakis (Harvard) and David Blanchflower (Dartmouth) Statistical links between the heart and income and happiness.

65 Pulse: Average heart rate is about 72 beats per minute.

66 Interesting patterns emerge First, there are well-determined income gradients in (and only in) heart-rate and C-reactive protein equations.

67 Second, heart rate seems to have potential as a proxy measure for mental strain, so might eventually be usable as a measure of negative utility in an economists framework.

68 Third, education has little effect within biomarker equations.

69 Fourth, it is more important to control for diet than has been traditionally recognized in the health-economics literature.

70 Fifth, biomarker variables work powerfully in well-being equations.

71 To clinicians High blood pressure is potentially a sign of mental strain and low well-being

72 But how about high blood pressure as a national measure of well-being?

73 Across nations, hypertension and happiness are inversely correlated (Blanchflower and Oswald, 2008 Journal of Health Economics)

74 Happiness and mental well- being are of interest in themselves.

75 But, more broadly, there seem to be deep links between mind and body.

76 Author(s): Ebrecht M, Hextall J, Kirtley LG, Taylor A, Dyson M, Weinman JEbrecht MHextall JKirtley LGTaylor ADyson MWeinman J PSYCHONEUROENDOCRINOLOGY Volume: 29 Issue: 6 Pages: Published: JUL 2004

77 Every subject received a standard 4mm-punch biopsy, and the healing progress was monitored via high-resolution ultrasound scanning.

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79 Ebrecht et al 2004 The overall results showed a significant negative correlation between speed of wound healing and GHQ scores (r = -.59; p <.01)

80 In other words, happier human beings heal more quickly.

81 A more recent paper

82 Enhanced wound healing after emotional disclosure intervention Weinman, Ebrecht et al BRITISH JOURNAL OF HEALTH PSYCHOLOGY Volume: 13 Pages: Part: Part 1 Published: FEB 2008

83 Participants who wrote about traumatic events had significantly smaller wounds 14 and 21 days after the biopsy compared with those who wrote about time management.

84 Also There is some evidence that happiness seems to make you live longer.

85 The Nuns Study Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2001

86 Positive emotions in early life and longevity: Findings from the nun study. By Danner, Deborah D.; Snowdon, David A.; Friesen, Wallace V. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 80(5), May 2001,

87 Handwritten autobiographies from 180 Catholic nuns, composed when participants were a mean age of 22 years, were scored for emotional content and related to survival during ages 75 to 95.

88 One of the nuns wrote: God started my life off well by bestowing upon me grace of inestimable value… The past year which I spent as a candidate studying at Notre Dame has been a very happy one. Now I look forward with eager joy to receiving the Holy Habit of Our Lady and to a life of union with Love Divine

89 Whilst another nun wrote: I was born on September 26, 1909, the eldest of seven children, five girls and two boys… My candidate year was spent in the motherhouse, teaching chemistry and second year Latin at Notre Dame Institute. With Gods grace, I intend to do my best for our Order, for the spread of religion and for my personal sanctification.

90 After joining the order their lives were almost exactly the same - same food, same work, same routine But not the same life expectancy… Among the less-positive nuns, 65% died before their 85th birthday. Among the happy nuns, 90% were still alive.

91 A strong inverse association was found between positive emotional content in these writings and risk of mortality in late life (p <.001).

92 As the quartile ranking of positive emotion in early life increased, there was a stepwise decrease in risk of mortality resulting in a 2.5-fold difference between the lowest and highest quartiles.

93 Positive emotional content in early-life autobiographies was strongly associated with longevity 6 decades later.

94 An early, famous paper Title: PSYCHOLOGICAL STRESS AND SUSCEPTIBILITY TO THE COMMON COLD Author(s): COHEN S, TYRRELL DAJ, SMITH AP Source: NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE Volume: 325 Issue: 9 Pages: Published: AUG PSYCHOLOGICAL STRESS AND SUSCEPTIBILITY TO THE COMMON COLD

95 Researchers need to understand these mind-body interconnections better.

96 Another interesting issue is how we might match (or validate) well- being data with measures of mental health.

97 Consider the famous U shape in well-being through life. Say a sceptic disbelieved all well- being data and just would not change his or her mind.

98 One route would be to use data that independently confirm the patterns in happiness regression equations.

99 One route would be to use data that independently confirm the patterns in happiness regression equations. Here is an example.

100 Antidepressants Work joint with Blanchflower on antidepressant consumption in Europe.

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102 Proportion of Europeans taking antidepressants (regression-adjusted) through life

103 What about causality?

104 Forthcoming paper by Nick Powdthavee (in the Journal of Human Capital)

105 Nick Powdthavees work on blood pressure and education

106 The drop in hypertension

107 His regression equations

108 Results for males

109 Results for females

110 Some conclusions today

111 #1 Mixed evidence on education gradients in heart biomarker equations.

112 #2 A variable for the consumption of fruit and vegetables works strongly.

113 #3 After we control for fruit and vegetables, income plays a clear role only in heart-rate and C-reactive protein equations...

114 #3 After we control for fruit and vegetables, income plays a clear role only in heart-rate and C-reactive protein equations... and the income gradient looks small.

115 Heart Rate (Page 24 of Blanchflower et al)

116 Could you go back to the Blanchflower et al biomarkers paper (hard copy).


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