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In shaky times, focus on past successes, if overly anxious, depressed

Overly anxious and depressed people’s judgment can improve if they focus on what they get right, instead of what they get wrong.

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Photo by Dan Meyers from Unsplash.com

The more chaotic things get, the harder it is for people with clinical anxiety and/or depression to make sound decisions and to learn from their mistakes. On a positive note, overly anxious and depressed people’s judgment can improve if they focus on what they get right, instead of what they get wrong, suggests a new UC Berkeley study.

The findings, published in the journal eLife, are particularly salient in the face of a COVID-19 surge that demands tactical and agile thinking to avoid illness and even death.

UC Berkeley researchers tested the probabilistic decision-making skills of more than 300 adults, including people with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. In probabilistic decision making, people, often without being aware of it, use the positive or negative results of their previous actions to inform their current decisions.

The researchers found that the study participants whose symptoms intersect with both anxiety and depression — such as worrying a lot, feeling unmotivated or not feeling good about themselves or about the future — had the most trouble adjusting to changes when performing a computerized task that simulated a volatile or rapidly changing environment.

Conversely, emotionally resilient study participants, with few, if any, symptoms of anxiety and depression, learned more quickly to adjust to changing conditions based on the actions they had previously taken to achieve the best available outcomes.

“When everything keeps changing rapidly, and you get a bad outcome from a decision you make, you might fixate on what you did wrong, which is often the case with clinically anxious or depressed people,” said study senior author Sonia Bishop, a professor of neuroscience at UC Berkeley. “Conversely, emotionally resilient people tend to focus on what gave them a good outcome, and in many real-world situations that might be key to learning to make good decisions.”

That doesn’t mean people with clinical anxiety and depression are doomed to a life of bad decisions, Bishop said. For example, individualized treatments, such as cognitive behavior therapy, could improve both decision-making skills and confidence by focusing on past successes, instead of failures, she noted.

The study expands on Bishop’s 2015 study, which found that people with high levels of anxiety made more mistakes when tasked with making decisions during computerized assignments that simulated both stable and rapidly changing environments. Conversely, non-anxious study participants quickly adjusted to the changing patterns in the task.

For this latest study, Bishop and her team looked at whether people with depression would also struggle to make sound decisions in volatile environments and whether this would hold true when challenged with different versions of the task.

“We wanted to see if this weakness was unique to people with anxiety, or if it also presented in people with depression, which often goes hand in hand with anxiety,” Bishop said. “We also sought to find out if the problem was a general one or specific to learning about potential reward or potential threat.

The first experiment involved 86 men and women aged between 18 and 50. The group included people diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, people who showed symptoms of anxiety or depression, but no formal diagnoses of these disorders, and people with neither anxiety nor depression.

In a laboratory setting, study participants played a game on a computer screen in which they repeatedly chose between two shapes — a circle and a square. One shape, if selected, would deliver a mild to moderate electrical shock, and another would deliver a monetary prize. The probability of a shape delivering a reward or a shock was predictable at some points in the task, and volatile in others. Participants with high levels of symptoms common to depression and anxiety had trouble keeping pace with these changes.

In the second experiment, 147 U.S. adults, with varying degrees of anxiety and depression were recruited via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk crowdsourcing marketplace and given the same task remotely. This time, they chose between red and yellow squares on a screen. They still received monetary rewards, but instead of being penalized with electric shocks, they lost money.

The results echoed those of the in-laboratory outcomes. Overall, having symptoms common to both anxiety and depression predicted who would struggle most with making sound decisions in the face of changing circumstances, regardless of whether they were rewarded or punished for getting things right or wrong, compared to their emotionally resilient counterparts.

“We found that people who are emotionally resilient are good at latching on to the best course of action when the world is changing fast,” Bishop said “People with anxiety and depression, on the other hand, are less able to adapt to these changes. Our results suggest they might benefit from cognitive therapies that redirect their attention to positive, rather than negative, outcomes.”

In addition to Bishop, co-authors of the study are Christopher Gagne at UC Berkeley and the Max Planck Institutes in Germany, and Ondrej Zika and Peter Dayan at the Max Planck Institutes.

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What you eat could contribute to your menstrual cramps

Roughly 90% of adolescent girls experience menstrual pain. Most use over-the-counter medicine to manage the pain but with limited positive results. Evidence has highlighted that diets high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in processed foods, oil, and sugar reduce inflammation, a key contributor to menstrual pain.

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Despite the fact that menstrual pain (dysmenorrhea) is the leading cause of school absences for adolescent girls, few girls seek treatment. An analysis of relevant studies suggests that diet may be a key contributor, specifically diets high in meat, oil, sugar, salt, and coffee, which have been shown to cause inflammation.

Roughly 90% of adolescent girls experience menstrual pain. Most use over-the-counter medicine to manage the pain but with limited positive results. Evidence has highlighted that diets high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in processed foods, oil, and sugar reduce inflammation, a key contributor to menstrual pain.

This analysis was designed to study the effect of diet on menstrual pain and identify which foods contribute to it and which can reduce it. Research was conducted through a literature review that found multiple studies that examined dietary patterns that resulted in menstrual pain. In general terms, these studies found that diets high in omega-6 fatty acids promote inflammation and foods high in omega-3 fatty acids reduce it. The muscles in the uterus contract because of prostaglandins, which are active in inflammatory responses. When measuring the Dietary Inflammatory Index, it was found that those on a vegan diet (that excluded animal fat) had the lowest rates of inflammation.

“Researching the effects of diet on menstrual pain started as a search to remedy the pain I personally experienced; I wanted to understand the science behind the association. Learning about different foods that increase and decrease inflammation, which subsequently increase or reduce menstrual pain, revealed that diet is one of the many contributors to health outcomes that is often overlooked. I am hopeful that this research can help those who menstruate reduce the pain they experience and shed light on the importance of holistic treatment options,” says Serah Sannoh, lead author of the poster presentation from Rutgers University.

“Since menstrual pain is a leading cause of school absenteeism for adolescent girls, it’s important to explore options that can minimize the pain. Something like diet modification could be a relatively simple solution that could provide substantial relief for them,” said Dr. Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director.

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Cultivating well-being in today’s evolving digital world

Manulife invites Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz to share lessons amid digitalization at IMMAP DigiCon Valley 2022.

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As Filipinos navigate today’s evolving digital world and adjust to life-changing disruptions brought by the pandemic, Manulife shared key lessons on how to cope with changes and cultivate one’s overall well-being at this year’s DigiCon Valley 2022, the largest gathering of the digital marketing and advertising industry in the country organized by the Internet & Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines (IMMAP).

Headlining Manulife’s segment were Melissa Henson, Chief Marketing Officer of Manulife Philippines and Hidilyn Diaz, Olympic Gold Medalist and one of Manulife’s brand ambassadors, while actor and stand-up comedian Victor Anastacio served as the host.

At the DigiCon’s special segment, Henson and Diaz shared their insights and personal takeaways based on Manulife’s recently released study, “The Modern Filipino Family: Exploring Family Dynamics in the new normal.” The study aimed to understand how Filipino families adapted to the new normal, as hyper-digitalization has impacted relationships, and has been deeply imbued in everyday decisions at home and in family life.

Make time for self-care and mental wellness

Victor Anastacio started the discussion on the challenges Filipinos faced at the height of the pandemic. “Sobrang daming challenges ang kinaharap natin noong nagsimula ang pandemic – physical, emotional and financial challenges. Lahat ito nakaapekto sa ating pamilya, dahil sa maraming hindi pagkakaintindihan.”

These challenges still impact majority of Filipinos today. While people across generations have said that their well-being has improved compared to during the peak of the pandemic, Generation Zs expressed that they are still grappling with negative pandemic effects. Henson shared: “Our study found that 65% of Gen Zs are dealing with digital fatigue, prompting them to seek more offline interactions with friends and family. They also shared that they are sleep-deprived, developed unhealthy eating habits and have increased occurrence of stress, fatigue, and depression. These younger Filipinos may need further guidance on reacquainting themselves in the real world as they have spent most of their time online in the past two years.”

Younger Filipinos may also look to Generation X and millennials for inspiration and ideas on how to deal with stressors. “Gens X and Y have learned to focus on self-care, mental well-being, and personal development, which helped empower them despite the many changes they’ve had to weather,” Henson added. 

Diaz agreed and emphasized that caring for one’s mental health has a tangible impact on one’s physical well-being too. “When I started training for the Tokyo Olympics, I needed to condition my mind that I could win at hindi ako nag-iisa sa pag-abot ng pangarap na ito. Naging malaking part ng aking preparations ang mental training at eventually, ang ‘”ma-manifest” ko na makakuha ng gold medal.”

Learn to seek help when needed

According to Manulife’s study, more Filipinos have also explored various financial products during the pandemic. In the past 12 months, among those surveyed, 25% of Generation X and 33% of Millennials bought insurance products online, while 41% of Generation Z expressed a desire to purchase insurance in the next 12 months. To guide them in their financial journey and make more informed decisions, Henson emphasized the importance of seeking expert advice to help sift through the overwhelming wealth of information available.

“Seeing how more Filipinos are exploring various financial channels to diversify their portfolios is a good sign that they are actively seeking ways to grow their wealth. However, we will need to double down our efforts to provide them expert financial guidance, so they’ll also understand how to balance risk and reward,” Henson said. “Seeking advice from a financial advisor is one way to help Filipinos get a clearer picture of their financial goals and find ways to achieve them while being conscious of their risk appetites to yield better returns.”

To achieve the historic Olympic gold medal, Diaz also underscored the importance of asking for help, by having people around you whom you can rely on for support. “There is a team behind my success. Hindi ko kakayanin ito ng mag-isa. I needed the support of Team HD, Manulife, at ng aking mga kababayan.

Life has no guarantees, but we can get ahead of uncertainty

The pandemic showed how fast things can change, and Filipinos must be ready to keep up with the pace as it can accelerate further. Such mindset and attitude transcend to Filipinos’ heightened desire for protection and security. “The interest in insurance products and life protection increased during the pandemic because Filipinos became hyper aware of the physical and financial impact of falling ill, and the broader impact of other financial challenges. However, this has been a reactive stance. The power of insurance and financial planning is that it helps us prepare for the unexpected before it happens, so we continue to encourage and empower Filipinos to embrace the value of planning ahead and being financially prepared,” said Henson.

To help Filipinos better prepare for uncertainty, Manulife launched a series of flexible and highly customizable financial solutions that can be tailor-fit depending on needs and budget — HealthFlex, which provides protection coverage for critical illnesses, including heart disease, cancer, and stroke; and FutureBoost, which gives additional rewards on top of insurance protection coverage so Filipinos can grow their wealth simultaneously.

As change is inevitable and developments can be beyond our control, Henson noted that it helps to live by an attitude of lifelong learning. “We are all learning creatures. We always find ways to retool ourselves to better cope with the changes in our environment, which is crucial to making us more resilient.”

Diaz added that just as essential is acquiring knowledge on how to plan ahead. “Having a strong foundation sa kung paano mag-plano para ma-achieve ang financial goals ay crucial para sa kinabukasan natin. Mahalaga na maging mas aware ka sa mga financial options available as early as possible para mas maintindihan ang mga kailangang gawin to achieve your goals. Once you decide to grow your investments, you’ll be more consistent with your decisions to make every day better.”

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Pfizer had no idea if mRNA vaccine would prevent COVID-19 transmission

Pfizer, the pharmaceutical company expected to become a $100 billion giant this year thanks to COVID-19 drug and vaccine, has admitted that it actually had no idea if its mRNA vaccine would prevent transmission of the coronavirus when they released the same.

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Pfizer, the pharmaceutical company expected to become a $100 billion giant this year thanks to COVID-19 drug and vaccine, has admitted that it actually had no idea if its mRNA vaccine would prevent transmission of the coronavirus when they released the same.

One of Pfizer’s top executives, the company’s president of international development markets, Janine Small, stated this when she testified before the COVID committee of the European Parliament. Small was there in place of Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla who tested positive for COVID-19 again.

In the exchange that happened in the committee hearing, a Dutch member of the European Parliament asked Small if there is evidence from Pfizer that showed that the vaccine it developed would prevent transmission prior to its wide release in late 2020.

“Was the Pfizer COVID vaccine tested on stopping the transmission of the virus before it entered the market? If not, please say it clearly. If yes, are you willing to share the data with this committee?” the member of parliament specifically asked.

The executive answered: “Regarding the question around, did we know about stopping immunization before it entered the market? No.”

Small added that “we had to really move at the speed of science to really understand what is taking place in the market. And from that point of view, we had to do everything at risk.”

The Dutch politician said that messaging in the past focused on getting vaccinated to one does not spread COVID-19. “If you don’t get vaccinated, you’re anti-social! This is what the Dutch prime minister and health minister told us. You don’t get vaccinated just for yourself, but also for others — you do it for all of society. That’s what they said. Today, this turns out to be complete nonsense.”

The politician said he found the revelations “shocking, even criminal.”

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