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Health Psychology - Vol 36, Iss 5

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Health Psychology Health Psychology is a scholarly journal devoted to furthering an understanding of scientific relationships between behavioral principles on the one hand and physical health and illness on the other. The readership has a broad range of backgrounds, interests, and specializations, often interdisciplinary in nature. The major type of paper being solicited for Health Psychology is the report of empirical research.
Copyright 2017 American Psychological Association
  • Association of posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms with migraine and headache after a natural disaster.
    Objective: Previous research shows that migraine and general headache symptoms increase after traumatic events. Questions remain about whether posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) produces migraine/headache symptoms, or if individuals afflicted by migraine/headache are especially likely to develop PTSD. We test whether PTSD symptoms following a natural disaster are associated with higher odds of reporting frequent headaches/migraines postdisaster. We decompose PTSD into intrusion, avoidance, and hyperarousal symptom clusters to examine which, if any, are uniquely related to headache/migraine postdisaster. Method: We use prospectively collected pre- and postdisaster data to explore whether overall PTSD symptoms and symptom clusters are associated with migraine/headache in a sample of Hurricane Katrina survivors. We account for severity of hurricane exposure and control for baseline migraine and headache problems to reduce the probability that heightened PTSD susceptibility among those who already suffered from the conditions could explain observed associations. Results: PTSD symptoms were associated with higher odds of experiencing frequent headaches or migraines with a standard deviation change in PTSD score corresponding to over twice the odds (95% confidence interval [1.64, 2.68]) of having trouble with frequent headaches or migraines in the post-Katrina period. Each additional point on the intrusion subscale (sample M [SD] = 1.6 [1.1]) was associated with 55% higher odds of reporting frequent headache/migraine (95% confidence interval [1.03, 2.33]), but we found no association with avoidance or hyperarousal symptoms. Conclusions: Clinicians and disaster planners should be aware that disaster survivors might be at heightened risk of migraine/headache episodes, and those experiencing intrusive reminders may be most affected. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Parents’ posttraumatic stress after burns in their school-aged child: A prospective study.
    Objective: This prospective study examined the course and potential predictors of parents’ posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) after burn injury in their child (Age 8 to 18 years). Method: One hundred eleven mothers and 91 fathers, representing 118 children, participated in the study. Within the first month after the burn event and subsequently at 3, 12, and 18 months postburn, both parents completed the Impact of Event Scale (IES). Parental emotions related to the burn event and appraisal of threat to the child’s life were assessed, which were investigated in a multilevel regression model. Results: Within the first month postburn, 48% of the mothers and 26% of the fathers reported clinically significant PTSS (IES ≥26), which decreased to, respectively, 19% and 4% 18 months postburn. Symptoms of intrusion were mainly individually experienced, whereas parents within a couple were more similar in terms of their avoidance symptoms. The perceived life threat and feelings of guilt and anger linked to the burn event were significantly related to parental PTSS, especially in mothers. Conclusions: The results indicate that a burn event to a child has a severe (acute) psychological impact on parents and that clinical levels of PTSS may persist in a subgroup of parents. The findings underline the need to incorporate parent support in burn care, especially for mothers with a strong emotional response during the first months after the burn event. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Pathway from PTSD to respiratory health: Longitudinal evidence from a psychosocial intervention.
    Objective: Respiratory illness and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are common debilitating conditions that frequently co-occur. Observational studies indicate that PTSD, independently of smoking, is a major risk and maintenance factor for lower respiratory symptoms (LRS). The current study experimentally tested this etiologic pathway by investigating whether LRS can be reduced by treating PTSD symptoms. Method: Ninety daily smokers exposed to the World Trade Center (WTC) disaster (mean age 50 years, 28% female; 68% White) completed 8-session group-based weekly comprehensive trauma management and smoking cessation treatment that focused on skills to alleviate PTSD symptoms. LRS, PTSD symptoms, and smoking were assessed weekly. Data was analyzed using multilevel models of within-person associations between LRS, PTSD symptoms, smoking, and treatment dose across 8 weekly sessions with concurrent and lagged outcomes. Results: LRS improved significantly with treatment (reduction of .50 standard deviations). Reduction in PTSD symptoms uniquely predicted improvement in LRS at consecutive sessions 1 week apart and fully accounted for the treatment effect on LRS. The effect of PTSD symptoms was stronger than that of smoking, and the only effect to remain significant when both entered the model. Notably, reduction in LRS did not predict future improvement in PTSD symptoms. Conclusions: The results are in line with the etiologic pathway suggesting that PTSD symptoms are a risk and maintenance factor for chronic LRS and that treatment of PTSD can help to alleviate LRS in trauma-exposed populations. PTSD is emerging as a novel and important treatment target for chronic respiratory problems. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Risky family processes prospectively forecast shorter telomere length mediated through negative emotions.
    Objective: This study was designed to examine prospective associations of risky family environments with subsequent levels of negative emotions and peripheral blood mononuclear cell telomere length (TL), a marker of cellular aging. A second purpose was to determine whether negative emotions mediate the hypothesized link between risky family processes and diminished telomere length. Method: Participants were 293 adolescents (age 17 years at the first assessment) and their primary caregivers. Caregivers provided data on risky family processes when the youths were age 17 years, youths reported their negative emotions at age 18 years, and youths’ TL was assayed from a blood sample at age 22 years. Results: The results revealed that (a) risky family processes forecast heightened negative emotions (β = .316, p <.001) and diminished TL (β = −.199, p = .003) among youths, (b) higher levels of negative emotions forecast shorter TL (β = −.187, p = .012), and (c) negative emotions served as a mediator connecting risky family processes with diminished TL (indirect effect = −0.012, 95% CI [−0.036, −0.002]). Conclusions: These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that risky family processes presage premature cellular aging through effects on negative emotions, with potential implications for lifelong health. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • The interactive effect of parent personality and medication knowledge on adherence in children awaiting solid organ transplantation.
    Objective: The study aimed to examine parent personality factors as predictors of parent medication knowledge and parent-report of child medication adherence. Method: Seventy-eight parents (Mage = 37.68, 87.2% female) of children (Mage = 8.89, range: 0–20 years) undergoing evaluation for a solid organ transplant were recruited. Parents completed questionnaires about their personality, knowledge of their child’s medications, and their child’s level of medication adherence. Results: Greater time since the child’s diagnosis predicted lower levels of medication knowledge, while higher levels of Neuroticism and Extraversion predicted greater levels of medication knowledge. Greater medication knowledge predicted greater levels of medication adherence, with this effect being moderated by conscientiousness. Children of parents with low knowledge and low conscientiousness had the lowest levels of adherence. Conclusions: Parent personality is significantly related to medication knowledge and children’s adherence prior to transplant. As parent personality is theoretically stable, Neuroticism (N), Extraversion (E), and Conscientiousness (C) serve as risk and protective factors that may influence medication knowledge and adherence even after transplantation. Parent medication knowledge and adherence are modifiable factors that would be appropriate targets for intervention during the pretransplant period. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Psychological resources and glucoregulation in Japanese adults: Findings from MIDJA.
    Objective: To examine associations between glucoregulation and 3 categories of psychological resources: hedonic well-being (i.e., life satisfaction, positive affect), eudaimonic well-being (i.e., personal growth, purpose in life, ikigai), and interdependent well-being (i.e., gratitude, peaceful disengagement, adjustment) among Japanese adults. The question is important given increases in rates of type 2 diabetes in Japan in recent years, combined with the fact that most prior studies linking psychological resources to better physical health have utilized Western samples. Method: Data came from the Midlife in Japan Study involving randomly selected participants from the Tokyo metropolitan area, a subsample of whom completed biological data collection (N = 382; 56.0% female; M(SD)age = 55.5(14.0) years). Glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) was the outcome. Models adjusted for age, gender, educational attainment, smoking, alcohol, chronic conditions, body mass index (BMI), use of antidiabetic medication, and negative affect. Results: Purpose in life (β = −.104, p = .021) was associated with lower HbA1c, and peaceful disengagement (β = .129, p = .003) was associated with higher HbA1c in fully adjusted models. Comparable to the effects of BMI, a 1 standard deviation change in well-being was associated with a .1% change in HbA1c. Conclusions: Associations among psychological resources and glucoregulation were mixed. Healthy glucoregulation was evident among Japanese adults with higher levels of purpose in life and lower levels of peaceful disengagement, thereby extending prior research from the United States. The results emphasize the need for considering sociocultural contexts in which psychological resources are experienced in order to understand linkages to physical health. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • The link between discrimination and telomere length in African American adults.
    Objective: Prior work shows that discrimination is associated with a wide array of negative health outcomes. However, the biological mechanisms through which this link occurs require more study. We evaluated the association between discrimination and leukocyte telomere length (LTL; a biological marker of systemic aging). Method: Cross-sectional data were from the Health and Retirement study, a study of people aged 51+ in the United States, and included 595 African American males and females. Multiple regression analyses were used to evaluate whether discrimination was independently associated with LTL. We also considered the role of potential confounders including sociodemographic factors, health factors, depressive symptoms, and stress. Results: High discrimination was associated with shorter LTL after controlling for sociodemographic factors (b = −.034, SE = 0.14, p = .017). This association persisted in analyses that further adjusted for health factors, depressive symptoms, and stress. Conclusion: Results suggest that discrimination experiences accelerate biological aging in older African American males and females, alike. This finding helps advance our understanding of how discrimination generates greater disease vulnerability and premature death in African Americans. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • In risky environments, emotional children have more behavioral problems but lower allostatic load.
    Objective: Developmental models of temperament by environment interactions predict that children’s negative emotionality exacerbates the detrimental effects of risky environments, increasing the risk for pathology. However, negative emotions may have an adaptive function. Accordingly, the present study explores an alternative hypothesis that in the context of high adversity, negative emotionality may be a manifestation of an adaptive coping style and thus be protective against the harmful effects of a stressful environment. Method: Prospective combined effects of negative emotionality and cumulative risk (confluence of multiple risk factors related to poverty) on children’s internalizing and externalizing symptoms and allostatic load, an index of cumulative physiological dysregulation, were assessed in 239 children (46% female, baseline age = 9). Negative emotionality and cumulative risk were assessed at baseline. Internalizing and externalizing behaviors were measured at 4- and 8-year follow-ups. Allostatic load was measured at baseline and both follow-ups using neuroendocrine, cardiovascular, and metabolic parameters. Linear mixed-effect models were used to analyze the prospective associations between negative emotionality, cumulative risk, and the outcomes—allostatic load and internalizing and externalizing behaviors. Results: The combination of high cumulative risk exposure and high negative emotionality was associated with highest levels of internalizing and externalizing behaviors. However, consistent with the alternative hypothesis, negative emotionality reduced the effects of high cumulative risk on allostatic load. Conclusions: In the context of risky environments, negative emotionality may offer some physical health benefits. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Prevalence and alternative explanations influence cancer diagnosis: An experimental study with physicians.
    Objective: Cancer causes death to millions of people worldwide. Early detection of cancer in primary care may enhance patients’ chances of survival. However, physicians often miss early cancers, which tend to present with undifferentiated symptoms. Within a theoretical framework of the hypothesis generation (HyGene) model, together with psychological literature, we studied how 2 factors—cancer prevalence and an alternative explanation for the patient’s symptoms—impede early cancer detection, as well as prompt patient management. Method: Three hundred family physicians diagnosed and managed 2 patient cases, where cancer was a possible diagnosis (one colorectal cancer, the other lung cancer). We employed a 2 (cancer prevalence: low vs. high) × 2 (alternative explanation: present vs. absent) between-subjects design. Cancer prevalence was manipulated by changing either patient age or sex; the alternative explanation for the symptoms was manipulated by adding or removing a relevant clinical history. Each patient consulted twice. Results: In a series of random-intercept logistic models, both higher prevalence (OR = 1.92, 95% confidence interval [CI 1.27, 2.92]) and absence of an alternative explanation (OR = 1.70, 95% CI [1.11, 2.59]) increased the likelihood of a cancer diagnosis, which, in turn, increased the likelihood of prompt referral (OR = 22.84, 95% CI [16.14, 32.32]). Conclusions: These findings confirm the probabilistic nature of the diagnosis generation process and validate the application of the HyGene model to early cancer detection. Increasing the salience of cancer—such as listing cancer as a diagnostic possibility—during the initial hypothesis generation phase may improve early cancer detection. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • A cross-sectional investigation of positive and negative smoker stereotypes and evaluations of cigarette warnings.
    Objective: Although graphic cigarette warnings have important benefits that may aid in motivating smoking quit attempts and discouraging smoking initiation, 1 possible negative consequence might be psychological reactance to graphic warnings. Reactance to warnings might be shaped by stereotypical views of smokers. This research examined the associations of positive and negative smoker stereotypes with perceptions of the educational value of warnings as well as affective and motivational responses to them. Method: Using a cross-sectional design, young adult smokers and nonsmokers (N = 396) completed an online questionnaire assessing positive and negative smoker stereotypes and then evaluated a series of graphic-plus-text and text-only cigarette warnings on perceived new knowledge gained from the warning, understandability of the warning, worry about the consequences of smoking elicited by the warning, and discouragement from smoking elicited by the warning. Results: Negative smoker stereotypes were associated with all warning perceptions—more negative stereotypes were associated with higher levels of perceived new knowledge, perceived understandability, worry, and discouragement from smoking. Positive smoker stereotypes were only associated with more perceived new knowledge. Neither smoking status nor warning type moderated the relationships between smoking stereotypes and warning evaluations. Conclusions: Focusing on enhancing negative smoker portrayals, rather than reducing positive portrayals, may be more effective for antismoking campaigns. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Moderators of the relationship between frequent family demands and inflammation among adolescents.
    Objective: Frequent demands from others in relationships are associated with worse physiological and health outcomes. The present research investigated 2 potential moderators of the relationship between frequency of demands from one’s family and inflammatory profiles among adolescents: (a) closeness of adolescents’ relationships with their families, and (b) the frequency with which adolescents provided help to their families. Method: Two hundred thirty-four adolescents, ages 13–16 (Mage = 14.53; 47.83% male), completed a daily dairy in which they reported on the frequency of demands made by family members. They were also interviewed about the closeness of their family relationships and reported in the daily diary on how frequently they provided help to their families. Adolescents also underwent a blood draw to assess low-grade inflammation and proinflammatory cytokine production in response to bacterial stimulation. Results: More frequent demands from family predicted higher levels of low-grade inflammation and cytokine production in response to bacterial stimulation in adolescents. Family closeness moderated the relationship between frequent demands and stimulated cytokine production such that more frequent demands predicted higher cytokine production among adolescents who were closer to their families. Furthermore, frequency of providing help moderated the relationship between frequent demands and both low-grade inflammation and stimulated cytokine production, such that more frequent demands predicted worse inflammatory profiles among adolescents who provided more help to their families. Conclusions: These findings build on previous work on family demands and health to show under what circumstances family demands might have a physiological cost. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Sleep duration partially accounts for race differences in diurnal cortisol dynamics.
    Objective: Emerging research demonstrates race differences in diurnal cortisol slope, an indicator of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA)-axis functioning associated with morbidity and mortality, with African Americans showing flatter diurnal slopes than their White counterparts. Sleep characteristics are associated with both race and with HPA-axis functioning. The present report examines whether sleep duration may account for race differences in cortisol dynamics. Method: Participants were 424 employed African American and White adults (mean age = 42.8 years, 84.2% White, 53.6% female) with no cardiovascular disease (Adult Health and Behavior Project—Phase 2 [AHAB-II] cohort, University of Pittsburgh). Cortisol slope was calculated using 4 salivary cortisol readings, averaged over each of 4 days. Demographic (age, sex), psychosocial (socioeconomic status [SES], affect, discrimination), and health behaviors (smoking, alcohol use, physical activity) variables were used as covariates, and sleep (self-report and accelerometry) was also assessed. Results: African Americans had flatter slopes than Whites (F(1, 411) = 10.45, B = .02, p = .001) in models adjusting for demographic, psychosocial, and health behavior covariates. Shorter actigraphy-assessed total sleep time was a second significant predictor of flatter cortisol slopes (F(1, 411) = 25.27, B = −.0002, p <.0001). Total sleep time partially accounted for the relationship between race and diurnal slope [confidence interval = .05 (lower = .014, upper .04)]. Conclusions: African Americans have flatter diurnal cortisol slopes than their White counterparts, an effect that may be partially attributable to race differences in nightly sleep duration. Sleep parameters should be considered in further research on race and cortisol. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Loneliness predicts self-reported cold symptoms after a viral challenge.
    Objective: Loneliness is a well-established risk factor for poor physical health. Much less is known about how loneliness affects patient-reported outcomes (PROs), such as somatic symptoms, which are increasingly important for guiding symptom management and assessing quality of patient care. The current study investigates whether (a) loneliness and social isolation predict cold symptoms independent of each other, and (b) whether loneliness is a more robust risk factor than objective social isolation for experiencing cold symptoms. Method: As part of a larger parent study, 213 healthy participants completed the Short Loneliness Scale (LON) and the Social Network Index (SNI) at baseline. They were given nasal drops containing rhinovirus 39 (RV39; i.e., a common cold virus), then quarantined for 5 days during which they reported on subjective cold symptoms in addition to being monitored for objective indicators of infection. Data from 160 of the participants (who were infected with the virus) were used in the present analyses. Results: A hierarchical multiple regression revealed that baseline loneliness predicted self-reported cold symptoms over time (assessed via area under the curve), over and above demographic variables, season of participation, and depressive affect. Interestingly, social network size and diversity did not predict cold symptoms. Conclusions: These findings suggest that the perception of loneliness is more closely linked to self-reported illness symptoms than objectively measured social isolation. Assessing psychosocial factors such as loneliness when treating and evaluating the common cold could contribute to health care practitioners’ understanding of their patients’ experiences with acute illness. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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