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An increasing importance is being placed on mental health and wellbeing at individual and population levels. While there are several interventions that have been proposed to improve wellbeing, more evidence is needed to understand which aspects of wellbeing are most influential. This study aimed to identify key items that signal improvement of mental health and wellbeing.
Using network analysis, we identified the most central items in the graph network estimated from the well-established Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale (WEMWBS). Results were compared across four major UK cohorts comprising a total of 47,578 individuals: the Neuroscience in Psychiatry Network, the Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey, the Northern Ireland Health Survey, and the National Child Development Study.
Regardless of gender, the three items most central in the network were related to positive self-perception and mood: ‘I have been feeling good about myself’; ‘I have been feeling confident’; and ‘I have been feeling cheerful’. Results were consistent across all four cohorts.
Positive self-perception and positive mood are central to psychological wellbeing. Psychotherapeutic and public mental health interventions might best promote psychological wellbeing by prioritising the improvement of self-esteem, self-confidence and cheerfulness. However, empirical testing of interventions using these key targets is needed.
To identify developmental sub-groups of depressive symptoms during the second decade of life, a critical period of brain development, using data from a prospective birth cohort. To test whether childhood intelligence and inflammatory markers are associated with subsequent persistent depressive symptoms.
IQ, a proxy for neurodevelopment, was measured at age 8 years. Interleukin 6 (IL-6) and C-reactive protein, typical inflammatory markers, were measured at age 9 years. Depressive symptoms were measured six times between 10 and 19 years using the short mood and feelings questionnaire (SMFQ), which were coded as binary variable and then used in latent class analysis to identify developmental sub-groups of depressive symptoms.
Longitudinal SMFQ data from 9156 participants yielded three distinct population sub-groups of depressive symptoms: no symptoms (81.2%); adolescent-onset symptoms (13.2%); persistent symptoms (5.6%). Lower IQ and higher IL-6 levels in childhood were independently associated with subsequent persistent depressive symptoms in a linear, dose–response fashion, but not with adolescent-onset symptoms. Compared with the group with no symptoms the adjusted odds ratio for persistent depressive symptoms per s.d. increase in IQ was 0.80 (95% CI, 0.68–0.95); that for IL-6 was 1.20 (95% CI, 1.03–1.39). Evidence for an association with IL-6 remained after controlling for initial severity of depressive symptoms at 10 years. There was no evidence that IL-6 moderated or mediated the IQ-persistent depressive symptom relationship.
The results indicate potentially important roles for two distinct biological processes, neurodevelopment and inflammation, in the aetiology of persistent depressive symptoms in young people.
The concepts of impulsivity and compulsivity are commonly used in psychiatry. Little is known about whether different manifest measures of impulsivity and compulsivity (behavior, personality, and cognition) map onto underlying latent traits; and if so, their inter-relationship.
A total of 576 adults were recruited using media advertisements. Psychopathological, personality, and cognitive measures of impulsivity and compulsivity were completed. Confirmatory factor analysis was used to identify the optimal model.
The data were best explained by a two-factor model, corresponding to latent traits of impulsivity and compulsivity, respectively, which were positively correlated with each other. This model was statistically superior to the alternative models of their being one underlying factor (‘disinhibition’) or two anticorrelated factors. Higher scores on the impulsive and compulsive latent factors were each significantly associated with worse quality of life (both p < 0.0001).
This study supports the existence of latent functionally impairing dimensional forms of impulsivity and compulsivity, which are positively correlated. Future work should examine the neurobiological and neurochemical underpinnings of these latent traits; and explore whether they can be used as candidate treatment targets. The findings have implications for diagnostic classification systems, suggesting that combining categorical and dimensional approaches may be valuable and clinically relevant.
Psychotic phenomena are common in the general population but are excluded from diagnostic criteria for mild to moderate depression and anxiety despite their co-occurrence and shared risk factors. We used item response theory modelling to examine whether the co-occurrence of depressive, anxiety and psychotic phenomena is best explained by: (1) a single underlying factor; (2) two separate, uncorrelated factors; (3) two separate yet linked factors; or (4) two separate domains along with an underlying ‘common mental distress’ (CMD) factor. We defined where, along any latent continuum, the psychopathological items contributed most information.
We performed a secondary analysis of cross-sectional, item-level information from measures of depression, anxiety and psychotic experiences in 6617 participants aged 13 years from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) birth cohort and 977 participants aged 18 years from the ROOTS schools-based sample. We replicated results from one sample in the other and validated the latent factors against an earlier parental measure of mental state.
In both cohorts depression, anxiety and psychotic items were best represented as a bi-factor model with a single, unitary CMD factor on which psychotic items conveyed information about the more severe end (model 4); residual variation remained for psychotic items. The CMD factor was significantly associated with the prior parental measure.
Psychotic phenomena co-occur with depression and anxiety in teenagers and may be a marker of severity in a single, unitary dimension of CMD. Psychotic phenomena should be routinely included in epidemiological assessments of psychiatric morbidity, otherwise the most severe symptomatology remains unmeasured.
Schizophrenia has a neurodevelopmental component to its origin, and may share overlapping pathogenic mechanisms with childhood neurodevelopmental disorders (NDs). Nevertheless, longitudinal studies of psychotic outcomes among individuals with NDs are limited. We report a population-based prospective study of six common childhood NDs, subsequent neurocognitive performance and the risk of psychotic experiences (PEs) in early adolescence.
PEs were assessed by semi-structured interviews at age 13 years. IQ and working memory were measured between ages 9 and 11 years. The presence of six NDs (autism spectrum, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dysgraphia, dysorthographia, dyscalculia) was determined from parent-completed questionnaires at age 9 years. Linear regression calculated the mean difference in cognitive scores between children with and without NDs. Associations between NDs and PEs were expressed as odds ratios (ORs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs); effects of cognitive deficits were examined. Potential confounders included age, gender, father's social class, ethnicity and maternal education.
Out of 8220 children, 487 (5.9%) were reported to have NDs at age 9 years. Children with, compared with those without, NDs performed worse on all cognitive measures; the adjusted mean difference in total IQ was 6.84 (95% CI 5.00–8.69). The association between total IQ and NDs was linear (p < 0.0001). The risk of PEs was higher in those with, compared with those without, NDs; the adjusted OR for definite PEs was 1.76 (95% CI 1.11–2.79). IQ (but not working memory) deficit partly explained this association.
Higher risk of PEs in early adolescence among individuals with childhood ND is consistent with the neurodevelopmental hypothesis of schizophrenia.
An argument often used to support the view that psychotic experiences (PEs) in general population samples are a valid phenotype for studying the aetiology of schizophrenia is that risk factors for schizophrenia show similar patterns of association with PEs. However, PEs often co-occur with depression, and no study has explicitly tested whether risk factors for schizophrenia are shared between PEs and depression, or are psychopathology specific, while jointly modelling both outcomes.
We used data from 7030 subjects from a birth cohort study. Depression and PEs at age 18 years were assessed using self-report questionnaires and semi-structured interviews. We compared the extent to which risk factors for schizophrenia across sociodemographic, familial, neurodevelopmental, stress–adversity, emotional–behavioural and substance use domains showed different associations with PEs and depression within bivariate models that allowed for their correlation.
Most of the exposures examined were associated, to a similar degree, with an increased risk of both outcomes. However, whereas female sex and family history of depression showed some discrimination as potential risk factors for depression and PEs, with stronger associations in the former, markers of abnormal neurodevelopment showed stronger associations with PEs.
The argument that PEs are valid markers for studying the aetiology of schizophrenia, made simply on the basis that they share risk factors in common, is not well supported. PEs seem to be a weak index of genetic and environmental risk for schizophrenia; however, studies disentangling aetiological pathways to PEs from those impacting upon co-morbid psychopathology might provide important insights into the aetiology of psychotic disorders.
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