Archive for category Study Participants
Current and former soldiers who seek treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) should be screened closely for major depression since the disorder is the single strongest driver of suicidal thinking, say authors of a new Canadian study.
Researchers evaluated 250 active duty Canadian Forces, RCMP members and veterans. The study comes at a time when record numbers of suicides are being reported among American troops returning from Afghanistan and Iraq, and the number of suicides reported among Canadian forces last year reached its highest point since 1995.
In veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, about half also have symptoms of major depressive disorder during their lifetime, said the researchers.
But “the task of predicting which people may be at an increased risk of completing suicide is a complex and challenging care issue,” they said.
The study included 193 Canadian Forces vets, 55 active troops and two RCMP members referred to the Parkwood Hospital Operational Stress Injury Clinic in London, Ontario.
Soldiers and vets were screened for PTSD, major depression, anxiety disorders and alcohol abuse. The depression questionnaire also included questions about suicidal thinking.
Study participants served an average of 15 years and had been deployed an average of three times. About one-fourth had been deployed to Afghanistan at least once. Ninety-two per cent were men.
Most met the criteria for “probable” PTSD, and almost three-fourths screened positive for probable major depression.
Overall, about one-fourth — 23 percent — said that they had experienced thoughts of self-harm, or that they would be better off dead, for several days over the prior two weeks.
Another 17 percent said they had those thoughts more than half of the days in the past two weeks; six percent reported feeling this way almost every day for the previous two weeks.
As found in other studies, the researchers showed that PTSD is linked to suicidal thoughts. But “what became the biggest predictor was, specifically, depression severity,” said Dr. Don Richardson, a consultant psychiatrist at the Operational Stress Injury Clinic and an adjunct professor in the department of psychiatry at Western University in London.
“It really stresses the importance that when you’re assessing someone for PTSD it’s also critical that you assess specifically for major depression,” Richardson said. “From our limited study, it was depression severity that was the most significant predictor of having suicidal ideation.”
The concern is that soldiers seeking treatment for military-related trauma might not receive aggressive therapy for depression. Instead, the focus might be more focused on PTSD and exposure therapy.
“There’s potentially a lot of people out there who are suffering who might not be aware that there are effective treatments, and that there are clinics available across Canada that specialize in military trauma,” said Richardson.
Most have heard the warnings that multi-tasking is inefficient, ineffective and may be dangerous, then go ahead and do it anyway.
A new study qualifies the general disclaimers that some types of multi-tasking are more dangerous than others.
For example, trying to do two visual tasks at once hurt performance in both tasks significantly more than combining a visual and an audio task, the research found.
Researchers also discovered that people who tried to do two visual tasks at the same time rated their performance as better than did those who combined a visual and an audio task — even though their actual performance was worse.
“Many people have this overconfidence in how well they can multitask, and our study shows that this particularly is the case when they combine two visual tasks,” said Zheng Wang, lead author of the study.
“People’s perception about how well they’re doing doesn’t match up with how they actually perform.”
The study appears in a recent issue of the journal Computers in Human Behavior.
Researchers used eye-tracking technology to show that people’s gaze moved around much more when they had two visual tasks compared to a visual and an audio task. Additionally, they spent much less time fixated on any one task.
That suggests distracted visual attention, Wang said.
In the study, participants who were performing two visual tasks were asked to complete a pattern-matching puzzle on a computer screen while giving walking directions to another person using instant messaging (IM) software.
Those who combined a visual and an audio task tried to complete the same pattern-matching task on the screen while giving voice directions using audio chat.
The two multitasking scenarios used in this study can be compared to those drivers may face, Wang said.
People who try to text while they are driving are combining two mostly visual tasks, she said. People who talk on a phone while driving are combining a visual and an audio task.
“They’re both dangerous, but as both our behavioral performance data and eyetracking data suggest, texting is more dangerous to do while driving than talking on a phone, which is not a surprise,” Wang said.
“But what is surprising is that our results also suggest that people may perceive that texting is not more dangerous – they may think they can do a good job at two visual tasks at one time.”
In the study 32 college students sat at computer screens and were asked to complete a matching task in which they saw two grids on the screen, each with nine cells containing random letters or numbers.
They had to determine, as quickly as possible, whether the two grids were a “match” or “mismatch” by clicking a button on the screen. They were told to complete as many trials as possible within two minutes.
After testing the participants on the matching task with no distractions, the researchers had the students repeat the matching task while giving walking directions to a fellow college student, “Jennifer,” who they were told needed to get to an important job interview.
Participants had to help “Jennifer” get to her interview within six minutes. In fact, “Jennifer” was a trained confederate experimenter. She has been trained to interact with participants in a realistic but scripted way to ensure the direction task was kept as similar as possible across all participants.
For this part of the task, half of the participants used instant messaging software (Google Chat) to type directions while the other half used voice chat (Google Talk with headphones and an attached microphone) to help “Jennifer” reach her destination.
Results showed that multitasking, of any kind, seriously hurt performance.
Researchers found that in the group that gave audio directions performance in visual pattern-matching dropped by 30 percent drop in visual pattern-matching performance.
Participants who used instant messaging did even worse — they had a 50 percent drop in pattern-matching performance.
Interestingly, although those who gave audio directions completed more steps in the directions task than did those who used IM, when asked to rate themselves, those that gave IM gave themselves higher ratings that those who used audio chat.
“They’re both dangerous, but as both our behavioral performance data and eyetracking data suggest, texting is more dangerous to do while driving than talking on a phone.”
“It may be that those using IM felt more in control because they could respond when they wanted without being hurried by a voice in their ears,” Wang said.
“Also, processing several streams of information in the visual channel may give people the illusion of efficiency. They may perceive visual tasks as relatively effortless, which may explain the tendency to combine tasks like driving and texting.”
Eye-tracking results from the study showed that people paid much less attention to the matching task when they were multitasking, Wang said. As expected, the results were worse for those who used IM than for those who used voice chat.
Overall, the percentage of eye fixations on the matching-task grids declined from 76 percent when that was the participants’ only task to 33 percent during multitasking.
Fixations on the grid task decreased by 53 percent for those using IM and a comparatively better 35 percent for those who used voice chat.
“When people are using IM, their visual attention is split much more than when they use voice chat,” she said.
These results suggest we need to teach media and multitasking literacy to young people before they start driving, Wang said.
“Our results suggest many people may believe they can effectively text and drive at the same time, and we need to make sure young people know that is not true.”
In addition, the findings show that technology companies need to be aware of how people respond to multitasking when they are designing products.
For example, these results suggest GPS voice guidance should be preferred over image guidance because people are more effective when they combine visual with aural tasks compared to two visual tasks.
“We need to design media environments that emphasize processing efficiency and activity safety. We can take advantage of the fact that we do better when we can use visual and audio components rather than two visual components,” Wang said.
Source: Ohio State University