Problems of social Violence

Social psychology is the most specific part of social life. Social violence is very much frequent problem nowadays. But with the vast research work of this website you can find the proper knowledge to deal with such problems. This is our official website which can help you to get more information on this problem.

Social violence is a great evil in our daily life. It has a great impact on human psychology and prevents the social and emotional development. Facing such social violence frequently can create mental disorder. As per our research, social violence is increasing among women, children and men also.

Social violence can be differentiate among three types i.e. self directed violence, interpersonal violence and collective violence. Self directed violence is such kind of thing when a obsessed person hurt himself or commit suicide. Interpersonal issues are often creates between two intimate person. Collective violence seems the conflict between two or more group of people.

Effect of social violence

Social violence has various effects on human lives. Mostly it affects the children most. Social violence creates depression and obsession. At the same time it creates rear fear in the mind. Witness violence can leave an evil effect on life. And a victim of this issue may quit the life or face emotional persecution for life long. Beyond death and injury it can create lifetime mental disorder and lack of faith in the human connectivity.

It has some economical effects also. Frequent collective violence can get down the economical growth. It damages the property and waste of time. So, it’s very important the core reason behind these kind of violence. Public awareness should be created to prevent such kind of offence. Social psychology helps the society to create awareness and find the solution in scientific way. So, only by creating awareness can defeat social violence.

Prevention of Social Violence

Preventing social violence is the main concern of social psychology. Our search work can help you how to manage violence. Social violence is an evil and need to abolish it from the root of it.

According to our research as newspsychology behind the every social violence there are several psychological reasons. Social violence causes emotional and social crisis among people. If it can’t be prevented then it will increase gradually and brings social damage. It’s a question that arises in every mind to stop such kind of stuffs. A good structural social culture can be a violence free society.

Many childhood factors can create social violence like neglect, abuse, trauma, abandonment and victim of poverty and so on. If a child is a victim on necessity encounters violence in adult.  Social violence can be prevented by

  • Creating attachment:  first need to make sure that a child gets proper care in childhood what makes him a sensible and caring adult in future. Not only parents have the impact on child but the other family members too.
  • By development of conscience: violence is the resultant of lack of conscience among people. Let them know about the evil of violence. Rescue the victim and fight with poverty in a valid way. Children should be trained well and keep them trauma free.
  • Avoiding Hush Punishment: always paying a harsh punishment can lead a child to violence. Even an adult too need proper warning, counselling and mild punishment to make them feel their wrong attitude. But first proper psychological test is needed if he has any tendency like this.

Being aware and making awareness is the key factor of crime free society. That is why proper knowledge of psychology is needed what makes a person sensible.

For men, is generosity a competition ?

In competitive helping in donations made to online fundraising pages, males respond competitively to donations made by other males, but only when giving to an attractive female fundraiser. Female donors do not compete in this way. These findings suggest a role for sexual selection in explaining conspicuous generosity.

Researchers say that they suspect this tendency is a subconscious part of human psychology that exists because it is (or was) evolutionarily beneficial to us.
"People are really generous and are right, a lot of the time, to say that their motives for giving to charity are altruistic, not self-serving," says Nichola Raihani of UCL (University College London). "This does not, however, preclude these motives from having evolved to benefit the donor in some way."
While the findings make perfect sense from an evolutionary point of view, the researchers say they were still quite surprised at how clear it was from their real-world data that people–and particularly men–engage in "competitive helping." Earlier studies had primarily involved games played in the lab.
In the new study, Raihani and Sarah Smith of the University of Bristol relied on a large, UK-based, online fundraising platform to test a key prediction of the competitive helping hypothesis: that males respond competitively to the generosity bids of other males in the presence of attractive females. On the platform, people host fundraising pages including their personal information–name, photo, charity, and the event they are being sponsored for–and collect donations, mostly from people they know. Donations are made and posted sequentially, along with the name of the donor (unless they've opted for anonymity).
"This creates a potential tournament in which donors may compete by responding to how much others have given," Smith says.
Smith's earlier work showed that existing donations on a page act as a kind of "anchor" for current donors. In other words, seeing a small or a large donation influenced what subsequent donors were willing to contribute. Raihani and Smith wanted to know whether the behavior of donors would also be influenced by the gender and attractiveness of the fundraiser, along with the gender of the previous donor. And, indeed, it most certainly was.
That's not to say that anyone is really making these decisions about giving in a conscious or purposeful way, the researchers say.
"We don't think that males are seeing large donations from other males to attractive female fundraisers, and then thinking 'Yeah, I'll give more than him because she will find me more attractive then.' In fact, I think that is quite unlikely," Raihani says.
"I think it is more likely that humans have an evolved psychology that motivates us to behave in ways that would have been, on average, adaptive in our evolutionary past–and may still be nowadays also."
The findings do suggest ways to improve the success of fundraising campaigns. First of all, fundraisers should smile. The attractiveness ratings of female fundraisers had a lot to do with their facial expression. And it may pay off to seed a campaign with larger donations early.
"Large donations can elicit other large donations, so fundraisers might raise more if they get their most generous friends or family to donate early in the appeal," Raihani says.

Story Source
  1. The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference
  1. Raihani, N. and Smith, S. Competitive Helping in Online Giving. Current Biology, 2015 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.02.042

Social Violence: A great tragedy

Interpersonal violence is endemic in the United States.Based on recent investigations an estimated 23.5% of women and 8% of men are victimized by violence at some point in their lives.Ithas affected health care availability in the sense that physicians need to pay attention to large-scale social forces (racism, gender inequality, classism, etc…) to often determine who falls ill and who will be given access to care. It is more likely for Social violence to occur in areas where biosocial methods are neglected in a country's health care system. There has been growing public awareness through the media, community advocacy groups, and education in the schools to address this family-based problem.

Since violent situations are viewed primarily as biological consequences, it neglects environmentally stimulated problems, such as negative social behaviours or inequality prominence.

 Inextricably tied to social, financial, cultural, racial, and behavioral factors, these conflicts require a multidisciplinary approach by the physician that addresses prevention, detection, intervention, and resolution.

Social violence encompasses a wide variety of circumstances. These include:

  • Rape.
  • Attempted rape.
  • Sexual violence and predatory behaviors.
  • Psychological abuse.
  • Stalking.
  • Physical abuse.
  • Financial abuse.
  • Neglect (of dependent person).
  • Homicide.

Violence need not always be physical in nature. Humiliation, controlling behavior, repeated verbal assaults, isolation, and public harassment can all produce psychological trauma. Emotional violence can coexist with physical violence, or stand alone. Techniques such as withholding money, withholding transportation, and limiting freedom of movement or association are often employed in abusive relationships. Financial abuse most often involves the inappropriate transfer or use of an elder's funds for the caregiver's purposes.

A great tragedy

The discourse of violence would lose much of its power if groups differing on gender, racial, ethnic and economic bases had more complex and realistic views of each other. Genuine dialogue should reduce the tendency to exclude "the other" (Staub, 1990) and justify violence. At the family level it has been demonstrated that genuine exchange can replace the rhetoric of power and domination: Couple relationships as well as parent-child relationships can be restructured on the basis of mutual respect. Family therapists have a singular opportunity to reduce violence, one family at a time.

Finally, the communications media carry special responsibility for the community's discourse on violence. The perception of imminent violence, for example, has come to exist largely through highly-publicized news stories. Fictional portrayals of violent heroes demonstrate unrealistic success in their ventures and rarely suffer negative consequences. Films, music videos, and television programs promote violence by creating a social reality in which violent actions are the norm. Voluntary self-censorship and an effort to build a realistic community view of violence—while difficult to imagine—offer the potential for system-wide change and virtual elimination of violence in America.

Researchers investigate aggression among kindergartners

Not all aggressive children are aggressive for the same reasons, according to Penn State researchers, who found that some kindergartners who are aggressive show low verbal abilities while others are more easily physiologically aroused. The findings suggest that different types of treatments may be needed to help kids with different underlying causes for problem behavior.

"Aggressive responses to being frustrated are a normal part of early childhood, but children are increasingly expected to manage their emotions and control their behavior when they enter school," said Lisa Gatzke-Kopp, assistant professor of human development and family studies. "Kids who don't do this well, who hit their classmates when they are frustrated or cause other types of disturbances in the classroom, are at especially high risk for long-term consequences including delinquency, violence, dropping out of school, abusing substances and even suicide. Research tells us that the earlier we can intervene, the better the chances of getting these children back on track."

Gatzke-Kopp and her colleagues, who include Mark Greenberg, professor of human development and family studies and of psychology, asked each of the kindergarten teachers in all 10 of the elementary schools in Pennsylvania's Harrisburg School District to rate the aggressive behaviors of their students on a six-point scale with items such as "gets in many fights" and "cruelty, bullying or meanness to others." Using these data, the team recruited a group of high-risk children (207 children) and a group of low-risk children (132 children) to undergo a range of neurobiological measures aimed at understanding how aggressive children experience and manage emotions differently than their non-aggressive classmates.

The team assessed all of the children's cognitive and academic skills using standardized tests that identified the children's developmental level of vocabulary, spatial reasoning and memory. In addition, the team asked teachers to provide ratings of each child's behaviors, including their levels of aggression, disobedience and sadness, as well as their social skills and level of self-control in the classroom.

The researchers also assessed the children's brain functioning using a mobile research laboratory they brought to the schools. Within the mobile lab, the team measured the children's heart rate and skin conductance activity during tasks designed to elicit emotional responses, including showing the children short video clips of a cartoon character in a variety of situations depicting fear, sadness, happiness and anger. The researchers wanted to understand how emotional and physical arousal to different types of emotions differed between children who engage in aggressive behavior and children who don't engage in aggressive behavior, as well as how different children who engage in aggressive behavior react.

According to Gatzke-Kopp, the assessments enabled the researchers to understand how cognitive and emotional processing may contribute to the development of aggressive tendencies. Specifically, the team found that 90 percent of the aggressive kids in the study could be characterized as either low in verbal ability or more easily physiologically aroused. The results will appear in the August 2012 issue of Development and Psychopathology.

"What we may be seeing is that there are at least two different routes through which a child may act aggressively," Gatzke-Kopp said. "Because these are very different processes, these children may need different approaches to changing their behavior."

The first group of kids was characterized by lower verbal ability, lower levels of cognitive functioning and fewer executive function skills.

According to Gatzke-Kopp, children need verbal skills to understand the feelings of others and guidance from adults, and to express feelings without hitting. They also need adequate cognitive and executive-function abilities to manipulate information and to think of alternatives to hitting and fighting.

"This group of kids may be functioning at a cognitive level that is more akin to a preschooler than a kindergartner," Gatzke-Kopp said. "They have a harder time extracting what other people are feeling. They don't have a nuanced sense of emotions; everything is either happy or sad to them. So they might not be as good at recognizing how their behavior is making another child feel. They may literally have a hard time 'using their words,' so hitting becomes an easier solution when they are frustrated."

The second group of kids had good verbal and cognitive functioning, but they were more physiologically aroused. They were more emotionally reactive, and tended to have more stressors in their lives.

"These children may be able to tell you that if somebody pushed them on the playground they would go get a teacher, but the push happens and they kind of lose it and it doesn't matter what they should do, they just act on impulse," Greenberg said. "One possibility is that the threshold for managing frustration is quite low for these kids. So what we might consider a minor annoyance to them is a major threat. When they are calm they function very well, but when they lose control of their emotions, they can't control their behavior."

In the future, the team plans to examine how these different types of children respond to an intervention delivered over the second half of kindergarten and the first half of first grade.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health funded this research. Other authors of the paper include Christine Fortunato, postdoctoral fellow, and Michael Coccia, statistical consultant, both in the Penn State Prevention Research Center for the Promotion of Human Development.

The GOP has a feminine face, study finds

At least when it comes to female politicians, perhaps you can judge a book by its cover, suggest two UCLA researchers who looked at facial features and political stances in the U.S. House of Representatives.

"Female politicians with stereotypically feminine facial features are more likely to be Republican than Democrat, and the correlation increases the more conservative the lawmaker's voting record," said lead author Colleen M. Carpinella, a UCLA graduate student in psychology.

The researchers also found the opposite to be true: Female politicians with less stereotypically feminine facial features were more likely to be Democrats, and the more liberal their voting record, the greater the distance the politician's appearance strayed from stereotypical gender norms.

In fact, the relationship is so strong that politically uninformed undergraduates were able to determine the political affiliation of the representatives with an overall accuracy rate that exceeded chance, and the accuracy of those predications increased in direct relation to the lawmaker's proximity to feminine norms.

"I suppose we could call it the 'Michele Bachmann effect,'" said Kerri Johnson, the study's senior author and an assistant professor of communication studies and psychology at UCLA.

The findings are forthcoming online in the peer-reviewed Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

The work was inspired by prior research that has shown that Americans have a better-than-chance ability to determine whether someone is a Democrat or a Republican on the basis of appearance alone. The mechanism behind these judgments, however, is not well understood.

"At least when it comes to female politicians, assessing how much a face reflects gender norms may be one way of guessing political affiliations," said Johnson.

In addition, the findings contribute to a growing body of evidence that suggest that voters may use shortcuts in forming impressions of political candidates.

Carpinella and Johnson focused on the House of Representatives because the body was large enough to yield statistically valid results and its members would not be as easily recognized by study subjects as members of more high-profile political bodies, such as the U.S. Senate.

They started the project by feeding portraits of 434 members of the 111th House of Representatives into a computer modeling program used by researchers in their field. Loaded with a database of hundreds of scans of faces of men and women, the FaceGen Modeler allows researchers to measure how much the details of any one face approach the average for either gender.

The model compared each representative's face to the norm on more than 100 subtle dimensions, including the shape of the jaw, the location of eyebrows, the placement of cheek bones, the shape of eyes, the contour of the forehead, the fullness of the lips and the distance between such features as the bottom of the nose and the top of the lip. Armed with these dimensions, the researchers were able to arrive at an amalgamated score assessing the extent to which the face exhibited characteristics common to men or to women. Theoretical values ranged from -40 (highly male-typed) to +40 (highly female-typed).

"We weren't looking at hairstyle, jewelry or whether a person was wearing make up or not," Carpinella said. "We wanted to get an objective measure of how masculine or feminine a face is, based on a scientifically derived average for male or female appearance."

In addition to party affiliation, the researchers took into account each politician's DW-NOMINATE score, a scale developed by political scientists that uses voting records to determine how conservative or liberal a lawmaker is.

Because the GOP is more frequently associated with policies that uphold traditional sex roles, the researchers expected to find that Republican representatives of both sexes would have more sex-typical faces than their counterparts across the aisle. The theory, however, did not hold for male politicians. In a finding that the researchers do not view as a particularly revealing, the faces of male Republicans, on average, scored as less masculine than the faces of their Democratic counterparts.

"It may be unnecessary for Republican men to exhibit masculinity through their appearance," Carpinella said. "Their policy advocacy and leadership roles may already confer these characteristics on them."

But a telling difference emerged among female politicians. The faces of Republican women rated, on average, twice as sex-typical — or feminine — as those of Democratic women. And among conservative lawmakers of both genders, women were 13 points more feminine on average than men were masculine. Among more liberal politicians, women were five points more feminine than men were masculine.

"The difference is highly pronounced for the conservatives but is less pronounced for the liberals," Johnson said.

Researchers then showed 120 undergraduates photos of the 434 politicians and asked them to guess the lawmaker's political party. When the undergraduates guessed that a politician was Republican, their judgments were 98 percent more likely to be accurate for women with the highest rankings for femininity; the accuracy of their judgments increased the more feminine the politician's face. When the undergraduates guessed that a politician was Democrat, their judgments were 58 percent less likely to be accurate for more feminine-looking women, and the accuracy of their judgments decreased the more feminine the politician's face.

Among Republican representatives whose features ranked as highly feminine were Kay Granger (Texas-District 12), Cathy Rodgers McMorris (Washington-District 5) and Michele Bachmann (Minnesota-District 6).

Among Democratic representatives whose features ranked as less gender-typical were Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (formerly at-large representative for South Dakota), Rosa DeLauro (Connecticut-District 3) and Anna G. Eshoo (California-District 14).

Additional research is required to understand the roots of the GOP's more feminine face when compared with the Democratic Party, but the researchers believe that branding plays a role.

"The Democratic Party is associated with social liberal policies that aim to diminish gender disparities, whereas the Republican Party is associated with socially conservative policy issues that tend to bolster traditional sex roles," Johnson said. "These policy platforms are manifest in each party's image — apparently also in the physical characteristics exhibited by politicians."

Party leadership may play a role in promoting and electing candidates who display physical characteristics that reflect party values, but research is needed to determine whether this is the case and to understand the means being employed, the researchers said.

Whatever their origins, expectations of displays of femininity can be problematic for female professionals because past research has demonstrated that people tend to view women as either competent or feminine — not both.

"We suspect that conservative constituents demand that their politicians be not just competent but also gender-typical, especially among women," Johnson said. "As a result, we think these women may find themselves in a double bind."

The research is part of a burgeoning new field in the social sciences called "social vision," which is dedicated to understanding how others are perceived based on subtle visual cues. The field has implications for prejudice-formation and understanding stereotyping, as well as for generally understanding human experience. Johnson's past research has looked at subtle cues in body type and motion that serve as cues to sexual orientation.

The researchers next plan to look at how the gendered nature of a politician's appearance may relate to the judgments of political competence and to real-world political success once elected to office.

"With the increasing emphasis on television and Internet video as a source of political news, a candidate's physical appearance is an important part of politics, especially political campaigns," Johnson said. "A considerable portion of the electorate may not be well-informed, and they may be making decisions based on subtle cues that need to be revealed and understood."

Journal Reference:

  1. Colleen M. Carpinella, Kerri L. Johnson. Appearance-Based Politics: Sex-Typed Facial Cues Communicate Political Party Affiliation. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 2012; DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2012.08.009

Study points to potential for improvement in the care, quality of life of epilepsy patients

 Routine screening for psychiatric, cognitive and social problems could enhance the quality of care and quality of life for children and adults with epilepsy, according to a study by UC Irvine neurologist Dr. Jack Lin and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Amedeo Avogadro University in Italy.

Physicians who treat those with epilepsy often focus on seizures, Lin said. However, patients show an increased prevalence of psychiatric issues (mood, anxiety or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorders), cognitive disorders (in memory, language or problem solving) and social difficulties (involving employment or personal interactions). The relationship between epilepsy and these complications is complex and poorly understood. Lin said they may present greater problems for a patient if left untreated.

"Screening for psychiatric, cognitive and social comorbidities is essential not only in established cases but also with newly diagnosed epilepsy," Lin said. "By doing so, we can ensure that these issues are treated and that patients have a better quality of life."

He emphasized that screening should also be conducted prior to any new drug treatment.

Problems that occur in conjunction with childhood and adult epilepsy are referred to by doctors as comorbidities, meaning that they have a greater than coincidental chance of appearing alongside each other though there is not necessarily a causal relationship between them.

The study suggests a number of possible factors responsible for these comorbidities, including the characteristics of epilepsy and its medication protocol, underlying brain disorders, and epilepsy-related disruptions of normal neurodevelopment and aging.

While experts have begun to recognize the effects of psychiatric, cognitive and social comorbidities in epilepsy, Lin noted, gaps remain in the early detection, treatment and prevention of these issues.

Journal Reference:

  1. Jack J Lin, Marco Mula, Bruce P Hermann. Uncovering the neurobehavioural comorbidities of epilepsy over the lifespan. The Lancet, 2012; 380 (9848): 1180 DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(12)61455-X

Social bullying prevalent in children's television

A new research study led by an Indiana University professor has found that social bullying is just as prevalent in children's television as depictions of physical aggression.

The study, "Mean on the Screen: Social Aggression in Programs Popular With Children," which appears in the Journal of Communication, found that 92 percent of the top 50 program for children between the ages of 2 and 11 showed characters involved in social aggression.

On average, there were 14 different incidents of social aggression per hour, or once every four minutes.

While physical aggression in television for children has been extensively documented, this is believed to be among the first studies to analyze children's exposure to behaviors such as cruel gossiping and manipulation of friendship.

"Social aggression was more likely to be enacted by an attractive perpetrator, to be featured in a humorous context and neither rewarded or punished," wrote Nicole Martins, assistant professor of telecommunications in the IU College of Arts and Sciences. "In these ways, social aggression on television poses more of a risk for imitation and learning than do portrayals of physical aggression."

Martins, the lead researcher on the study, and Barbara Wilson, professor of communication at the University of Illinois, conducted a content analysis of the 50 most popular children's shows according to Nielsen Media Research from December 2006 to March 2007. In all, 150 television shows were viewed and analyzed.

Careful attention was given to what was portrayed in the cases of social aggression, whether the behavior was rewarded or punished, justified or committed by an attractive perpetrator.

The findings suggest that some of the ways in which social aggression is contextualized make these depictions particularly problematic for young viewers.

"These findings should help parents and educators recognize that there are socially aggressive behaviors on programs children watch," Martins said. "Parents should not assume that a program is OK for their child to watch simply because it does not contain physical violence.

"Parents should be more aware of portrayals that may not be explicitly violent in a physical sense but are nonetheless anti-social in nature," Martins added.

The vast majority of socially aggressive incidents — 78 percent — were verbal: words to hurt the self-esteem or social standing of another character on the program. The most common types of social aggression were insults (52 percent) or name-calling (25 percent). Other common types of negative behavior shown were teasing (10 percent) and sarcasm (9 percent).

Only about 20 percent of all socially aggressive incidents were non-verbal in nature and typically employed a mean face (36 percent) or laughter meant to lower the self-esteem of another character (31 percent). Rolling eyes, finger pointing and simply ignoring the other person also were common.

"We also coded whether social aggression was directly perpetrated at the target — such as making a mean face — or indirectly perpetrated behind the target's back — such as spreading a rumor," the authors wrote. "The vast majority of socially aggressive incidents (86 percent) were enacted directly at the target. Rarely were socially aggressive incidents perpetrated behind the target's back."

While previous research has demonstrated that gossip is one of the most common forms of social aggression in real life, it was rarely seen in children's television shows analyzed for the study. Martins and Wilson concluded that gossip, due to its indirect nature, may have been seen by program producers as being too subtle for advancing a story's plot.

Journal Reference:

  1. Nicole Martins, Barbara J. Wilson. Mean on the Screen: Social Aggression in Programs Popular With Children. Journal of Communication, 2012; DOI: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.2011.01599.x

Overweight teens get mental health boost from even small amounts of exercise

Being obese at any age is commonly associated with a litany of health issues, ranging from diabetes and chronic fatigue to heart complications. Overweight adolescents are also at an increased risk of body dissatisfaction, social alienation and low self esteem, which is why Dr. Gary Goldfield, registered psychologist, clinical researcher at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) Research Institute, and Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, University of Ottawa, set out to discover how exercise might impact these factors in teens, as reported October 1 in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology.

"The first thing I tell teens and parents struggling with their weight in my practice is to throw away the scale," said Dr. Gary Goldfield. "These kids face enough challenges with bullying and peer pressure today! This new study is proof positive that even a modest dose of exercise is prescriptive for a mental health boost."

Thirty adolescents aged 12-17 years old were randomized to twice weekly laboratory-based sessions of stationary cycling to music of their own choice or to an interactive video game of their own choice for a 10-week trial. All exercise was supervised and performed at a light to moderate intensity. The music or interactive video game was used as a form of distraction from any perceived discomfort during the exercise, but participants could stop at their own choice at any time during a 60 minute session. The teens then self-reported on measures of psychosocial functioning which includes: scholastic competence, social competence, athletic competence, body image, and self esteem.

Although few physical differences emerged between the exercise groups over time, the teens did self-report improvements in perceived scholastic competence, social competence, and several markers of body image including appearance esteem and weight esteem. According to Dr. Goldfield [citing related research], exercise induced improvements in body image, perceived social and academic functioning are psychologically empowering and may help buffer against some of the weight-based teasing and discrimination and bias that's often inflicted on obese kids, which can have devastating effects on their emotional well-being.

"We're talking about psychological benefits derived from improved fitness resulting from modest amount of aerobic exercise- not a change in weight or body fat." continued Dr. Goldfield. "If you can improve your physical activity and fitness even minimally, it can help improve your mental health. By teaching kids to focus on healthy active lifestyle behaviours, they are focusing on something they can control."

This study was funded by the Canadian Diabetes Association and the CHEO Research Institute.

Journal Reference:

  1. Gary S. Goldfield, Kristi B. Adamo, Jane Rutherford, and Marisa Murray. The Effects of Aerobic Exercise on Psychosocial Functioning of Adolescents Who Are Overweight or Obese. J. Pediatr. Psychol., September 30, 2012 DOI: 10.1093/jpepsy/jss084

No relief for relief workers: Humanitarian aid work raises risk of depression and anxiety

Humanitarian workers are at significant risk for mental health problems, both in the field and after returning home. The good news is that there are steps that they and their employers can take to mitigate this risk.

These findings, from a new study by scientists at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and collaborators, including Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, are published online in the journal PLOS ONE.

Researchers surveyed 212 international humanitarian workers at 19 NGOs. Prior to deployment, 3.8% reported symptoms of anxiety and 10.4%, symptoms of depression, broadly in line with prevalence of these disorders in the general population. Post-deployment, these rates jumped to 11.8% and 19.5%, respectively. Three to six months later, while there was some improvement in rates of anxiety — they fell to 7.8% — rates of depression were even higher at 20.1%.

Adjusting to home life is often difficult. "It is quite common for people returning from deployment to be overwhelmed by the comforts and choices available, but unable to discuss their feelings with friends and family," says Alastair Ager, PhD, study co-author and Professor of Clinical Population & Family Health at the Mailman School.

Even tuning into one's own family can be a challenge. "I remember one highly capable humanitarian worker struggling because the time she spent with her children simply didn't give the same 'buzz' as leading emergency operations in the field," adds Dr. Ager. "She felt guilty in this, but her nervous system had become 'wired' for emergency settings."

It was continual exposure to a challenging work environment that increased risk for depression, not the experience of particular dangerous or threatening situations. Weak social support and a history of mental illness also raised risks. On the plus side, aid workers who felt highly motivated and autonomous reported less burnout and higher levels of life satisfaction, respectively.

The paper outlines several recommendations for NGOs: (1) screen candidates for a history of mental illness, alert them to the risks associated with humanitarian work, and provide psychological support during and after deployment; (2) provide a supportive work environment, manageable workload, and recognition; and (3) encourage and facilitate social support and peer networks.

The well-being of humanitarian workers can be overshadowed by the needs of the populations they serve. "It has been challenging to get mental health care for workers onto the agendas of agencies employing them — and even onto the radar of workers themselves," says Dr. Ager. "Depression, anxiety and burnout are too often taken as an appropriate response to the experience of widespread global injustice. We want them to know that the work they are doing is valuable and necessary and the situations difficult, but this doesn't mean they need to suffer." The study, he notes, provides "the first robust research evidence to establish the case that good staff care can make a real difference."

Dr. Ager and colleagues are also looking at the experience of those working as humanitarian workers in their own country. Results are due later this year.

Journal Reference:

  1. Barbara Lopes Cardozo, Carol Gotway Crawford, Cynthia Eriksson, Julia Zhu, Miriam Sabin, Alastair Ager, David Foy, Leslie Snider, Willem Scholte, Reinhard Kaiser, Miranda Olff, Bas Rijnen, Winnifred Simon. Psychological Distress, Depression, Anxiety, and Burnout among International Humanitarian Aid Workers: A Longitudinal Study. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (9): e44948 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0044948