Mind Matters: Research nuggets in psychology

Allow me to glean some nuggets of psychological research reported on in the American Psychological Association Monitor (see http://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/05/index.aspx).

The articles include research on belief versus fact; how green buildings help cognitive ability, thereby promoting productivity; and also an editorial on how psychologists are concerned about both the possible loss of funding for scientific research as well as for the Affordable Care Act.

The Environmental Protection Agency states that, on average, ninety percent of our time is spent indoors. Until recently, our indoor atmosphere — at work, at school, at home — and its effect on health have been given short shrift. Researchers, including psychologists, are discovering that the indoor environment may have a profound effect on behavior, performance, and health.

The physical environment includes carbon dioxide levels, humidity, lighting, and color, for example. Thus ventilation, air borne contaminants, lighting and noise levels can make an immense difference in how a person feels, and even thinks. It was found that “workers in green-certified buildings scored 26.4 percent higher on … cognitive tasks than those in non-certified buildings.” Other research showed that what is good for the employees turns out to be good for the employer, with a sizable increase in productivity.

Just as good indoor air promotes health, poor outdoor air does the reverse. In a Women’s Health Initiative memory study, it was found that older women who live in areas where the fine particulate matter in the air exceeds the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standard, women were 81 percent more likely to develop cognitive decline and 92 percent more likely to develop dementia. (The study did not include older men.)

Other research of older Americans found that poorer and less educated seniors were more likely to suffer severe chronic pain than were wealthier, more educated elderly. This finding seems to deserve more study.

From the old to the young: other research briefly noted in the APA Monitor reports how significant learning happens in the first six months of life. It was found in a Dutch study that Korean born infants adopted even before the age of six months retained some knowledge of their birth language!

Let’s end on a partly optimistic research note: a drop in teen suicide was found in states that legalized same sex marriage over the past 15 years, as compared to no change in the states that did not pass same sex marriage laws. The research, published in JAMA Pediatrics, was an analysis of data collected from more than 700,000 teens in 47 states over a fifteen year span, as part of the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System Survey.

Perhaps what all the research drives home is that we are social beings and our indoor and outdoor environments matter; our milieu and our laws matter and have a deep influence on our mental and physical well-being.

* Kayta Curzie Gajdos holds a doctorate in counseling psychology and is in private practice in Belmont, Massachusetts. She welcomes comments at MindMatters@DrGajdos.com or 610-388-2888. Past columns are posted to www.drgajdos.com. See book.quietwisdom-loudtimes.com for information about her book, “Quiet Wisdom in Loud Times: The Rise of the Wounded Feminine.”

** The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ownership or management of Chadds Ford Live. We welcome opposing viewpoints. Readers may comment in the comments section or they may submit a Letter to the Editor to editor@chaddsfordlive.com

 

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About Kayta Gajdos

Dr. Kathleen Curzie Gajdos ("Kayta") is a licensed psychologist (Pennsylvania and Delaware) who has worked with individuals, couples, and families with a spectrum of problems. She has experience and training in the fields of alcohol and drug addictions, hypnosis, family therapy, Jungian theory, Gestalt therapy, EMDR, and bereavement. Dr. Gajdos developed a private practice in the Pittsburgh area, and was affiliated with the Family Therapy Institute of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, having written numerous articles for the Family Therapy Newsletter there. She has published in the American Psychological Association Bulletin, the Family Psychologist, and in the Swedenborgian publications, Chrysalis and The Messenger. Dr. Gajdos has taught at the college level, most recently for West Chester University and Wilmington College, and has served as field faculty for Vermont College of Norwich University the Union Institute's Center for Distance Learning, Cincinnati, Ohio. She has also served as consulting psychologist to the Irene Stacy Community MH/MR Center in Western Pennsylvania where she supervised psychologists in training. Currently active in disaster relief, Dr. Gajdos serves with the American Red Cross and participated in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts as a member of teams from the Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.Now living in Chadds Ford, in the Brandywine Valley of eastern Pennsylvania, Dr. Gajdos combines her private practice working with individuals, couples and families, with leading workshops on such topics as grief and healing, the impact of multigenerational grief and trauma shame, the shadow and self, Women Who Run with the Wolves, motherless daughters, and mediation and relaxation. Each year at Temenos Retreat Center in West Chester, PA she leads a griefs of birthing ritual for those who have suffered losses of procreation (abortions, miscarriages, infertility, etc.); she also holds yearly A Day of Re-Collection at Temenos.Dr. Gajdos holds Master's degrees in both philosophy and clinical psychology and received her Ph.D. in counseling at the University of Pittsburgh. Among her professional affiliations, she includes having been a founding member and board member of the C.G. Jung Educational Center of Pittsburgh, as well as being listed in Who's Who of American Women. Currently, she is a member of the American Psychological Association, The Pennsylvania Psychological Association, the Delaware Psychological Association, the American Family Therapy Academy, The Association for Death Education and Counseling, and the Delaware County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Board. Woven into her professional career are Dr. Gajdos' pursuits of dancing, singing, and writing poetry.

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