Am Jrl of Public Health Highlights: January 2012

Released: 15-Nov-2011 1:00 PM EST
Embargo expired: 17-Nov-2011 4:00 PM EST
Source Newsroom: American Public Health Association (APHA)
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EMBARGOED UNTIL Nov. 17, 2011, 4 PM (ET)

The articles below will be published online Nov. 17, 2011, at 4 p.m. (ET) by the American Journal of Public Health® under “First Look” at http://www.ajph.org/first_look.shmtl, and they are currently scheduled to appear in the January 2012 print issue of the Journal. “First Look” articles have undergone peer review, copyediting and approval by authors but have not yet been printed to paper or posted online by issue. The American Journal of Public Health is published by the American Public Health Association, www.apha.org, and is available at www.ajph.org.

(1) Cyberbullying and school bullying are associated with lower school performance and mental distress among student victims

A high proportion of high school students are victims of cyberbullying and school bullying, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health. These forms of bullying are shown to be negatively associated with school performance as well as mental health.

Researchers used a regional census of high school students to document the prevalence of cyberbullying and school bullying victimization and their associations with psychological distress. In fall 2008, researchers surveyed 20,406 ninth through 12th graders in Boston’s MetroWest region to assess their bullying victimization and psychological distress, including depressive symptoms, self-injury and suicidality. A total of 15.8 percent of students reported cyberbullying, and 25.9 percent reported school bullying in the past 12 months. Reports of cyberbullying were higher among girls than among boys, whereas reports of school bullying were similar by gender. Both cyberbullying and school bullying victimization were higher among non-heterosexually identified youths. Victims of bullying reported lower school performance and school attachment. Victims also reported elevated levels of depressive symptoms and suicide attempts.

The study’s authors concluded, “Our study provides a better understanding of cyberbullying and its relationship to school bullying, which is critical to informing school-based prevention efforts and engaging parents and other community members in combating this significant public health issue.”

[From: "Cyberbullying, School Bullying, and Psychological Distress: A Regional Census of High School Students." Contact: Alison Cohen, Education Development Center (EDC), Newton, Mass., acohen@edc.org.]

(2) Exposure to H1N1 influenced by social determinants, U.S. Hispanic population at greater risk

Social determinants, including the lack of paid sick leave, contributed to greater exposure risk among various racial/ethnic sub-populations in the U.S. during the H1N1 pandemic, reports a newly published study from the American Journal of Public Health.

Researchers assessed the impact of social determinants of potential exposure to H1N1 — unequally distributed by race/ethnicity in the U.S. — on incidence of influenza-like illness during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic by surveying a nationally representative sample of 2,079 U.S. adults in January 2010. The completion rate of the survey was 56 percent. Researchers discovered a higher incidence of influenza-like illness related to workplace policies, such as access to paid sick leave, and structural factors, such as number of children and crowding in the household. Even after controlling for income and education, Hispanic ethnicity was related to a greater risk of influenza-like illness attributable to social determinants.

The study’s authors strongly suggest, based on their results, “Federal mandates for sick leave could have significant health impacts by reducing morbidity from [influenza-like illness], especially in Hispanics.”

[From: “The Impact of Workplace Policies and Other Social Factors on Self-Reported Influenza-Like Illness Incidence During the 2009 H1N1 Pandemic.” Contact: Supriya Kumar, PhD, MPH, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pa., supriya@pitt.edu.]

(3) Economic strain may contribute to depressive symptoms among the working class

A study released today in the American Journal of Public Health found that financial strain, food insufficiency, and symptoms of depression were common among an ethnically diverse sample of nursing homes employees.

Researchers evaluated the association of household-level stressors with depressive symptoms among nursing home employees. Data were gathered from 452 primary and non-primary wage earners in four facilities in 2006 and 2007. Researchers found a 26 percent prevalence of depressive symptoms among the study participants. The nursing home workers reported a high prevalence of food insufficiency, financial strain and multiple reported symptoms of depression. These results suggest that the work, financial and familial circumstances faced by these employees may partly account for their depressive symptoms, researchers stated.

The study’s authors concluded, “Because improvement in care quality at nursing homes is an important public health priority, reducing workers’ depressive symptoms and their associated effects may have positive results for both workers and nursing home residents.”

[From: “Household Food Insufficiency, Financial Strain, Work—Family Spillover, and Depressive Symptoms in the Working Class: The Work, Family, and Health Network Study.” Contact: Cassandra A. Okechukwu, Assistant Professor, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Mass., cokechuk@hsph.harvard.edu].

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