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Health Psychology - Vol 36, Iss 1

Health Psychology is a scholarly journal devoted to furthering an understanding of scientific relationships between behavioral principles on the one hand and physical health and illness on the other. The readership has a broad range of backgrounds, intere

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Copyright: Copyright 2017 American Psychological Association

A new era for Health Psychology.


This editorial discusses the new vision and rejuvenation for the journal of Health Psychology. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Behavioral and social sciences at the National Institutes of Health: Methods, measures, and data infrastructures as a scientific priority.


The National Institutes of Health Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) recently released its strategic plan for 2017-2021. This plan focuses on three equally important strategic priorities: 1) improve the synergy of basic and applied behavioral and social sciences research, 2) enhance and promote the research infrastructure, methods, and measures needed to support a more cumulative and integrated approach to behavioral and social sciences research, and 3) facilitate the adoption of behavioral and social sciences research findings in health research and in practice. This commentary focuses on scientific priority two and future directions in measurement science, technology, data infrastructure, behavioral ontologies, and big data methods and analytics that have the potential to transform the behavioral and social sciences into more cumulative, data rich sciences that more efficiently build on prior research. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Effects of dyadic planning on physical activity in couples: A randomized controlled trial.


Objective: Action planning can help translate physical activity intentions into action by linking situational cues with behavioral responses. Dyadic planning extends action planning and refers to target persons forming plans for their own behavior change together with partners. This study investigated whether a dyadic planning intervention could increase physical activity in target persons and their partners, whether these effects were moderated by relationship quality and mediated by action control, activity-specific received partner support, and control. Method: Couples (n = 338; target persons randomized) were randomly assigned to (a) a dyadic planning condition (DPC); (b) an individual planning condition (IPC), in which target persons planned and partners worked on a distractor task; or (c) a control condition (CC), in which couples worked on a distractor task. During 3 assessments up to 6 weeks postintervention, moderate (primary outcome) and vigorous activity were objectively measured; other variables were self-reported. Multilevel and path models were fit. Results: There were no beneficial direct effects of the intervention for DPC target persons. Over time, DPC partners’ vigorous activity increased, but decreased again. At lower relationship quality, DPC target persons’ activity decreased, whereas IPC target persons’ vigorous activity increased. Mediation hypotheses were not supported. Mutual influence models indicated positive effects of partners’ on target persons’ moderate activity in DPC and CC, whereas for IPC, negative effects of target persons’ on partners’ moderate activity emerged. Conclusions: Findings revealed the complexity of effects of dyadic planning on behavior change. Adding relationship quality to the equation clarified effects of DPC and IPC on physical activity. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Happy you, healthy me? Having a happy partner is independently associated with better health in oneself.


Objective: Happy people are healthy people. However, past research has largely overlooked the influence of romantic partners’ happiness on physical health, particularly how a person’s own emotional and physical well-being might also be affected by the happiness and health of their partner. Method: The current study helps fill this gap. In a large nationally representative sample (N = 1,981 couples), a multilevel modeling procedure was employed to explore whether spousal life satisfaction contributes to self-health over and above the contribution of one’s own life satisfaction. Results: First, own happiness predicted better self-health and exercise (r values > .07), consistent with previous studies. Importantly, spousal happiness also uniquely predicted better self-health (r values > .06), above and beyond own happiness and critical covariates. Conclusions: This finding significantly broadens extant assumptions about the link between happiness and health, suggesting novel social mechanisms: simply having a happy partner may enhance health as much as striving to being happy oneself. Candidate pathways that could account for this unique boost are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Marital conflict and nocturnal blood pressure dipping in military couples.


Objective: Our goal was to examine the association between marital conflict and nocturnal blood pressure dipping (NBP) in Iraq/Afghanistan healthy veterans and their partners and to determine whether sleep disturbances mediate such associations. Method: The sample consisted of 25 heterosexual couples comprised of male veterans and their female civilian spouses/partners. Blood pressure was measured across 48 hr, and NBP was calculated as the ratio of sleep/wake mean arterial pressure (MAP). Marital conflict was assessed by questionnaire. Sleep was assessed via in-home polysomnography (PSG). Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis was determined via clinician interview and was included as a covariate in all analyses, along with body mass index, age, gender, and deployment characteristics. Results: Higher marital conflict was associated with higher MAP ratios (β = .74, p < .01), with the effect stronger among women (β = −0.68, p < .05, for gender interaction). Among women only, for each SD increase in marital conflict there was a .82 increase in MAP ratio (p < .01). This association was reduced to nonsignificance after adjustment for PSG-assessed sleep efficiency. Conclusions: Consistent with limited prior work in civilian samples, higher marital conflict in military couples was associated with blunted NBP, particularly among women. These findings highlight the importance of considering the health and well-being of both veterans and their partners in the aftermath of war, as well as the importance of considering nighttime physiological pathways that are relevant to cardiovascular disease risk. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

The impact of stress at different life stages on physical health and the buffering effects of maternal sensitivity.


Objective: Many studies indicate that early life stress leads to negative health outcomes in adulthood, and some suggest that high-quality parenting might buffer these effects. Most prior research, however, has relied on cross-sectional retrospective reports of stress and parenting. Our study tests how coder-rated stress and parenting quality assessed at different life stages predict adult health outcomes in a prospective, longitudinal study. Method: Participants were 163 individuals in the Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Risk and Adaptation studied since birth. Physical health was assessed at age 32 with body mass index, self-reports of symptoms and illnesses experienced, and self-ratings of overall physical health. Stress was assessed by coder-rated interviews involving participants or their mothers at 16 time points partitioned into 5 life stages: early childhood, middle childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, and at age 32 (when health was assessed). Parenting quality was measured by coder ratings of each mother’s provision of sensitive, responsive support at 7 time points between birth and age 13. Results: Early childhood, adolescent, and concurrent stress predicted adult health outcomes at age 32. Early childhood and adolescent stress, and adolescent and concurrent stress, both showed a “dual-risk” pattern, such that experiencing higher stress at both of these life stages predicted the worst health outcomes. Higher maternal sensitivity, however, buffered these deleterious effects. Conclusion: Our prospective data reveal that early childhood and adolescence are important developmental periods during which stress is influential for adult physical health. However, parenting interventions that promote greater sensitivity may help children in high-stress environments avoid negative adult health outcomes. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

“You don’t know until you get there”: The positive and negative “lived” experience of parenting an adult child with 22q11.2 deletion syndrome.


Objectives: 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q11DS), a complex genetic syndrome associated with more than 180 features, presents complex challenges for parents including gaining a diagnosis. This phenomenological study sought the “lived” interpretations of parents supporting an adult child with 22q11DS, a poorly researched area. Method: Interpretative phenomenological analysis informed a detailed and open exploration of parenting a child through to adult life with 22q11DS. Using in-depth semistructured interviews, 8 parents (2 male, 6 female) of adult children with 22q11DS were individually interviewed; providing the data set for transcription and thematic analysis. Results: Losing “I” Finding “self,” overarched 6 subordinate themes that emerged from participants’ articulated descriptions of psychological distress and psychological growth. Distress in parenting a child with 22q11DS was experienced through stigma, loss, grief, and guilt. Progressively, stigma undermined independence, friendships, and instinctual judgement. Ill-informed hierarchical structures experienced as layers of obstruction and lack of awareness of the syndrome triggered angry advocacy for their child. Diagnosis brought opposing relief and grief. In time, they came to value their unique “accomplishments,” collected on their journey with 22q11DS, and in turn, consciously valued authentic “self” expressed through empathy, humility, gratitude, and pride. Conclusion: Parental distress through societal, educational, and health care invalidation persisted for decades for all participants. Conversely, distress facilitated psychological growth for redefining “self” and role as parents over time. Building on this phenomenological cameo, future research can educate against the plight of 22q11DS families. It can enlighten health care professionals in buffering against associated stigma, blame, and self-doubt, and in fostering psychological well-being. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Group singing and health-related quality of life in Parkinson’s disease.


Objective: Parkinson’s disease (PD) has a negative impact on health-related quality of life (HRQoL). Previous studies have shown that participating in group singing activities can improve quality of life in some patient populations (e.g., people with chronic mental health or neurological conditions). The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of group singing on HRQoL for people diagnosed with PD. Method: Eleven participants (mean age 70.6 years) with a formal diagnosis of PD between Hoehn and Yahr Stages I–III were recruited from a community singing group for people with PD, their family and their carers. Participants’ perceptions of the effect of group singing on their quality of life were captured in a semistructured interview. Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), a qualitative methodology, informed data collection and analysis. Results: The IPA analysis revealed 6 categories that characterized the effects of group singing: physical, mood, cognitive functioning, social connectedness, “flow-on” effects, and sense-of-self. All participants reported positive effects across at least 4 of these categories. Three participants reported a negative effect in 1 category (physical, mood, or sense-of-self). Conclusions: The results suggest that group singing improved HRQoL with all participants reporting positive effects regardless of PD stage or symptom severity. Weekly engagement in group singing resulted in multiple benefits for the participants and counteracted some of the negative effects of PD. These findings suggest that group singing “gives back” some of what PD “takes away.” (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Health interest modulates brain reward responses to a perceived low-caloric beverage in females.


Objective: Health labels are omnipresent in the supermarket. Such labels give rise to expectations about the product experience and may change flavor perception and perceived reward value. Consumers vary in their degree of health interest and may be differentially affected by such labels. However, how health interest influences neural reward responses to anticipation and receipt of heath-labeled foods is not known. This study assessed to what extent brain responses induced by anticipation and receipt of a beverage with different levels of perceived caloric content are associated with health interest. Method: Twenty-five females completed an fMRI motivational taste-task in which they were presented with a low-caloric cue or a high-caloric cue and subsequently worked for sips of lemonade by moving a joystick. If they responded correctly and in time, they received the lemonade as a reward. Because of the 2 cue types, participants believed they were receiving 2 different lemonades, a high-caloric (HC-receipt) and a low-caloric (LC-receipt) one. Health interest was assessed with the General health interest subscale of the Health and Taste Attitude Scales. Results: Health interest scores correlated significantly (r = .65) with LC-versus HC-receipt activation in the dorsal striatum (putamen), a region involved in encoding food reward. Conclusion: These findings suggest that the reward value of a healthy product compared to its unhealthy counterpart increases with health interest. This provides more insight into the working mechanism of government campaigns that focus on increasing health interest to encourage the formation of healthy eating habits. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Vagally-mediated heart rate variability and indices of well-being: Results of a nationally representative study.


Objective: High frequency (HF) heart rate variability (HRV) has long been accepted as an index of cardiac vagal control. Recent studies report relationships between HF-HRV and indices of positive and negative affect, personality traits and well-being but these studies generally are based on small and selective samples. Method: These relationships were examined using data from 967 participants in the second Midlife in the U.S. (MIDUS II) study. Participants completed survey questionnaires on well-being and affect. HF-HRV was measured at rest. A hierarchical series of regression analyses examined relationships between these various indices and HF-HRV before and after adjustment for relevant demographic and biomedical factors. Results: Significant inverse relationships were found only between indices of negative affect and HF-HRV. Relationships between indices of psychological and hedonic well-being and positive affect failed to reach significance. Conclusions: These findings raise questions about relationships between cardiac parasympathetic modulation, emotion regulation, and indices of well-being. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Goal-directed visual attention drives health goal priming: An eye-tracking experiment.


Objective: Several lab and field experiments have shown that goal priming interventions can be highly effective in promoting healthy food choices. Less is known, however, about the mechanisms by which goal priming affects food choice. This experiment tested the hypothesis that goal priming affects food choices through changes in visual attention. Specifically, it was hypothesized that priming with the dieting goal steers attention toward goal-relevant, low energy food products, which, in turn, increases the likelihood of choosing these products. Methods: In this eye-tracking experiment, 125 participants chose between high and low energy food products in a realistic online supermarket task while their eye movements were recorded with an eye-tracker. One group was primed with a health and dieting goal, a second group was exposed to a control prime, and a third group was exposed to no prime at all. Results: The health goal prime increased low energy food choices and decreased high energy food choices. Furthermore, the health goal prime resulted in proportionally longer total dwell times on low energy food products, and this effect mediated the goal priming effect on choices. Conclusions: The findings suggest that the effect of priming on consumer choice may originate from an increase in attention for prime-congruent items. This study supports the effectiveness of health goal priming interventions in promoting healthy eating and opens up directions for research on other behavioral interventions that steer attention toward healthy foods. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Positive affect and its association with viral control among women with HIV infection.


Objective: We assessed the relationship between positive affect and viral suppression among women with HIV infection. Method: Three waves of 6-month data were analyzed from 995 women on HIV antiretroviral therapy participating in the Women’s Interagency HIV Study (10/11–3/13). The predictor variable was self-reported positive affect over 2 waves of data collection, and the outcome was suppressed viral load, defined as plasma HIV-1 RNA <200 copies/mL, measured at a third wave. Results: Women with higher positive affect (36%) were more likely to have viral suppression at a subsequent wave (OR 1.92, 95% CI [1.34, 2.74]). Adjusting for covariates and their interactions, including negative affect, Wave 1 viral suppression, adherence, study site, recruitment cohort, substance use, heavy drinking, relationship status, interpersonal difficulties, and demographics, a statistically significant interaction was detected between negative affect, positive affect and viral suppression, t(965) = −2.7, p = .008. The association of positive affect and viral suppression differed at negative affect quartile values. For those reporting no negative affect, the AOR for positive affect and viral suppression was 2.41 (95% CI [1.35, 4.31]); at a negative affect score of 2, the AOR was 1.44 (95% CI [0.87, 2.36]); and at a score of 5.5, the AOR was 0.58 (95% CI [0.24, 1.42]). Conclusion: Our central finding related to the interaction effect, that positive affect is associated with viral control under conditions of lower negative affect, is consistent with previous theory and research with other health outcomes, and can help guide efforts to further delineate mechanisms linking affect and health. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)(image)