First Watch

Postpartum Depressive Symptoms Linked to Stress, Abuse

Symptoms of postpartum depression are strongly associated with abuse or other stress, a 17-state U.S. survey reported in MMWR finds.

During 2004–2005, nearly 52,000 women who had delivered a live infant in the preceding 2 to 6 months answered questions about their mood and their pleasure in activities. Among the participating states, Maine had the lowest level of self-reported depressive symptoms (12%) and New Mexico had the highest (20%).

Younger, less educated women and those receiving Medicaid were most likely to report symptoms. Risk factors also significantly associated with symptoms included:

  • physical abuse before or during pregnancy;
  • partner-related stress during pregnancy;
  • traumatic or financial stress during pregnancy;
  • using tobacco in the last 3 months of pregnancy.

An editorial note recommends screening women either at their postpartum visit or during well-child visits and conducting a diagnostic interview with those reporting depressive symptoms.

MMWR article (Free)

Just 20 Minutes of Physical Activity per Week Improves Mental Health

Being physically active just once a week for 20 minutes is enough to boost mental health, according to a cross-sectional study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Researchers surveyed nearly 20,000 Scottish adults to determine their level of psychological distress and self-reported frequency of physical activity, including sports, walking, and domestic activity (e.g., heavy housework and gardening).

In adjusted analyses, at least one 20-minute session a week of any type of activity was associated with lower risk for psychological distress. For sports and all activity types combined, risk reductions increased as the frequency of activity increased.

British Journal of Sports Medicine homepage (Free abstract; full text requires subscription)

Pro-Suicide Information Abounds on Internet

An internet search on suicide is almost as likely to retrieve a pro-suicide site as a prevention page, BMJ reports.

U.K. researchers used popular search engines to look up 12 relevant terms, including “suicide” and “how to kill yourself.” They then analyzed the top 10 hits for each search, yielding a total of 480 hits. Among the findings:

  • Although 13% of hits were for sites dedicated to suicide prevention, 9% promoted suicide.
  • The three most frequently retrieved sites were pro-suicide; these sites, as well as Wikipedia (the fourth most frequent), provided detailed information about methods, including speed, certainty, and the amount of pain.
  • Some 20% of prevention sites, 55% of academic/policy sites, and 100% of news reports offered information about methods.

An accompanying article discusses the importance of parents monitoring their children’s internet activity. It also recommends a U.K.-based group, Papyrus, dedicated to the prevention of youth suicide.

BMJ article (Free)

Papyrus website (Free)