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Wellcome Trust Research Round-up 15.06.15

15 Jun, 2015

Our fortnightly round-up of news from the Wellcome Trust Community

Green light for quit-smoking drug?

L0042090 A doctor with a stethoscope rejecting the offer of a Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images A doctor with a stethoscope rejecting the offer of a cigarette. Anti-smoking campaigne. 195u By: namePublished: [195-] Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

Researchers have found that there is no strong evidence that a drug commonly used to treat nicotine addiction can lead to an increase in suicidal behaviour, criminal offending or traffic incidents.

In a study published in the BMJ, Wellcome Trust-funded researchers analysed data from over 69,000 people in Sweden who were prescribed the drug varenicline. Despite being widely offered for people who are quitting smoking, there had previously been reports that the drug may be linked with psychoses, violence and depression.

Those working in transport jobs, including pilots and train drivers, are restricted from taking the drug as it was thought to be associated with an increase in traffic accidents.

The researchers performed detailed analysis of individuals taking the drug, adjusting for various risk factors already present in their lives. This was then compared with national registers, where they found no significant increase in the dangerous behaviours mentioned above.

In patients who had a pre-existing history of psychiatric disorders a small increase in the risk of anxiety conditions was seen, but this must be confirmed with further studies.

Parenting styles may cross generations

N0029146 Three generations - grandmother, mother and baby

A new Wellcome Trust-funded study has found that mothers and fathers are more likely to copy their own mothers’ parenting style than that of their father.

Nearly 300 parents were recruited from maternity wards in Oxford and Milton Keynes and were directly observed interacting with their two year old children at home. Researchers then asked the parents about their own experiences as a child and their perceptions of the quality of parenting given to them.

The study suggests that the parents who reported having affectionate mothers exhibited more positive styles of parenting with their own children, with parents reporting controlling mothers showing more negative behaviours. In contrast, no association was found between the parent-child interactions observed and their experience of their fathers’ behaviour.

Only a few studies have ever used direct observation of parent’s behaviour to investigate to the extent to which styles and quality of parenting is transmitted through generations.

Study author Dr Paul Ramchandani, from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, said: “Parenting plays a fundamental role in children’s development, affecting health, social and educational outcomes in later life, so it’s of utmost importance to society that we have a greater understanding of the complex issue of parenting behaviour.”

This research is published in the European Journal of Public Health.

Unemployment being targeted with ‘psychological coercion’

8125991446_041f1c865d_zUnemployment is being rebranded as a ‘psychological disorder’ according to new analysis published by researchers at Hubbub, the residents of the Wellcome Trust Hub.

The team of interdisciplinary researchers investigated written accounts of those who had experienced the Government’s workfare scheme and found that many highlighted coercive interventions that promoted a positive psychological outlook. Emails encouraging ‘change of attitude’ exercises and ‘positive thinking’ were described as relentless, humiliating and meaningless.

These interventions are being used to try to get unemployed people back into work and failure to undertake these can cause claimants to lose their benefits. Many interventions now include coaching, motivational workshops and psychological approaches to encourage characteristics such as optimism and confidence.

The research, published in a special edition of BMJ Medical Humanities – Critical Medical Humanities, also claims that over-simplified terms such as ‘lack of motivation’ and ‘psychological resistance to work’ are being used to decide what type of workfare regime benefit claimants should have to undertake.

Lynne Friedli, co-author of the paper and researcher with Hubbub said: “Claimants’ ‘attitude to work’ is becoming a basis for deciding who is entitled to social security – it is no longer what you must do to get a job, but how you have to think and feel…By repackaging unemployment as a psychological problem, attention is diverted from the realities of the UK job market and any subsequent insecurities and inequalities it produces.”

Other Wellcome Trust research news

The youngest children in the academic year are educationally disadvantaged and have poorer academic progress, find a new Wellcome Trust-funded study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. The research suggests that the youngest children may not be ready to meet the demands of the classroom and often exhibit immature language and poor behaviour skills.

In other news…

Recipients of the first round of funding for the new Seed Awards funding scheme have just been announced. The scheme offers small, one-off grants to researchers in Science, Medical Humanities and Society & Ethics and is aimed especially at those at the start of their research careers. With the awards focusing on encouraging original and innovative ideas, the funded projects cover a huge range of subjects from drug targets in sepsis to healthcare in a digital world.

National humanities research festival ‘Being Human’ has announced 41 winners of their funding competition. Each winner will receive a small grant of up to £5,000 to engage the public with humanities research at a festival that will run across the UK in November.  Supported by the Wellcome Trust, funded projects include bus shop poetry, a zombie walk and a video game that will rebuild the architecture of Hull.

Image credits: (from top to bottom) Wellcome Library, London; Libby Welch, Wellcome Images; Unemployment by Tax Credits via Flickr CC-BY

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