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Weight and exercise may affect children’s thinking skills, Alzheimer’s link leads to more fina

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Welcome back to In Case You Missed It (our weekly roundup of articles touching on psychology, health, mental health and social justice issues from multiple news and commentary websites). This week, we address the impact of weight and exercise on children’s thinking skills, Alzheimer’s link leads to more financial planning, migrant children: arriving alone and frightened and more.

Children’s weight and physical activity levels may affect their thinking and learning skills, according to a study just out in Pediatric Exercise Science. Researchers studied 45 normal-weight children, aged 7 to 11; 24 of them were active and the rest were not. Researchers found that normal-weight active children did better on tests of mental skills — such as planning and paying attention — than their inactive counterparts. This association between physical activity and mental skills in children is not necessarily a cause-and-effect relationship. As Catherine Davis, a clinical health psychologist, commented, the good news is that children — with the help of families and schools – may be able to improve thinking skills by boosting their physical activity levels.

A forthcoming study from professors at the University of Utah says people whose families have a history of Alzheimer’s disease are much more likely to seek expert financial advice and are more likely to delay retirement, compared with people for whom Alzheimer’s isn’t an issue. Cost concerns arising from Alzheimer’s disease, which can require years of institutionalized care, are pushing individuals to plan more. The study, which has been submitted to American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease & Other Dementias, notes that care for Alzheimer’s patients is costing the patients or their families’ on average $56,290 a year, based on data from 2010. The number of Alzheimer’s patients, meanwhile, is expected to triple to 13.8 million by 2050.  Cathleen Zick, a professor of family and consumer studies at the University of Utah and one of three authors of the study, says everyone needs a realistic estimate of what they will need for retirement and a plan to help them meet those needs—especially people with potentially serious health concerns.

Last year, more than 23,000 unaccompanied minors applied for asylum in the 28 member countries of the European Union, according to the United Nations. That was before the number of refugees surged this year. By now, 30,000 are estimated to live in Germany alone. Two dozen psychological profiles of recent arrivals provide indications that many of Europe’s new mystery children are boys ages 14 to 17, sent by families too poor to pay smugglers for more than a single journey. Some lost their parents to war or murder at home. A few were escaping recruitment as child soldiers or suicide bombers. Only about 2 percent of the teenagers who arrive alone are girls, but they often have the most harrowing tales of abuse. In a separate headquarters, with a 2-million-euro budget and a staff of 25, workers who used to protect neglected and abused children from drug-addicted parents and domestic violence now spend their days finding foster families, homes, psychological support, legal guardians and schools for the young Syrian, Afghan and Somali arrivals. The numbers are now so large that everything is scarce.

The good news is:  A just published study found that talk therapy benefits patients experiencing their first episode of psychosis. Thirty-four clinics in 21 states treated patients suffering from a first-episode psychosis with a “comprehensive” program rather than usual community care. But even in this study, stigma may be evident. The clinicians doing the work, according to a 2014 presentation by Dr. John M. Kane, the lead researcher on the study, “have at least Bachelor’s level education and prior clinical experience,” compared with master’s or doctoral level clinicians in other settings.  The impact of level of training and expertise on outcomes is a question we should look at.

What do you think of these stories? What did we leave out?

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