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* This Greater Good section, Research Digests, offers short summaries of recent studies on happiness, empathy, compassion, and more. Quick to read, easy to digest—we review the research so you don’t have to! Subscribe to the Research Digests RSS feed to receive future digests.


Mindfulness: As Good as Antidepressants?

"Antidepressant Monotherapy vs Sequential Pharmacotherapy and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, or Placebo, for relapse Prophylaxis in Recurrent Depression."

Segal, Z., et. al. Archives of General Psychiatry. December 2010, Vol. 77 (12), 1256-1264.

Antidepressant medication is the standard treatment for patients diagnosed with depression. But this study suggests that being mindful of our thinking patterns is just as effective. Participants in remission from depression after eight months of taking antidepressants were split into three groups: They either continued taking antidepressants, participated in a mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) program, or were given a placebo treatment. Participants in the MBCT group attended eight weekly two-hour meetings in which they learned how to monitor their thought patterns when they felt depressed, how to avoid ruminating on negative thoughts, and how to engage in more reasoned reflection on their thoughts and situation instead. For those patients who had experienced depressive symptoms during the remission phase prior to the study, MBCT training was as effective as antidepressants at protecting them from a relapse of depression, and more effective than a placebo treatment. —Neha John-Henderson

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A Good Story Can Be Good for Your Health

"Culturally Appropriate Storytelling to Improve Blood Pressure"

Houston, T., et. al. Annals of Internal Medicine, January 2011, Vol. 154 (2), 77-84.

Listening to a good story can lift your spirits—and it can also lower your blood pressure, according to this study. Two-hundred thirty African Americans suffering from hypertension were split equally into two groups. Members of one group viewed a video of members of their own race narrating stories about their experiences living with hypertension. The other half of the participants watched a video about an unrelated health topic that didn’t use storytelling. Three months later, participants in the storytelling group experienced significantly greater reductions in their blood pressure than did members of the other group. Interestingly, blood pressure dropped the most among participants who listened to the stories and were previously unable to control their blood pressure through medication and lifestyle changes. The results suggests that storytelling can be an effective way to motivate patients to take the necessary steps to improve their health. —Neha John-Henderson

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When School and Home Collide for Kids

"Linking Home-School Dissonance to School Based Outcomes for African American High School Students"

Tyler, K., et. al. Journal of Black Psychology, November 2010, Vol. 36 (4), 410-425.

This study examined “home-school dissonance,” which is when the values, beliefs, and practices in a child’s home contrast with those in their school—for instance, when a student’s school encourages her to consider attending college after high school, while her family encourages her to look for a full-time job. African-American high school students report high levels of home-school dissonance, so the researchers examined how this would correlate with their psychological and academic behavior. The results show that among these students, home-school dissonance was associated with more cheating and disruptive behavior in school, and worse grades in English and math. The researchers suggest that more attention should be devoted to reducing home-school dissonance among African-American high school students, such as by incorporating more of their out-of-school experiences into their classroom experiences. —Neha John-Henderson

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