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Journal: World psychiatry : official journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA)


The impact of the Internet across multiple aspects of modern society is clear. However, the influence that it may have on our brain structure and functioning remains a central topic of investigation. Here we draw on recent psychological, psychiatric and neuroimaging findings to examine several key hypotheses on how the Internet may be changing our cognition. Specifically, we explore how unique features of the online world may be influencing: a) attentional capacities, as the constantly evolving stream of online information encourages our divided attention across multiple media sources, at the expense of sustained concentration; b) memory processes, as this vast and ubiquitous source of online information begins to shift the way we retrieve, store, and even value knowledge; and c) social cognition, as the ability for online social settings to resemble and evoke real-world social processes creates a new interplay between the Internet and our social lives, including our self-concepts and self-esteem. Overall, the available evidence indicates that the Internet can produce both acute and sustained alterations in each of these areas of cognition, which may be reflected in changes in the brain. However, an emerging priority for future research is to determine the effects of extensive online media usage on cognitive development in youth, and examine how this may differ from cognitive outcomes and brain impact of uses of Internet in the elderly. We conclude by proposing how Internet research could be integrated into broader research settings to study how this unprecedented new facet of society can affect our cognition and the brain across the life course.


The role of nutrition in mental health is becoming increasingly acknowledged. Along with dietary intake, nutrition can also be obtained from "nutrient supplements", such as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, amino acids and pre/probiotic supplements. Recently, a large number of meta-analyses have emerged examining nutrient supplements in the treatment of mental disorders. To produce a meta-review of this top-tier evidence, we identified, synthesized and appraised all meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) reporting on the efficacy and safety of nutrient supplements in common and severe mental disorders. Our systematic search identified 33 meta-analyses of placebo-controlled RCTs, with primary analyses including outcome data from 10,951 individuals. The strongest evidence was found for PUFAs (particularly as eicosapentaenoic acid) as an adjunctive treatment for depression. More nascent evidence suggested that PUFAs may also be beneficial for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, whereas there was no evidence for schizophrenia. Folate-based supplements were widely researched as adjunctive treatments for depression and schizophrenia, with positive effects from RCTs of high-dose methylfolate in major depressive disorder. There was emergent evidence for N-acetylcysteine as a useful adjunctive treatment in mood disorders and schizophrenia. All nutrient supplements had good safety profiles, with no evidence of serious adverse effects or contraindications with psychiatric medications. In conclusion, clinicians should be informed of the nutrient supplements with established efficacy for certain conditions (such as eicosapentaenoic acid in depression), but also made aware of those currently lacking evidentiary support. Future research should aim to determine which individuals may benefit most from evidence-based supplements, to further elucidate the underlying mechanisms.


People with severe mental illness (SMI) - schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder - appear at risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD), but a comprehensive meta-analysis is lacking. We conducted a large-scale meta-analysis assessing the prevalence and incidence of CVD; coronary heart disease; stroke, transient ischemic attack or cerebrovascular disease; congestive heart failure; peripheral vascular disease; and CVD-related death in SMI patients (N=3,211,768) versus controls (N=113,383,368) (92 studies). The pooled CVD prevalence in SMI patients (mean age 50 years) was 9.9% (95% CI: 7.4-13.3). Adjusting for a median of seven confounders, patients had significantly higher odds of CVD versus controls in cross-sectional studies (odds ratio, OR=1.53, 95% CI: 1.27-1.83; 11 studies), and higher odds of coronary heart disease (OR=1.51, 95% CI: 1.47-1.55) and cerebrovascular disease (OR=1.42, 95% CI: 1.21-1.66). People with major depressive disorder were at increased risk for coronary heart disease, while those with schizophrenia were at increased risk for coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease and congestive heart failure. Cumulative CVD incidence in SMI patients was 3.6% (95% CI: 2.7-5.3) during a median follow-up of 8.4 years (range 1.8-30.0). Adjusting for a median of six confounders, SMI patients had significantly higher CVD incidence than controls in longitudinal studies (hazard ratio, HR=1.78, 95% CI: 1.60-1.98; 31 studies). The incidence was also higher for coronary heart disease (HR=1.54, 95% CI: 1.30-1.82), cerebrovascular disease (HR=1.64, 95% CI: 1.26-2.14), congestive heart failure (HR=2.10, 95% CI: 1.64-2.70), and CVD-related death (HR=1.85, 95% CI: 1.53-2.24). People with major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia were all at increased risk of CVD-related death versus controls. CVD incidence increased with antipsychotic use (p=0.008), higher body mass index (p=0.008) and higher baseline CVD prevalence (p=0.03) in patients vs.

Concepts: Dysthymia, Medical statistics, Cardiovascular diseases, Major depressive disorder, Bipolar disorder, Schizophrenia, Suicide, Epidemiology


The experience of burnout has been the focus of much research during the past few decades. Measures have been developed, as have various theoretical models, and research studies from many countries have contributed to a better understanding of the causes and consequences of this occupationally-specific dysphoria. The majority of this work has focused on human service occupations, and particularly health care. Research on the burnout experience for psychiatrists mirrors much of the broader literature, in terms of both sources and outcomes of burnout. But it has also identified some of the unique stressors that mental health professionals face when they are dealing with especially difficult or violent clients. Current issues of particular relevance for psychiatry include the links between burnout and mental illness, the attempts to redefine burnout as simply exhaustion, and the relative dearth of evaluative research on potential interventions to treat and/or prevent burnout. Given that the treatment goal for burnout is usually to enable people to return to their job, and to be successful in their work, psychiatry could make an important contribution by identifying the treatment strategies that would be most effective in achieving that goal.

Concepts: Medicine, Psychiatrist, Health care, Mental disorder, Mental health, Mental health professional, Psychology, Psychiatry


Antipsychotics are effective in preventing relapses of schizophrenia, but it is generally believed that their long-term use is harmful for patients' physical well-being. However, there are no long-term studies which have verified this view. This nationwide, register-based cohort study aimed to assess the risk of hospitalization due to physical health problems, as a marker for severe physical morbidity, and the risk of all-cause mortality, as well as of cardiovascular and suicidal death, associated with antipsychotic use in all patients treated for schizophrenia in inpatient care between 1972 and 2014 in Finland (N=62,250), with up to 20 years of follow-up (median: 14.1 years). The use of antipsychotic drugs (i.e., use of any antipsychotic compared with non-use) and the use of specific antipsychotics were investigated, and outcomes were somatic and cardiovascular hospitalization, and all-cause, cardiovascular and suicide death. Hospitalization-based outcomes were analyzed by a within-individual design to eliminate selection bias, comparing use and non-use periods in the same individual by stratified Cox model. Mortality outcomes were assessed by traditional between-individual Cox multivariate models. The adjusted hazard ratios (aHRs) for any somatic hospitalization and cardiovascular hospitalization were 1.00 (95% CI: 0.98-1.03) and 1.00 (95% CI: 0.92-1.07) during use of any antipsychotic compared to non-exposure periods within the same individual. The aHRs were 0.48 (95% CI: 0.46-0.51) for all-cause mortality, 0.62 (95% CI: 0.57-0.67) for cardiovascular mortality, and 0.52 (95% CI: 0.43-0.62) for suicide mortality during use vs. non-use of any antipsychotic. The most beneficial mortality outcome was associated with use of clozapine in terms of all-cause (aHR=0.39, 95% CI: 0.36-0.43), cardiovascular (aHR=0.55, 95% CI: 0.47-0.64) and suicide mortality (aHR=0.21, 95% CI: 0.15-0.29). The cumulative mortality rates during maximum follow-up of 20 years were 46.2% for no antipsychotic use, 25.7% for any antipsychotic use, and 15.6% for clozapine use. These data suggest that long-term antipsychotic use does not increase severe physical morbidity leading to hospitalization, and is associated with substantially decreased mortality, especially among patients treated with clozapine.


We conducted a meta-analysis of randomized trials in which the effects of treatment with antidepressant medication were compared to the effects of combined pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy in adults with a diagnosed depressive or anxiety disorder. A total of 52 studies (with 3,623 patients) met inclusion criteria, 32 on depressive disorders and 21 on anxiety disorders (one on both depressive and anxiety disorders). The overall difference between pharmacotherapy and combined treatment was Hedges' g = 0.43 (95% CI: 0.31-0.56), indicating a moderately large effect and clinically meaningful difference in favor of combined treatment, which corresponds to a number needed to treat (NNT) of 4.20. There was sufficient evidence that combined treatment is superior for major depression, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The effects of combined treatment compared with placebo only were about twice as large as those of pharmacotherapy compared with placebo only, underscoring the clinical advantage of combined treatment. The results also suggest that the effects of pharmacotherapy and those of psychotherapy are largely independent from each other, with both contributing about equally to the effects of combined treatment. We conclude that combined treatment appears to be more effective than treatment with antidepressant medication alone in major depression, panic disorder, and OCD. These effects remain strong and significant up to two years after treatment. Monotherapy with psychotropic medication may not constitute optimal care for common mental disorders.

Concepts: Anxiety, Abnormal psychology, Bipolar disorder, Anxiety disorders, Mental disorder, Antidepressant, Anxiety disorder, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor


Most countries have witnessed a dramatic increase of income inequality in the past three decades. This paper addresses the question of whether income inequality is associated with the population prevalence of depression and, if so, the potential mechanisms and pathways which may explain this association. Our systematic review included 26 studies, mostly from high-income countries. Nearly two-thirds of all studies and five out of six longitudinal studies reported a statistically significant positive relationship between income inequality and risk of depression; only one study reported a statistically significant negative relationship. Twelve studies were included in a meta-analysis with dichotomized inequality groupings. The pooled risk ratio was 1.19 (95% CI: 1.07-1.31), demonstrating greater risk of depression in populations with higher income inequality relative to populations with lower inequality. Multiple studies reported subgroup effects, including greater impacts of income inequality among women and low-income populations. We propose an ecological framework, with mechanisms operating at the national level (the neo-material hypothesis), neighbourhood level (the social capital and the social comparison hypotheses) and individual level (psychological stress and social defeat hypotheses) to explain this association. We conclude that policy makers should actively promote actions to reduce income inequality, such as progressive taxation policies and a basic universal income. Mental health professionals should champion such policies, as well as promote the delivery of interventions which target the pathways and proximal determinants, such as building life skills in adolescents and provision of psychological therapies and packages of care with demonstrated effectiveness for settings of poverty and high income inequality.

Concepts: Medical statistics, Basic income, Income tax, Poverty, Scientific method, Psychology, Epidemiology, Sociology


Language and speech are the primary source of data for psychiatrists to diagnose and treat mental disorders. In psychosis, the very structure of language can be disturbed, including semantic coherence (e.g., derailment and tangentiality) and syntactic complexity (e.g., concreteness). Subtle disturbances in language are evident in schizophrenia even prior to first psychosis onset, during prodromal stages. Using computer-based natural language processing analyses, we previously showed that, among English-speaking clinical (e.g., ultra) high-risk youths, baseline reduction in semantic coherence (the flow of meaning in speech) and in syntactic complexity could predict subsequent psychosis onset with high accuracy. Herein, we aimed to cross-validate these automated linguistic analytic methods in a second larger risk cohort, also English-speaking, and to discriminate speech in psychosis from normal speech. We identified an automated machine-learning speech classifier - comprising decreased semantic coherence, greater variance in that coherence, and reduced usage of possessive pronouns - that had an 83% accuracy in predicting psychosis onset (intra-protocol), a cross-validated accuracy of 79% of psychosis onset prediction in the original risk cohort (cross-protocol), and a 72% accuracy in discriminating the speech of recent-onset psychosis patients from that of healthy individuals. The classifier was highly correlated with previously identified manual linguistic predictors. Our findings support the utility and validity of automated natural language processing methods to characterize disturbances in semantics and syntax across stages of psychotic disorder. The next steps will be to apply these methods in larger risk cohorts to further test reproducibility, also in languages other than English, and identify sources of variability. This technology has the potential to improve prediction of psychosis outcome among at-risk youths and identify linguistic targets for remediation and preventive intervention. More broadly, automated linguistic analysis can be a powerful tool for diagnosis and treatment across neuropsychiatry.

Concepts: Syntax, Psychiatry, Semiotics, Natural language, Semantics, Schizophrenia, Language, Linguistics


The common factors have a long history in the field of psychotherapy theory, research and practice. To understand the evidence supporting them as important therapeutic elements, the contextual model of psychotherapy is outlined. Then the evidence, primarily from meta-analyses, is presented for particular common factors, including alliance, empathy, expectations, cultural adaptation, and therapist differences. Then the evidence for four factors related to specificity, including treatment differences, specific ingredients, adherence, and competence, is presented. The evidence supports the conclusion that the common factors are important for producing the benefits of psychotherapy.

Concepts: Psychology, The Conclusion, Common factors theory, Psychotherapy


This pragmatic randomized controlled trial tested the effectiveness of long-term psychoanalytic psychotherapy (LTPP) as an adjunct to treatment-as-usual according to UK national guidelines (TAU), compared to TAU alone, in patients with long-standing major depression who had failed at least two different treatments and were considered to have treatment-resistant depression. Patients (N=129) were recruited from primary care and randomly allocated to the two treatment conditions. They were assessed at 6-monthly intervals during the 18 months of treatment and at 24, 30 and 42 months during follow-up. The primary outcome measure was the 17-item version of the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS-17), with complete remission defined as a HDRS-17 score ≤8, and partial remission defined as a HDRS-17 score ≤12. Secondary outcome measures included self-reported depression as assessed by the Beck Depression Inventory - II, social functioning as evaluated by the Global Assessment of Functioning, subjective wellbeing as rated by the Clinical Outcomes in Routine Evaluation - Outcome Measure, and satisfaction with general activities as assessed by the Quality of Life Enjoyment and Satisfaction Questionnaire. Complete remission was infrequent in both groups at the end of treatment (9.4% in the LTPP group vs. 6.5% in the control group) as well as at 42-month follow-up (14.9% vs. 4.4%). Partial remission was not significantly more likely in the LTPP than in the control group at the end of treatment (32.1% vs. 23.9%, p=0.37), but significant differences emerged during follow-up (24 months: 38.8% vs. 19.2%, p=0.03; 30 months: 34.7% vs. 12.2%, p=0.008; 42 months: 30.0% vs. 4.4%, p=0.001). Both observer-based and self-reported depression scores showed steeper declines in the LTPP group, alongside greater improvements on measures of social adjustment. These data suggest that LTPP can be useful in improving the long-term outcome of treatment-resistant depression. End-of-treatment evaluations or short follow-ups may miss the emergence of delayed therapeutic benefit.

Concepts: Primary care, Pharmacology, Cognitive behavioral therapy, Beck Depression Inventory, Randomized controlled trial, Psychoanalysis, Mood disorders, Major depressive disorder