Benjamin Gardner and Amanda L. Rebar
Within psychology, the term habit refers to a process whereby contexts prompt action automatically, through activation of mental context–action associations learned through prior performances. Habitual behavior is regulated by an impulsive process, and so can be elicited with minimal cognitive effort, awareness, control, or intention. When an initially goal-directed behavior becomes habitual, action initiation transfers from conscious motivational processes to context-cued impulse-driven mechanisms. Regulation of action becomes detached from motivational or volitional control. Upon encountering the associated context, the urge to enact the habitual behavior is spontaneously triggered and alternative behavioral responses become less cognitively accessible.
By virtue of its cue-dependent automatic nature, theory proposes that habit strength will predict the likelihood of enactment of habitual behavior, and that strong habitual tendencies will tend to dominate over motivational tendencies. Support for these effects has been found for many health-related behaviors, such as healthy eating, physical activity, and medication adherence. This has stimulated interest in habit formation as a behavior change mechanism: It has been argued that adding habit formation components into behavior change interventions should shield new behaviors against motivational lapses, making them more sustainable in the long-term. Interventions based on the habit-formation model differ from non-habit-based interventions in that they include elements that promote reliable context-dependent repetition of the target behavior, with the aim of establishing learned context–action associations that manifest in automatically cued behavioral responses. Interventions may also seek to harness these processes to displace an existing “bad” habit with a “good” habit.
Research around the application of habit formation to health behavior change interventions is reviewed, drawn from two sources: extant theory and evidence regarding how habit forms, and previous interventions that have used habit formation principles and techniques to change behavior. Behavior change techniques that may facilitate movement through discrete phases in the habit formation trajectory are highlighted, and techniques that have been used in previous interventions are explored based on a habit formation framework. Although these interventions have mostly shown promising effects on behavior, the unique impact on behavior of habit-focused components and the longevity of such effects are not yet known. As an intervention strategy, habit formation has been shown to be acceptable to intervention recipients, who report that through repetition, behaviors gradually become routinized. Whether habit formation interventions truly offer a route to long-lasting behavior change, however, remains unclear.
Sleep health is understood as a key factor in lifelong health and for social participation, function, and satisfaction. In later life, insomnia and other sleep disturbances are common. Insomnia is experienced as poor, disrupted, or insufficient sleep associated with significant daytime impairments including increased fatigue or reduced energy, impaired cognitive function, and increased mood disturbance. Poor sleep is associated with negative outcomes across a range of dimensions that impair quality of life, increases risk for other diseases, and may interact negatively with the progression and treatment of other disorders. Evidence for effective psychological interventions to improve sleep in later life, specifically cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, is robust and well described. Good sleep should be understood as a substrate for psychological health and a reasonable expectation in later life.
Stuart Linke and Elizabeth Murray
Alcohol-use disorders are widespread and associated with a greatly increased risk of health-related and societal harms. The majority of harms associated with consumption are experienced by those who drink above recommended guidelines, rather than those who are alcohol dependent. Brief interventions and treatments based on screening questionnaires and feedback have been developed for this group, which are effective tools for reducing consumption in primary care and in other settings. Most people who drink excessively do not receive help to reduce the risks associated with excessive consumption. Digital versions of brief and extended interventions have the potential to reach populations that might derive benefit from them. Digital interventions utilize the same principles as do traditional face-to-face versions, but they have the advantages of availability, confidentiality, flexibility, low marginal costs, and treatment integrity. The evidence for the feasibility, acceptability, costs, and effectiveness of digital interventions is encouraging, and the evidence for effectiveness is particularly strong in studies of student populations. There are, however, a number of unresolved questions. It is not clear which components of interventions are required to maximize effectiveness, whether digital versions are enhanced by the addition of personal contact from a facilitator or a health professional, or how to increase take up of the offer of a digital intervention and reduce attrition from a program. These questions are common to many online behavior-change interventions and there are opportunities for cross-disciplinary learning between psychologists, health professionals, computer scientists, and e-health researchers.
Trent A. Petrie
Although the specific prevalence rates may vary, eating disorders (ED) affect male and female athletes regardless of sport type and competitive level. Generally, rates of subclinical disorders are much higher than clinical ones, with the most frequent clinical classification being Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified. Further, EDs occur not only among active athletes, but are also found in samples of retired athletes as well. Existing research on the prevalence of EDs in athletes, however, has been limited due to its reliance on out-of-date diagnostic criteria, sometimes small samples, and a focus on point prevalence to the exclusion of examining how rates might change over time. Central to prevalence research and clinical assessments is the ability to accurately assess EDs in athletes. Although structured clinical interviews represent the most valid approach, they are time consuming and not often used in determining prevalence. Researchers have relied on self-report measures instead. Such measures include those developed initially in nonathletes, but used to study athletes (e.g., Questionnaire for Eating Disorder Diagnosis; Mintz, O’Halloran, Mulholland, & Schneider, 1997), and those specifically for athletes (e.g., Athletic Milieu Direct Questionnaire; Nagel, Black, Leverenz, & Coster, 2000). Most of these measures, though having adequate psychometric properties, are based on diagnostic criteria that are no longer in use, so additional research that employs prevalence measures that reflect DSM-5 criteria is needed with athletes. Most ED research in sport has used samples of active athletes; few studies have considered how the transition out of sport might affect athletes’ perceptions of their bodies, their relationship to food, and their approaches to exercise and being physically active. Retirement from sport generally is considered to be a developmental stressor and thus may exacerbate ED symptoms and body image concerns in some athletes. Yet, for other athletes, retirement may represent a positive transition in which they emerge from a sport culture, focused on weight and appearance, to reclaim themselves and their bodies. Initial qualitative findings appear to support each hypothesis in part, though longitudinal quantitative studies that track athletes from active competition through retirement are needed to understand the changes athletes experience in relation to their bodies, food, and exercise, and when such changes are most likely to occur.
Nadeeka N. Dissanayaka
Progressive neurological disorders are incurable disorders with gradual deterioration and impacting patients for life. Two common progressive neurological disorders found in late life are Parkinson’s disease (PD) and motor neuron disease (MND). Psychological complications such as depression and anxiety are prevalent in people living with PD and MND, yet they are underdiagnosed and poorly treated.
PD is classified a Movement Disorder and predominantly characterized by motor symptoms such as tremor, bradykinesia, gait problems and postural instability; however, neuropsychiatric complications such as anxiety and depression are common and contribute poorly to quality of life, even more so than motor disability. The average prevalence of depression in PD suggest 35% and anxiety in PD reports 31%. Depression and anxiety often coexist. Symptoms of depression and anxiety overlap with symptoms of PD, making it difficult to recognize. In PD, daily fluctuations in anxiety and mood disturbances are observed with clear synchronized relationships to wearing off of PD medication in some individuals. Such unique characteristics must be addressed when treating PD depression and anxiety. There is an increase in the evidence base for psychotherapeutic approaches such as cognitive behavior therapy to treat depression and anxiety in PD.
Motor neuron disease (MND) is classified a neuromuscular disease and is characterized by progressive degeneration of upper and lower motor neurons is the primary characteristic of MND. The most common form of MND is Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and the terms ALS and MND are simultaneously used in the literature. Given the short life expectancy (average 4 years), rapid deterioration, paralysis, nonmotor dysfunctions, and resulting incapacity, psychological factors clearly play a major role in MND. Depression and suicide are common psychological concerns in persons with MND. While there is an ALS-specific instrument to assess depression, evaluation of anxiety is poorly studied; although emerging studies suggesting that anxiety is highly prevalent in MND. Unfortunately, there is no substantial evidence-base for the treatment of anxiety and depression in MND.
Caregivers play a major role in the management of progressive neurological diseases. Therefore, evaluating caregiver burden and caregiver psychological health are essential to improve quality of care provided to the patient, as well as to improve quality of life for carers. In progressive neurological diseases, caregiving is often provided by family members and spouses, with professional care at advanced disease. Psychological interventions for PD carers addressing unique characteristics of PD and care needs is required. Heterogeneous clinical features, rapid functional decline, and short trajectory of MND suggest a multidisciplinary framework of carer services including psychological interventions to mitigate MND. A Supportive Care Needs Framework has been recently proposed encompassing practical, informational, social, psychological, physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of both MND patients and carers.
Katherine Nieweglowski and Patrick W. Corrigan
Stigma is a complex process that results from the interaction of stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination. When applied to health conditions (e.g., mental illness, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, obesity), stigma can contribute to a lack of recovery and resources as well as devaluation of the self. People with stigmatized health conditions may be too embarrassed to seek treatment and others may not provide them with equal opportunities. This often results in discrimination in employment, housing, and health care settings. Strategies have been proposed to prompt stigma change with strategic contact between those with the health condition and everyone else likely to have the best effects.
Stephen J. Bright
In the 21st century, we have seen a significant increase in the use of alcohol and other drugs (AODs) among older adults in most first world countries. In addition, people are living longer. Consequently, the number of older adults at risk of experiencing alcohol-related harm and substance use disorders (SUDs) is rising. Between 1992 and 2010, men in the United Kingdom aged 65 years or older had increased their drinking from an average 77.6 grams to 97.6 grams per week. Data from Australia show a 17% increase in risky drinking among those 60–69 between 2007 and 2016. Among Australians aged 60 or older, there was a 280% increase in recent cannabis use from 2001 to 2016. In the United States, rates of older people seeking treatment for cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine have doubled in the past 10 years. This trend is expected to continue.
Despite these alarming statistics, this population has been deemed “hidden,” as older adults often do not present to treatment with the SUD as a primary concern, and many healthcare professionals do not adequately screen for AOD use. With age, changes in physiology impact the way we metabolize alcohol and increase the subjective effects of alcohol. In addition, older adults are prone to increased use of medications and medical comorbidities. As such, drinking patterns that previously would have not been considered hazardous can become dangerous without any increase in alcohol consumption. This highlights the need for age-specific screening of all older patients within all healthcare settings.
The etiology of AOD-related issues among older adults can be different from that of younger adults. For example, as a result of issues more common as one ages (e.g., loss and grief, identity crisis, and boredom), there is a distinct cohort of older adults who develop SUDs later in life despite no history of previous problematic AOD use. For some older adults who might have experimented with drugs in their youth, these age-specific issues precipitate the onset of a SUD. Meanwhile, there is a larger cohort of older adults with an extensive history of SUDs. Consequently, assessments need to be tailored to explore the issues that are unique to older adults who use AODs and can inform the development of age-specific formulations and treatment plans. In doing so, individualized treatments can be delivered to meet the needs of older adults. Such treatments must be tailored to address issues associated with aging (e.g., reduced mobility) and may require multidisciplinary input from medical practitioners and occupational therapists.