Spit for Science is a VCU-wide research project that aims to understand how genes and the environment come together to influence substance use and emotional health. The project works with a large number of undergraduate researchers each semester. Assistants help with recruitment and data collection, meet different faculty involved in the project and work in teams to develop research questions and analyze Spit for Science data.
Below are brief blog posts from current undergraduate researchers covering recent events and research relating to substance use and emotional health.
For more information about how to support and get involved in Spit for Science, visit spit4science.vcu.edu.
Being Physically Active and Its Benefits for Depression
by Sophia Rattana
In our course we talked about mental illnesses such as depression. Depression is often prevalent due to genetics. However, we also spoke about how the environment that a child grew up in may also play a big factor. That is where the phrase “nature and nurture” comes in.
The article I chose to highlight about this was “Physically active children are less depressed,” from the Science Daily. Researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology found that children around the ages of 6-8 that were involved with physical activities are less likely to develop depression. Any activity that produces some sort of sweat is beneficial.
Also, in those who had depression, doing physical activities such as running around helped decrease depressive symptoms. Speaking of environmental factors, if a child grew up in a home where both parents are physically active a child is less likely to develop depression because the parental influence they would have on their child’s lifestyle. It’s upsetting because now a days children are always inside on their iPads and video game consoles. It is now considered a norm to see a 5 year old walking around with an iPhone, but yet seeing a child riding a bike around a neighborhood is not as common. There were studies conducted before that stated that adults and children who were constantly indoors being in active were usually depressed. However, that was proven to not be correlated according to the study.
Smoking and Depression
by Courtney Mulligan
A study conducted by Cancer Research UK published in Newsmax Health looked at the relationship between depression and smoking. The study included 3775 patients in the Czech Republic who were attending a clinic in order to help them quit smoking. The findings showed that individuals who successfully quit smoking also displayed fewer symptoms of depression. Two-thirds of the participants who had previously rated themselves as having moderate to severe depression while smoking dramatically reduced their depression symptoms ratings to minimal or non-existent one year after they quit smoking.
The UK has researched mental health and smoking and reports that smoking rates among people with mental health conditions are two times higher than the general population. Furthermore, smoking lowers the life expectancy of those individuals with mental health conditions – around 10 to 20 years shorter than the general population. The researchers emphasized the importance of this research and how it is crucial in order for us to help develop support systems for those with mental health conditions who may need some extra help and guidance on their journey to quit smoking.