Archive of Health Psychology in the News stories

Nancy Adler recipient of Fifteenth Annual Faculty Research Lectureship - Clinical Science

Nancy Adler, PhD, has been named as the recipient of the UCSF Academic Senate’s 15th Annual Faculty Research Lectureship – Clinical Science for her trailblazing research on socioeconomic determinants of health. She delivered her lecture, entitled “Social Determinants of Health: Power, Population, and Precision,” on November 17. You can view Dr. Adler's lecture by clicking on this link:

The Faculty Research Lectureship – Clinical Science is bestowed annually on an individual member of the UCSF faculty with outstanding achievements in clinical research. Nominations are made by UCSF faculty, who consider the research contributions of their colleagues and submit nominations for this prestigious honor to the Academic Senate Committee on Research.

Adler becomes only the second female recipient of the honor, as well as the fourth Psychiatry faculty member to be honored on the clinical research side since the award’s inception in 2001. Previous honorees from Psychiatry are Neal Benowitz, MD (2002); Bruce Miller, MD (2012); and Kristine Yaffe, MD (2013).

Nicki Bush, PhDFaculty Nicki Bush, Ph.D. named as co-Director of Tennessee study

Health Psychology faculty Nicki Bush, Ph.D., and Kaja LeWinn, Sc.D., have been named Scientific Directors of the Conditions Affecting Neurocognitive Development and Learning in Early Life (CANDLE) study funded by the Urban Child Institute in Memphis. Based in Tennessee’s Shelby County, the CANDLE study offers a unique opportunity to study the early psychological, social, and physical developmental trajectories of children growing up in the urban south.

Since 2006, the CANDLE study has enrolled and followed 1,500 pregnant women and their children, who are now 3-8 years old. Existing CANDLE data provides detailed information on study families, including their social and physical environments, as well as children’s socioemotional and neurocognitive outcomes measured at ages 1, 2, and 3. CANDLE also maintains a rich biorepository of maternal and child samples collected from pregnancy through age 4.

Bush and LeWinn have been consulting for the study and assisting with its management since 2013, and as of July 1, 2015, have taken on an expanded role as scientific directors. In this new position, they are responsible for developing a vision for the future of the CANDLE cohort and collaborations with researchers across the nation interested in pursuing research questions within the CANDLE study.

Aric PratherHealth Psychology faculty Aric Prather, PhD and other researchers connect sleep loss and higher rates of illness in new study

Full story of the study from UCSF News Center.

Eli Puterman, PhDEli Puterman, PhD to be honored by ABMR for research work

Eli Puterman, PhD, has been selected by the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research (ABMR) as the 2015 recipient of its Neal E. Miller New Investigator Award. Established in 1989, the award recognizes outstanding imaginatively conceived and carefully conducted research in the fields of psychology, neuroscience and behavioral medicine. Puterman was tapped for recognition for his work as the lead author on the recently published paper "Determinants of telomere attrition over 1 year in healthy older women: stress and health behaviors matter," as well as his overall accomplishments and contributions as a researcher.

ABMR was organized in 1978 at a meeting hosted by the Institute of Medicine of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Its continuing mission is to provide a forum for established scientists and thought leaders working in the field of behavioral medicine, where cutting-edge ideas can be exchanged in an informal, yet scientifically charged atmosphere. Puterman will formally receive his award this June during the group's Annual Meeting in Cambridge, Maryland.

photo Nancy Adler, Ph.D.NEJM Perspective piece co-authored by Adler calls on EHRs to incorporate social and behavioral data

A commentary co-authored by Nancy Adler, PhD, and Vanderbilt University’s William W. Stead, MD, calls on electronic health records (EHR) vendors to incorporate social and behavioral data into their products, health systems to adopt its use, and clinicians to incorporate the newly available information into their care of patients. Their article, “Patients in Context — EHR Capture of Social and Behavioral Determinants of Health,” was published in the February 19 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Over the past two years, Adler and Stead have served as co-chairs of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Committee on Recommended Social and Behavioral Domains and Measures for Electronic Health Records. The group conducted a two-phase study to identify the social and behavioral areas that most strongly determine health, and then evaluated the measures that can most effectively be used in EHRs. Their review of the evidence linking social conditions and health behaviors to health suggested that health behaviors such as alcohol use and social conditions such as financial resource strain account for more than half of all premature deaths in the United States.

The committee developed a panel of measures covering 12 social and behavioral domains that can be asked by clinical staff or directly answered by patients, and then incorporated into EHRs. “Including a concise panel of standard measures of social and behavioral determinants in every patient's EHR”, said Adler and Stead, “will increase clinical awareness of the patient's health status and enable clinical, public health, and community resources to work in concert.”

Read more on the NEJM website

photo Elissa Epel, Ph.D.Elissa Epel, Ph.D. featured in cover story of November 2014 APA Observer

Association for Psychological Science (APS) Fellow and UCSF Health Psychology faculty Elissa Epel, Ph.D. has had an article published about her research on telomeres and the link between chronic stress and aging in the November 2014 issue of the APA Observer. In the article, The Long and the Short of It, she shares her story of her journey into integrative science and offers advice to young researchers pursuing multidisciplinary collaborations. Click to link to article here.

photo Nancy Adler, Ph.D.Social and behavioral data provide key info for electronic health records

Social and behavioral data provide crucial information about factors that influence health and effectiveness of treatment and should be incorporated into patient electronic health records (EHR), according to a new report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM).

The IOM committee, co-chaired by Nancy Adler, PhD, was created in 2013 to conduct a two-phase study to identify the social and behavioral areas that most strongly determine health, and then evaluate the measures that can most effectively be used in EHRs. They reviewed the evidence linking social conditions and health behaviors to health, which suggests that health behaviors such as alcohol use, and social conditions such as financial resource strain account for more than half of all premature deaths in the United States. The committee evaluated more than 70 relevant domains and subdomains, 17 of which were judged to be most valuable for inclusion in electronic health records.

“Having access to information about health-related aspects of a patient’s life in the electronic health record can enable clinicians to make more accurate diagnoses and engage more effectively with the patient in making treatment choices,” said Adler. “The information can also help health systems understand the needs of the populations they serve and design more effective services.”

• Read more on UCSF News

New research connects soda drinking with accelerated cellular aging

Sugar-sweetened soda consumption might promote disease independently from its role in obesity, according to UCSF researchers — including Psychiatry faculty members Elissa Epel, PhD, and Nancy Adler, PhD — who found in a new study that consuming sugary drinks was associated with cell aging.

The study revealed that telomeres – the protective units of DNA that cap the ends of chromosomes in cells – were shorter in the white blood cells of survey participants who reported drinking more sugar-sweetened soda. The findings were reported online October 16 in the American Journal of Public Health.

“Regular consumption of sugar-sweetened sodas might influence disease development, not only by straining the body’s metabolic control of sugars, but also through accelerated cellular aging of tissues,” said Epel, who served as senior author of the study.

Read the full article on UCSF News

Nicki Bush voices concerns about unregulated adolescent therapeutic programs in The Atlantic

Nicki Bush, PhD, recently spoke to The Atlantic’s Sulome Anderson about the proliferation of “wildness boot camps” and other corrective outdoor programs for troubled teens, as well as potential pitfalls they represent as unregulated programs dealing with an extremely vulnerable population.

“[These programs] call themselves wilderness therapy or come up with their own categories so that they can avoid the criteria that would apply to, for example, a mental health treatment facility,” said Bush. “Then because they’re not regulated, no one is really ensuring that their staff has adequate training, and in many cases we’ve seen, the staff are by no means qualified to provide the type of care that is being advertised and certainly not the type of care that these facilities require.”

Read more about this story at The Atlantic

photo Aric Prather, PhDAric Prather honored for psychoneuro-immunology research work

Aric Prather, PhD, has been named as the recipient of the 2015 Robert Ader New Investigator Award by the PsychoNeuroImmunology Research Society (PNIRS) and will deliver a presentation on his research at PNIRS’ 22nd Annual Scientific Meeting next June in Seattle.

PNIRS is an international organization for researchers in a number of scientific and medical disciplines including psychology, neurosciences, immunology, pharmacology, psychiatry, behavioral medicine, infectious diseases, endocrinology and rheumatology, who are interested in interactions between the nervous system and the immune system, and the relationship between behavior and health. The organization’s Robert Ader New Investigator Award is presented annually to an outstanding new research scientist who has made exciting basic science or clinical contributions to the field of psychoneuroimmunology.

photo Nancy Adler, PhDNancy Adler discusses the connection between socioeconomic status, stress and physical health

In a recent piece for the Sacramento Bee‘s “California Forum,” journalist Dan Weintraub spoke to Nancy Adler, PhD, about the relationship between wealth and well-being, and how constant stress caused by socioeconomic factors can have serious physical effects. The link between social class and health has been long understood to exist, but the importance of stress as a factor is a recent revelation for many medical professionals and policymakers.

According to Adler, researchers have found only two things that negate the effects of socioeconomically induced stress on health: maintaining a sense of control and having a higher self-perception of socioeconomic status.

“If you think about stress, it’s not just being exposed to challenges, it’s the sense that you don’t have the resources to deal with it,” Adler told Weintraub. “People with a low sense of control are much more vulnerable to stress... When you feel you are just low on the social hierarchy, when you feel you are at the bottom of the heap, it adds to stress. People at the same level, objectively, if they put themselves at the bottom it affects their health.”

Read the full article at the Sacramento Bee

photo Elissa Epel and Wendy MendesFaculty members awarded National Institute on Aging R24 network grant

Elissa Epel, PhD, and Wendy Berry Mendes, PhD, were awarded a National Institute on Aging R24 network grant as multiple PIs, entitled “Advancing Psychosocial & Biobehavioral Stress Measurement to Understand Aging” (otherwise known as the Stress and Affect Network), and will be leading a national effort to improve stress measurement. The network will include experimental biobehavioral studies and refinement of short self-report measures to help implement the best indices of cumulative and traumatic life stress in international population-based studies.

Research from Puterman, Epel shows a healthy lifestyle may buffer against stress-related cell aging

A new study from UCSF researchers including Eli Puterman, PhD, and Elissa Epel, PhD, is the first to show that while the impact of life’s stressors accumulate over time and accelerate cellular aging, their negative effects may be reduced by maintaining a healthy diet, exercising and sleeping well. The study was published online in Molecular Psychiatry, a peer-reviewed science journal by Nature Publishing Group.

“The study participants who exercised, slept well and ate well had less telomere shortening than the ones who didn’t maintain healthy lifestyles, even when they had similar levels of stress,” said Puterman, lead author of the study. “It’s very important that we promote healthy living, especially under circumstances of typical experiences of life stressors like death, caregiving and job loss.”

In recent years, shorter telomeres have become associated with a broad range of aging-related diseases, including stroke, vascular dementia, cardiovascular disease, obesity, osteoporosis, diabetes, and many forms of cancer.

Read more about this on UCSF News

Nancy Adler, Kristine Yaffe among top 1% of cited researchers

Faculty members Nancy Adler, PhD, and Kristine Yaffe, MD, have been named among "The World's Most Influential Scientific Minds" for 2014 by Thomson Reuters. Both were recognized for their prodigious and influential research efforts with inclusion on the Highly Cited Researchers 2014 list, recognizing researchers ranking among the top 1% most cited for their subject field and year of publication between 2002 and 2012.

Gordon Macomber, managing director of Thomson Reuters Scientific and Scholarly research, said of the list, "Citations offer a direct testament to work that scientists themselves judge to be the most important to ongoing research. By analyzing these citation connections, one can identify the most impactful people, publications, programs, and more. The listings in Highly Cited Researchers truly reflect positive assessment by peers, and constitute a searchable database containing an elite selection of the world's most influential researchers."


Research finds chronic stress heightens vulnerability to diet-related metabolic risk

New research from a group including Psychiatry faculty members Kirsten Aschbacher, PhD; Eli Puterman, PhD; and Elissa Epel, PhD, is the first to demonstrate that highly stressed people who eat a lot of high-fat, high-sugar food are more prone to health risks than low-stress people who eat the same amount of unhealthy food.

“Chronic stress can play an important role in influencing biology, and it’s critical to understand the exact pathways through which it works.” said Aschbacher, lead author of the study published online in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology. “Many people think a calorie is a calorie, but this study suggests that two women who eat the same thing could have different metabolic responses based on their level of stress."

“The medical community is starting to appreciate how important chronic stress is in promoting and worsening early disease processes,” observed Aschbacher. “But there are no guidelines for ‘treating’ chronic stress. We need treatment studies to understand whether increasing stress resilience could reduce the metabolic syndrome, obesity or diabetes.”

Read the full article on UCSF News

Eli Puterman awarded Early Career Investigator Award from the Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM)

Eli Puterman, PhD

Eli Puterman, PhD, has been chosen as the 2014 Early Career Investigator Award honoree by the Society of Behavorial Medicine (SBM). First awarded in 1986, the award recognizes outstanding achievement and contribution to the field of behavioral medicine by an early career investigator. Puterman will formally receive the honor during the SBM Annual Meeting this April in Philadelphia.

Founded in 1979, SBM is a multidisciplinary organization of clinicians, educators, and scientists dedicated to promoting the study of the interactions of behavior with biology and the environment, and the application of that knowledge to improve the health and wellbeing of individuals, families, communities, and populations.

Psychology and Medicine scholar and faculty research explores emotional synchrony between mother and child

Wendy Berry Mendes, PhD Sara Waters, PhD

UCSF News link:

APS Press Release:

Nancy Adler, PhD awarded the Lloyd Holly Smith Award

Nancy Adler, PhD, has been chosen to receive a 2014 Lloyd Holly Smith Award for Exceptional Service to the School of Medicine in recognition of her leadership as a researcher and educator. In announcing her selection, School of Medicine dean Sam Hawgood noted, “Nancy’s leadership style is collegial and gentle, yet coupled with a remarkable mind, tenacious work ethic and steely discipline.”

Created in 2000, the Holly Smith Awards are named for Lloyd H. (Holly) Smith, Jr., professor and chairman emeritus of the UCSF Department of Medicine. Recipients of the award are deemed to exhibit those qualities best exemplified by Holly Smith: dedication to the School of Medicine, diversity in roles played, commitment to sustaining UCSF's position as a world-class institution, and accomplishing all of the above with humor and grace. Adler will be formally presented with her award at the School of Medicine’s annual Salute to Excellence event in May.

photo Frances Cohen, PhD
IN MEMORIAM - Frances Cohen, PhD

With deep sadness, we announce the death of our retired colleague Frances Cohen, PhD. She passed away on Saturday, May 28, 2014 in Berkeley surrounded by her family following complications from pancreatic cancer.

Dr. Cohen joined the department in 1976 and was a founding faculty member of the UCSF Health Psychology Program. As a researcher focused on psychoneuroimmunology, Dr. Cohen made a lasting impact on our understanding of stress, disease, and immunological function, and was a member of the American Psychological Association, the Academy of Behavioral Research Medicine, the Psychoneuroimmunology Research Society, and the American Psychosomatic Society. Even following her retirement and recognition as a Professor Emerita, Dr. Cohen continued to be fully engaged and was a regular participant in seminars and faculty meetings. Beyond her intellectual interest in stress and coping, Dr. Cohen was a warm and caring person who took a personal interest in the lives and well-being of those around her, and she will be sorely missed.