Sunday, December 21, 2008

Many brochures attribute the "cause" of Shaken Baby Syndrome to crying, as in this example.

Inconsolable crying is the most common precipitating factor, but the cause is the frustration of a caregiver unable to control the behavior of a crying baby and the stress that follows upon it.

Perceived control is an important social determinant of health. Scientific American reports on an update on the Whitehall study, which found that the lack of control an employee has over his work was far more predictive of premature death than the workload or responsibilities of the position.

The update details the mechanisms responsible for those consequences. I can readily imagine similar biological consequences result from the stress of dealing with the frustration of taking care of an infant with inconsolable crying, coupled with lack of sleep and the uncertainties all new parents face.

Hopefully, there will be more research on the interaction between infant behaviors, such as colic or inconsolable crying, and the stress and control behaviors that result in their caregivers. Not only should it result in better coping strategies, but a better understanding of the variables in caregivers and ways to effectively communicate those strategies and influence behavior.

In January researchers—following up with the Whitehall II study, begun in the 1980s—unveiled fresh details about the mechanisms underlying the now firmly established links among low job control, stress and high cardiovascular disease. They found that fully a third of an individual’s total risk for heart disease stemmed from stress-related unhealthy behaviors, such as poor diet, smoking and lack of exercise, as well as lifestyle-influenced conditions such as high blood pressure and blood glucose. The other two thirds of risk was attributable to direct biological wear and tear from living constantly in fight-or-flight mode.

The European Heart Journal published the findings online January 23.

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