UK college of nursing faculty receive funding to study depression in single mothers

June 20, 2000

University of Kentucky College of Nursing faculty have received a $648,980 grant to study ways to prevent depression in low-income single mothers.

The three-year clinical trial, funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research at the National Institute of Health (NIH), will test the effects of a cognitive-behavioral group intervention in increasing self-esteem and reducing negative thoughts in the low-income single mothers who are experiencing depressive symptoms.

The grant received by UK College of Nursing faculty, Ann Peden, D.N.S., associate professor, Lynne A. Hall, DrPH, assistant dean for research and doctoral studies, and Mary Kay Rayens, Ph.D., assistant professor, is the largest NIH research grant ever received by the UK College of Nursing.

Peden, principal investigator, has tested her group intervention in three previous studies. The intervention entails practicing positive self-talk and using affirmations - a positive statement about one's self.

"We tested the intervention with three groups, women being treated for depression by a psychiatrist, college women at risk for depression, and finally with college women being treated for depression by a primary care provider," said Peden, who was named the 1999 Psychiatric Nurse of the Year by the Kentucky Nurses Association.

"In all of these studies, the intervention decreased depressive symptoms and negative thinking. In other words, it has enhanced the mental health of these three groups of women. Many low-income single mothers are at risk for depression. We are hopeful that the intervention will also reduce depressive symptoms in this vulnerable group."

Peden, Hall, and Rayen's most recent study using the group intervention, also funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research at the National Institute of Health, tested the cognitive-behavioral intervention with 92 college women with depressive symptoms but who had never been diagnosed or treated for depression.

Study participants who received the intervention had a greater increase in self-esteem and fewer negative thoughts and depressive symptoms compared to the women who did not receive the intervention.

The recently funded study will include 160 women taking part in a one-hour group session for six weeks. They will be surveyed at one-month, six-months and 12-months to see if the group intervention helped reduce their depressive symptoms and increase their self-esteem.

"High levels of depressive symptoms are extremely debilitating in terms of social functioning," Peden said. "We are concerned about the effects of a mother's mental health on her child."

"Thinking negatively is a bad habit developed usually when a person is a child. As situations in life worsen, the habit increases. But, it is a habit and it can be changed. So, we teach them how change it," Peden said.

University of Kentucky Medical Center

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