In the STAI, the researcher asks the subjects how they feel at the moment and in the recent past, and how they anticipate feeling in the future (Benazon & Coyne, 2000). This test is designed to overlap between depression and anxiety scales by measuring the most common anxiety symptoms which are minimally shared with depression (American, 1994). Both physiological and cognitive components of anxiety are addressed in the 21 items describing subjective, somatic, or panic-related symptoms (Kingsbury & Williams, 2003).
Once those tests are completed, the volunteers will be asked to cycle on an ergometer for 30 minutes. The Talk Test, Target Heart Rate Evaluation, and the Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion Scale will all be administered while the volunteer is cycling. This is done to determine the energy level - or the perceived energy level - of the volunteer. All of these tests and this same specific pattern will be repeated throughout the entire study, which is eight weeks in length.
The independent variable in this study will be the diet measurement. While the volunteers get all three meals at the clinic, there is some concern that this does not constitute their entire diet. There is no way, for example, to control what they eat while they are not at the clinic. They may eat a lot of high-fat snacks, or they may eat fruits and vegetables. They may eat nothing other than the meals that the clinic provides for them. This is one area, however, that the researcher is unable to control. Asking these individuals to record any snacks or liquids that they might consume and their fat and calorie content for eight weeks is not feasible, and would likely be inaccurate in many cases. Compensation should be offered for something that would be this intrusive to a person's life, and there is no compensation available for this study. The researcher must simply take into account that the snacking habits of the volunteers have the potential to affect the outcome of the study.
Depression is a dependent variable, and it will be checked in three different ways: a neurotransmitter-level monitoring test, a symptom-based test, and a self-assessment test.
The amount of serotonin in the blood is a good indicator of normal and above normal thresholds of the key neurotransmitter linked to depression, serotonin. This chemical, typically found in the brain, can be boosted in many ways, including anti-depressant medication, certain foods, and exercise (Dietz, 2002). It is important to be aware, however, that it is not the only neurotransmitter linked to depression, and some people with normal serotonin levels are still depressed.
In order to analyze the information collected, a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods will be addressed. This combination will allow the researcher to analyze the statistical information - such as the blood levels of serotonin, the volunteers' heart rate during the cycle test, and other hard data. However, the researcher will also be able to address the feelings and thoughts of the volunteers in order to determine whether these individuals think that they are depressed. It is possible that statistical tools such as the Beck Depression Inventory will show a person to be depressed when in fact that person does not feel as though he or she is anything other than 'normal' (Kowner, 2002).
American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
Benazon, N.R., & Coyne, J.C. (2000). Living with a depressed spouse. Journal of Family Psychology, 14 (1), 71-79.
Dietz, W., MD, Ph.D. (2002). The obesity epidemic: Causes, consequences and solutions. Retrieved from University of Michigan, School of Public Health Web site: http://www.sph.umich.edu/symposium/2002/keynote.html.
Hewitt, P.L., et al. (2001). Death from anorexia nervosa: Age span and sex differences. Aging and Mental Health, 5(1), 41-46.
Hudson, C.G. (2000). At the edge of chaos: a new paradigm for social work? Journal of Social Work Education, 36(2): 215-230.
Kingsbury, K.B., & Williams, M.E. (2003). Weight wisdom: Affirmations to free you from food and body concerns. London and New York: Brunner-Routledge.
Kowner, R. (2002). Japanese body image: Structure and esteem scores in a cross-cultural perspective. International Journal of Psychology, 37(3), 149-159.