Webinar on Application of Life History Calendars

The eighth webinar of the monthly ‘web series for capacity building of early career researchers in Nepal’ was held on 16 March 2022 from 6 pm to 7 pm Nepal time. Dr. Dirgha Ghimire was the speaker for the webinar titled “Application of Life History Calendars to Improve Measurements of Psychiatric Disorders”. A total of 25 participants participated in the webinar. It was moderated by Ms. Ritika Singh from George Washington University.

Firstly, Ms. Singh gave a brief introduction to the webinar and its structure. Then, Dr. Brandon Kohrt from George Washington University introduced the speaker who is a Research Professor at Michigan’s Population Studies Center and Adjunct Professor at the Forestry and Agriculture University of Nepal. Before starting his presentation, Dr. Dirgha Ghimire gave a brief outline that contained the principles, examples, uses, and results of the life history calendar.

According to the speaker, the life history calendar is used to remember and report past behaviors and events. “There are three principles of life history calendars which include autobiographical memory, flexibility, and combination of data collection approaches. Structured methods such as questionnaire and semi-structured methods such as life history calendars can be used together to compensate for the strengths and weaknesses of different methods”, said Dr. Ghimire. He also gave an example where certain things like age range, ethnicity, language, and population not using calendars were taken into consideration for the contextualization of life history calendars in Nepal. Similarly, some of the memory anchors used for Nepal were national events, community events, and different calendar systems.

To use the calendar, it is shown visually to the respondents during data collection by showing when different events happened and the events that happened in their life before or after those events. Some of the national events used as memory anchors were the earthquake, referendum, flooding, etc. It is assumed that these events help the respondents remember their life events more clearly. Animal year calendar was used for those who do not use the Nepali calendar system.

“One of the limitations in retrospective reporting is the chance of forgetting past events, and they may not be reported accurately. This is even more common in mental health. The use of a life history calendar might help solve this problem”, said Dr. Ghimire. He also gave an example of experimental design in Nepal titled ‘Chitwan Valley Family Study’ where life history calendars were used along with structured questionnaires, for the analysis of four most prevalent disorders: Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Alcohol Use Disorder, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The study found higher reports of lifetime experience of mental disorders when a life history calendar was used when compared to non-use of the calendars. Thus, the use of the calendar can help identify the prevalence of mental disorders.

After the presentation, participants asked some questions to the speaker. The questions focused on the screening process, interview time, and other uses of the life history calendar. In the end, the moderator thanked all the participants for their active participation and the speaker for his innovative presentation.

The full webinar video can be accessed here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hmj7QCY38jE&t=821s&ab_channel=TPONepal

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