Entries in United States (9)


Insomnia Costing US over $63 Billion in Lost Productivity

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Nearly a quarter of all American workers -- 23.2 percent -- suffer from insomnia, according to a new study, and that is costing the country $63.2 billion a year.

The study, published in the Sept. 1 issued of Sleep and led by Ronald Kessler, a psychiatric epidemiologist and professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, found that the lack of sleep is causing workers to lose 11.3 days of productivity annually.  Financially, that amounts to $2,280 per year.

As Kessler explains, “It’s an underappreciated problem.  Americans are not missing work because of insomnia.  They are still going to their jobs but accomplishing less because they’re tired.  In an information-based economy, it’s difficult to find a condition that has a greater effect on productivity.”

Researchers used a national sampling of 7,428 employees, which was part of the larger American Insomnia Study, to determine these results.

The study also found that insomnia affected only 14.3 percent of workers aged 65 and older, and that female employees were more prone to it than their male counterparts -- 27.1 percent to 19.7 percent, respectively.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Gov't Commission Finds 83 Guatemalans Died in US-Led Experiments

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A commission set up last year by President Obama has revealed that 83 Guatemalans died in U.S. government research that infected hundreds of prisoners, prostitutes, and mental patients with the syphilis bacteria to study the drug penicillin -- a project that the group called "a shameful piece of medical history."

"The report is good and I applaud the Obama administration for giving it some sunshine," said Dr. Howard Markel, a pediatrician and medical historian from the University of Michigan.  "Internationally, what we do as a human society is to make sure that these things never happen again."

But medical ethicists say that even if today's research is not as egregious as the Guatemala experiment, American companies are still testing drugs on poor, sometimes unknowing populations in the developing world.

Many, like Markel, note that experimenting with AIDS drugs in Africa and other pharmaceutical trials in Third World countries, "goes on every day."

"It's not good enough, in my opinion, to protect only people who live in the developed world -- but all human beings," he said.

The U.S. Public Health Service and the Pan American Sanitary Bureau worked with several Guatemalan government agencies from 1946 to 1948, exposing nearly 1,300 people to the sexually transmitted diseases syphilis, gonorrhea, or chancroid.  They infected soldiers, prostitutes, prisoners and mental patients -- more than 5,500 people in all were part of the medical experimentation.  

The presidential panel said government scientists knew they were violating ethical rules.

Scientists wanted to see if penicillin, which was a relatively new drug, could prevent infections.  The research was paid for with U.S. tax dollars and culled no useful medical information.

This week, the Obama commission revealed that only 700 of them received treatment and 83 died by 1953.  The commission could not confirm whether the deaths were a direct cause of those infections.

In the 1940s, syphilis was a major health threat, causing blindness, insanity and even death.  Many of the same researchers had carried out studies on prisoners in Terre Haute, Indiana, but unlike the Guatemalan research, they gave consent.

For years, the experiments were secret, until Susan M. Reverby, a medical historian at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, found the records of Dr. John Cutler, who led the experiments.  A federal commission to learn more was set up last year.

President Obama has apologized to Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom.  A final report is due in December.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hunger in America: How to Help

Comstock/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- One in six Americans does cannot get enough food, and more than 50 million Americans live in "food insecure" households, according to Feeding America, a U.S. hunger-relief organization.

Hunger exists throughout America, in cities, suburbs and rural areas, affecting people of every race and religion, according to the organization. Doctors at Boston Medical Center's Grow Clinic said they have seen a dramatic increase in the number of children they treat who are dangerously thin.

"What's so hard is that a lot of families are working so hard," said Dr. Megan Sandel, an associate professor of pediatrics and public health at BMC. "They are working jobs. They are earning money, and their dollars just don't go far enough."

Nearly 15 million children live in poverty in the U.S., according to the National Center for Children in Poverty, and that number is up almost 20 percent from 2000, primarily because of higher unemployment and foreclosures. While children across the nation are in need, the neediest are in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Here's how you can help those in need of food.

Organizations That Help the Hungry

Feeding America: Feeding America will help provide food to an estimated 14 million children this year. The organization says that for $45, it can feed a family of four for a month.

To donate to Feeding America Click Here, or you can contribute $10 by texting FEED to 50555.

Food Bank for New York City: Food Bank for New York City is one of America's largest food banks, and its mission is to end hunger in New York City by tackling it on three fronts: food distribution, income support and nutrition education. The organization says it provides 400,000 free meals a day for New Yorkers in need.

To donate to the Food Bank for New York City Click Here.

Freedom From Hunger: Established in 1946 Freedom From Hunger works in 19 countries to help the poorest people in the world achieve food security. The organization says its microfinance programs serve more than 18 million people.

To donate to Freedom From Hunger Click Here.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study: Reputation Can Be Deadly for Whites in 'Honor States'

Southern and western states have a "culture of honor" that focus on aggressively protecting a person's own reputation, and new research links this cultural phenomenon to a higher rate of accidental deaths in these states. (Giorgio Fochesato/Vetta/Getty Images)(NORMAN, Okla.) -- White people living in certain states might be more likely to die from accidents because these states have a so-called "honor culture," according to new studies published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. In an honor culture, there is a strong emphasis on preserving a person's reputation.

Researchers from the University of Oklahoma found that white men and women living in southern and western states are more likely to engage in risky behavior that leads to accidental death. Based on previous research on the honor culture, the authors say, the District of Columbia and the following states are considered honor states:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Most Depressed Nations: Where Does America Rank?

Agri Press/Lifesize(STONY BROOK, N.Y.) -- The old adage that money can't buy happiness may be true not only for individuals, but for society as a whole, according to new international research on depression.

In a global collaborative study that looked at depression and social conditions in 18 countries, researchers found that while depression has a similar debilitating effect on people worldwide, wealthier nations tend to have a higher incidence of depression among their citizens when compared with middle-income or poorer nations.

Researchers interviewed 89,000 people from countries ranging from high-income nations like France, Germany, Belgium, the United States and Japan, to low-income ones like Colombia, India, China, Mexico and South Africa. On average, 15 percent of the population in wealthier nations suffered from depression over the course of their lifetime as compared with 11 percent for the less wealthy nations.

The United States and France were the leading most-depressed nations, with a prevalence of depression five times what was reported for less wealthy nations like Mexico and China.

"We were struck by the difference among high-income and low-income countries," says lead author on the study Dr. Evelyn Bromet, a professor of psychiatry at State University of New York at Stony Brook. "Why this may be the case is the $64,000 question. We don't know for sure."

One of the things Bromet and colleagues found most striking however, was the extent to which people from all different nations seemed to respond to depression with similar levels of impairment -- that is, depression negatively affected citizens' ability to work, have meaningful relationships, and in general live their lives, whether in Ukraine or in Japan.

It is impossible to tell exactly how or why a country's wealth may have a negative impact on its citizen's happiness from this research, but mental health experts have a few ideas as to what might be going on here.

"Wealthier nations...are industrialized nations where individuals rely less on family support for everything from childcare to marital advice. There is a well known link between social support being a protective factor against depression," says Dr. Sudeepta Varma, assistant professor of Psychiatry, NYU Langone Medical Center. "I also believe that poorer nations may look to religious/spiritual beliefs for comfort, also a protective factor."

On the other hand, it could have to do with expectations for success and wealth, says Dr. Gary Kennedy, director of the Division of Geriatric Psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center.

"There's a greater disparity of wealth in higher income nations, so part of what happens is that your expectations are greater. In a sense, you have farther to fall than one might have in a lower-income country," he says.

Yet another possibility, noted by the authors, is that using interviews to gauge depression may be underestimating incidence of the condition in nations where mental health isn't something that's discussed openly with a foreign interviewer.

"The strength and the weakness of our study is that we used the same interview everywhere," Bomet says. While this makes the data consistent, it may not capture depression as well in lower-income countries where mental health is less widely discussed.

"In the U.S. people are so used to being interviewed, where as in Ukraine, for instance, no one has ever done a study like this before," she says. "We used an American/European approach to defining depression. It's possible that the instrument was more sensitive in the U.S. and that we missed some aspects of depression in say, Asian cultures."

Though the connection between the prevalence of depression and the wealth of a nation is not well understood, this research serves as further evidence that cultural sensitivity is pivotal when dealing with global mental health issues.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Amid Financial Crisis, Suicide Rates Are Rising

Medioimages/Photodisc(LONDON) -- The financial crisis almost certainly led to an increase in suicides across Europe, according to health experts writing in the British medical journal The Lancet.

The statistics are startling. Suicides were falling before the recession, but an analysis by researchers in the U.S. and the United Kingdom  found a rise in recorded suicides between 2007 and 2009 in nine of 10 countries surveyed.  The increases varied from five to 17 percent for people under the age of 65. Of the group for whom suicide rates increased, Finland fared best while Greece, on the brink of bankruptcy, had the worst record.

Researchers also say the economy could lead to other health consequences including increases in heart disease and cancer rates, but data of that kind would take more time to develop.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Colorectal Cancer Death Rates Vary across the US

Comstock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- Despite a steady drop in the number of deaths from colorectal cancer,  particularly over the past decade, a new study released Thursday shows that the decrease may not be happening equally across the country.

Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cancer killer in the U.S. Researchers at the American Cancer Society reviewed mortality data from 1990 to 2007 across the U.S. and found that reductions in mortality ranged from 9 percent in Alabama to more than 33 percent in Massachusetts. Futhermore, states like Mississippi and Wyoming showed no decrease at all.

So what's behind the disparity?

The authors of the study, published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, found that there is a strong correlation between higher rates of screening for colorectal cancer and higher reductions in mortality rates.

They speculate that economic disparity may be playing a role since 18.8 percent of people in Mississippi don’t have health insurance compared with 5.4 percent in Massachusetts, and this lack of coverage may limit their ability to get the recommended colonoscopies.

Copyright 2011 ABC News radio


Survey: Americans Have Highest Risk of Developing Bipolar Disorder

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(GENEVA) -- People in the United States have the highest risk of developing bipolar disorder, according to a new survey of 11 countries released Monday.

The World Health Organization surveyed more than 61,000 people from countries in the Americas, Europe and Asia, and found that the U.S. took the top spot with an estimated 4.4 percent of its population at risk for developing the disorder in their lifetime.  New Zealand followed in second place with 3.9 percent of its population at risk.

The lowest rates were seen in developing countries such as India, with a prevalence of 0.1 percent.   But this lower rate may reflect the stigma associated with mental disorders rather than actual lower rates of such disorders.´╗┐

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Trails Behind Other Countries in Life Expectancy

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Life expectancy in the U.S. trails behind other high-income countries -- despite spending more on healthcare -- and is currently ranked by the United Nations at number 28 according to a National Academy of Sciences report.

Eileen M. Crimmins, PhD of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, reports that in 2006 life expectancy at birth was 75.1 years for men and 80.2 years for women in the U.S.  However, life expectancy for men and women in Japan in 2007 was 79.2 and 86 years, respectively. 

In trying to determine the factors causing the differences in the mortality rates of different countries, researchers found that smoking, particularly for women, had some impact. 

"The damage caused by smoking was estimated to account for 78 percent of the gap in life expectancy for women and 41 percent of the gap for men between the U.S. and other high-income countries in 2003," the report stated.

Other factors that appear to contribute to the lagging life expectancy in the U.S. are obesity and lack of exercise, researchers said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio´╗┐

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