Health Buzz: The Pleasures of Bullying and Other Health News

Rankings of America's Best Health Plans, a patch that boosts sex drive, and the merits of placebo use.


Bullies Might Enjoy the Pain of Others

Bullies might actually enjoy making others feel bad, suggests a new study published in Biological Psychology. Researchers used functional MRI scans to observe brain activity in eight 16- to 18-year-old young men—who were known to be unusually aggressive—as they viewed videos of people being harmed, reports. The researchers compared those scans to the fMRIs of eight adolescent males who were not unusually aggressive. The results showed that both groups had activity in the pain centers of the brain while watching the videos, but the aggressive group also had activity in the pleasure centers of the brain, perhaps implying that they got some enjoyment out of seeing others get hurt.

Last year, U.S. News explained what to do if your child is bullied online. Also, a September report found that bullying is a chief concern for parents of overweight kids.

America's Best Health Plans

This is the fourth year that U.S. News and the National Committee for Quality Assurance, managed care's major accrediting and standards-setting body, have teamed up to rank health insurance plans. We release the rankings—lists of the top 50 commercial plans, top 25 Medicare plans, and top 25 Medicaid plans—during open-enrollment season, when millions of Americans prepare to select their healthcare coverage for the next year, Avery Comarow reports. Cost plays a large role in plan choice, of course. But data analyzed by NCQA and provided to U.S. News about hundreds of plans permit quality to be considered as well. The rankings show how well plans do at preventing and treating illness and providing consumer services to members.

Check out the America's Best Health Plans Honor Roll and find a list of uncooperative health plans that refused to provide data. U.S. News offers 10 tips to help you pick a health plan and provides advice on what to do if your health insurer won't pay. And Michelle Andrews explains what happens to your health coverage if your company stumbles.

Using a Testosterone Patch to Boost Sex Drive

In this week's New England Journal of Medicine, researchers tout a testosterone patch for women, saying that it appears to help users have satisfying sex more often. Those on a 300-microgram dose of the patch, called Intrinsa, had gratifying sex an average of 2.1 times in four weeks, compared with 1.2 times for those on a lower dose and 0.7 times for those on a placebo. The trade-off for slightly better sex? Unwanted hair growth in manly places like the face and chest, as well as the possibility of increased breast cancer.

U.S. News's Deborah Kotz lists five natural ways to boost sex drive. In March, Lindsay Lyon reported that some experts say that women lacking libido aren't sick.

The Debate About Some Doctors Prescribing "Fake" Medicines

That pill your doctor just gave you? There's a decent chance that its ingredients are powerless to make you feel better—and that your doctor knows it, Lindsay Lyon reports. About half of U.S. doctors answering a recent national survey said that they sometimes prescribe placebo treatments to patients. That report, which appeared last month in the journal BMJ, has raised eyebrows and reignited a debate over whether such treatments have a place in medical practice. A January survey of Chicago-area physicians yielded similar findings.

Last year, U.S. News's Ben Harder blogged that medical trials sometimes ignore the placebo effect.

—January W. Payne