Health Buzz: Media’s Impact on Kids and Other Health News

Holiday books that aim to help readers get healthier; making tough decisions about psychiatric drugs

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More Media Exposure May Mean Health Problems in Kids

Television, music, magazines, movies, video games, and the Internet may negatively affect the health of children and adolescents, suggests a new review of nearly 30 years of research. The report, released by the National Institutes of Health and the nonprofit advocacy group Common Sense Media, looked at 173 studies done since 1980 and found a strong correlation between more media exposure and poorer health outcomes, the New York Times reports. Most of the studies showed that higher media consumption was tied to increases in childhood obesity, sexual behavior, and tobacco use. The researchers also identified "statistically significant associations" between higher media consumption and low academic achievement and the use of alcohol or drugs, the Times reports.

U.S. News's Nancy Shute recently listed six ways to prepare your kids for an oversexed world, and she explained how to combat the sexualization of childhood. An October survey found that less exposure to violent media may make kids less aggressive.

Nine Books to Help You Get Healthier in the New Year

The year is rapidly coming to a close—which brings the chance to start afresh in January. Do you or the people on your gift list need a jolt or two of inspiration to eat less, exercise more, and just lead a more healthful life? U.S. News lists nine books that could fit the bill. These recent volumes offer up a wide range of perspectives on how to prevent infirmity and disease. They are written by experts from journalist Michael Pollan, who has spent decades pondering and writing about the evils of the western diet, to David Servan-Schreiber, a psychiatrist who has fought his own battle against brain cancer, to Jan Garavaglia, a medical examiner whose years working in the morgue have provided a wealth of insights on how not to die.

Earlier this year, Lindsay Lyon explained how to make yourself happier. And Deborah Kotz reported that stress, if managed properly, can be good for you.

How Parents Can Make Wise Choices About Kids' Psychiatric Drugs 

The recent news that a Harvard psychiatrist apparently hid millions of dollars in payments from pharmaceutical companies, all while promoting the use of powerful antipsychotic drugs for children, comes at a time when the big increase in prescriptions in bipolar disorder for kids is ever more controversial. Given this, how can parents decide whether medication is the right choice for their child? U.S. News's Nancy Shute lists three ways parents can be wise about psychiatric drugs for kids.

In April, Shute reported on the American Heart Association's recommendation that children taking stimulants may need heart screening. Later, she explained that the American Academy of Pediatrics says that such routine heart screening isn't necessary.

—January W. Payne

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