Texting, Social Networking Linked to Sex, Drugs, and Other Health Risks
Sex, drugs, alcohol—and texting? New research suggests they're linked: Teens who send more than 120 text messages a day are more likely to have had sex or used alcohol and drugs than their peers who text less, according to a study by researchers at Case Western Reserve University. They're also more likely to get into physical fights, binge drink, misuse prescription drugs, and smoke, and they're at greater risk of depression and eating disorders. Hyper-networking, or spending more than three hours a day on social networking sites, appears to cause problems too. It was linked to an increased likelihood of stress, depression, suicide, poor sleep, poor academics, television watching, and parental permissiveness. The findings, presented Tuesday at an American Public Health Association meeting in Denver, are based on a survey of more than 4,000 students at 20 urban high schools in Ohio. But the Case Western researchers say that we can't necessarily lay the blame on cell phones and computers. Rather, those teens who hyper-text or hyper-network may already be hyper-social, impulsive, or more susceptible to peer pressure, which could lead to these riskier behaviors. "It does make sense that these technologies make it easier for kids to fall into a trap of working too hard to fit in," study author Scott Frank told The New York Times. "If they're working that hard to fit in through their social networks, they're also trying to fit in through other behaviors they perceive as popular, like smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol, having sex and getting involved in higher-risk adolescent behaviors."
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Best and Worst Fast Food Kids' Meals
Even if you don't want fries with that kids' meal, chances are your fast food restaurant wants to give you some. Chains like McDonald's, Taco Bell, and Burger King offer unhealthy sides and drinks 84 percent of the time, in lieu of their more nutritious offerings like apple slices, yogurt, and juice. That's among the findings of a new analysis released Monday by researchers at Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, which examined fast food marketing and nutrition trends. The fast food industry has stepped up its efforts to reach children and teens, the researchers say: Last year, preschoolers saw 56 percent more ads for Subway, 21 percent more ads for McDonald's, and 9 percent more ads for Burger King than they did in 2007. And often, they're bombarded with images of snacks and desserts—children see more than two advertisements each day promoting unhealthy menu items.
The report adds weight to concerns about the childhood obesity epidemic, U.S. News reports. As fast food marketing campaigns become more aggressive, children are more likely to chow down on greasy fries and burgers, Rudd Center researchers say, which could take a toll on their waistlines. And childhood obesity isn't just a short-term problem: Obese teens are 16 times more likely than their peers to become severely obese by age 30, according to a study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. (Severe obesity was defined as a body mass index of 40 or greater; obesity was defined as a BMI of more than 25.) Severe obesity can lead to diabetes, hypertension, asthma, arthritis, and a shorter life, says senior author Penny Gordon-Larsen, a nutrition researcher at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. "It's very easy to eat a high-calorie, high-fat diet," she says. "We have so much food around—high-fat, high-sugar, tasty food that we need to be very careful of. Those foods are marketed well to people, and making healthier choices takes a lot more work." [Read more: Best and Worst Fast Food Kids' Meals.]
Don't Rely Too Much on Doctor and Hospital Ratings
At a recent conference, Harvard surgeon and best-selling author Atul Gawande told the audience of health professionals and policy makers that he always assigns his medical students a book about baseball called Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. It's the story of how the 2002 Oakland Athletics, which had one of the lowest payrolls in professional baseball, were able to consistently out-compete better financed teams due to their general manager's unrivaled ability to evaluate and appropriately value players. Oakland took advantage of the tendency of other teams to overvalue players based on word-of-mouth assessments of talent or commonly measured statistics—such as batting averages and number of stolen bases—that had little relationship to winning games.
Gawande's point was that many of the Moneyball lessons can be applied to medical care when it comes to evaluating the performance of doctors and hospitals, family physician Kenny Lin writes for U.S. News. A recent study published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine found that publicly available data on physicians such as medical school attended, malpractice lawsuit history, and specialty board certification are poor predictors of their adherence to accepted standards of medical care such as checking cholesterol levels in patients with diabetes and performing Pap smears in adult women at least every 3 years. [Read more: Don't Rely Too Much on Doctor and Hospital Ratings.]
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