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Suicide rate keeps rising among young Americans

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A nearly 60% jump in suicides by young Americans since 2007 has experts alarmed and somewhat puzzled.

Suicides among children and young people aged 10 to 24 rose 57% from 2007 to 2018, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The increase in youth suicide has been pervasive across the U.S. No area is immune,” said report author Sally Curtin of the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. “Hopefully, these data will inform prevention efforts.”

The surge was broad: 42 states had statistically significant increases between 2007-2009 and 2016-2018. Eight had statistically insignificant increases. Thirty-two states had hikes of 30% to 60%.

In actual numbers, the suicide rate among 10- to 24-year-olds jumped from about 7 per 100,000 in 2007 to nearly 11 per 100,000 in 2018, according to the National Vital Statistics Report published Sept. 11.

Jonathan Singer is president of the American Association of Suicidology. He said the increases in suicides in 2007-2009 were likely driven by the recession, which makes the average spike in 2016-2018 a little surprising. But he did note that gun sales increased during that time.

Singer said parents need to watch for signs that their children are troubled.

“Any time that a kid makes a statement to the effect of, ‘I don’t think that people care if I die,’ or ‘I think people would be better off if I weren’t around,’ you’ve got to take it seriously,” said Singer, an associate professor in the School of Social Work at Loyola University Chicago.

Also, he said, if a young person withdraws from usual activities or is bullied on social media, it shouldn’t be ignored.

Singer cited some places to reach out for help. Among them: the Crisis Text Line and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. For LGBT young people, there’s the Trevor Project. For college students, campus counseling is often available, and if you’re in the military, there’s the Veterans Crisis Line.

Because suicide is often impulsive, getting immediate help can defuse the impulse to kill yourself, said Singer, who wasn’t part of the CDC report.

“Having a five- to 10-minute chat or phone conversation in the moment when something is stressful can be just as valuable as spending an hour a month in therapy,” Singer said.

In the new report, the researchers found that the suicide rate for adolescents and young adults more than doubled in New Hampshire between 2007 and 2018. Elsewhere, rate increases included 22% in Maryland 41% in Illinois 51% in Colorado, and 79% in Oregon.

In 2016-2018, suicide rates among young people were highest in Alaska, while some of the lowest rates were in the Northeast. Yet even New Jersey, which had the lowest rate in that three-year period, saw a 39% increase, Curtin pointed out.

Dr. Emmy Betz, an associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, thinks the reasons for the increases in young people’s suicides are complicated and not clearly understood.

“The first thing is just to look out for each other, for our kids, for our communities and ask if we’re worried about someone and say something,” she said. “It can feel awkward, but people are grateful, usually.”

Use available resources, added Betz, who is also a spokesperson for the American College of Emergency Physicians. She was not involved with the study.

“The crisis hotline is free and available, and there’s online chat, so there are ways to reach out and get help even if you feel like you don’t want to talk to someone in your life about what you’re going through,” Betz said. “Or if you’re worried about someone and you don’t know what to do, you can always call those resources as well.”

If someone is having an immediate crisis, call 911 for help, she added.

Betz noted that parents should keep the tools of suicide, such as guns and drugs, locked so that young people can’t get to them.

Singer added that what this new report doesn’t reflect is a very large increase in suicidal thoughts among youth this year, largely due to the coronavirus pandemic and a souring economy.

“But it is also important to know that there’s not a direct relationship between an increase in suicidal thoughts and a corresponding increase in suicide deaths,” he said.

More information

For more on suicide, see the U.S. National Institute on Mental Health.

Copyright 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.



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Study: Less restrictive reproductive rights reduce birth complications risk by 7%

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Oct. 13 (UPI) — Women living in states with less restrictive reproductive rights policies are 7% less likely have low birth weight babies than those living in states with more stringent laws, according to an analysis published Tuesday by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The risk was 8% lower for Black women living in less-restrictive states, the data showed.

“Our study provides evidence that reproductive rights policies play a critical role in advancing maternal and child health equity,” study co-author May Sudhinaraset, of the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, said in a statement.

Since the Supreme Court‘s decision in Roe v. Wade in 1973, which effectively legalized abortion, states have had “substantial discretion” in creating policies governing whether Medicaid covers the costs of contraception or reproductive health care.

Some states have taken steps that effectively limit access to abortion services and other reproductive care, Sudhinaraset and her colleagues said.

Black women are more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth than any other race group, experience more maternal health complications than White women and generally have lower quality maternity care, they said.

In addition, women of color are more likely to experience adverse birth outcomes.

Compared to infants of normal weight, low-birth-weight babies face many potential health complications, including infections early in life and long-term problems, such as delayed motor and social development or learning disabilities.

Sudhinaraset and her colleagues analyzed birth record data for the nearly 4 million births that occurred in the 50 states and Washington, D.C., in 2016, comparing reproductive rights policies and adverse birth outcomes in each state.

They also evaluated if the associations were different for women of color and immigrants.

The findings indicate that expanding reproductive rights may reduce the risk of low-birth weight, particularly for U.S.-born Black women, the researchers said.

“Important policy levers can and should be implemented to improve women’s reproductive health overall, including increasing abortion access and mandatory sex education in schools,” Sudhinaraset said.



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Pandemic-related job cuts have led 14.6M in U.S. to lose insurance

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Up to 7.7 million U.S. workers lost jobs with employer-sponsored health insurance during the coronavirus pandemic, and 6.9 million of their dependents also lost coverage, a new study finds.

Workers in manufacturing, retail, accommodation and food services were especially hard-hit by job losses, but unequally impacted by losses in insurance coverage.

Manufacturing accounted for 12% of unemployed workers in June. But because the sector has one of the highest rates of employer-sponsored coverage at 66%, it accounted for a bigger loss of jobs with insurance — 18% — and 19% of potential coverage loss when dependents are included.

Nearly 3.3 million workers in accommodation and food services had lost their jobs as of June — 30% of the industry’s workforce. But only 25% of workers in the sector had employer-sponsored insurance before the pandemic. Seven percent lost jobs with employer-provided coverage.

The situation was similar in the retail sector. Retail workers represented 10% of pre-pandemic employment and 14% of unemployed workers in June. But only 4 in 10 retail workers had employer-sponsored insurance before the pandemic. They accounted for 12% of lost jobs with employer-sponsored insurance and 11% of potential loss including dependents.

The study was a joint project of the Employee Benefit Research Institute, the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research and the Commonwealth Fund.

“Demographics also play an important role. Workers ages 35 to 44 and 45 to 54 bore the brunt of [employer insurance]-covered job losses, in large part because workers in these age groups were the most likely to be covering spouses and other dependents,” said Paul Fronstin, director of EBRI’s Health Research and Education Program.

“The adverse effects of the pandemic recession also fell disproportionately on women,” Fronstin added in an EBRI news release. “Although women made up 47% of pre-pandemic employment, they accounted for 55% of total job losses.”

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19.

Copyright 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.



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Study: Medicines, frequent counseling helps cancer patients quit smoking

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Oct. 13 (UPI) — A program that included telephone counseling sessions and one of two smoking cessation drugs was 50% more effective than telephone consultations alone at helping cancer patients quit smoking, a study published Tuesday by JAMA found.

Among cancer patients who underwent treatment with four bi-weekly and three monthly counseling sessions by telephone and either bupropion, marketed as Wellbutrin, or varenicline, marketed as Chantix, for up to six months, 35% were able to successfully quit smoking, the data showed.

But only 22% of the cancer patients who underwent treatment with the telephone counseling sessions had successfully quit after six months, according to the researchers.

“Counseling plus medication is the state-of-the art tobacco treatment for cancer patients,” study co-author Elyse R. Park told UPI.

“Smoking cessation assistance should be an integral part of cancer care and sustained tobacco support can be effective for cancer patients who smoke,” said Park, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

More than 34 million adults in the United States smoke, and some 16 million are living with smoking-related diseases, including cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Up to 20% of cancer survivors continue to smoke, despite the fact that quitting improves prognosis with the disease, research suggests.

For their study, Park and her colleagues evaluated smoking cessation treatment programs in 303 adults recently diagnosed with breast, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, gynecological, head and neck, lung, lymphoma or melanoma cancers.

Roughly half — 153 — underwent “intensive” treatment for smoking, with telephone counseling and their choice of bupropion or varenicline, with the rest receiving “standard” care, with telephone counseling only, for up to six months, the researchers said.

Both bupropion and varenicline have been approved for smoking cessation treatment by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The most common adverse events in the two treatment groups were nausea, rash, hiccups, mouth irritation, difficulty sleeping and vivid dreams, and all were more common in the patients who received “intensive” care, the researchers said.

“Nausea is a side effect of varenicline, so [its use] should be monitored for patients who are experiencing nausea from their cancer treatment,” Park said.

In addition, patients on tamoxifen for breast cancer should not take bupropion, or receive a reduced dose, because of interactions between the two drugs, she said.



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