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Am Fam Physician. 2006;73(7):1145

One popular book series may help keep children injury free. A study published in the British Medical Journal found that on two weekends books in the popular Harry Potter series were released, the number of children admitted to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, England, dropped by almost one half. The authors of the study reviewed the number of children seven to 15 years of age who arrived at the emergency department with traumatic injuries during the weekends the two books were released and those who arrived during other summer weekends. The authors found that on the nonrelease weekends, an average of 67 children were admitted with sprains, fractures, or other musculoskeletal injuries. However, during each of the two Potter release weekends, only 36 and 37 children, respectively, appeared with the same type of injuries. At no other point in the three-year study did emergency department attendance in this age group dip that low. (BMJ, December 24, 2005)

Pregnant women may want to labor alone. According to the authors of a study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, having a labor coach makes almost no difference in the length of labor and may increase the risk of the woman having subsequent bladder problems. During the study, the authors followed 320 women during second-stage labor at a Dallas, Tex., hospital. The women were placed into two groups: 163 women were coached by assigned nurses to push during contractions, and 157 were told to “do what comes naturally.” In the end, labor time for those who were coached to push was shortened by 13 minutes. However, another study of the same women showed that three months after their labor, the women who had been coached had a smaller bladder capacity and a decreased “first urge to void.” The authors were unsure if the bladder problems had long-term consequences. (Am J Obstet Gynecol, January 2006)

Country living can be good for your mental health, according to a report in the British Journal of Psychiatry. The study authors analyzed data on more than 7,650 adults who were represented in a British household survey beginning in 1991. They discovered that despite outside factors such as marital status, health problems, and occupation, people who lived in rural areas had lower rates of existing and newly diagnosed mental health problems. Of people who shared the same mental health issue, those living in less populated areas had a greater likelihood of recovery. The authors agree that further research is needed to analyze the difference between city and country living and how each affects a person’s mental health. (Br J Psychiatry, January 2006)

A good night’s sleep may be worse for the mind than being drunk or sleep deprived. A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association says people experience impairment in short-term memory, cognitive abilities, and counting skills in the first three minutes after waking from sleep. Study participants slept eight hours a night for six nights and then were given performance tests to determine the effects of sleep inertia on their abilities. The researchers determined that the worst effects of sleep inertia usually went away within 10 minutes of awakening; however, these effects could still be detected for up to two hours. Researchers say that for a short period, the effects of sleep inertia can be as bad or worse than being drunk or being sleep deprived. They believe that this could be caused by the fact that it takes the prefrontal cortex of the brain longer to wake up following sleep. (JAMA, January 11, 2006)

Can living in a safe neighborhood help keep childhood weight off? According to results of a recent study in Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, children who live in neighborhoods their parents deem unsafe are more likely to be overweight than children living in safer areas. Researchers analyzed data on almost 770 children and their families in 10 areas across the United States. They compared each child’s body mass index with the parents’ answers to questions about the safety of their own neighborhoods. Researchers then divided the families into four groups, ranging from those living in the least safe neighborhoods to those living in the safest. They found that 17 percent of children living in the areas perceived as least safe were overweight, whereas only 4 percent of those living in the safest areas were overweight. (Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med, January 2006)

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