A CITYWIDE “URINALYSIS”?
Study results presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society suggest that it is possible to perform a “community urinalysis” to test for widespread prescription and illicit drug use. Researchers from Oregon State University tested the wastewater from 10 U.S. cities for 15 different drugs. One affluent city had low levels of illicit drugs, except for cocaine; in other cities, the levels of cocaine and ecstasy were highest on the weekends, and the use of methamphetamines and prescription drugs was steady throughout the week. The authors note that there are very few indicators of current drug use, and self-reported questionnaires, which are being used by researchers, underestimate drug use. (Harvard Medical School's Consumer Health Information, August 22, 2007)
DOES USING A CELL PHONE AT NIGHT CAUSE TIREDNESS IN TEENS?
Turn off the phone, and get some sleep! Results from a study published in the journal Sleep suggest that using cell phones at night may increase tiredness among teenagers. Researchers analyzed the cell phone habits of 1,656 Belgian students and found that using a cell phone once a month at night increased the odds of being very tired after one year. Compared with children who never used a phone at night, those who used it less than once a week were 2.2 times as likely to be very tired, and children who used it more than once a week were 5.1 times more likely to be very tired. (Sleep, September 1, 2007)
ROCK AND POP STARS HAVE AN INCREASED RISK OF MORTALITY
Do only the good die young? According to study results from the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, famous singers are nearly twice as likely to die prematurely compared with the general population. Researchers analyzed data from 1,064 North American and European rock and pop stars who achieved fame between 1956 and 1999, and they compared how long the famous music stars lived with the life expectancy of the general public. One hundred of these singers died between 1956 and 2005, and the average age of North American and European stars at the time of death was 42 and 35 years, respectively. The cause of death for more than 25 percent of these persons was a chronic alcohol- or drug-related problem or overdose. The authors note that the results of this study are particularly poignant because celebrities have been used to promote healthy messages in various countries; therefore, their behaviors should emulate—not contradict—the messages they promote. (J Epidemiol Community Health, November 2007)
DO AMERICANS HOLD INACCURATE BELIEFS ABOUT CANCER RISKS?
According to results of a study published in Cancer, a number of Americans are ill informed about the risks of cancer. Researchers conducted a telephone survey and gathered responses from 957 adults. The researchers found that 38.7 percent of participants thought that living in a polluted city posed a greater risk of cancer than smoking one pack of cigarettes a day; 29.7 percent thought that electronic devices such as cell phones could cause cancer; and 67.7 percent thought that the risk of dying from cancer in the United States was increasing. The researchers think that these misconceptions could be addressed through public education programs that are accessible to all, with special attention paid to high-risk populations. (Cancer, September 1, 2007)
ACTING CLASSES COULD INCREASE EMPATHY AMONG PHYSICIANS
Theater may be just what the doctor ordered, suggest study results published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. Twenty internal medicine residents took part in the study. Those in the intervention group were assigned to six hours of acting lessons and lectures that focused on the impact of breathing rhythms, eye contact, body language, vocal inflection, and attentiveness on the physician-patient relationship. After observing those in the intervention group at a primary care clinic at least once before and once after the acting course, the researchers found that the empathy skills taught to the students greatly improved their bedside manner and increased patient trust. The intervention group also scored much higher in almost every aspect of empathy skills compared with the control group. Although more research may be warranted, courses that emphasize the value and development of empathy skills could likely benefit all health care professionals. (J Gen Intern Med, August 2007)