More Evidence that Social Connectivity is Linked to Better Health Outcomes

As a kind of addendum to my previous post, I wanted to note that another study has identified links between social interaction and health, not just with the elderly but at two distinct stages of life. Researchers associated with the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill used data from four national samples to determine if an association existed between elements of personal relationships and physical health markers. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study concluded that level of social involvement and size of social network are associated with the risk of poor health.  Among senior citizens, social connection was associated with lower risk of disease development, particularly around obesity and hypertension. An even more interesting finding – the level of social engagement among adolescents predicted their risk of health complications later in life.




Citation: Yang Claire YangCourtney BoenKaren GerkenTing LiKristen Schorppand Kathleen Mullan Harris. Social relationships and physiological determinants of longevity across the human life span. PNAS 2016 ; published ahead of print January 4, 2016, doi:10.1073/pnas.1511085112


New Data: Prevalence of Mental Health Diagnoses, Prescriptions Among Foster Care Youth

The 2013 report Diagnosis and Health Care Utilization of Children who are in Foster Care and Covered by Medicaid, from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) is loaded with useful data, including those showing a stark contrast in the prevalence of mental health diagnoses between Medicaid-covered youth in foster care and their peers outside the child welfare system.  While recent research indicates that the increase in psychiatric diagnoses and office visit rates for U.S. youth outpace those of adults (based on comparison of data from the latter half of the 1990s and 2007-2010),  mental illness and psychiatric disabilities appear to be more prevalent among children in foster care than in the general population (a trend also found in countries outside of the United States).

The SAMHSA report divides findings into age groups (and is available at their website in PDF form), but some of the overall trends include:

  • Mental health diagnoses (49 percent) rates among foster care youth covered by Medicaid was higher in 2010 than their counterparts not in foster care (11 percent)
  • Children in foster care had more outpatient visits and longer lengths of an average inpatient stay than those not in foster care

Among adolescents (ages 12-17):

  • Attention-deficient, conduct and disruptive disorder were the most common diagnoses in 2010, occurring in 38 percent of foster care youth compared to 11 percent of their peers outside of foster care
  • 40 percent of 12-17 years olds in foster care used prescription medication related to a mental health diagnosis

In light of these trends, it might be worth noting that a December 2012 report from the Government Accountability Office raised concerns to the Department of Health and Human Services’ over appropriate treatment of mental illness and use of prescribed psychiatric medication for children in Medicaid or in the foster care system (the majority also covered by Medicaid). Their report found that youth covered by Medicaid were twice as likely to take anti-psychotic medications than privately insured youth, but may not have received counseling or additional mental health treatment other than the medication.



Report Citation: Center for Mental Health Services and Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Diagnoses and Health Care Utilization of Children Who Are in Foster Care and Covered by Medicaid. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 13-4804. Rockville, MD: Center for Mental Health Services and Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2013.


New Report Highlights Trends in School Crime

Violent behavior and illegal activity in schools are of utmost concern to parents, educators and community leaders due to their impact on the learning environment as well as the safety and well-being of the youth, school personnel and local residents. The Bureau of Justice Statistics and the National Center for Education Statistics recently announced the release of Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2010 by Simone Robers, Jijun Zhang and Jennifer Truman, an annual report on indicators of and trends in crime and safety in schools nationwide. The publication presents data on criminal activity inside and outside of schools gathered from myriad sources including: the National Crime Victimization Survey, the School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey, the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, the School Survey on Crime and Safety and the School and Staffing Survey. This report provides the most current detailed statistical information on the nature of crime in schools.

Some of the findings are highlighted below.

  • In 2008,1.2 million students ages 12-18 were victims of non-fatal crimes at school (including theft and other violent crimes such as assault, robbery and rape), however, the overall at-school theft and violent crime victimization rate of students in that age range decreased between 2007 and 2008.
  • Ten percent of male and 5 percent of female students in grades 9-12 reported experiencing threats or injuries with a weapon while on school grounds in 2009.

There appears to be statistical support for long term trends regarding drugs, weapons and increased security measures including:

  • The proportion of students in grades 9-12 who were offered, sold or given drugs dropped from 32 percent in 1995 to 23 percent in 2009.
  • Between 1993–2009, students who reported carrying a weapon at least once (anywhere, including school) within the past 30-day-period decreased from 22 to 17 percent, as did the percent of those who reported carrying a weapon at least one day on school grounds.
  • An increase in the number of public schools that reported the use of multiple safety and security measures including controlled access to areas inside and outside of the school, mandatory ID badges for staff and/or students, video surveillance and uniforms between the 1999-2000 school year and the 2000-2008 year.

The complete report is available at the National Center for Education Statistics website.

Eating Disorders Increasing Among Youth

Children are being diagnosed with eating disorders in increasing numbers according to a report by David S. Rosen, MD, MPH, in the journal Pediatrics. Dr Rosen’s article, Clinical Report—Identification and Management of Eating Disorders in Children and Adolescents, discusses the signs of eating disorders, as well as the continuum of interventions and advises on the role of the practicing pediatrician in the prevention of such disorders.

The increase in both the incidence and prevalence of bulimia and anorexia may not indicate a long-term trend, but it is related to the physical and mental elements of well-being so crucial to the healthy development of children and adolescents, and should be noted by nonprofit professionals.

A PDF of the full study many be downloaded from the Pediatrics website.

Full Citation: David S. Rosen and THE COMMITTEE ON ADOLESCENCE
Clinical Report—Identification and Management of Eating Disorders in Children and Adolescents Pediatrics 2010 : peds.2010-2821v1-peds.2010-2821.