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Secondhand smoke

The risk for hospitalization doubles for kids with asthma who are exposed to secondhand smoke, according to a study led by Mayo Clinic Children's Research Center.

"The results of this review serve as a reminder to parents of just how dangerous it is to expose their children to secondhand smoke," says Avni Joshi, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic Children's Center. "We knew that kids should not be exposed to tobacco, but how bad their asthma is likely to be with tobacco exposure was not clear. This study helped us quantify that risk, and so it informs as well as empowers us with the risk assessment. A child is twice as likely to end up in the hospital with an asthma flare if family members continue to smoke."

The study was published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Face to face

In a study of adults aged 50 years and older, the probability of experiencing depressive symptoms steadily increased as the frequency of in-person — but not phone or written/email contact — decreased.

Individuals without in-person social contact with children, other family, and friends at least every few months had a significantly higher probability of clinically significant depressive symptoms two years later (11.5 percent) compared with those having in-person contact once or twice a month (8.1 percent) or once or twice a week (7.3 percent).

"This study shows that meeting up and connecting with people face-to-face is good medicine for depression prevention," said Dr. Alan Teo, lead author of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society study. "As opportunities for connecting grow with social media, I hope we can study more how different ways of connecting influence mental health." 

Probing schizophrenia

Despite decades of study, schizophrenia has remained stubbornly difficult to diagnose in its earliest stage, between the appearance of symptoms and the development of the disorder. Now, A new analysis led by researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and the Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) identified illogical thoughts as most predictive of schizophrenia risk. Surprisingly, perceptual disturbances — the forerunners of hallucinations — are not predictive, even though full-blown hallucinations are common features of schizophrenia. The results were published online in the journal Schizophrenia Research.

"The earlier people are identified and receive treatment when they develop schizophrenia, the better their prognosis," said Diana Perkins, M.D., one of the study authors. "If we can identify people at high risk for psychosis we can then develop interventions to prevent the development of schizophrenia and the functional declines associated with it."

Schizophrenia is a chronic mental illness that affects more than 3 million people in the United States. 

Dying at home

Dying at home could be beneficial for terminally ill cancer patients and their relatives, according to research published in the open access journal BMC Medicine.

The study shows that, according to questionnaires completed by their relatives, those who die at home experience more peace and a similar amount of pain compared to those who die in hospital, and their relatives also experience less grief. However, this requires discussion of preferences, access to a comprehensive home care package and facilitation of family caregiving.

Previous studies have shown that most people would prefer to die at home. Despite the trends, the most frequent location of death for cancer patients remains the hospital. 


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