When Americans have medical debt, it’s typically to a hospital, according to new research. The Urban Institute found that more than 15% of non-elderly adults in the United States have past-due medical debt. Nearly 73% owe some or all of that money to hospitals. “These findings highlight the persistent challenge of medical debt in America, and the role of hospitals as a key source of that debt,” said Michael Karpman, Urban Institute principal research associate. “Understanding the experiences of people with past-due medical bills can inform discussions around new consumer protections to alleviate debt burdens,” he added in an institute news release. Data came from the Urban Institute’s Health Reform Monitoring Survey of adults aged 18 to 64 in June 2022. Although federal regulations stipulate that nonprofit hospitals must provide charity care and other community benefits, these organizations determine their own charity eligibility criteria. Financial assistance policies are often difficult to find and understand, the investigators noted. About 60% of U.S. hospitals are nonprofit organizations. For-profit hospitals are exempt from these consumer protections. The survey also found that about 28% of adults with past-due medical debt owe all of their debt to hospitals. About 45% owe their debt to hospitals and other providers. More than 20% owe at least $5,000 and most owe at least $1,000. Adults with past-due hospital bills were more likely to…  read on >  read on >

On the third anniversary of the pandemic, a new poll shows fewer older adults are experiencing loneliness and isolation though the numbers are still high. About one-third of adults aged 50 to 80 still sometimes or often experience isolation and loneliness, according to the University of Michigan researchers. They may go a week or longer without social contact from someone outside the home. Still, that’s fewer than the half of older adults who reported this in June 2020. “Three years into the COVID-19 pandemic, we see reason for hope, but also a real cause for concern,” said Dr. Preeti Malani, senior advisor and former director of the University of Michigan (U-M) National Poll on Healthy Aging. “If anything, the pandemic has shown us just how important social interaction is for overall mental and physical health, and how much more attention we need to pay to this from a clinical, policy and personal perspective.” More than 2,500 older adults answered survey questions in January. The sample was weighted to reflect the population of U.S. adults aged 50 to 80. The poll is based at the U-M Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation and supported by AARP and Michigan Medicine. “Loneliness and isolation were too high before the pandemic, and it will take a concerted effort to bring these rates down further,” poll director Dr. Jeffrey Kullgren,…  read on >  read on >

It might seem like a move to rural living could bring calm and even happiness, but new research suggests that isn’t always so. A study from the University of Houston found that those living in the country were not more satisfied with their lives than people who lived in urban areas. Rural U.S. residents didn’t feel like their lives were more meaningful, and they also tended to be more anxious, depressed and neurotic. Among the reasons for this are a shortage of mental health professionals, and the researchers noted a surge in rural hospital closures since 2010. Almost 85% of all rural counties have a mental health professional shortage, even though rural residents appear to need more psychological services, according to the study. “It will be critical to improve access to psychological services in remote areas, and to identify how characteristics and values of rural communities can be leveraged to promote positive psychological health,” said researcher Olivia Atherton, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Houston. Atherton and her colleagues analyzed data from two large longitudinal studies of Americans, the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) and the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). They looked at whether there were different levels and changes in extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness and neuroticism. They also examined whether there were differences or change in psychological well-being and…  read on >  read on >

Kids and teens are struggling with their mental health in America, and one new report suggests the overinvolvement of parents may be partly to blame. Kids don’t get to roam any more. They’ve lost time for free play and risk-taking amid parents’ fears about the dangers of the world, said report co-author David Bjorklund. While people think the lack of independence and the growth in mental health issues is new, it’s been a lot more gradual, said Bjorklund, a professor in the psychology department at Florida Atlantic University College of Science, in Boca Raton. “It’s not a really new phenomenon. It’s a growing one. And it’s been growing for decades,” Bjorklund said. The trend emerged in the 1960s and really accelerated in the 1980s, the authors said. Some eventually dubbed the trend “helicopter parenting.” Adults were well-intentioned in wanting to protect children, according to the paper, but this has deprived kids of the independence they need for mental health. And now young people are experiencing high levels of anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation. In 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association issued a joint statement to the White House that child and adolescent mental health be declared a “national emergency.” Last month, the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention reported on the…  read on >  read on >

A man with prostate cancer who takes the “watch-and-wait” approach has the same long-term survival odds as those who undergo radiation therapy or surgery, according to a new large-scale study. Patients had the same 97% survival rate after a decade and a half whether doctors treated their tumor or simply put it under observation, British researchers found. “Survival from prostate cancer was high after 15 years of follow-up, whether patients received radiotherapy, prostatectomy [prostate removal] or active monitoring,” said study co-author Jenny Donovan, a professor of social medicine with the University of Bristol. “Only 3% of patients in the study died from prostate cancer.” Researchers presented the findings last weekend at the European Association of Urology’s annual meeting, in Milan, and the results were published simultaneously in the New England Journal of Medicine. For the study, researchers evaluated nearly 82,500 men in the United Kingdom who underwent a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test between 1999 and 2009. The study recruited just over 1,600 men diagnosed with localized prostate cancer as a result of their screening and randomly assigned them to one of three groups — an active monitoring group, a group that underwent surgery to remove their prostate, and a group that received radiation therapy for their cancer. After 15 years, only 45 had died — 17 in the active monitoring group, 12 in the surgery…  read on >  read on >

You may have heard of postpartum depression and “the baby blues,” but did you know that there’s another widely studied mental health condition called postpartum anxiety? Dr. Erica Newlin, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Westlake, Ohio, said in a Cleveland Clinic podcast that, “Peripartum and postpartum anxiety and depression, and just mental health concerns in general, are super, super common. Most studies really cite a prevalence of around 10%. But we think that that might be vastly underreported.” And postpartum anxiety doesn’t just affect mothers: A recent review published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology revealed that about 1 in 10 dads were impacted. To understand how to better manage postpartum anxiety and reduce your risk factors for developing the condition, it’s important to learn what it is, its causes and key symptoms, and the treatments that are recommended by doctors, including commonly prescribed medications. What is postpartum anxiety? Postpartum anxiety is named after the time period immediately following delivery or becoming a parent. “You can start to experience it any time during the pregnancy and in that first year after delivering,” said Newlin. According to the Cleveland Clinic, what sets postpartum anxiety apart from normal worry is the severity of its symptoms. The condition is marked by irrational fears that go well beyond the natural concerns parents have for their children’s health and well-being.…  read on >  read on >

(HealthDay News) – For some children, it can be hard when mom or dad leave them at daycare, school or even just with the other parent. It’s normal for small children to feel some separation anxiety. But it can be more concerning when a child doesn’t outgrow these feelings or feels them very intensely. This significant fear is known as Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD). “It’s rare that separation anxiety persists on a daily basis after the preschool years. If you’re concerned that your child isn’t adapting to being without you, chat with the pediatrician,” Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications and Media, suggested in a story about separation anxiety for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). What is separation anxiety? Fear or acting out because of a desire to not be separated from a parent is normal for babies ages 9 to 18 months old, according to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). It can even start as early as 4 to 5 months, according to the AAP. It typically ends around age 2, according to the National Library of Medicine. That’s when kids are old enough to understand that after a separation their parents will return. But about 3% of kids continue to experience these feelings into elementary school, according to CHOP. That can increase…  read on >  read on >

Planning for a safe summer camp experience requires some extra steps if your child has asthma or allergies. An allergy expert noted that it’s a huge concern for parents. “Most kids heading off to summer camp for the first time wonder how they’ll cope sleeping in a cabin with 10 other kids, if they’ll make friends, and what exactly is in the bug juice,” said allergist Dr. Kathleen May, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “Meanwhile, parents of kids with allergies and asthma are wondering if the camp is prepared to handle an emergency situation should one arise,” May said in a college news release. ACAAI offered some tips for a safe camp experience: Consider a camp focused on kids with food allergies or asthma. These camps provide specialized medical staff who are trained in treating allergic diseases. An internet search may help you find one nearby. Make sure prescriptions are up to date, symptoms are under control and your child’s medication dosage hasn’t changed. If your child has a prescription for an epinephrine auto injector because of a severe allergy, be sure you have a ready supply. Ask your child’s doctor about updating his or her COVID vaccination before camp. Talk to camp personnel about your child’s health needs well in advance. Let the camp know if asthma would…  read on >  read on >

Many older adults with depression don’t respond to their first antidepressant, so doctors will switch them to another one to see if that does the trick. Now, new research suggests that the best strategy for these folks may instead be to add the antipsychotic drug Abilify (aripiprazole) to the original antidepressant. “This is good news for older adults with difficult-to-treat depression,” said study author Dr. Eric Lenze, head of the department of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “Adding a second medication produces improvements in psychological well-being [e.g., positive mood, life satisfaction] and, often, remission from depression, and these improvements are greater than switching medications.” The two-part study included 742 people aged 60 and older with depression who had not responded to at least two antidepressants. In the first part, 619 people who were taking an antidepressant were randomly divided into three groups. Some remained on their original medication and added aripiprazole, others continued taking their antidepressant but added the antidepressants Wellbutrin or Zyban (bupropion), and a third group tapered off their original antidepressant and switched to bupropion. The patients were followed for 10 weeks, and their medications were adjusted accordingly. Nearly 30% of people who continued with their original antidepressant but added aripiprazole showed improvements in symptoms of depression, compared with 20% of those who were switched to bupropion alone,…  read on >  read on >

The annual shift to daylight saving time is a challenge for many parents, whose children may struggle with the change. A pediatrics sleep medicine expert offers some tips for making springing forward a little easier for all ages. “Whether it be jet lag, spring break or daylight saving time, a break in sleep structure can make things challenging. But we have ways to cope with that,” said Dr. Sonal Malhotra. She is an assistant professor of pulmonary and sleep medicine services at Baylor College of Medicine, in Houston. Children tend to fall into three sleep categories depending on age, Malhotra said — infants under 6 months; toddlers and young children who have a natural inclination to wake early; and older kids and teens who struggle with morning wake-up times. The time change isn’t typically an issue for the youngest group, Malhotra said. “At this age, children are still building their circadian rhythms,” she said. “Although their sleep schedules are fragmented by naps throughout the day and night, there is still structure that ensures they get enough sleep.” The spring change is easier for the second age group than turning the clocks back in fall. It can be beneficial for parents to let them stay up later and sleep in more, Malhotra said. For kids over 6 months of age who struggle to wake up in…  read on >  read on >