Friday, April 8, 2022 | Kaiser Health News

US Life Expectancy Falls Further To 76.6 Years

In a clear sign of a public health failure, the life expectancy of an American dropped for the second year in a row. In other news: opioids, food safety, mental health and a better way to measure BMI.

NPR: US Life Expectancy Falls In 2021, Following 2020’s Big Drop

Despite the availability of life-saving COVID-19 vaccines, so many people died in the second year of the pandemic in the US that the nation’s life expectancy dropped for a second year in a row last year, according to a new analysis. The analysis of provisional government statistics found US life expectancy fell by just under a half a year in 2021, adding to a dramatic plummet in life expectancy that occurred in 2020. Public health experts had hoped the vaccines would prevent another drop the following year. “The finding that instead we had a horrible loss of life in 2021 that actually drove the life expectancy even lower than it was in 2020 is very disturbing,” says Dr. Steven Woolf, a professor of population health and health equity at Virginia Commonwealth University , who help conduct the analysis. “It speaks to an extensive loss of life during 2021.” (Stein, 4/7)

CNN: US Life Expectancy Continues Historic Decline With Another Drop In 2021, Study Finds

Changes to life expectancy amid the Covid-19 pandemic widened an existing gap between the US and other high-income countries, the new report shows. Among a set of 19 peer countries, life expectancy dropped only a third as much as in the US in 2020 (down 0.6 years, on average) and rebounded in 2021, with an average increase of about 0.3 years. Life expectancy in the US fell from 78.9 years in 2019 to 76.6 years in 2021 – now more than five years less than the average among peer nations. (McPhillips, 4/7)

In mental health news —

American Homefront Project: Veterans Are At Higher Risk Of Eating Disorders. The Pressure Of Military Life May Be One Cause

Marine veteran Chandler Rand has struggled with various eating disorders since she was a child. She said she’s healthy now, but she describes her recovery as an ongoing process. She still has to fight off negative thoughts about her body image and weight. “It’s basically like walking a tightrope is what it means for me day to day,” Rand said. Back in 2016, Rand was a Marine. She was successfully treated for anorexia as a teenager, but after boot camp, she began to binge eat and became bulimic. “I don’t think I saw that as part of my eating disorder at the time,” Rand said. “I think I just saw it as part of being a good Marine.” (D’Iorio, 4/8)

Fox News: TikTok Acts On Children’s Brains Like A ‘Candy Store’ Shortening Their Attention Span: Report

The way children are consuming social media, especially on TikTok, is likely negatively affecting their attention spans, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report. “It is hard to look at increasing trends in media consumption of all types, media multitasking and rates of ADHD [attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder] in young people and not conclude that there is a decrease in their attention span,” said Dr. Carl Marci, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital. Although the link between ADHD and screen time is debatable, new research suggests the type of short and fast -paced videos that children consume today are partly to blame for why they struggle to participate in longer-term activities (Sudhakar, 4/7)

Cincinnati Enquirer: Student Survey COVID-19 Mental Health Issues, Drug Use Drops

Prevention First’s Student Survey of 26,260 seventh- through 12th-grade students in Hamilton, Butler, Warren and Clermont counties shows that more than half of them (53.3%) report having high levels of stress. One in 10 said they have suicide ideation. And 60% struggle to pull themselves out of a bad mood. In addition: 38.8% responded that they felt nervous or anxious all or most of the time. Just over 24% responded feeling depressed, sad or hopeless most of the time and 29.2% said they desired to be alone all the time. There’s also an indication that kids surveyed need more adults they trust, outside of their parents, to help them with their moods. (Demio, 4/7)

Bloomberg: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella Warns Of The Impact Of All Those Late-Night Emails

Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella warned that employee well-being could suffer from an ever-expanding workday that often now creeps well into the night. Nadella, whose company has studied how remote work impacts collaboration in an effort to improve its Teams software, cited Microsoft research showing that about a third of white-collar workers have a “third peak” of productivity late in the evening, based on keyboard activity . Productivity typically spikes before and after lunch, but this third peak illustrates how remote work has broken down already-blurred boundaries between our job and our home lives. Nadella, speaking Thursday at the Wharton Future of Work Conference, said managers need to set clear norms and expectations for workers so that they’re not pressured to answer emails late at night. (Boyle, 4/7)

San Francisco Chronicle: Could California Mandate A Four-Day Workweek? A State Bill Is Pushing For The Change

As the pandemic and telework upend where millions of Californians do their jobs, state lawmakers are mulling whether to change when we work as well. A bill moving through the state Legislature, AB2932, would change the definition of a workweek from the current 40 hours to 32 hours for companies with more than 500 employees, and require overtime pay for making employees work longer than four full days a week. (DiFeliciantonio, 4/7)

In other public health news —

The Washington Post: Some Beef ‘Raised Without Antibiotics’ Tests Positive For Antibiotics In Study

A new study in Science magazine identified antibiotics in some of the beef cattle in a USDA-approved no-antibiotics labeling program recognized as a gold standard for restaurants and grocery stores around the country. The study tested some 699 cows at one slaughterhouse that processes “raised without antibiotics” cattle. Most cattle in the study tested negative for antibiotics. However, 10 percent of cattle came from lots where one of the cows sampled tested positive for antibiotics, the researchers found. Additionally, the study found an additional 5 percent of cattle came from lots with multiple positive antibiotic tests. (Reiley, 4/7)

USA Today: ‘Dirty Dozen’ List Shows Fruits, Vegetables Highest Pesticide Levels

What are the filthiest fruits and vegetables at the grocery store? Strawberries, spinach and kale, according to a new report. Thursday, nonprofit advocacy organization Environmental Working Group released its annual “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” lists using data from the Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration. The Washington, DC, group found that more than 90% of strawberry, apple, cherry, spinach, nectarine and grape samples tested positive for residues of two or more pesticides. Kale, collard and mustard greens, hot peppers and bell peppers had the most pesticides. A single sample of kale, collard and mustard greens had up to 21 different pesticides. (Martin, 4/7)

Press Association: Waist To Height Ratio Can Guide You To Better Health, NHS Watchdog Says

People should ensure their waist measurement is less than half their height to keep health problems at bay, an NHS watchdog has said. For the first time, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) says adults with a body mass index (BMI) under 35 should measure their own waist-to-height ratio as part of wider plans to tackle obesity. A BMI of 18 to 25 is considered a healthy weight, 25 to 30 is overweight, and over 30 is obese. Nice said that by using a waist-to-height ratio, together with BMI, people can work out whether they are carrying excess fat around their middle, which is known to push up the risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease . (Kirby, 4/8)

On the opioid crisis —

USA Today: ‘Magic Mushrooms’ Linked To Decreased Risk Of Opioid Addiction: Study

A “shroom craze” may get even wilder after a new study that suggests a psychedelic drug found in some mushrooms may have protective benefits against addiction. Harvard University researchers found opioid use disorders were 30% less likely among people who used psilocybin compared with those who never had it, according to the study published Thursday in Scientific Reports. Psilocybin is a naturally occurring compound in certain types of mushrooms that are consumed for their hallucinogenic effects, according to the US Drug enforcement Administration. (Rodriguez, 4/7)

Billings Gazette: Montana Troopers Have Already Intercepted More Fentanyl This Year Than In 2021

The Montana Highway Patrol has already intercepted more fentanyl this year than last year, according to a Thursday press release from the state Department of Justice. Through mid-March, troopers had seized 12,079 fentanyl pills, which is three times the 2021 total of 3,800 tablets, according to the release. Arrests for fentanyl were already up from 2020, from just one that year to 17 in 2021. MHP also said that the amount of methamphetamine already seized this year — 33.3 pounds — puts the state on the path to surpass last year’s amount of 49.1 pounds. (4/7)

North Carolina Health News: Tension Around Best Ways To Spend Opioid Settlement Money

The first payments from a $26 billion, multi-state opioid lawsuit settlement are set to arrive in the states later this spring, and in North Carolina, there are already disagreements over which groups are most qualified to receive the money. Over the course of 18 years, North Carolina will receive $750 million of the opioid settlement funds from the agreement reached with drug companies for their alleged roles in fueling the opioid epidemic. Most of the money will be sent to North Carolina’s county governments to help people and communities impacted by the overdose crisis. (Knopf, 4/7)

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