Roundup: Social Media and Teen Health; New Risk for ADHD Medication; Air Pollution as Harmful as Cigarettes

Heavy Social Media Use Hurts Teen’s Mental Health

A new study suggests social media use may harm the mental health of teenagers by increasing their exposure to bullying. It can also reduce their sleep and exercise time.

The research was published recently in the journal The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health. Scientists conducted multiple interviews with almost 10,000 teenagers in England between the ages of 13 and 16.

The teens reported the frequency they used social media –sites like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter and Snapchat. More than threetimes daily was considered very frequent.

Researchers found that with both boys and girls veryfrequent social media use was associated with greater psychological distress,but the stress impacted girls more.

“Our results suggest that social media itself doesn’tcause harm, but that frequent use may disrupt activities that have a positiveimpact on mental health such as sleeping and exercising, while increasingexposure of young people to harmful content, particularly the negativeexperience of cyber-bullying,” said the study’s co-author, Russell Viner of theUCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health.

The bottom line is too much social media can not only add to a teen’s stress but also get in the way of other activities that have a positive impact on mental health, including sleep and exercise.

Common ADHD Medication May Affect Brain Development

Treatment with Ritalin and otherbrands of methylphenidate mayaffect the development of the brain’s signal-carrying white matter in boys withattention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a new study in thejournal Radiology.

Results of the study conducted inboys and men with ADHD show that four months oftreatment with methylphenidate affected specific tracts in brain whitematter in boys but not in their adult counterparts. Researchers found nochanges in the brains of boys who received placebo.

“The results show that ADHDmedications can have different effects on the development of brain structure inchildren versus adults,” said principal investigator Liesbeth Reneman, M.D., Ph.D.,Department of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, Academic Medical Center,University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The findings, she said, point to theneed for more research.

“We do not yet know whether theseeffects are reversible or not and whether they are related to functional orbehavioral changes over a longer period of time,” Dr. Reneman said.

Dr. Reneman noted that thefindings are relevant to an increasing group of children who are being treatedwith stimulants but who do not suffer from ADHD. Such stimulants may be used,for example, to increase school performance or because of misdiagnosis.

“What our data already underscore is that the use of ADHD medications in children must be carefully considered until more is known about the long-term consequences of prescribing methylphenidate at a young age,” Dr. Reneman said. “The drug should only be prescribed to children who actually have ADHD and are significantly affected by it.”

Air Pollution May Be as Harmful to Your Lungs as Smoking Cigarettes

Emphysema is considered a smoker’s disease.But it turns out, exposure to air pollution may lead to the same changes in thelung that give rise to emphysema.

A new study published in JAMA: The Journal of the American MedicalAssociation finds that long-term exposure to slightly elevated levelsof air pollution can be linked to accelerated development of lung damage, evenamong people who have never smoked.

Researchers found that people in the studywho were exposed for years to higher-than-average concentrations ofground-level ozone developed changes to their lungs similar to those seen insmokers.

“We found that an increase of aboutthree parts per billion [of ground-level ozone] outside your home wasequivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day for 29 years,” says onestudy author, Joel Kaufman, a physician andepidemiologist at the University of Washington.

The study involved nearly 7,000 adults livingin six U.S. cities: Chicago, Los Angeles, Baltimore, St. Paul, Minn., New YorkCity and Winston-Salem, N.C. Generally, people in the study were exposed toannual average concentrations of between 10 and 25 parts per billion of ground-levelozone outside their homes. But there’s no reason to believe that the pockets ofelevated ozone exposure are limited to those cities.

Chronic respiratory disease (which includeschronic obstructive pulmonary disease and emphysema) is a leading cause ofdeath in the U.S. The World Health Organization estimates that each year 7 million premature deaths around the world are linked to airpollution.

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