For Immediate Release
Contact: For copies of articles, call Olivia Chang, (202) 777-2511 or e-mail .

January 2004 AJPH Press Release

American Journal of Public Health January 2004 Highlights

  • Unemployment strikes a harder blow on men's mental health
  • Friendships can help prevent teen suicide
  • Pregnant smokers put babies at risk for asthma
  • Children at higher risk for hunger if mother suffers from poor mental or physical health
  • Diabetes education could help American Indians/Alaska Natives receive recommended care

The articles highlighted below appear in the January 2004 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, the Journal of the American Public Health Association.

Unemployment strikes a harder blow on men's mental health
Although women typically have higher rates of unemployment than men, the mental health of unemployed men tends to be worse than that of unemployed women, according to a recent study. Researchers looked at the mental health status of 2,422 employed men, 1,459 employed women, 371 unemployed men and 267 unemployed women. The mental health of the study participants was measured with a standard questionnaire. Unemployment had a higher impact on men's mental health than on women's, especially among married people. Other factors affecting the unemployed people's mental health included whether they received unemployment compensation and whether they had family responsibilities or not. For married men, unemployment struck a harder blow to their mental health than those single, whereas for unemployed women, having children living at home tended to bolster their mental outlook in the face of losing a job.
[ From: "Unemployment and Mental Health: Understanding the Interactions Between Gender, Family Roles, and Social Class." Contact: Lucia Artazcoz, MPH, Barcelona, Spain, ]

Friendships can help prevent teen suicide
Adolescent girls who have few friends are much more likely to consider suicide than their popular peers, according to a study of more than 20,000 junior high and senior high schoolers. Researchers found that girls who were socially isolated from their peers were twice as likely to think about suicide as those who had a large group of friends. Also, those girls whose friends were not friends with each other were also twice as likely to think about suicide as girls whose network of friends socialized together. "Social network effects for girls overwhelmed other variables…and appeared to play an unusually significant role in adolescent female suicidality," the study's authors wrote. When it comes to actually attempting suicide, boys and girls are more likely to do so if they know a friend who has tried to kill him or herself. Girls with high self-esteem were least likely to attempt suicide, but frequent drunkenness was linked with a higher risk of female suicide. For boys, having a gun in the household increased the likelihood of a suicide attempt, but a tight friendship network greatly reduced the odds of suicide. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among Americans age 15-24.
[ From: "Suicide and Friendships Among American Adolescents." Contact: Peter Bearman, PhD, Columbia University, ]

Pregnant smokers put babies at increased risk for asthma
Mothers who smoke during pregnancy greatly increase their child's risk of developing asthma in the first seven years of life, according to a study of almost 60,000 births. Researchers focused on 58,841 births in Finland in 1987-1994 and followed the children for seven years. The risk of developing asthma during a child's first seven years was 25 percent higher if the mother smoked less than 10 cigarettes a day and 36 percent higher if the mother smoked more than 10 cigarettes a day during pregnancy when compared with non-smoking mothers. Among those whose mothers smoked during pregnancy, the average birth weight was 250 grams lower than babies born to non-smoking mothers, and babies born to smoking mothers were three times as likely to be small for gestational age Both low birth weight and small gestational age have been linked to childhood asthma in other studies.
[ From: "Maternal Smoking in Pregnancy, Fetal Development, and Childhood Asthma." Contact: Jouni J.K. Jaakkola, MD, DSc, PhD, ]

Children at higher risk for hunger if mother suffers from poor mental or physical health
A mother's mental and physical health are directly tied to her children's risk for going hungry, according to a study of homeless and housed low-income women in Worcester, Mass. While obvious hunger risks such as lack of a stable living environment and low household income contribute to the problem, researchers found that when single mothers are struggling to make ends meet, the factors that affect their children's meals include a mother's experience of childhood sexual abuse and overall physical health. "Eliminating hunger thus may require broader interventions than food programs," the study's authors said. Receiving financial support from siblings or child support from a former partner greatly reduced a family's risk of going hungry, according to the study.
[ From: "Risk and Protective Factors for Adult and Child Hunger Among Low-Income Housed and Homeless Female-Headed Families." Contact: Linda F. Weinreb, MD, University of Massachusetts Medical School, ]

Diabetes education could help American Indians/Alaska Natives receive recommended care
In a study of almost 10,000 diabetics receiving treatment through the Indian Health Service, researchers found patients were less likely to receive recommended routine care if they were over age 75 or under age 45. Some possible reasons: older patients have difficulty reaching doctor's offices to comply with recommended checkups and care appointments, while younger patients might not see their diabetes as a serious health threat. The American Indian/Alaska Native population has some of the highest rates of diabetes in the world. The factor that best contributed to diabetics receiving recommended care was diabetes education. "Although a striking finding was the strong association of diabetes education with adherence to recommended procedures (such as blood glucose checks and regular immunizations), future studies are needed to identify the specific diabetes education program components associated with better outcomes," the study's authors said.
[ From: "Measuring the Quality of Diabetes Care for Older American Indians and Alaska Natives." Contact: Yvette Roubideaux, University of Arizona College of Public Health, ]

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