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

September 2004 AJPH Press Release

All articles are online at www.ajph.org after the embargo. To view the preliminary table of contents, visit http://www.ajph.org/future/94.9.shtml

American Journal of Public Health September 2004 Highlights

  • Exercise offers significant protection against declining effects of aging
  • “Green” activities can help kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Diabetics face fewer healthy food choices in some urban areas
  • Early adolescent drug use linked to increased risk for drug use and psychiatric disorders later in life
  • Obese patients have longer hospital stays
  • Sept. 11 aftermath includes need for improved psychiatric response to terrorism

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


Exercise offers significant protection against age-related declining effects of aging

Regular exercise can offer significant protection against common age-related problems, such as trouble climbing stairs or walking without pain, even among the obese, according to a study of almost 8,000 adults age 51-61.

Researchers interviewed participants about their activity level and their onset of “physical difficulties” and found that those who exercised regularly, whether it was through an organized exercise program or vigorous housework, were much less likely to suffer increased immobility as they aged. While being overweight or obese increased study participants’ risk for physical decline, regular exercise provided protection against that decline for adults, even if they were obese.

The study’s authors said maintaining a healthy weight is the best protection against physical deterioration, but people of all weights can help avoid age-related problems through regular exercise.

[ From: “Body Mass Index, Physical Activity, and the Risk of Decline in Overall Health and Physical Functioning in Late Middle Age.” Contact: Xiaoxing Z. He, MD, MPH, Northeastern University Medical School, Chicago, xing@northwestern.edu.]

“Green” activities can help kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking and even reading a book under a tree, can ease symptoms for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to a study that compared the effects of outdoor and indoor after-school and weekend activities on ADHD patients.

When kids with ADHD spent time in nature as opposed to indoors or outdoors in a non-natural setting, they experienced fewer ADHD symptoms such as difficulty in following directions or difficulty completing an unpleasant task, according to the study. Researchers interviewed the parents of 322 boys and 84 girls with ADHD and asked how their symptoms fared after the children spent after-school or weekend hours outdoors in natural settings or otherwise.

“The advantage for green outdoor activities was observed among children living in different regions of the United States and among children living in a range of settings, from rural to large city environments,” the study’s authors wrote. “ Overall, our findings indicate that exposure to ordinary natural settings in the course of common after-school and weekend activities may be widely effective in reducing attention deficit symptoms in children.”

[ From: “A Natural Treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Evidence From a National Study.” Contact: Frances E. Kuo, PhD, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, fekuo@uiuc.edu.]

Diabetics face fewer healthy food choices in some urban areas

Diabetics in East Harlem have a much tougher time finding healthy foods at their local stores than diabetics in New York’s Upper East side, a problem likely present in cities across the country.

According to a study of 173 East Harlem and 151 Upper East Side grocery stores, the Harlem stores were much less likely to stock healthy food choices such as whole-grain breads and [ADD] low fat milk [DELETE...diet soda].. Less than 20 percent of Harlem grocery stores stocked the recommended list of five diabetes-friendly foods, compared with 58 percent of the Upper East Side stores. East Harlem is a racially and ethically mixed neighborhood with a large percentage of low-income households, while residents of the Upper East Side of New York City are mostly white and affluent.

When comparing food availability, researchers checked to see if stores stocked low- or nonfat milk, high-fiber or low-carbohydrate bread, fresh fruit, fresh green vegetables and diet or club soda.

[ From: “Barriers to Buying Healthy Foods for People With Diabetes: Evidence of Environmental Disparities.” Contact: Carol Horowitz, MD, MPH, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, carol.horowitz@mountsinai.org. ]

Early adolescent drug use linked to increased risk for drug use and psychiatric disorders later in life

Young adolescents who experiment with alcohol or illicit drugs are much more likely to face drug or alcohol problems in their young adulthood, according to a study of more than 18,000 middle- and high-schoolers and about 1,000 young adults.

Of those youth studied, 29 percent who had abstained from alcohol and drug use in middle and high school ended up with a drug or alcohol problem in young adulthood, but almost 60 percent of those who had used drugs or alcohol in early adolescence had a substance abuse problem later in life. Black and Hispanic boys generally reported abstaining from drug and alcohol use until their late teens or early twenties, but they were more likely to end up with a substance abuse problem than their white peers, according to the study.

”Our findings indicate that even experimental use during early adolescence dramatically increases the risk for development of substance use disorders and psychiatric disorders during adulthood,” the study’s authors wrote. “This underscores the need for a combined effort to increase our understanding of the factors associated with the initiation, progression, and sequelae of substance use among African American, Hispanic, and other minority populations. We also need to develop culturally sensitive and competent treatment and services that target young substance users.”

[From: “ Associations Between Early-Adolescent Substance Use and Subsequent Young-Adult Substance Use Disorders and Psychiatric Disorders Among a Multiethnic Male Sample in South Florida.” Contact: Andres G. Gil, PhD, Florida International University, Miami, gila@fiu.edu.]

Obese patients have longer hospital stays

Obese patients tend to stay in the hospital longer than normal-weight patients.

A study of more than 14,000 people participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Epidemiologic Follow up Survey (NHEFS)found that patients with a body mass index of 35 kg/m2 or above had longer overall hospital stays than patients overall. The more obese a patient, the longer the hospital stay tended to be, according to the study that looked at 29,471 hospitalizations, or a total of 263,961 inpatient days. Underweight patients also had longer stays than normal-weight patients, according to the study.

“In all likelihood, treatment and prevention of obesity will reduce use of hospital care and the subsequent health care costs associated with the obesity epidemic,” the study’s authors wrote.

[From: “Length of Hospital Stays Among Obese Individuals.” Contact: Claire Zizza, PhD, Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, Chapel Hill, N.C., claire_zizza@unc.edu.]

Sept. 11 aftermath includes need for improved psychiatric response to terrorism

Terrorism preparedness plans should include methods to better inform the public and health providers on how to seek and offer help for mental health problems following an attack or disaster.

Researchers surveyed 1,700 Connecticut residents after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and asked if they sought mental health treatment, and if they suffered mental health problems, such as symptoms of depression, stress and nervousness. Sleep problems, tobacco and alcohol use among respondents were also measured throughout 2001. A large percentage of those surveyed did suffer mental health problems following the terrorist attack, yet relatively few sought help. People did not have to be in New York the day of the attack to be affected.

“ Screening people for increases in tobacco use, alcohol consumption, and sleep problems may be a better method of identifying individuals in need of formal help in the wake of disaster than asking general questions regarding whether people are experiencing mental and behavioral problems,” the study’s authors wrote. “Findings such as those from this study should be considered in the development of service models and response systems for assisting communities in the aftermath of disasters.”

[From: “Predictors of Help Seeking Among Connecticut Adults After September 11, 2001.” Contact: Julian Ford, PhD, University of Connecticut Health Center, ford@psychiatry.uchc.edu.]

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