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Social Media May Help Spot a Problem Drinker

College students who write about getting drunk and blacking out on Facebook and other social networking sites are more likely to have a drinking problem than students who don’t post that kind of information. That’s the conclusion of study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and the University of Washington in Seattle. The researchers examined Facebook profiles of more than 300 students at those universities and also invited students to take an online test used to measure problem drinking. Students who posted references to dangerous drinking were more likely to have test scores indicating an alcohol problem. The researchers say parents and healthcare providers who see references to problem drinking on Facebook should consider talking to their child or patient about their drinking habits. The study was supported by NIH’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Prevent the Flu; Get Vaccinated

If you want to avoid the seasonal flu, the single best thing you can do is get a flu vaccine every year. Experts recommend that everyone 6 months of age and older get vaccinated. Healthy people 2 through 49 years old can receive the vaccine in a nasal spray instead of a shot. People should talk to their doctor first if they have life-threatening allergies; Guillain-Barré Syndrome; or have had a severe reaction to a flu vaccine in the past. The flu season often peaks in January and February, so it’s still not too late to protect yourself with a shot or a spray vaccine.

Is 90 the New 85?

The number of people aged 90 and older in the United States is growing rapidly. In 1980, there were 720,000 people aged 90 and older. In 2010, the number was 1.9 million. And by 2050, it could be 9 million. That’s according to a U.S. Census Bureau report commissioned by NIH’s National Institute on Aging. Among the findings for the 90+ crowd:

  • Most are widowed white women living alone or in a nursing home
  • Whites are 88.1% of the group, Blacks 7.6%, Hispanics 4%, Asians 2.2%
  • Average median income is $14,760 ($20,133 for men, $13,580 for women)
  • Most have health insurance through Medicare and/or Medicaid
  • Most have one or more disabilities

Previous research designated 85 as the “oldest old.” The new report provides data for the consideration of moving that yardstick up to 90. NIA Director Richard J. Hodes, Maryland, says it’s important to have a detailed picture of the oldest population. “The information on a variety of factors—income, health status, disabilities, and living arrangements—will be particularly useful to researchers, planners, and policy makers.”

Oh, My Aching Back!

A new study finds yoga and stretching classes are comparable, reasonable options for treating moderate, chronic low back pain. Researchers in Washington state studied nearly 230 people who tried to ease their low back pain one of three ways: taking yoga classes, taking conventional stretching classes, or using a self-care book containing advice on exercising and lifestyle changes. Yoga proved better than the self-care book and similar to—but not better than—stretching classes. Back pain is a big problem in the United States. It’s the second-most common neurological ailment, next to headache. The study comparing low back pain treatments was funded by NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Winter 2012 Issue: Volume 6 Number 4 Page 23