U.S. shifts on mental health: July 3, 1946
With the signing of landmark legislation, President Harry S. Truman officially moves America in a new direction when it comes to the mental health of its citizens. The National Mental Health Act commits the country to serious, federally-funded research of mental illness, something that had not been a priority of the state and local institutions that housed “insane” patients.
Almost a century earlier, Congress had attempted to address mental health issues, passing the Bill for the Benefit of the Indigent Insane, which would have provided funding to build hospitals for poor people who were mentally ill. But President Franklin Pierce had vetoed it, contending that it was not the business of the federal government.
So, for almost 100 years, the matter was left up to the states, where the focus was on separating people with mental illnesses from the general public. But changes in the patient population that began in the later 19th century made it more difficult for state hospitals to handle even that role—more and more people were hospitalized for years instead of months, particularly when elderly people showing signs of senility were sent in growing numbers to mental hospitals. With so many old patients with chronic health conditions, emphasis shifted even more from therapy to custodial care. With financial support drained by the Depression and then World War II, conditions in these institutions deteriorated.
Ironically, World War II proved to be a turning point. Military psychiatrists were surprised to discover how many of the soldiers they treated for what they thought were combat-related issues, actually had serious psychological problems before they went to war. That led to congressional hearings and powerful personal testimony from people like Capt. Robert Nystrom, a Marine Corps aviator who had been diagnosed with manic depression, but only after months of what he felt was worthless “loafer’s delight” treatment. He warned that many veterans would suffer if their serious mental health conditions were treated simply as “battle fatigue.”
The law that resulted provided funding for research into psychological disorders, professional training, and grants to states for mental health centers and clinics. Within a year, every state had designated a state mental health authority, 59 training and 32 research grants had been awarded and 212 students were on their way to becoming clinical mental health professionals thanks to federal stipends.
The legislation also led to the creation, in 1949, of the National Institute of Mental Health. Today, it is the largest mental health research organization in the world.
More slices of history
10 percent of U.S. adult deaths tied to excessive drinking
Between 2006 and 2010, one in every 10 deaths among working-age adults was attributable to excessive alcohol consumption, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The study looked at alcohol-attributable deaths (AAD) and years of potential life lost (YPLL) among adults between ages 20 and 64. Excessive alcohol consumption was defined as binge drinking–more than five drinks for men or more than four drinks for women on one occasion; heavy weekly alcohol consumption–more than 15 drinks a week for men and more than eight drinks for women; and any alcohol consumption by pregnant women or people under the age of 21.
The results of the study, published in the CDC journal Preventing Chronic Disease, showed that out of all the deaths that occurred during the study period, nearly 10 percent was attributed to excessive alcohol consumption. The numbers came out to more than 87,000 annual AADs. The most common causes of AAD were alcoholic liver disease and motor-vehicle crashes.
The researchers did point out that the study’s results were partially limited by self-reported data and by excluding data on former drinkers. However, they concluded that excessive drinking may be a substantial cause of premature mortality among working-age adults and they added that measures should be taken to help reduce the health and economic costs related to excessive alcohol consumption.
iPads could help older adult memory
Using electronic devices such as tablets and iPads may actually help older adults improve their memory, according to new research from the University of Texas at Dallas.
For the study, scientists recruited 54 adults between ages 60 and 90. They were divided into three groups–one group that engaged in tasks that required little learning, another group that had regular interactions with other people, but didn’t learn any new skills, and a third group in which participants received extensive training on iPads. The researchers then collected data on all of the participants’ cognitive activity over the course of three months.
The study’s results, published in the journal The Gerontologist, showed that the adults who used the iPad were better able to recall events and experiences that occurred at a specific time and place, when compared with the two control groups. The iPad group also showed the most improvements in how fast they were able to think and complete tasks.
The researchers also found that the benefits adults received from using the iPad were maintained a year after the study, suggesting that mastering technological devices may have long-term cognitive benefits. However, they pointed out that the findings are preliminary and that further research is needed.
More fruits and veggies don’t guarantee weight loss
Eating more fruits and vegetables—while a healthy habit—may not actually help you lose weight, according to new research.
Scientists at the University of Alabama Birmingham School of Public Health analyzed data from various studies that looked at fruit and vegetable intake of more than 1,200 people. From the data, the researchers were able to extract information about people who ate more fruits and vegetables than others, but had the same amount of total calorie consumption.
The researchers found that the people who ate more fruits and vegetables, but did not change their total amount of consumed calories, neither lost nor gained weight. The findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggest that eating more fruits and vegetables alone is not an effective method for weight loss. Researchers said that people should continue to eat fruits and vegetables for their many health benefits, but concluded that reducing overall calorie intake is the only way to lose weight.
Study says one-third of U.S. knee replacements “inappropriate”
A new analysis from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond has found that as many as one-third of total knee replacements in the U.S. may be “inappropriate” when compared with a credible Spanish classification system.
The classification system used in the study was developed in Spain and the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Arthritis Index (WOMAC) Pain and Physical Function Scale; its criteria are regarded by industry as one of the more powerful tools for improving quality of care. In the study, the researchers used the classification system and assessed data on 175 adults with an average age of 67 who underwent total knee arthroplasties (TKA).
The findings, published in Arthritis & Rheumatology, showed that 44 percent of the knee surgeries were classified as “appropriate,” while 22 percent were “inconclusive,” and 34 percent were “inappropriate.” Researchers said that the finding that one-third of knee replacements were inappropriate was higher than expected.
Researchers concluded that the study highlights the need for health care providers to be more selective and consider a wider range of variables when it comes to which patients receive total knee replacements. More than 600,000 total knee replacements are now done in the U.S. every year.