Health Highlights: April 16, 2009

People Who Smile in Photos Less Likely to Divorce: Study Drug Prices Increase Well Above Inflation Rate: AARP Brain Injuries Overdiagnosed in U.S. Troops: Army Psychiatrist C-Sections Increase in U.S: Analysis

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

People Who Smile in Photos Less Likely to Divorce: Study

Looking at your loved one's old photos may help you determine your risk of ending up divorced, suggest researchers who that found people who smile in pictures are more likely to stay married.

Matthew Hertenstein, a psychologist at DePauw University in Indiana, and colleagues evaluated the smiles in the school yearbook photos of 225 women and 124 men, ages 21 to 81, who were asked to provide details about their personal life, United Press International reported.

The researchers also examined youthful photos of people age 65 and older, who were asked if they'd ever been in a committed relationship or divorced.

The results showed that 11 percent of those with the biggest smiles in their photos were divorced, compared with 31 percent of people who frowned in photographs, UPI reported.

The study, published in the journal Motivation and Emotion, demonstrates that extremely small behavior clues can reveal how people will fare in marriage, Hertenstein said.

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Drug Prices Increase Well Above Inflation Rate: AARP

Prices for the most widely used brand-name drugs in the United States rose an average of 8.7 percent in 2008, well above the general inflation rate of 3.8 percent, according to the AARP's annual report released Wednesday.

The drugs that had the biggest increases included: the acid reflux drug Prevacid (30 percent), the depression drug Wellbutrin (21 percent), and the sleep drug Lunesta (20 percent), the Associated Press reported. The AARP looked at the prices of the 219 most popular brand-name drugs.

"Just about everybody in today's economy is feeling some economic pressures, and it does not help that the drugs you take to keep healthy are much more expensive than last year," John Rother, public policy director of the senior citizens' lobby group, told the AP. "I think this makes the case for health reform."

However, the AARP also found that prices of generic drugs fell an average of 10.6 percent in 2008, and that increasing numbers of seniors are switching to generic drugs.

The AARP report is "one-sided" and focuses too much on certain brand-name medicines, said the drug lobby group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the AP reported.

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Brain Injuries Overdiagnosed in U.S. Troops: Army Psychiatrist

Mild brain injuries in U.S. troops are being overdiagnosed, because the Department of Veterans Affairs is using soft criteria instead of hard medical evidence, according to an Army psychiatrist and two other officials, the Associated Press reported.

In an article published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Charles Hoge and his two colleagues said many cases of mild brain injury should be called "concussions" rather than "brain injuries."

They said a brain injury suggests an ongoing, incompletely healed problem rather than a temporary injury that's in the past. The article authors called on the VA to change the way it diagnoses and treats such injuries, the AP reported.

While improving diagnosis of brain injuries is a good idea, some veterans groups dispute the suggestion that the military has been overdiagnosing brain injuries in troops.

"It stretches credulity to believe that all the people who have suffered traumatic brain injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan are getting the treatment they need. That's a laughable notion." Jason Forrester, director of policy at Veterans for America, told the AP.

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C-Sections Increase in U.S: Analysis

Nearly one-third of the 4.3 million U.S. childbirths in 2006 were c-sections, compared with one-fifth in 1997, the federal government reports.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's latest News and Numbers also said that the percentage of American women having a repeat cesarean section increased 25 percent between 1997 and 2006, from 65 percent to 90 percent.

Among the other findings:

  • C-sections cost more than vaginal deliveries -- $4,500 vs. $2,600 in deliveries without complications, and $6,100 vs. $3,500 in deliveries with complications.
  • While c-sections account for 31 percent of all deliveries, they account for 45 percent of all costs associated with delivery.
  • Among women with private insurance, c-sections account for 34 percent of deliveries, compared with 25 percent of deliveries by women without insurance.

The News and Numbers article is based on an analysis of data in the Hospitalizations Related to Childbirth, 2006 report, which uses statistics from the 2006 Nationwide Inpatient Sample.

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