Health Highlights: April 4, 2018
Staying Off Facebook Lowers Stress Hormone Levels: Study Average Premiums for Obamacare Enrollees Lower This Year Colorado Twins With OCD Die in Apparent Suicide Pact
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Staying Off Facebook Lowers Stress Hormone Levels: Study
Ditching Facebook may lower your stress levels, a new study suggests.
The 138 participants had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol when they took a 5-day-break from Facebook, even if it was for less than a week, Newsweek reported.
However, the participants -- described as active Facebook users -- also experienced lower levels of well-being while staying away from Facebook, according to the University of Queensland, Australia study in The Journal of Social Psychology.
The findings likely apply to other types of social media, the researchers said.
"I believe that our findings are probably not unique to Facebook," study lead author Eric Vanman told Newsweek.
"Some of my own students constantly check Instagram and Snapchat during my lectures, so I'm guessing that extending our research to other platforms would [show] similar effects," he said.
Average Premiums for Obamacare Enrollees Lower This Year
Americans whose receive financial assistance for health care insurance under the Affordable Care Act -- Obamacare -- will have lower premiums this year, despite a sharp rise in the actual price of their coverage.
With federal financial aid, this year's average monthly premium for subsidized customers on HealthCare.gov will be $89, compared with $106 last year. That's a 16 percent decrease at the same time as the "list price" premium rose about 30 percent and now averages $639 for those subsidized customers, the Associated Press reported.
More affordable health coverage options are needed for people who don't quality for the Affordable Care Act's income-based financial aid, according to Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
However, a major portion of this year's premium increases were caused by Trump administration actions, independent experts say.
For example, the Trump administration canceled major payments to insurers, leading them to boost premiums to cover the loss of federal funding for discounted copays and deductibles that insurers must provide to low-income customers, the AP reported.
"These numbers show for the first time how the Trump administration's termination of payments to insurers in a sense backfired," said Larry Levitt of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.
"The result, which is a little bizarre, is that consumers eligible for government premium subsidies are actually paying less out of their own pockets for insurance on average than last year," he told the AP.
This year, about 11.8 million people signed up for coverage through HealthCare.gov and state insurance markets, a slight decrease from 2017.
Colorado Twins With OCD Die in Apparent Suicide Pact
Twin sisters in Colorado who had groundbreaking therapy to treat debilitating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) appear to have died in a suicide pact, police say.
Amanda and Sara Eldritch, 33, were found dead Friday with gunshot wounds, according to the Fremont County Sheriff's Office. They were found in a car parked in a rest area near a bridge at Royal Gorge Bridge and Park in Canon City, the Washington Post reported.
It appears the sisters died in a suicide pact, said sheriff's spokeswoman Sgt. Megan Richards.
The sisters were diagnosed with OCD when they were teens and their condition made it impossible for them to hold jobs or maintain friendships, the Post reported.
For example, they rarely left the house, would take showers lasting nearly 10 hours, go through five bottles of rubbing alcohol every day in order to disinfect their skin until it burned.
"It's like listening to someone who's holding you at gunpoint," Amanda Eldritch said in an interview with 9 News. "You absolutely have to do what they say."
The sisters tried medication, counseling and hypnotherapy to treat their disorder but none of them worked. Since the age of 13, both had considered suicide, they told 9 News, the Post reported.
In early 2015, the sisters gained national attention, including an appearance on "The Doctors" television show, when they became the first patients in Colorado to undergo deep brain stimulation to treat OCD, a surgical therapy commonly used to treat Parkinson's disease.
At the time, the sisters and their family said the surgery at Littleton Adventist Hospital was a success.
"I feel like I can identify my anxiety," Sara told a hospital publication, the Post reported. "And I feel like I can deal with it."
"I'm really excited to not feel like I'm at war with my own existence," Amanda said. "I can be functional enough to go get a job and make a difference. There's a world out there I want to be a part of."
A GoFundMe page created for the twins' mother said the 2015 surgery "surpassed all expectations and they packed an entire lifetime into the last three years."
"But, there is no cure for mental illness, and they finally succumbed to this insidious disease," according to the page, the Post reported.