Health Highlights: Aug. 24, 2017

Smoking Rates Drop When Cigarette Prices Climb: Study Google Search for 'Depression' Now Brings Testing

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

Smoking Rates Drop When Cigarette Prices Climb: Study

If you want to drive down smoking rates, raise the price of cigarettes, new research suggests.

When the price of a pack of cigarettes jumped by $1, a 20 percent increase in quitting rates among older smokers followed, the study found.

Not only that, the increase in price was also linked to a 7 percent reduction in the risk of heavy smoking (10 cigarettes or more a day), and a 35 percent drop in the average number of cigarettes smoked by heavy smokers, according to The New York Times.

Study author Stephanie Mayne, a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University in Chicago, told the newspaper that the impact of price increases on older smokers was important, since it is harder to motivate long-term smokers to quit.

The study team collected data on the habits of 632 smokers, average age 58, and on neighborhood cigarette prices in nearly 900 grocery stores and pharmacies in 19 states.

The researchers also gathered information on local laws on indoor smoking in public places. The investigators followed changes in prices, laws and smoking habits over the course of a decade.

Although the study, published recently in the journal Epidemiology, saw drops in heavy smoking and increased quit rates, price did not seem to alter relapse rates. And local smoking bans had little impact on any of the estimates.


Google Search for 'Depression' Now Brings Testing

Web search giant Google is partnering with a major mental health advocacy group to make depression screening a part of your search for all things 'depression' on the site.

In a Google blog post, the company said, "Now when you search for 'clinical depression' on Google on mobile, you'll see a Knowledge Panel that will give you the option to tap 'check if you're clinically depressed,' which will bring you to PHQ-9, a clinically validated screening questionnaire to test what your likely level of depression may be."

The results in themselves are not a diagnosis, but can be taken to a doctor for a more proper assessment.

Google is partnering with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to help ensure that the questionnaire "is accurate and useful," the company added.

In their own news release, NAMI noted that about one in every five Americans will experience an episode of depression in their lifetime, but only half actually get treated. "To help raise awareness of this condition, we've teamed up with Google to help provide more direct access to tools and information to people who may be suffering," NAMI said.

The Knowledge Panel that pops up on the Google search provides information on the signs and potential treatments for depression. And, "by tapping 'Check if you're clinically depressed,' you can take this private self-assessment to help determine your level of depression and the need for an in-person evaluation. The results of the PHQ-9 can help you have a more informed conversation with your doctor," NAMI said.

According to the group, people with depression commonly wait an average of six to eight years before they get treatment. "We hope that by making this information available on Google, more people will become aware of depression and seek treatment to recover and improve their quality of life," NAMI said.

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