Homepage Round-Up: A Spike in Suicide Rates Among Young People, Facebook Profiles Serving as a Diagnostic Tool, and More.

Here are the top stories covered by DocWire News this week in the Homepage section. In this week’s round-up learn how high the nationwide suicide rate has spiked among young people, if Facebook profiles can serve as an indicator for medical conditions, how much of an effect cartoon ads can have on e-cigarette use, and if online food interventions can help shoppers make healthier buying choices.

Suicide rates among young people have spiked to its “highest recorded level”, according to the findings of a research paper published in JAMA. To conduct this study, the researchers combed the CDC Underlying Cause of Death database, a publicly available data set based on death certificates and population estimates from the US Census Bureau. The population of interest were teens, aged 15 to 19 years old, and young adults, ages 20 to 24. Both males and females were analyzed, separately, and collectively, and different time points at which suicide trends changed were defined as annual percentage change (APC). “Our new information shows that suicide among adolescents has reached its highest recorded level, and it shows that there’s especially an increase in recent years in adolescent males,” the researchers stated in a CNN published article.

A recent study published in PLoS One study suggests that Facebook profile updates can indicate over 20 medical conditions, particularly mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and psychoses. Researchers of this study analyzed approximately 20 million words written on the Facebook pages of 999 consenting participants. All participants were drawn from the ongoing Social Mediome Study, which initially began recruitment in March 2014. The results of the study showed that all 21 medical condition categories were predictable from Facebook language beyond chance (multi-test corrected p < .05), 2) and 18 categories were better predicted from a combination of demographics and Facebook language than by demographics alone. “Social media, like genomic information, offers enormous promise to personalize health care,” the study authors wrote. “This work is complementary to a growing body of literature using big data analytics for EMR data and provides new insights for applying machine learning to find signal about health in non-healthcare generated data (e.g. social media).”

Cartoon-based marketing exposure to e-cigarettes may increase the likelihood of young adults deciding to start vaping, according to University of Southern California (USC) researchers who published their findings in Drug and Alcohol Dependence. In this study, researchers administered two separate online surveys between July 13th and August 10th, 2018. Study 1 included 778 participants (62% women, mean age, 23.5) who completed a questionnaire that assessed their perceptions of the expected benefits and risks of e-cigarettes and were provided a task to gage their recognition of several cartoons and non-cartoons in e-liquid marketing images. Study 2 was comprised of 522 participants (55% women, mean age, 30.4) who were prompted to complete a task designed to appraise the appeal of e-liquid packaging with and without a cartoon. “Among young adults who had never used e-cigarettes, we found a significant effect of cartoon-based marketing on their likelihood of using the products in the future,” said Jon-Patrick Allem, co-leader of the study and assistant professor of research at the Keck School of Medicine of USC in a press release. “Cartoons appear to be very effective at increasing susceptibility to use e-cigarettes among individuals who aren’t using them to begin with.”

For online food shoppers, altering the default order to show foods in ascending order of saturated fat (SFA) content and subsequently offering a swap with a lower SFA food product can help facilitate healthier buying choices, according to a study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. In this factorial randomized controlled trial (RCT) researchers recruited 1,088 (65% female, mean age, 38) adults from the United Kingdom (UK) who were the primary grocery shoppers for their households. The participants were prompted to select from a 10-item shopping list from an online supermarket that was custom designed solely for the purpose of the study. “Finding effective ways of lowering the saturated fat in our shopping baskets, such as from meat, cheese, or desserts, may translate to eating less of it, which could help lower our risk for heart disease,” said Dr. Dimitrios Koutoukidis, the lead author of this, in a press release about the study. “This is the first randomized trial to directly compare interventions targeting the environment and the individual to encourage healthier food choices. The findings could provide effective strategies to improve the nutritional quality of online food purchases.”