Disabled Americans more often smokers

IN BREIF

Behavior

October 11, 2007

Americans with disabilities smoke more than everyone else, according to the first national study to compare smoking rates between the two groups.

About one in four disabled people is a smoker, compared with about one in five among the nondisabled, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last week.

More people with disabilities also said they had seen a doctor or nurse recently, and had been advised to quit cigarettes, the CDC study found.

Having such national data is helpful, but the results aren't surprising, said Kenneth Warner, a leading tobacco researcher who is dean of the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

The disabled population included people with mental illness and drug and alcohol addictions -- groups known to have higher smoking rates. "It is very believable," Warner said, of the CDC study's findings.

More than 10 million Americans with disabilities smoke, according to the study authors. They said many disabled people are smokers partly because a disproportionate percentage of them are low-income, and poor people have higher smoking rates.

The nationwide study was done through a random-digit-dialed telephone survey in 2004 of about 294,000 U.S. adults. The survey did not include people in institutions or people whose disability prevents them from answering the phone, so it's likely the disabled smoking rate is even higher.

Associated Press

MARRIAGE

Divorce high for those with certain cancers

People who develop cervical or testicular cancer may face another harsh reality: They are more likely to get divorced than those without the disease, a new study says.

In research presented last week at a meeting of the European Cancer Organization, Norwegian experts found cancer patients were no more likely to get divorced than people without cancer, except for those with cervical and testicular cancer. The divorce rate actually dropped slightly in the years after diagnosis for most cancers, they said.

But the study showed women with cervical cancer had a 40 percent higher chance of getting divorced than other women. Men with testicular cancer were 20 percent more likely to get divorced than similar men without cancer. Both types of cancer are curable and are diagnosed at younger ages than other cancers.

The researchers didn't have any information on why the couples divorced. Experts thought that the breakups could be because of the cancers and the youth of the couples involved. Older couples might be more committed to each other and less likely to get divorced even when faced with a serious illness.

The study looked at 2.8 million people, comparing the divorce rates of 215,000 cancer survivors and couples with no cancer. They did not ask about the reasons for the divorces, but only looked at marriage and divorce registration data between 1974 and 2001.

The researchers said since Norway's divorce rate is the same as other developed countries the results may apply elsewhere.

Associated Press

AGING

Conscientiousness and Alzheimer's

People who are purposeful, self-disciplined and scrupulous about doing what they think is right -- in other words, are conscientious -- appear less likely to suffer from Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers performed neurological, cognitive and medical tests on about 1,000 healthy Catholic clergy, who apparently are no more or less conscientious than the rest of us. Volunteers rated themselves by responding to such items as, "I am a productive person who always gets the job done." After 12 years, 176 people had developed Alzheimer's disease. Those who had the highest ratings of conscientiousness had an 89 percent lower risk of showing symptoms of the disease than those with the lowest scores.

Though the trait may have protected participants from the consequences, it didn't protect them from the disease process itself. Autopsies were done on the 324 people who died during the study period, and conscientiousness was not linked to a lower risk of the defining signs of the disease, brain plaques and tangles.

The study was published in this month's issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Los Angeles Times

HEART DISEASE

Disparity among implant recipients

Elderly male heart patients are two to three times more likely than females to receive implanted devices that shock a malfunctioning heart back into normal rhythms, and white men are about a third more likely than black men to receive them, researchers reported last week.

Overall, only about a third of patients who are eligible for the potentially lifesaving implanted cardioverter defibrillators are actually getting them, according to a pair of studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The devices, known as ICDs, "save lives, so the sex difference in treatment rates is worrisome," said Lesley H. Curtis, a health economist at Duke University Medical Center and lead author of one of the studies.

Clinical trials have shown that the devices can prolong life in 31 percent to 50 percent of patients who receive them.

Los Angeles Times

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