(WebMD) Internet users who are compulsive about going online and have more social interactions in virtual worlds than the real one may be depressed, according to a new study. Some Internet users retreat from real-life interaction and opt for chat rooms and social networking sites, and this can have an adverse effect on mental health, researchers say in the Feb. 10 issue of Psychopathology. "This type of addictive surfing can have a serious impact on mental health," lead author Catriona Morrison, DPhil, of the University of Leeds, says in a news release. "The Internet now plays a huge part in modern life, but its benefits are accompanied by a darker side."
(Guardian) Addiction to online games is becoming more widespread among vulnerable young people, according to a treatment centre that has begun running abstinence courses in Britain. As games become more visually enticing and the recession leaves people at home in front of computer screens, therapists are encountering more cases of people obsessed with being online. In extreme circumstances game players can, they warn, become detached from normal existence and forget to eat or sleep as they interact with screen characters such as wizards and monsters. Youngsters can also develop posture problems.
(BBC) The Royal College of Psychiatrists (RC Psych) is calling for urgent action to protect vulnerable young people from eating-disorder websites. It says the number of websites promoting eating disorders has soared with the growth of social networking.
The RC Psych wants the government's Child Internet Safety Council (UKCCIS) to mark such sites as harmful and raise awareness among parents and teachers.
(Slashdot) Discover Magazine reports that although medical simulations have been around for a long time,
medical schools like Imperial College London are starting to use
virtual hospitals in Second Life so students can learn their way
around an O.R. before they enter the real thing. The students can also
test their knowledge in the Virtual Respiratory Ward by interviewing
patient avatars, ordering tests, diagnosing problems, and recommending
(Guardian) Social network sites risk infantilising the mid-21st century mind, leaving it characterised by short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathise and a shaky sense of identity, according to a leading neuroscientist. The startling warning from Lady Greenfield, professor of synaptic pharmacology at Lincoln college, Oxford, and director of the Royal Institution, has led members of the government to admit their work on internet regulation has not extended to broader issues, such as the psychological impact on children. See also Why Social Networks Are Good for the Kids (TechCrunch) by Sarah Lacy.
(BBC) People's health could be harmed by social networking sites because they reduce levels of face-to-face contact, an expert claims. Dr Aric Sigman says websites such as Facebook set out to enrich social lives, but end up keeping people apart. Dr Sigman makes his warning in Biologist, the journal of the Institute of Biology.
Die Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien (BPjM) hat mit Beschluss vom 4. Dezember ein Blog, das sich mit dem Thema Magersucht befasst hat, als jugendgefährdend indiziert. Einen entsprechenden Bericht des Fach-Blogs beck-blog bestätigte die BPjM-Vorsitzende Elke Monssen-Engberding gegenüber heise online. Nach Angaben der BPjM handelte es sich bei dem indizierten Angebot um ein sogenanntes "Pro-Ana"-Blog, das die krankhafte Magersucht verherrlicht und damit Jugendliche gefährdet habe. Das ursprünglich bei Google gehostete Blog ist inzwischen offline.
(Heise) Einer Studie der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) München zufolge gibt es keinen Zusammenhang zwischen der individuellen Belastung durch Mobilfunkstrahlung und dem Wohlbefinden von Kindern und Jugendlichen. Das Institut und die Poliklinik für Arbeits-, Sozial- und Umweltmedizin der LMU hatte die individuelle Mobilfunkbelastung von rund 3000 Heranwachsenden (1524 Jugendliche zwischen 13 und 17 Jahren, 1498 Kinder zwischen 8 und 12 Jahren) über einen Zeitraum von 24 Stunden per Dosimeter gemessen und parallel dazu ihr Wohlbefinden abgefragt. Die Studienteilnehmer sollten angeben, ob und wie stark sie unter Befindlichkeitsstörungen leiden, wie Kopfschmerzen, Gereiztheit, Nervosität, Schwindel, Müdigkeit, Angst, Konzentrationsproblemen und Einschlafproblemen. Dabei wurde sowohl das aktuelle Befinden am Untersuchungstag als auch das Wohlbefinden der letzten sechs Monate betrachtet.
(BBC) People searching the web for information on suicide are more likely to find sites encouraging the act than offering support, a study says. Researchers used four search engines to look for suicide-related sites, the British Medical Journal said.
The three most frequently occurring sites were all pro-suicide, prompting researchers to call for anti-suicide web pages to be prioritised.
(Guardian) Food and drink companies should be banned from marketing unhealthy snacks and drinks to young children via new media such as social networking sites and text messaging, a coalition of international consumer groups and health bodies recommends. The group is urging governments to adopt a code that they say would curb the rising obesity rates among children. The code would restrict junk food marketing, including outlawing the use of cartoon characters, celebrity tie-ins, free gifts and competitions aimed at younger audiences.
(BBC) Mobile phone use does not raise the risk of brain tumours, a Japanese study suggests. The research is the first to look at the effects of hand set radiation levels on different parts of the brain. Tokyo Women's Medical University found no increased risk of the three main types of brain cancer among regular mobile phone users. The study, comparing 322 brain cancer patients and 683 healthy people, appears in British Journal of Cancer.
(BBC) Using a mobile phone before going to bed could stop you getting a decent night's sleep, research suggests. The study, funded by mobile phone companies, suggests radiation from the handset can cause insomnia, headaches and confusion.
(Reuters) Researchers should study more children and pregnant women in trying to figure out if cell phones or other wireless devices could damage health, the U.S. National Research Council advised. A few studies have indicated a possible link between mobile telephone use and brain tumors, although far more show no connection. But because wireless devices have become almost ubiquitous, researchers want to ensure their safety. More study needs to be done on multiple, long-term, low-intensity radio frequency (RF) exposure, the report said.
(Reuters) A French health ministry has issued a warning against excessive mobile-phone use, especially by children, though it recognised cellular technology had not been scientifically proved to be dangerous.
(BBC) The government is taking another look at the effect that wireless networks have on health. The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has announced it will carry out "systematic" research into how wireless networks are being used. The research will aim to establish average exposure to the low level radiation emitted by wi-fi access points and wireless links on computers. The HPA said it expected the results of the research to be "reassuring". In its statement outlining its intentions, Professor Pat Troop, chief executive of the agency, said there was "no scientific evidence to date" that wi-fi or wireless local networks could have an adverse effect on the health of the general population.
(BBC) Scientists have said there is no evidence to suggest a link between the use of wi-fi and damage to health. BBC programme Panorama found that radiation levels from wi-fi in one school was up to three times the level of mobile phone mast radiation. The readings were 600 times below the government's safety limits but there is ongoing debate about wi-fi use.
(BBC) Computers with wireless internet should not be placed on children's laps, says the head of the government's committee on mobile phone safety research. Professor Lawrie Challis told the Daily Telegraph children using wi-fi networks should be monitored until research into potential health risks is completed. He says children should keep a safe distance from the embedded antennas. The Health Protection Agency has said wi-fi devices are of very low power - much lower than mobile phones.
UK patients' medical records could be shared across Europe in a European Commission scheme that could compound controversy over the NHS's patient records system. The Department of Health has faced a barrage of criticism over its handling of the Connecting For Health computer system. "Interoperability and integration of data can improve the care provided to patients, the reduction of medical error, and the human and economic cost savings that can be achieved," said a Commission document "Connected Health: Quality and Safety for European Citizens".
(BBC) Long or short-term mobile phone use is not associated with increased risk of cancer, a major study has found. Mobile phone antennas emit electromagnetic fields that can penetrate the human brain. But a Danish team found no evidence that this was linked to an increased risk of tumours in the head or neck as had been feared."
(BBC) Using internet search engine Google can help doctors diagnose tricky cases, researchers have said. A team of Australian doctors Googled the symptoms of 26 cases for a study in the New England Journal of Medicine. In 15 cases, the web search came up with the right diagnosis, the paper published on the British Medical Journal website reports. he authors say Google can be a 'useful aid', but UK experts said the internet was 'no replacement' for doctors.
(BBC) The UK government should make it illegal for internet sites to incite or advise people on how to commit suicide, a charity says. Papyrus, set up to tackle young suicide, said the risk posed by pro-suicide websites was not being taken seriously enough.
The charity said the 1961 Suicide Act should be amended to make it illegal to publish such material on the web.
(BBC) People who buy medicines over the internet could be unwittingly putting their health at risk, warn UK doctors. Some drugs are fake and contain ingredients bearing little resemblance to the medicine named on the bottle, the Sunderland team told the Lancet. Even if patients get the right drug, there is a risk of unchecked side effects and dangerous interactions.
(Euroap) In 2005 at least one third of the European adult population, 130 million EU citizens, browsed the web in search of information on health. However, searching for health-related information is not always easy. Researchers can be confronted with thousands of sites, many of them complex, and it can be hard to know which are reliable or up to date. To help European citizens answer their health questions, the Commission has launched the Health-EU Portal. The Health-EU Portal is a gateway to simple and sound information on 47 topics that range from babies' health to bio-terrorism, and from infectious diseases to health insurance.
(Cell Phone News) Results from a University of York study showed using hands-free headsets reduce cell phone radiation by as much as 47%. The study, part of the UK's Mobile Telecommunications Health Research program, concluded that radiation was cut by nearly half when using a wired hands-free kit running up from the torso, rather than directly talking on a phone against the head.
(AP) Internet sales of prescription drugs to U.S. consumers could be banned by Canada if a proposal being drafted by health officials is approved. The changes would essentially kill a $700 million industry that has become increasingly popular with underinsured patients in search of cheaper medicine. The issue has become touchy politically for President Bush, whose administration has argued that reimporting U.S.-made drugs from Canada would put consumers at risk because U.S. regulators could not guarantee their safety.
(BBC) People who set up pro-anorexia websites which dissuade sufferers from seeking help should be sued, according to a group which helps people overcome eating disorders. There are hundreds of "Pro-ana" websites creating an online community where fellow anorexics encourage each other to starve themselves further.
(BBC) he government has given the green-light to internet-only pharmacies in England. The move follows a decision to ease the rules on where new pharmacies can be located. Under the plans, pharmacists opening in large shopping centres or for more than 100 hours a week will find it much easier to get a licence.
(Reuters) Web sites are recommending unproven complementary medicines for cancer that could interfere with conventional treatments and be dangerous or deadly, a leading expert said. Prof. Edzard Ernst analyzed 32 Web sites and found many recommended treatments not supported by scientific evidence.
(Guardian) The television watchdog, Ofcom, ruled out a ban on advertising junk foods to children yesterday, saying the role of advertising in obesity was small compared to that of other factors such as exercise and family habits.
It said any other action would have to wait for the government's public health white paper in the autumn. The decision to kick the issue into the long grass sets Ofcom on collision course with the growing campaign to curb marketing to children.