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Health Highlights: June 20, 2019

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

Young Adults Growing ‘Horns’ Due to Smartphone Use: Researchers

Young adults are developing “horns” at the back of their skulls due to excessive use of mobile devices, researchers say.

The horns are actually bone spurs caused by forward tilting of the head, which shifts weight from the spine to the muscles at the back of the head. This leads to bone growth in the connecting tendons and ligaments, the Washington Post reported.

The bone spurs develop in the skull, just above the neck, said the researchers at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia.

The bone spurs are a sign of serious posture issues that can cause chronic headaches and pain in the upper back and neck, study first author David Shahar, a chiropractor who recently completed a Ph.D. in biomechanics, told the Post.

One significant finding was the size of the bone spurs. Typically, bone spurs are considered large if they’re 3 or 5 millimeters in length, he explained. This research included only bone spurs that were 10 millimeters, about two-fifths of an inch.

The bone spurs themselves aren’t a threat, but rather a “portent of something nasty going on elsewhere, a sign that the head and neck are not in the proper configuration,” study co-author Mark Sayers, an associate professor of biomechanics, told the Post.

The study was published last year in the journal Scientific Reports but only recently attracted significant attention.

“An important question is what the future holds for the young adult populations in our study, when development of a degenerative process is evident in such an early stage of their lives?” the authors wrote.

Previous studies have linked smartphone use to neck and hand problems, but this is the first study to connect such use to bone changes, the Post reported.

“These formations take a long time to develop, so that means that those individuals who suffer from them probably have been stressing that area since early childhood,” Shahar told the Post.

He suggested that heavy users of mobile devices pay closer attention to their posture. If they need motivation to do so, they should feel the lower rear of their skull to check for bone spurs.


1 in 6 U.S. Hospital, ER Stays Result in Surprise Bills

About 1 in 6 U.S. hospital stays or emergency room visits result in “surprise” medical bills that can amount to thousands of dollars, a new study finds.

These “out-of-network” charges affect millions of people with what’s viewed as solid coverage from large employers, the Associated Press reported.

Rates of such charges vary widely between states, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation study. For example, they occur in 27% of emergency room visits and 38% of in-network hospital stays in Texas, compared with 2% and 3%, respectively, in Minnesota.

Rates were also higher in New York, Florida, New Jersey and Kansas, and lower in South Dakota, Nebraska, Maine and Mississippi, the AP reported.

A Senate panel is scheduled to vote next week on legislation to close the loophole that allows such charges.


U.S. Suicide Rate Rose 33% Between 1999 and 2017

The United States’ suicide rate in 2017 was 33% higher than in 1999 and is at its highest since World War II, according to a new study.

It found that suicide rates among Americans ages 15-64 rose from 10.5 per 100,000 in 1999 to 14 per 100,000 in 2017, CNN reported.

American Indian or Alaska Natives had the highest increase among all racial/ethnic groups, according to the findings released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Statistics.

There were significant increases in suicide deaths among girls and women in all racial/ethnic groups except Asian or Pacific Islander. The largest increase (139%) was among American Indian or Alaska Native girls and women, CNN reported.

Significant increases were also seen in suicide rates among boys and men in all racial/ethnic groups except for Asian or Pacific Islander. The largest increase (71%) occurred among American Indian or Alaska Native boys and men.

American Indian or Alaska Native, ages 15 to 44, had the highest suicide rates for both males and females in 2017, CNN reported.

A separate study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that suicide rate among U.S. teens ages 15 to 19 rose from 8 per 100,000 in 2000 to 11.8 per 100,000 in 2017. Among young adults ages 20 to 24, the suicide rate rose from 12.5 per 100,000 in 2000 to 17 per 100,000 in 2017.

A CDC report released last year said U.S. suicide rates rose 25% between 1999 and 2016, CNN reported.


New England Journal of Medicine Picks New Editor-in-Chief

The new editor-in-chief of the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine is Dr. Eric J. Rubin, who was selected after a worldwide search and plans to start in September, according to the Massachusetts Medical Society, which publishes the journal.

“Dr. Rubin is a recognized and respected leader in the field of infectious disease, where he is known for his groundbreaking tuberculosis research and his personal dedication to often neglected populations of patients,” Dr. Maryanne Bombaugh, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, said in a society news release.

Rubin is chair of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases and a professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases.

Rubin succeeds Dr. Jeffrey Drazen, who has been the editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine since 2000.

Copyright © 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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