Check out how people kill themselves – while taking selfies!


Say cheese—and watch out for that jagged cliff behind you!

❝ A group of health researchers in India have tried to tally the death toll from selfie taking, counting 259 deaths worldwide from October 2011 to November 2017. In doing so, they also caught a blurry glimpse of the leading ways in which people perish during dicey photo ops. The top three were drowning, transportation related (mostly being hit by trains), and falling off of things, such as cliff edges…

The resulting grim picture shows a developing public health threat, the researchers argue. Yet, the numbers are likely “just the tip of iceberg,” they add. Selfies are never recorded as an official cause of death, media reports don’t report every death, and the search was limited to English-language news reports…

❝ Still, the researchers were able to catch a reasonable peek into the perilous photo trends…Risk-taking men accounted for 72.5 percent of the fatalities with gender data. Of those with age data, the mean age was about 23 years old. The majority of deaths were of those aged 10 to 29.

Har. Death by misadventure would be the usual cause listed, I imagine.

Suicide is More Common in High-Altitude Counties

❝ Suicide is one of the top 10 causes of death in the U.S. In the next 20 years, it’s expected to cause more than 2 million deaths per year worldwide, ranking 14th in the world as a cause of death.

❝ There are many factors known to affect an individual’s risk for suicide. For example, people who are older, male, white, divorced, low-income, isolated or who abuse substances are all at higher risk. Psychiatric illness, mood disorders and lack of social support are also recognized risk factors.

Several studies have demonstrated geographic variations in suicide patterns in the U.S., with higher suicide rates in western states. Our ongoing research expands on those findings, showing that Americans who live in higher-altitude counties are at a higher risk for suicide…

❝ Previous studies have reported a significant association between suicide and altitude. One study showed a strong positive relationship between average state altitude and suicide rate. For example, in Utah, the average geographic altitude is about 6,000 feet, and the rate of suicide is 70 percent higher than average.

The article opens many interesting avenues of research, especially into hypoxia.

I live in a valley which lies at 6300′ altitude. The nearby city of Santa Fe is at 7000′. And the first thing that comes to my mind is hypoxia, of course. As a sleep apnea “sufferer” who hardly ever suffers, blood oxygen saturation is a problem easily solved. CPAP machines get cheaper and quieter every year. If you’re an old geek like me, you’re already on Medicaid + Medigap. And like, me, you sleep fine waking up refreshed by a slightly compressed feed of bedroom air pressed into your lungs.

It’s just another market for tech solutions, folks. No need to stay away or add another worry to your life. Just need the feds to authorize the prescription.

Shootings Now The Third Leading Cause of Death for U.S. Children


Click to enlarge

❝ Few stories are more heartbreaking than those involving children who are injured or killed by gunshots. It isn’t hard to find them: In June alone, a 6-year-old accidentally shot and killed a 4-year-old in South Carolina, a father accidentally shot and killed his 9-year-old daughter in Indiana and an 8-year-old Mississippi boy was accidentally shot in the chest. His grandparents drove him to the hospital, but he died 45 minutes later. Sadly, the list of child gun deaths goes on.

❝ Though we constantly see examples in the news, child gun injuries and deaths may be even more prevalent in the United States than we realized. A study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics showed that an average of 5,790 children in the United States receive emergency room treatment for gun-related injuries each year, and around 21 percent of those injuries are unintentional. The study also found that an average of 1,297 children die annually from gun-related injuries, making guns the third-leading cause of death for children in America…The number is based on data taken from 2012–2014 for children up to the age of 17…

❝ …53 percent of the gun-related deaths were homicides, while 38 percent were suicides, 6 percent were unintentional and 3 percent were related to law enforcement or undetermined causes. Of the injuries, 71 percent were assault, 21 percent were unintentional, 5 percent were related to law enforcement or undetermined causes and around 3 percent were self-inflicted.

❝ In 2010, 91 percent of the children killed by guns around the world were American, where, according to the data, 19 children die from or are treated for gunshot wounds each day.

RTFA for more terrible statistics, anecdotal information, description of how amoral our society has become. The right to arm yourself out of fear or hatred wholly supersedes any intelligent, informed discussion of rights in a free society. Including the right to protect the lives of children.

Suicide Rates Keep Rising

❝ Those of us who work in pediatric intensive care have frequent encounters with the problem of suicide and attempted suicide. It has seemed to me for some years that the numbers are increasing, and this has been shown to be the case. After years of declining, the suicide rate in our country has been increasing, now at about 125 percent of the rate of several decades ago.

This increase accelerated after 2006. Although all age groups showed an increase, the rate among women, particularly adolescent girls, took a notable jump. In 2012 suicide was the second leading cause of death in adolescents aged 12 to 19 years, accounting for more deaths in this age group than cancer, heart disease, influenza, pneumonia, diabetes mellitus, human immunodeficiency virus, and stroke combined…

❝ Actual suicide is just the tip of the iceberg, since, at least among adolescent girls who attempt it typically with drug overdose, there are as many as 90 attempts for every death. Since a large number of these attempts end up in the PICU, I’m not surprised we are seeing more and more of them come through our doors. A few other points are worth noting here. The success statistics for adolescent boys are unfortunately much higher because boys tend to use more violent means than girls, such as hanging, firearms, or automobiles.

However, although rates for boys are up slightly, they really haven’t changed much. It’s also important to realize suicide attempts are a spectrum — some are more serious than others. Many girls take an overdose and then immediately tell somebody about it. These are often called suicide gestures and can be quite impulsive. Some use the term “cry for help” to describe them. More ominous are children who carefully plan, such as by hoarding powerful drugs in secret and taking them in a setting where they won’t be found. They may leave a suicide note. I couldn’t find any data about whether these different categories are discordant in the rate increase, but I assume the two are tracking together. Finally, a child may not know which drugs are truly dangerous. I have seen very serious suicide attempts by children who take overdoses of what we know to be innocuous medications but the child does not.

❝ Regardless of what category the attempt is, of course, the child needs mental health services subsequently. These days we find a child’s text messages to be very helpful. So why the increase in adolescent girls?

I’ll give you the spoiler. Dr. Johnson doesn’t know the answer. He’s in early stages of his examination as are many others. We also happen to live in a society so screwed-up that suicide is increasing for most age groups.

You still should RTFA. He has suggestions. He has hopes. He has other scientists to help him.

Analyzing 130 studies of gun control finds that it actually works

What do we really know about the research on whether gun restrictions help reduce gun deaths? Even for PhDs, this is a difficult question. There’s been a mountain of research on the subject, but these dozens of studies conducted over many years and in many different countries reach a broad and sometimes contradictory range of conclusions. It’s hard to know what it really tells us, taken together, about whether gun laws can reduce gun violence.

A just-released study, published in the February issue of Epidemiologic Reviews, seeks to resolve this problem. It systematically reviewed the evidence from around the world on gun laws and gun violence, looking to see if the best studies come to similar conclusions. It is the first such study to look at the international research in this way.

The authors are careful to note that their findings do not conclusively prove that gun restrictions reduce gun deaths. However, they did find a compelling trend whereby new restrictions on gun purchasing and ownership tended to be followed by a decline in gun deaths.

Santaella-Tenorio’s study…Magdalena Cerdá and Sandro Galea, as well as…Andrés Villaveces…examined roughly 130 studies that had been conducted in 10 different countries. Each of those 130 studies had looked at some specific change in gun laws and its effect on homicide and/or suicide rates. Most of those 130 studies looked at law changes in the developed world, such as the US, Australia, and Austria. A few looked at gun laws in developing countries, specifically Brazil and South Africa.

Massive assembly of computational analysis. The stuff I’d love to work on. Catch up to my wife. 🙂

VOX does their usual smooth job of presenting the core conclusions, edited and polished for interested readers. A worthwhile read.

The leap not taken

After the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge in China, the Golden Gate Bridge, in San Francisco, is the second-most used suicide site in the world. But retired California Highway Patrol Sergeant Kevin Briggs is responsible for saving hundreds from taking that leap…

From 1994 to 2013 Briggs patrolled the bridge and talked down strangers thinking of ending their lives. “I try to think, if I was in their shoes, what would I want to happen?” asked Briggs.

Now, retired from his duties, he continues his work with his organization called “Pivotal Points.”

In this week’s Full Frame Close Up, Briggs talks about his mission to prevent suicide, around the globe, by teaching others how to persuade people to step back from the ledge and talk to someone about their struggles.

Never an easy task. Good reasons, bad reasons, push people to the edge of suicide. Frankly, I’m a supporter of the right to make that decision – as an informed, balanced decision.

Which is not always the precursor to what finds someone on the railing of the Golden Gate Bridge.

A little more research which says coffee drinking keeps you healthy — Hah!

In a study reported in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, people who regularly drank moderate amounts of coffee daily –less than 5 cups per day — experienced a lower risk of deaths from cardiovascular disease, neurological diseases, Type 2 diabetes and suicide.

The benefit held true for drinking caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, suggesting it’s not just the caffeine providing health perks but possibly the naturally occurring chemical compounds in the coffee beans…

The findings are based on data from three large ongoing studies: 74,890 women in the Nurses’ Health Study; 93,054 women in the Nurses’ Health Study 2; and 40,557 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study…

In general, people who frequently drank coffee were more likely to smoke and drink alcohol. To separate the effects of coffee from smoking, researchers repeated their analysis among never-smokers, and found that the protective benefits of coffee on deaths became even more evident…

The study was not designed to show a direct cause and effect relationship between coffee consumption and dying from illness. So the findings should be interpreted with caution, researchers said. One potential drawback of the study design was that participants were asked to report how much coffee they drank, however researchers found the assessment to be reliable.

I have been keeping in touch with studies like this for 45 years. Living on the road BITD, I drank a fair amount of coffee. And quit – once. A preliminary study at Harvard had indicated possible ties to pancreatic cancer. Scared me all right.

Then the study was completed and there was no correlation at all. Back to coffee and haven’t stopped since. 🙂

Death rates rise for middle-aged white Americans

death certificate
Or get someone who can write to fill it out for you

Something startling is happening to middle-aged white Americans. Unlike every other age group, unlike every other racial and ethnic group, unlike their counterparts in other rich countries, death rates in this group have been rising, not falling.

That finding was reported Monday by two Princeton economists, Angus Deaton, who last month won the 2015 Nobel Memorial Prize in for Economic Science, and Anne Case. Analyzing health and mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and from other sources, they concluded that rising annual death rates among this group are being driven not by the big killers like heart disease and diabetes but by an epidemic of suicides and afflictions stemming from substance abuse: alcoholic liver disease and overdoses of heroin and prescription opioids.

The mortality rate for whites 45 to 54 years old with no more than a high school education increased by 134 deaths per 100,000 people from 1999 to 2014.

“It is difficult to find modern settings with survival losses of this magnitude,” wrote two Dartmouth economists, Ellen Meara and Jonathan S. Skinner, in a commentary to the Deaton-Case analysis that was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences…

In contrast, the death rate for middle-aged blacks and Hispanics continued to decline during the same period, as did death rates for younger and older people of all races and ethnic groups.

Dr. Deaton and Dr. Case (who are husband and wife) say they stumbled on their finding by accident, looking at a variety of national data sets on mortality rates and federal surveys that asked people about their levels of pain, disability, and general ill health.

Dr. Deaton was looking at statistics on suicide and happiness, skeptical about whether states with a high happiness level have a low suicide rate (they don’t, he discovered — in fact the opposite is true.) Dr. Case was interested in poor health, including chronic pain because she has suffered for 12 years from disabling and untreatable lower back pain.

Dr. Deaton noticed in national data sets that middle-aged whites were committing suicide at an unprecedented rate and that the all-cause mortality in this group was rising. But suicides alone, he and Dr. Case realized, were not enough to push up the overall death rates so they began looking at other causes of death. That led them to the discovery that deaths from drug and alcohol poisoning also increased in this group.

Taken together, they concluded that suicides, drugs, and alcohol explained the overall increase in deaths. The effect was largely confined to people with a high school education or less. In that group, death rates rose by 22 percent while they actually fell for those with a college education…

The least educated also had the most financial distress, Dr. Meara and Dr. Skinner noted in their commentary. In the period examined by Dr. Deaton and Dr. Case, the inflation adjusted income for households headed by a high school graduate fell by 19 percent.

Keep on rocking in the Free World.