Health Highlights: June 9, 2008

In its first decision, the Supreme Court rejected the $79.5 million judgment. In its second decision, the high court ruled that jurors may punish a defendant only for harm done to someone who is suing, not other smokers who could make similar claims.

In the upcoming review, scheduled to take place in the fall, the high court will consider whether the Oregon Supreme Court ignored the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling, but not whether the amount of the judgment is constitutionally permissible, the AP reported.

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Law Hasn't Reduced Teen Drivers' Cell Phone Use

A North Carolina ban on cell phone use while driving hasn't reduced the use of cell phones by young drivers, according to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In fact, there's been a slight increase in cell phone usage by drivers under 18.

Five months after the law went into effect, nearly 12 percent of teen drivers were observed using cell phones, compared to 11 percent prior to the ban, United Press International reported.

Girls were much more likely than boys to use cell phones while driving, as were teens driving alone in vehicles, compared to those driving with friends.

Lack of enforcement may be the reason why the ban appears ineffective.

"Drivers with phones to their ears aren't hard to spot, but it's nearly impossible for police officers to see hands-free devices or correctly guess how old drivers are," said study author Anne McCartt, vice president of the institute, UPI reported.

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Debt Stress May Be Affecting Health of Millions of Americans

Debt-related stress may be causing health problems for millions of Americans, suggests an Associated Press-AOL poll. An index tied to the survey showed that debt stress is 14 percent higher this year than in 2004.

Among respondents who reported high levels of debt stress:

  • 51 percent had muscle tension, including, pain the lower back, compared with 31 percent of those with low levels of debt stress.
  • 44 percent of high-stress respondents had migraines or other headaches, compared with 15 percent with lower debt stress.
  • 29 percent suffered severe anxiety, compared with 4 percent with lower stress.
  • 27 percent had ulcers or digestive tract problems, compared with 8 percent with lower stress.
  • 23 percent had severe depression, compared with 4 percent with lower stress.
  • 6 percent reported heart attacks, compared with 3 percent of those with lower stress.

The survey also found that people with high levels of debt stress were much more likely to have problems with concentration and sleep, and were more likely to get upset for no apparent reason, the AP reported.

Most Americans are managing their debts adequately, but as many as 10 million to 16 million are "suffering terribly due to their debts, and their health is likely to be negatively impacted," said Paul J. Lavrakas, a research psychologist and AP consultant who analyzed the survey results.

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Researchers Failed to Disclose Drug Company Funding: Report

A team of doctors who helped pioneer the use of psychiatric drugs in children are being investigated after they failed to properly disclose at least $3.2 million in funding from several drug companies.

Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital are looking into the disclosure and conflict of interest forms of Drs. Joseph Beiderman, Timothy Wilens and Thomas Spencer, who conducted research into how children are affected by psychiatric drugs, Bloomberg news reported.

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