The Baltimore Sun

In Md., depression, suicide rates low

Mental health

Maryland is one of the top five healthiest states in terms of its rates of depression and suicide, according to a report to be released today.

The report, sanctioned by Mental Health America, a nonprofit association that promotes mental wellness, aimed to measure the mental health status of Americans and push public health professionals and policy makers to address the problems. It was funded with a grant from Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.

The report used data from four federal reports and concluded that South Dakota had the lowest level of depression, followed by Hawaii, New Jersey, Iowa and Maryland. Utah, West Virginia, Kentucky, Rhode Island and Nevada had the highest rates of depression.

Across the nation, 8 percent of adults had a major depressive episode during the study period from 2004 to 2005; just less than 7 percent in Maryland had one. The average rate of suicide nationally was about 11 per 100,000 people. In Maryland, the rate was nine per 100,000.

The report said about 30,000 Americans commit suicide a year, and that suicide is the 11th leading cause of death.

Problems in states with the worst records included the unavailability of mental health professionals, exclusion of mental health care in insurance coverage and lack of access to health insurance.

Meredith Cohn


Using pedometers encourages walking

While loosening your belt after a meal, you may want to clip a pedometer to it. The reason: Wearing a step counter leads to weight loss and lower blood pressure, according to new research. Researchers found that a pedometer is an unusually good motivator to get people to walk more.

People who used a pedometer for 18 weeks walked an average of seven additional miles weekly and shaved 0.4 points from their body mass index, a measure of weight that considers both pounds and height. That decrease is the equivalent of 2.5 pounds for a 5-foot-6-inch person with an initial weight of 195 pounds, according to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

A pedometer, which can cost as little as $10 to $15, is an inexpensive tool to get people walking, researchers said. If 10 percent of U.S. adults began a regular walking plan, $5.6 billion in annual heart disease costs could be saved, according to the report, which was funded by a grant from the National Institute on Aging.

Los Angeles Times


Calculator to consider risks of black women

A widely used tool for predicting a woman's risk of breast cancer is getting an update - to better reflect black women's risk.

At issue is the National Cancer Institute's online risk calculator. Answer a few questions - such as current age, age when your first child was born, family history of breast cancer - and learn your odds of getting breast cancer in the next five years.

But the calculator has a caveat: It was created using studies of breast cancer in white women. A warning flashes telling nonwhite women that the answer they're about to get comes with some uncertainty.

Now scientists are updating the calculations to reflect newer data on black women and cancer.

It turns out the original calculator had been slightly underestimating risk for black women 45 and older - and slightly overestimating risk for younger black women, NCI researchers reported this week in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Mitchell Gail and colleagues re-examined the records of 20,000 black women who were screened for a government study comparing cancer-protective drugs. To qualify, women had to have at least a 1.66 percent risk of breast cancer in the next five years.

Just 14 percent of these women qualified for the study using the old risk calculator. Had the new one been in use, 30 percent would have qualified - an important difference, Gail concluded.

The NCI will have its online risk calculator - at - updated with the new statistics for black women by spring, Gail said.

Associated Press

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