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‘Poor health’ and screen time on different devices: What is the link?

A recent study has found associations between the time we spend in front of some devices and certain negative health outcomes.

New research has found links between the amount of time that people spend in front of some screened devices and various negative health outcomes.

The study findings, which appear in the journal BMC Public Health, lay the groundwork for future research to explore these associations in more detail.

Throughout the 20th century, television spread across the globe, becoming an important part of many people’s lives.

Significant amounts of research have explored the associations between watching TV for prolonged periods of time and various health outcomes.

For example, scientists have found links have between significant TV watching and obesity and type 2 diabetes, as well as abnormal glucose metabolism.

Part of the explanation for these links lies in the association between prolonged periods of time spent in front of the TV and less healthful eating habits, such as eating more fast foods or items that typically contain higher levels of salt, sugar, and saturated fat.

Although TV is still a central part of many people’s leisure time, there are now many other types of screens competing for our attention. These include computers, tablets, and smartphones.

If there is an association between prolonged TV viewing and negative health outcomes, the question arises: Does this association also apply to excessive use of other screened devices?

For corresponding study author Chris Wharton, the assistant dean of innovation and strategic initiatives at Arizona State University’s College of Health Solutions in Phoenix:

“A lot of screen time-related literature has primarily focused on television. But with the advancement of all these other types of devices that people use throughout the day, we wanted to see how health behaviors and factors are associated with a variety of screen-based devices.”

Wharton and team produced an 18-question survey and sent it to 978 adults in the United States who owned a TV and at least one other device with a screen.

After excluding some respondents for incorrectly filling in the survey, the researchers had 926 responses.

The survey measured:

  • the amount of time each person spent on their devices
  • their diet
  • the quality and quantity of their sleep
  • their sense of stress and healthiness
  • how physically active they were
  • what their body mass index (BMI) was

The team categorized the participants’ screen time as light, moderate, or heavy use.

The research showed that people who exhibited heavy use of screened devices — that is, those who had a median screen time of 17.5 hours per day — had the worst health-related characteristics and dietary patterns.

These users tended to eat fewer fruit and vegetables and more sweets and fast foods. They also tended to have the least physical activity, get the least sleep, have the worst sleep quality, and experience the greatest perceived stress (compared with those with light or moderate screen use).

The researchers also found that overuse of different types of devices also had associations with

The U.S. Cities Most Vulnerable to COVID-19 and Poor Mental Health | Cities

For many Americans, the novel coronavirus outbreak has seemed to stretch on for an eternity. Nationwide lockdowns in the spring prompted white collar employees to work from home, often forcing them to simultaneously juggle family and professional responsibilities. And although certain states have eased more restrictions than others, school districts remain shuttered throughout the country. Thousands of working parents are still without respite. Meanwhile, front-line workers without the luxury to work from home continue to put their lives at risk.

Just prior to World Mental Health Day on Oct. 10, the Surgo Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, and Mental Health America, a nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness, published a report highlighting 13 American cities that they say are especially vulnerable to the twin crises of COVID-19 and steep declines in mental health.

Their study evaluated cities based on the percentage of residents living in communities that were both ill-equipped to deal with coronavirus outbreaks and had high rates of poor mental health; their state’s access to mental health care; and whether they had a higher than average ratio of residents to mental health care providers. Metrics on states’ access to mental health came from Mental Health America, while data on resident to mental health care provider ratios came from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.The cities ranking also drew from Surgo’s COVID-19 Community Vulnerability Index, and from 2017 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in which individuals self-reported having poor mental health within specific census tracts.

Camden, New Jersey, scored the worst on the list, with as many as 84% of residents living in communities that exhibited high rates of poor mental health and vulnerability to COVID-19. Two other New Jersey cities – Passaic (No. 5), with 65% of residents vulnerable to both COVID-19 and poor mental health, and Trenton (No. 13), with 50% of their residents at risk – also made the list.

Nine of the 13 cities on the list were in the Rust Belt, including Reading, Pennsylvania (No. 2); Detroit (No. 3); and Rochester, New York (No. 7). Nearly half of the at-risk cities were in either New Jersey or New York.

“The rates of poor mental health outcomes are extremely high in the Rust Belt,” Surgo analyst Christine Campigotto told U.S. News. “When you look at rates of poor mental health in a map, the Rust Belt stands out.”

The four geographic outliers were Springdale, Arkansas; Albany, Georgia; San Bernardino, California; and New Bedford, Massachusetts. New Bedford’s appearance on the list is notable because the report references Massachusetts’ high ranking in terms of access to mental health care.

“These are tumultuous times for Americans, and they are taking a toll on our mental health,” Surgo Foundation co-founder Sema Sgaier said in a press release. “I hope our findings will spur local officials to adopt data-driven responses to ensure appropriate and equitable allocation of mental health resources to these communities.”

Here are the 13 cities most impacted

Push to bring coronavirus vaccines to the poor faces trouble

LONDON (AP) — An ambitious humanitarian project to deliver coronavirus vaccines to the world’s poorest people is facing potential shortages of money, cargo planes, refrigeration and vaccines themselves — and running into skepticism even from some of those it’s intended to help most.

In one of the biggest obstacles, rich countries have locked up most of the world’s potential vaccine supply through 2021, and the U.S. and others have refused to join the project, called Covax.

“The supply of vaccines is not going to be there in the near term, and the money also isn’t there,” warned Rohit Malpani, a public health consultant who previously worked for Doctors Without Borders.

Covax was conceived as a way of giving countries access to coronavirus vaccines regardless of their wealth.

It is being led by the World Health Organization, a U.N. agency; Gavi, a public-private alliance, funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which buys immunizations for 60% of the world’s children; and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, or CEPI, another Gates-supported public-private collaboration.

Covax’s aim is to buy 2 billion doses by the end of 2021, though it isn’t yet clear whether the successful vaccine will require one dose or two for the world’s 7.8 billion people. Countries taking part in the project can either buy vaccines from Covax or get them for free, if needed.

One early problem that emerged: Some of the world’s wealthiest nations negotiated their own deals directly with drug companies, meaning they don’t need to participate in the endeavor at all. China, France, Germany, Russia and the U.S. don’t intend to join.

And so many rich countries bought vaccines from manufacturers — before the shots have even been approved — that they have already snapped up the majority of the vaccine supply for 2021.

The European Union has contributed 400 million euros ($469 million) to support Covax, but the 27-country bloc won’t use Covax to buy vaccines, in what some see as a vote of no-confidence in the project’s ability to deliver. Instead, the EU has signed its own deals to buy more than 1 billion doses, depriving Covax of the bulk negotiating power of buying shots for the continent.

Gavi, WHO and CEPI announced in September that countries representing two-thirds of the world’s population had joined Covax, but they acknowledged they still need about $400 million more from governments or elsewhere. Without it, according to internal documents seen by The Associated Press before the organization’s board meeting this week, Gavi can’t sign agreements to buy vaccines.

Covax did reach a major agreement this week for 200 million doses from the Indian vaccine maker Serum Institute, though the company made clear that a large portion of those will go to people in India.

By the end of next year, Gavi estimates, the project will need $5 billion more.

Covax said negotiations to secure vaccines are moving forward despite the lack of funds.

“We are working with the governments who have expressed interest earlier