Your neighborhood could be the culprit for your sleep loss

Conditions such as loud noise and few trees in neighborhoods seem to affect how much sleep adolescents get, according to a study in the journal Sleep. In a second study, researchers measured young people’s brainwaves to observe the troublesome effects of sleep loss on memory and cognitive function.

The findings were reported by two scientific teams funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(link is external), about six out of 10 (57.8%) middle school students and seven out of 10 (72.7%) high school students in the United States do not get the recommended amount of sleep on school nights, increasing their risk for future chronic disease development. Studies have shown a link between insufficient sleep and a higher risk of obesity, diabetes, depression, anxiety, and increased risk-taking behaviors in adolescents. 

In the new residential environment study, which involved 110 adolescents, the researchers found that just small increases in neighborhood noise had a negative effect on sleep. In scientific terms, each standard deviation above average noise levels was linked to a 16-minute delay in falling sleep and 25% lower odds of sleeping at least eight hours per night. When the researchers looked at the effects of green space, however, they found that the teens who lived in neighborhoods with just one standard deviation above the average number of trees fell asleep 18 minutes earlier and experienced more favorable sleep times overall.  

“For adolescents, the harms of insufficient sleep are wide-ranging and include impaired cognition and engagement in antisocial behavior,” said study author Stephanie L. Mayne, Ph.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania. “This makes identifying strategies to prevent and treat the problem critical. Our findings suggest that neighborhood noise and green space may be important targets for interventions.”

As climate and commercial threats intensify, WHO-UNICEF-Lancet Commission presses for radical rethink on child health

No single country is adequately protecting children’s health, their environment and their futures, finds a landmark report released Wednesday by a Commission of over 40 child and adolescent health experts from around the world.

The health and future of every child and adolescent worldwide is under immediate threat

The Commission was convened by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and The Lancet. 

The report, A Future for the World’s Children?, finds that the health and future of every child and adolescent worldwide is under immediate threat from ecological degradation, climate change and exploitative marketing practices that push heavily processed fast food, sugary drinks, alcohol and tobacco at children. 

“Despite improvements in child and adolescent health over the past 20 years, progress has stalled, and is set to reverse,” said former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Co-Chair of the Commission, Helen Clark. “It has been estimated that around 250 million children under five years old in low- and middle-income countries are at risk of not reaching their developmental potential, based on proxy measures of stunting and poverty. But of even greater concern, every child worldwide now faces existential threats from climate change and commercial pressures.

“Countries need to overhaul their approach to child and adolescent health, to ensure that we not only look after our children today but protect the world they will inherit in the future,” she added.

The report includes a new global index of 180 countries, comparing performance on child flourishing, including measures of child survival and well-being, such as health, education, and nutrition; sustainability, with a proxy for greenhouse gas emissions, and equity, or income gaps. [Top & Bottom 10 countriesFull Global Index on pp. 35-38] [1]

According to the report, while the poorest countries need to do more to support their children’s ability to live healthy lives, excessive carbon emissions – disproportionately from wealthier countries –  threaten the future of all children. If global warming exceeds 4°C by the year 2100 in line with current projections, this would lead to devastating health consequences for children, due to rising ocean levels, heatwaves, proliferation of diseases like malaria and dengue, and malnutrition. 

The index shows that children in Norway, the Republic of Korea, and the Netherlands have the best chance at survival and well-being, while children in Central African Republic, Chad, Somalia, Niger and Mali face the worst odds. However, when authors took per capita CO2 emissions into account, the top countries trail behind: Norway ranked 156, the Republic of Korea 166, and the Netherlands 160. Each of the three emits 210% more CO2 per capita than their 2030 target. The United States of America (USA), Australia, and Saudi Arabia are among the ten worst emitters.  

“More than 2 billion people live in countries where development is hampered by humanitarian crises, conflicts, and natural disasters, problems increasingly linked with climate change,” said Minister Awa Coll-Seck from Senegal, Co-Chair of the Commission. “While some of the poorest countries have among the lowest CO2 emissions, many are exposed to the harshest impacts of a rapidly changing climate. Promoting better conditions today for children to survive and thrive nationally does not have to come at the cost of eroding children’s futures globally.”    

The only countries on track to beat CO2 emission per capita targets by 2030, while also performing fairly (within the top 70) on child flourishing measures are: Albania, Armenia, Grenada, Jordan, Moldova, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Uruguay and Viet Nam.

Project to deter opioid tampering wins top Addiction Science Award

A 14-year-old’s innovative approach to prevent tampering and misuse of opioid pills won a first place Addiction Science Award at the 2019 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF)—the world’s largest science competition for high school students.

L to R: Addiction Science Award Winners Nikita Rohila (3rd place), Aditya Tummala (1st place), Sid Thakker (2nd place)NIDA

The awards are coordinated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, and Friends of NIDA, a coalition that supports NIDA’s mission. The Intel ISEF Addiction Science Awards were presented at a ceremony Thursday night at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona.

The first place distinction was awarded to high school freshman Aditya Tummala from Brookings High School in Brookings, South Dakota, for his project “Tampr-X: A Novel Technology to Combat Prescription Opioid Abuse.” The young scientist recognized the need for an improved tamper-proof opioid pill to reduce potential for misuse and developed a gummy-like substance that could not be crushed or melted for snorting or injecting. Calling it Tampr-X, the substance is a protein matrix-based technology with a unique combination of ingredients that discourages product tampering and could be mixed with a medication. The protein matrix prevents crushing, while other components enable this product to successfully resist eight other known tampering and misuse possibilities. The product has a provisional patent. Brookings High School has produced several other Addiction Science Award winners since the program began 12 years ago.

“The judges were impressed with the young scientist’s understanding of the complex technology related to the development of tamper resistant medications,” said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D. “While there have been attempts to develop tamper-resistant pills, there is a critical need for more innovation and new ideas in this field. We are delighted to be able to amplify his idea to scientists working on this challenge.”

The second place award went to high school sophomore Sid Thakker from James Madison High School in Vienna, Virginia, for his project “The Role of ALPHA5 Single Nucleotide Polymorphism on Nicotine Dependence.” Using an in vitro model, the 15-year-old manipulated and edited the gene expression of the ALPHA5 nicotinic receptor, which has been linked to nicotine addiction. Specifically, he used the sophisticated gene-editing platform CRISPR to remove a small genetic component from the receptor, and then studied the changes in function and gene expression. His hope is that one day we can discover how to conduct this genetic editing in animals, leading to new therapies in humans.

Nikita Rohila from Stuttgart High School in Stuttgart, Arkansas, was awarded the third place distinction, for her project “Trends and Factors for Risky Behavior Among Adolescents.” The 15-year-old sophomore developed a survey to identify trends and factors in the risk-taking behaviors and decision-making skills of nearly 100 teens 14-18 years old. She asked about a variety of factors that could represent or trigger stress, including alcohol use in multiple contexts, physical fighting and gun violence, excuses for failures, reckless driving and not wearing seatbelts, poor nutrition, and social environments. Results revealed three significant contributing factors to risky behaviors: unhealthy amounts of smartphone and social media use, sleep deprivation and bullying victimization.

“The first place winner innovatively used technology to develop formulations that will make it harder for opioid drugs to be diverted, the second place winner applied state-of-the-art genetic technologies to advance basic knowledge on how a gene influences vulnerability to nicotine addiction, and the third place awardee identified factors leading to risky behaviors in adolescents that can be used to help tailor targeted prevention interventions,” added Volkow. “Together, they represent the breadth and depth of scientific investigation related to drug use and addiction.”

The Friends of NIDA provides funding for the awards through financial donations from scientists in the field as part of the coalition’s support of NIDA’s research.

“We were astonished at both the quality and quantity of ISEF finalists who qualified for the Addiction Science Award this year,” said William Dewey, Ph.D., president and chair of the Executive Committee, Friends of NIDA, as well as the Louis S. and Ruth S. Harris Professor and chair, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond. “We are pleased to support these exemplary high school students and encourage them to consider a career in the field of addiction science.”

Coming of age: Adolescent health

The world now has more young people than ever before – of the 7.2 billion people worldwide, over 3 billion are younger than 25 years, making up 42% of the world population. Around 1.2 billion of these young people are adolescents aged between 10 and 19 years.

Adolescence is a critical time of life. It is a time when people become independent individuals, forge new relationships, develop social skills and learn behaviours that will last the rest of their lives. It can also be one of the most challenging periods.
In this turbocharged neurological, physical, and emotional transition from childhood to adulthood, young people face a range of health risks. They are often exposed to harmful products such as tobacco, alcohol and drugs, they face greater risks of violence (including homicide) and road traffic injuries than in childhood, and can experience devastating mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, self-harm, substance abuse and addiction to video games, as well as eating disorders and suicide. Young people can also face sexual health issues such as sexually transmitted diseases or teenage pregnancy.

Many of these issues are linked to wider societal determinants and social norms. For example, pressures to conform to ideals about body image, normalization of recreational drinking in media, social exclusion, challenges in accessing support services, coupled with rapid physiological and neurological changes and the urge for exploration and experimentation, can make it hard to cope with the varied challenges that today’s youth will almost certainly encounter.

Depending on where they live in the world, young people may face an even wider range of threats to their health, including racial or gender discrimination or violence, human rights violations, conflict or social disruption from natural disasters, being overweight or obese, female genital mutilation (FGM), forced child marriages or sexual exploitation and abuse.  

The numbers are striking: about 3000 adolescents die every day; in 2016, more than 1.1 million adolescents aged 10-19 lost their lives, mainly to preventable causes such as road injuries, complications of pregnancy or giving birth, or because of HIV/AIDS. 

Story published courtesy of the WHO

A third of young adults have ridden with an impaired driver, NIH analysis suggests

Roughly a third of recent high school graduates have ridden in a motor vehicle with a substance-impaired driver, according to a study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health and other institutions.

dui-impaired-driving-california    The study found that during the first two years after high school graduation, 23 percent of young adults had ridden with a marijuana-impaired driver at least once, while 20 percent had ridden with an alcohol-impaired driver, and 6 percent had ridden with a driver impaired by glue or solvents or harder, illicit drugs, such as amphetamines, opioids, cocaine.

The analysis was conducted by researchers at NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD); Colorado State University, Fort Collins; the Colorado School of Public Health, Denver; and Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. Their results appear in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

The authors analyzed data from NICHD’s NEXT Generation Health Study, a seven-year study of more than 2,700 U.S. adolescents starting at grade 10. Its goal is to identify the social, behavioral and genetic factors linked to health and healthy behaviors. Along with NICHD, funding for the NEXT Generation Health Study was provided by NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the Health Resources and Services Administration.

The authors noted that having ridden with an impaired driver in the past was linked to a higher risk of driving while impaired and of riding with an impaired driver in the future. Other factors that increased the risk for riding with an impaired driver were living alone and not attending a four-year college. For young adults in the study who attended a four-year college, living on campus increased their risk of riding with an impaired driver.

About the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD): NICHD conducts and supports research in the United States and throughout the world on fetal, infant and child development; maternal, child and family health; reproductive biology and population issues; and medical rehabilitation. For more information, visit NICHD’s website.
About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit