Friday, August 15, 2008

Married Folks Still the Healthiest

People who've exchanged wedding vows tend to be healthier than their single, divorced or widowed peers, but new research shows that health gap may be narrowing.

Interviews with today's never-married men suggest they are healthier than never-married guys were three decades ago, researchers say. And that's helping single males gain some ground, in terms of their health, compared to married people.

"One of the most-often documented facts is that married people are healthier than non-married people, but the difference between married and unmarried people has changed over the past few decades," said the study's lead author, Hui Liu, an assistant professor and sociologist at Michigan State University in East Lansing.

The findings are in the September issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Liu said there are two theories as to why married people report better health. One is that being married gives you more access to social support and economic resources. The other is that being divorced or widowed hurts health.

"In general, marriage tends to make people healthier, happier and richer, and that's especially true for men," said Scott Wetzler, vice chairman of psychiatry and behavioral science, and head of the "Supporting Healthy Marriage" program at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

But because trends in marriage have changed so dramatically over the past few decades, with more people opting not to marry or marrying at later ages, Liu wanted to assess what, if any, effects these changes might have on physical health.

To analyze these trends, Liu and her colleague, Debra Umberson, reviewed 32 years of data on more than one million Americans from the National Health Interview Survey. Study participants were between the ages of 25 and 80. Health status was self-reported in the survey.

The researchers found that the self-reported health status of never-married adults increased significantly over time. At the same time, the self-reported health status of married women also increased, so the gap between married and never-married women's health stayed about the same. However, never-married men narrowed the health gap between themselves and married men.

"An important potential reason is that never-married men have greater access to social support now than they did in the past. It used to be that having a spouse was important for social support and a social network," explained Liu.

The researchers also found that self-reported health improved for nearly all American blacks, except for those who had been widowed.

People who had been married in the past, including those widowed or divorced, reported declines in their overall health status, according to the study.

"If you get married and then divorced, that will hurt your health," said Liu.

"This study provides confirmation that marriage does tend to make people healthier. They didn't look at the quality of an individual marriage, but that being married is more likely overall to make you happier than not being married," said Wetzler.

Original here

Patients 'free from cancer' after immune-boost treatment

The treatment works like a vaccine and could be available within five years. Cells would be taken from the body, altered, and injected back into the affected joint.

A team at Newcastle University will now test the vaccine on volunteers with the disease.

Scientists in the field are extremely excited about the development.

There are 350,000 people in the UK with rheumatoid arthritis, which is a condition where the body's immune system attacks the joints, unlike oestoarthritis which is more like wear and tear of the joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis is difficult to treat because it is caused by a malfunctioning immune system, causing inflammation in the wrong places.

Prof Alan Silman, medical director of the charity Arthritis Research Campaign, which funded the research, said: "This is an important potential cure. It is possible one injection could switch off the abnormal immune response.

"If it works it could reverse the disease and stop further episodes."

The Newcastle team will test the effectiveness of the new vaccine in eight volunteers with rheumatoid arthritis from the Freeman Hospital as part of a pilot study, which could then lead to larger trials.

The vaccine works by reprogramming the body's own immune cells.

Using chemicals, steroids and Vitamin D, the team has devised a way to manipulate a patient's white blood cells so they surpress, rather than activate, the immune system.

It is thought the cells will then act as a brake on the over-reacting immune system and stop it attacking its own joints.

Although a similar technique has been used in cancer research, this is the first time it has been adapted to rheumatoid arthritis.

John Isaacs, Professor of Clinical Rheumatology at Newcastle University's Musculoskeletal Research Group, who is leading the team, said that although the work was in a very early, experimental stage it was "hugely exciting".

"Based on previous laboratory research we would expect that this will specifically suppress or down regulate the auto-immune response," he said.

Samples will be taken two weeks after the injection to establish whether it has induced the expected response.

The team also hope to find out if the vaccine is effective only in the joints it is injected into, or whether the new cells spread throughout the body.

Prof Silman said the treatment may prove expensive as each patient would have to have their own cells taken and manipulated rather than a drug which can be made in bulk and prescribed to all people with a condition.

He said it would be unlikely that the vaccine could be offered in normal local hospitals because of the expertise necessary to manipulate the cells in the laboratory.

It raises fears the vaccine would have to go through the National Institute for health and Clinical Excellence cost effectiveness tests.

But if the vaccine did work with a one off injection and completely stop the disease it is likely to offer such a huge benefit to the patient that even a relatively large price may be deemed acceptable. Prof Silman said he expected the jab to cost less than £25,000.

The research is being funded by medical research charity the Arthritis Research Campaign, which is providing £216,000 over 18 months.

Original here