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One in four women suffers from mental illness, stress gene linked to heart attacks and a call for a register of doctors' interests

A round-up of the health news headlines on Thursday 19 December 2013

Despite being a mere six days until Christmas, unfortunately the digest is unable to bring much cheer, starting with news that one in four women suffers from depression or anxiety.

The Daily Mail reports on the NHS’s annual health survey of 8,000 adults, which also finds that a quarter of females are officially inactive, doing less than half an hour’s exercise a week, and almost half say they are suffering from a long-term illness or complaint.

Figures are far lower in men – just 16% suffer depression or anxiety and 36% have a long standing health complaint.

Elsewhere, the BBC reports on a paper that links heart attack and heart disease to a stress gene.

The study, in PLOS ONE, found that a single DNA letter change in the human genome can increase the chances of heart attack by 38%.

The researchers conclude that personalised medicine may lead to better targeting of psychological or drug treatment to those most at risk.

About one in 10 of men and 3% of women in the group of 6,000 heart patients studied had the genetic change associated with handling emotional stress badly, the paper said.

One of the authors, Dr Redford Williams, director of the Behavioural Medicine Research Center at Duke University School of Medicine, told the BBC: ‘This is one step towards the day when we will be able to identify people on the basis of this genotype who are at higher risk of developing heart disease in the first place.’

Finally, great news for any GPs out there who feel that the media is giving them too easy a ride: there are now calls for a register of doctors’ interests.

The call, made by Dr Ben Goldacre, the renowned academic and science writer, in the Guardian, comes after GlaxoSmithKline said it would stop paying doctors to give lectures promoting their drugs.

He argues: ‘Right now, it would be hard for any patient to find out if their own doctor accepts industry money, or the supposedly independent education that it buys. Industry has dragged its heels on disclosure, and the current slow-moving proposals are struggling with the fact that doctors may be able to opt out.’

‘This is silly: doctors should be responsible for declaring their own conflicts of interest on a simple register, ideally run by the General Medical Council, in the same way MPs do. If we believe these payments and this free education are OK, then we should tell our patients, with a polite notice in the waiting room: “Dr Smith this year accepted free education worth £763 from the manufacturers of Jammitin and BioFome”.’

Expect this one to run and run…

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