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Psychotropic prescriptions soar in care homes, why your office job could be giving you cancer and a good reason to sign granny up to Facebook

A round-up of the health news headlines on Thursday 21 February

Prescriptions for psychotropic drugs soar amongst elderly people admitted to residential care homes, the Guardian reports.

Researchers from Queen’s University Belfast looked at prescribing data for more than 250,000 people over 65, and found that only 1.1% of elderly people living in the community or with relatives were taking an antipsychotic, but in care homes 20.3% of residents were on them.

They looked at data from the Northern Ireland prescribing database but said the pattern is true for the whole of the UK.

They also found these prescriptions shot up for elderly people moving into care homes. They looked at the dispensing records for those elderly people who made the move into care between January 2009 and January 2010. In their own homes, 1.1% were on antipsychotics, 7.3% were on hypnotics and 3.6% were on drugs for anxiety.

Once moved into a care home, 8.2% were put on antipsychotics, 14.8% were given hypnotics and 7.8% were prescribed anxiolytic.

Within six months of admission to a care home, say the authors, 30.2% of all new residents had received at least one prescription for an antipsychotic, 37.1%for a hypnotic and 24.5% for an anxiolytic.

Lead researcher Aideen Maguire, who is based in the Centre of Excellence for Public Health Northern Ireland, told the Guardian: ‘With an ageing population globally it is important that we look at the reasons behind this type of increase following admission to care.

‘Antipsychotic uptake in Northern Ireland is similar to that in the rest of the UK and Ireland, and this study highlights the need for routine medicines reviews especially during the transition into care.’

She added there was ‘probably inappropriate prescribing going on’.

Over at the Daily Telegraph is a story that might make office workers and truck drivers want to rethink their careers. The paper reports that people who sit down for long amounts of time are more likely to develop cancer, diabetes, heart disease and blood pressure.

A study of Australian men analysed the correlation between the daily sitting time and the development of chronic diseases of around 60,000 men aged 45 to 65.

The results found there was a steady increase in the risk of chronic diseases with the men who sat more, with those sitting for at least six hours per day were significantly more likely to report having diabetes.

Professor Rosenkranz, of Kansas State University in Kansas, US,  who carried out the research, said: ‘The group of people who said they sit more than eight hours clearly had the highest risk. We know people who are more physically active do better with regard to chronic disease compared with less physically active people. It’s not just that people aren’t getting enough physical activity, but it’s that they’re also sitting too much. And on top of that, the more you sit, the less time you have for physical activity.’

He added: ‘We should be looking at reducing the amount of time we sit. A lot of office jobs that require long periods of sitting may be hazardous to your health because of inactivity and the low levels of energy expenditure.’

Lastly, the Daily Mail has the answer to keeping a sharp mind in old age: signing up to Facebook.

Forget crossword puzzles and scrabble, said the paper, adults aged 68-91 performed 25 per cent better in cognitive tests after being taught how to use Facebook.

The ever changing nature of the site, such as constantly rolling updates, is thought to boost mental acuity, said researchers.

During the study, carried out by the University of Arizona, 14 adults between 68 and 91 who had either never used the site or used it less than once a month were set up on Facebook.

They were instructed to add those in their training group as ‘friends’ and were asked to post on the site at least once a day. A second group were taught to use online diary site, Penzu.com, in which entries are kept private, with no social sharing component

Tests were done before and after the study and those taught to use Facebook did 25% better than they did at the start of the study on tasks designed to measure their mental updating abilities, while participants in the other group saw no significant change.

Time for the young to go back to MySpace?

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