Health round-up: Drinking and dementia, loneliness and pain personality

Richard Laycock 10 August 2017 NEWS

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A weekly round-up of Australia's latest healthcare news.

Study finds moderate and heavy drinkers avoid dementia

Enjoy a few drinks? Well, a new study out of the University of California, San Diego may brighten your day.

The study found that moderate to heavy drinkers were more likely to get to 85 years of age without dementia than their teetotalling counterparts.

But before you race out and crack a tinny, the researchers were quick to point out that there are other factors that affect people's health that need to be taken into consideration.

The study found that the consumption of alcohol, especially wine, is associated with higher incomes and education. These people were also less likely to smoke, had lower incidence of mental health issues and had better access to healthcare.

"It is important to point out that there were very few individuals in our study who drank to excess, so our study does not show how excessive or binge-type drinking may affect longevity and cognitive health in aging,” senior author Linda McEvoy, PhD said.

One is the loneliest and most unhealthy number

Loneliness may be more of a public health hazard than obesity, according to research presented at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association.

“Being connected to others socially is widely considered a fundamental human need – crucial to both well-being and survival. Extreme examples show infants in custodial care who lack human contact fail to thrive and often die, and indeed, social isolation or solitary confinement has been used as a form of punishment,” said professor of psychology at Brigham Young University Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD.

A meta-analysis of 148 studies found a correlation between dying early and isolation. The analysis showed that those with good social connections had a 50% reduction in their risk of premature death.

The findings also showed that the older you get, the risk isolation poses to mortality may increase.

“With an increasing aging population, the effect on public health is only anticipated to increase. Indeed, many nations around the world now suggest we are facing a ‘loneliness epidemic.’ The challenge we face now is what can be done about it,” Holt-Lunstad said.

New evidence for a pain personality

Researchers from Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) and Macquarie University have made a breakthrough in understanding the relationship between pain and personality.

“We know when someone experiences physical trauma to the brain, their personality can change dramatically,” Dr Sylvia Gustin said.

The study reviewed 120 years of research and found new evidence for a pain personality.

The findings were made possible thanks largely in part to advances in brain-imaging techniques.

Being able to Identify pain personalities may help treat people who suffer from chronic pain and who have been previously resistant to treatment.

What else is happening?

A drug that is commonly used to treat people with diabetes has been found to have benefits for those living with Parkinson's disease.

While it's early days and more research needs to be done, there are positive signs that the drug helps to slow the progression of the disease.

Each week our round-up offers a summary of the latest developments impacting Australian healthcare and most importantly, you, the consumer. Check in every Thursday to find out what's happening in health.

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