Digital media use linked to behavioural problems in children

“We can say with confidence that teens who were exposed to higher levels of digital media were significantly more likely to develop ADHD symptoms in the future” says Professor Adam Leventhal  of the Keck School of Medicine of USC discussing the findings of a study that has now been in the JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association).  The research assessed young people’s digital media usage any association between occurrence of ADHD symptoms during adolescence and tracked almost 2600 teenagers over a  24-month period.


The research team’s findings indicate that teens who are heavy users of digital devices are twice as likely as infrequent users to show symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the study finds. Unlike earlier studies on this topic which were conducted before social media, mobile apps and tablets existed, this study included digital media which Leventhal explains “has increased digital media exposure far beyond what’s been studied before.”


While the researchers acknowledge the study does not show causation there was a significant association between higher frequency of modern digital media use and subsequent symptoms of ADHD over a two-year follow-up. 9.5 percent of the 114 children who used half the digital media platforms frequently and 10.5 percent of the 51 kids who used all 14 platforms frequently showed new ADHD symptoms. By contrast, 4.6 percent of the 495 students who were not frequent users of any digital activity showed ADHD symptoms, approximate to background rates of the disorder in the general population (via Science Daily).

Read the full news article from Science Daily 


Importance  Modern digital platforms are easily accessible and intensely stimulating; it is unknown whether frequent use of digital media may be associated with symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Objective  To determine whether the frequency of using digital media among 15- and 16-year-olds without significant ADHD symptoms is associated with subsequent occurrence of ADHD symptoms during a 24-month follow-up.

Design, Setting, and Participants  Longitudinal cohort of students in 10 Los Angeles County, California, high schools recruited through convenience sampling. Baseline and 6-, 12-, 18-, and 24-month follow-up surveys were administered from September 2014 (10th grade) to December 2016 (12th grade). Of 4100 eligible students, 3051 10th-graders (74%) were surveyed at the baseline assessment.

Exposures  Self-reported use of 14 different modern digital media activities at a high-frequency rate over the preceding week was defined as many times a day (yes/no) and was summed in a cumulative index (range, 0-14).

Main Outcomes and Measures  Self-rated frequency of 18 ADHD symptoms (never/rare, sometimes, often, very often) in the 6 months preceding the survey. The total numbers of 9 inattentive symptoms (range, 0-9) and 9 hyperactive-impulsive symptoms (range, 0-9) that students rated as experiencing often or very often were calculated. Students who had reported experiencing often or very often 6 or more symptoms in either category were classified as being ADHD symptom-positive.

Results  Among the 2587 adolescents (63% eligible students; 54.4% girls; mean [SD] age 15.5 years [0.5 years]) who did not have significant symptoms of ADHD at baseline, the median follow-up was 22.6 months (interquartile range [IQR], 21.8-23.0, months). The mean (SD) number of baseline digital media activities used at a high-frequency rate was 3.62 (3.30); 1398 students (54.1%) indicated high frequency of checking social media, which was the most common media activity. High-frequency engagement in each additional digital media activity at baseline was associated with a significantly higher odds of having symptoms of ADHD across follow-ups. This association persisted after covariate adjustment. The 495 students who reported no high-frequency media use at baseline had a 4.6% mean rate of having ADHD symptoms across follow-ups vs 9.5% among the 114 who reported 7 high-frequency activities and vs 10.5% among the 51 students who reported 14 high-frequency activities.

Conclusions and Relevance  Among adolescents followed up over 2 years, there was a statistically significant but modest association between higher frequency of digital media use and subsequent symptoms of ADHD. Further research is needed to determine whether this association is causal.

Full reference:

Ra CK, Cho J, Stone MD, et al |Association of Digital Media Use With Subsequent Symptoms of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Among Adolescents| JAMA| 2018| 320| (3)|P.255–263|  doi:10.1001/jama.2018.8931


The article can be requested by Rotherham NHS staff here 


Major health benefits from strengthening and balance activity

New evidence review concludes that adults should do strengthening and balancing exercises twice a week alongside aerobic exercise | Public Health England | Centre for Ageing Better


An evidence review commissioned by Public Health England and the Centre for Ageing Better has found that muscle and bone strengthening and balance activities continue to have great health benefits for all adults, including older adults aged 65 years and over.

In older adults, poor muscle strength increases the risk of a fall by 76% and those who have already had a fall are three times more likely to fall again. Strengthening and balance activities not only help to prevent this, but also help improve mood and sleeping patterns, increase energy levels and reduce the risk of an early death.

Activities found to have the most benefit for muscle and bone strengthening include:

  • ball games
  • racket sports
  • dance
  • Nordic walking
  • resistance training (usually training with weights, but including body weight exercises which can be performed anywhere)

Full document: Muscle and bone strengthening and balance activities for general health benefits in adults and older adults. Summary of a rapid evidence review for
the UK Chief Medical Officers’ update of the physical activity guidelines. | Public Health England & Centre for Ageing Better

Healthy ageing should be part of a long-term plan 

Centre for Ageing Better| June 2018 | Healthy ageing should be part of a long-term plan 
A new paper from the Centre for Ageing Better sets out the case for why NHS England should make some bold commitments to healthy ageing in its long-term plan and suggests some ideas for actions it could take and some areas for action with others (Source: Centre for Ageing Better).

centre for ageing
Image source:

The paper can be downloaded here 

Healthy weight, healthy futures: Local government action to tackle childhood obesity

Local Government Association|  June 2018 | Healthy weight, healthy futures: local government action to tackle childhood obesity

Childhood obesity is one of the biggest health challenges of the 21st century. At the start of primary school one in 10 children are obese and by the end, that has increased to one in five.

Healthy weight, healthy futures
Image source:

The Local Government Association (LGA)’s publication of Healthy weight, healthy futures: Local government action to tackle childhood obesity’ updates the earlier, 2016 edition (February 2016).

This publication showcases the wide variety of ways, that the sector is working with their colleagues in planning to not only restrict takeaways, but also working proactively to ensure new developments take into account health and wellbeing. Some are focussing on getting children physically active and the latest figures suggest less than a quarter of children are achieving the required levels.

Meanwhile, others are concentrating on food and diet. In doing so, they are forging important partnerships with early years settings, schools, community groups and local businesses (Source: LGA).

Studies from Sheffield, Leeds and Wakefield City Councils are included

Healthy weight, healthy futures: local government action to tackle childhood obesity can be downloaded from Local Government Association

Opportunity for innovators to develop hi-tech solutions to major health and care challenges

NHS England | 2018| NHS England and UK Space Agency launch multi-million pound drive to improve patient care

As part of a joint initiative with NHS England, The UK Space Agency has announced a £4 million of funding that it is allocating to the NHS.  The funding is available to help address four  specific health and care challenges in the NHS.

These include:

  • Managing long term conditions including joining up health and care services
  • Earlier diagnosis of cancer
  • Transforming GP services and other primary care
  • Meeting mental health needs


The initiative exists to design for use in space will be adapted into medical applications to improve NHS treatment and care. The four successful innovators will be supported by the UK Space Agency, NHS England and the European Space Agency

Space technology has a history of being utilised in the NHS, notable examples include a pill camera that patients swallow, wearables to prevent falls among the elderly, apps that help to prevent skin cancer, breast screening vans that send images to assessment centres

Professor Tony Young, NHS England’s national clinical director for innovation, said: “Throughout its 70 year history the NHS has been at the forefront of healthcare innovation.

“Through this competition we are seeking the latest greatest, ideas and technical solutions to help address the modern challenges facing our health and care services.”

The UK’s space industry builds 40 per cent of the world’s small satellites and 25 per cent of the world’s telecommunications satellites. It supports 40,000 jobs and generates £14 billion in revenue across the country.

Full details on how to become involved are available  from NHS England here

The King’s Fund’s response to NHS funding announcement

Theresa May announced new funding for the NHS earlier this week, now The King’s Fund responds to this announcement in its latest blog post. 

Chris Ham, Chief Executive of the think-tank has responded saying:

“The Prime Minister has administered a welcome shot in the arm that will get the NHS back on its feet but not provided the long term cure that would restore it to full health.

‘We welcome the commitment to publish a long term plan for the NHS later this year. This must also go hand-in-hand with a comprehensive strategy to tackle the crisis facing the health and care workforce.’ (Source: The King’s Fund)

The full response is available to read from  The King’s Fund 



BBC News  Tax rise need to help pay for £20bn NHS boost, says PM
The Independent Two-thirds of Britons would pay more income tax to fund the NHS, poll finds

Dementia risk now included as part of NHS Health Check

Public Health England | June 2018 | Dementia risk now included as part of NHS Health Check

Public Health England (PHE) have announced that healthcare professionals in GP surgeries and the community will soon give advice on dementia risk to patients as part of the NHS Health Check. Adding the dementia element to the NHS Health Check programme will enable healthcare professionals to talk to their patients about how they can reduce their dementia risk, such as by maintaining their social life, keeping mentally and physically active and stopping smoking (Source PHE).


It is estimated that over 850,000 people are living with dementia in the UK with little public understanding of how it’s possible to reduce the risk. While much of the NHS Health Check focuses on reducing cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk, the advice for preventing CVD is much the same as for dementia: ‘what’s good for the heart is good for the brain’. (Public Health England)

Full details are available from Public Health England

In the media:

BBC News Over 40s health check to include dementia advice