Research Roundup

It's been a while since I've talked about any cool health science, and a lot of really interesting research has been released over the past few weeks. These all happen to be from the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Suicide among veterans: At the beginning of the month, JAMA Psychiatry announced that a recent study had found no association between deployment in support of U.S. operations in Iraq and a higher rate of suicide. This is interesting because psychiatrists and other researchers have been trying to figure out for years exactly why so many soldiers do end up taking their own lives upon returning home, and how to potentially prevent those suicides. This study showed that while there was an increased risk of suicide associated with "separation from military service," regardless of whether the person had deployed. This raises a lot of questions, including - Is there something about being in the military (or maybe having the predisposition to want to join the military) that may increase risk of suicide, as opposed to the long-assumed answer that the experience of combat is simply too much for some people to bear? As usual, more research is needed, but the researchers do note that leaving the military after less than four years and leaving without an honorable discharge were risk factors.

Autism: Two pretty important studies about children on the autism spectrum have been released over the last couple of months. The first, a population-based study of twins in the U.K., found that the likelihood of showing symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder was more closely correlated with genetic traits than with environmental factors. And the second, just released a few days ago, is yet another study showing that there is no link between the MMR vaccine and autism. This particular report shows that in a large sample of privately insured children, getting the MMR vaccine had no impact on the likelihood of having autism, regardless of whether an older sibling was on the spectrum. (Important point in the comments below about why the siblings were included.)

Sickle cell anemia: All I can say about this is: look out for an interesting study about sickle cell anemia. This disease only affects a specific part of the population but the way treatments for it are approached is telling and important.