Ah, to be a millennial! Or not. New data from the Trust for America’s Health, a nonpartisan health policy and research group, suggests “deaths of despair” are up in this age cohort, now in their 20s and 30s (born between 1981 and 1996).

The number of drug-related deaths rose 108 percent between 2007 and 2017. Alcohol-related deaths rose nearly 70 percent in the same time period, and suicides rose sharply between 2011 and 2016, becoming the second leading cause of death among those ages 15 to 34.

Exorcising Fat

Years of public health warnings seem to be moving more Americans to exercise.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults get at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week and do muscle-strengthening exercises at least twice a week.

Since 2008, when the guidelines came out, the percentage of adults who meet the recommendation has risen to almost 25 percent from 18 percent — not great, but better.

Body of Knowledge

Your ears never stop hearing, even while you sleep. Your brain just ignores incoming signals.

Get Me That. Stat!

Here’s how the average American male and female currently stand (and weigh), according to the CDC.

Men: 5-foot-9, 197.8 pounds, waist circumference 40.3 inches. Women: 5-foot-3.6, 170.5 pounds, waist circumference 38.7 inches.

Mark Your Calendar

August is awareness month for breastfeeding, immunizations, psoriasis, digestive tract paralysis (such as the inability of the stomach to completely empty itself) and children’s eye health. Act accordingly.


1 in 5: Ratio of people living in conflict areas who experience mental health issues

World Health Organization

Doc Talk

Transient diaphragmatic spasm: Getting the wind knocked out of you

Phobia of the Week

Telephone phobia: A fear or reluctance to use the phone (a case of calling it what it is, phone or not)

Best Medicine

First guy at the gym: “What do you do for exercise?”

Second guy at the gym: “I lift weights.”

First guy: “What do you do for cardio?”

Second guy: “I lift weights faster.”


“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” —Tennis star Arthur Ashe

Medical History

This week in 1897, Dr. Felix Hoffmann successfully created a chemically pure and stable form of acetylsalicylic acid, a new drug that would be marketed as “aspirin.”

Medical Myths

Daith ear piercings involve puncturing the hard cartilaginous inner nodule covering the ear canal. It’s called the crus of the helix. Some practitioners claim daith piercings can reduce or eliminate migraine headaches, not unlike pain relief prompted by acupuncture elsewhere on the body.

However, there is not empirical evidence to support the notion. Conversely, daith piercings have been linked with ear pain, probably because they involve a hole being punched through part of your ear.

Med School

Q: What is frostnip?

A: The stage before frostbite. Though injured, the cold-exposed skin is still pliable, and there is still a blood supply (though reduced) and no likely permanent tissue damage — unless frostbite ensues, after which tissues become frozen, there is no blood supply, and the damage is irreversible.

Last Words

“I’d just like to thank the Academy (of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) for my lifetime achievement award that I will eventually get.” — Singer-dancer-actor Donald O’Connor, best known for his role in the film Singin’ in the Rain, for which he won a Golden Globe, though his career spanned movies and television.

He died in 2003 at the age of 78, and has yet to get his Oscar.

Scott LaFee is a staff writer at UC San Diego Health and the former chief science writer at The San Diego Union-Tribune, where he covered science, medicine and technology. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.