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Health Highlights: Feb. 20, 2014

Health Highlights: Feb. 20, 2014

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

U.S. Veterans Receiving Unproven Therapies: Experts

Unproven prevention and treatment methods are being used in the care of U.S. veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars with disorders such as anxiety and depression, a panel of experts say.

They also found that the Department of Defense has no proven programs to prevent domestic abuse and that its programs to combat sexual assault aren't being assessed to determine if they're effective, NBC News reported.

"A fundamental finding of the committee is that, with some notable exceptions, few of DOD's prevention interventions are theory- or evidence-based," wrote Kenneth Warner, a public health expert at the University of Michigan who led the Institute of Medicine panel.

The findings are important because many veterans of recent wars are struggling with mental health and other types of disorders.

"Between 2001 and 2011 the percentage of active-duty service members diagnosed with a psychological condition increased by approximately 62 percent," the panel wrote, NBC News reported.

More than 963,000 veterans were diagnosed with at least one mental disorder during service by 2011, and nearly half had more than one such disorder.

The panel said that unproven methods should be discarded and if military officials believe a program is effective, they should conduct studies to prove it, NBC News reported.

A defense department spokesperson said officials are reviewing the Institute of Medicine report.

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Fatal Crash Rates for Older Drivers Falling: Study

The number of older American drivers involved in deadly traffic crashes has fallen sharply since the mid-1990s, according to a new study.

It found that fatal crash rates per licensed driver decreased 30 percent for middle-aged drivers and 42 percent for older drivers between 1997 and 2012, the Associated Press.

Based on miles driven, rates of deadly crashes declined 26 percent for middle-aged drivers and 39 percent for older drivers between 1995 and 2008, according to the study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The greatest decrease occurred among drivers age 80 and over and was nearly twice that of middle-aged drivers and those ages 70 to 74, the Associated Press reported.

Seniors are less likely to be involved in deadly crashes because they're healthier and vehicles are safer, according to the institute.

"This should help ease fears that aging baby boomers are a safety threat," said study co-author and the institute's senior vice president for research Anne McCartt, the AP reported.

"No matter how we looked at the fatal crash data for this age group -- by licensed drivers or miles driven -- the fatal crash involvement rates for drivers 70 and older declined, and did so at a faster pace than the rates for drivers ages 35 to 54," she noted.

The decline in older drivers' risk of being involved in fatal crashes has occurred at the same time that they're logging more miles per year. For example, drivers 75 and older increased their annual mileage by more than 50 percent from 1995 to 2008, the AP reported.

"The fact that older drivers increased their average mileage ... may indicate that they are remaining physically and mentally comfortable with driving tasks," according to the institute.

 
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