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Health news briefs from around the globe

Researchers hail big increase in US nurses
Significantly more young people in the US are becoming registered nurses, reversing a 10-year decline, according to research published in the health policy journal Health Affairs. The findings show a 62 per cent increase in the number of 23- to 26-year-olds who became registered nurses between 2002 and 2009. This is a growth rate not seen since the 1970s. Rather than a steady decline as previously projected, the workforce is now expected to grow at roughly the same rate as the population through to 2030. More people are becoming nurses in their late 20s or early 30s, spurred by two-year associate degree programs and accelerated nursing degrees. The recession and the decline in manufacturing jobs have triggered interest since healthcare is one of a few growing industries. The joint study by the RAND Corporation, Vanderbilt University and Dartmouth College found there were 165,000 registered nurses between the ages of 23 and 26 in 2009, up sharply from a low of 102,000 in 2002. A number of factors contributed, including aggressive national recruitment. Federal funding for nursing development has also tripled from 2001 to $US240 million in 2010.

International survey reveals burnout
Nurses working in hospitals around the world are reporting they are burned out and dissatisfied with their jobs. University of Pennsylvania researchers studied 100,000 nurses across nine countries and found between 20 to 60 per cent reported symptoms of burnout. The study in International Journal for Quality in Health Care collected data from more than 1400 hospitals. “The percentage of nurses reporting high burnout was over a third in most countries and decidedly higher in South Korea and Japan, near 60 per cent in both countries,” said lead author Linda Aiken. “Job dissatisfaction varied from 17 per cent in Germany to around a third of nurses in most countries and a high of 60 per cent dissatisfied in Japan. Almost half of nurses in all countries, except in Germany, and many more than half of the nurses in a few of the countries, lacked confidence that patients could manage their care after discharge.” Hospitals with better work environments had lower burnout, lower likelihood of job dissatisfaction and a decrease in reports of little or no confidence in discharge readiness. The nine countries in the study were: China, South Korea, Thailand, Japan, New Zealand, Canada, Germany, the UK and US.

Health inequalities persist for those with mental illness
People with serious mental illness are still living 15 to 20 years less than the rest of the population, according to a study in the Nordic countries. The study, published in the December issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry, showed that the life expectancy gap has remained largely unchanged over the last 20 years. This is despite the region boasting one of the most equitable health systems in the world. Mental health patients in Denmark, Finland and Sweden were found to have a mortality rate two to three times higher than the general population. Lead researcher Professor Kristian Wahlbeck, said the study showed en with serious mental illness lived 20 years less and women had a reduced life expectancy of 15 years less than the general population.

Responding to the findings, Professor Graham Thornicroft from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London said the life expectancy gap was a violation of the basic right to health.“Medical staff guided by negative stereotypes often tended to treat the physical illnesses of people with mental illness less thoroughly and less effectively," he said. Wahlbeck called for clear health promotion actions, improved access to healthcare for people with mental illness, and stronger suicide prevention policies, especially in Sweden.

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