Category Archives: Heartburn

The US healthcare system is at a dramatic fork in the road | Adam Gaffney

The US healthcare system – and with it the health and welfare of millions – is poised on the edge of a knife. Though the fetid dysfunction and entanglements of the Trump presidency dominate the airwaves, this is an issue that will have life and death consequences for countless Americans.

The Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) dismal “scoring” of the revised American Health Care Act (AHCA) on Wednesday made clear just how dire America’s healthcare prospects are under Trump’s administration. But while the healthcare debate is often framed as a choice between Obamacare and the new Republican plan, there are actually three healthcare visions in competition today. These can be labelled healthcare past, healthcare present, and healthcare future.

Let us begin with healthcare past, for the dark past is precisely where Republicans are striving to take us with the AHCA. The bill – narrowly passed by the House on 4 May – is less a piece of healthcare “reform” than a dump truck sent barreling at high speed into the foundation of the healthcare safety net.

Wednesday’s CBO score reflects the modifications made to the AHCA to pacify the hard-right Freedom Caucus, changes that allowed states to obtain waivers that would relieve health insurers of the requirement that they cover the full spectrum of “essential healthcare benefits”, or permit them to charge higher premiums to those guilty of the misdemeanor of sickness, all purportedly for the goal of lowering premiums.

In fairness, the CBO report did find that these waivers would bring down premiums for non-group plans. This, however, was not the result of some mysterious market magic, but simply because, as the CBO noted, covered benefits would be skimpier, while sicker and older people would be pushed out of the market.

In some states that obtained waivers, “over time, less healthy individuals … would be unable to purchase comprehensive coverage with premiums close to those under current law and might not be able to purchase coverage at all”. Moreover, out-of-pocket costs would rise for many, for instance whenever people needed to use services that were no longer covered – say mental health or maternity care.

Much else, however, stayed the same from the previous reports. Like the last AHCA, this one would cut more than $ 800bn in Medicaid spending over a decade, dollars it would pass into the bank accounts of the rich in the form of tax cuts, booting about 14 million individuals out of the program in the process. And overall, the new AHCA would eventually strip insurance from 23 million people, as compared to the previous estimate of 24 million.

It’s worth noting here that Trump’s budget – released Tuesday – proposed additional Medicaid cuts in addition of those of the AHCA, which amounted to a gargantuan $ 1.3tn over a decade, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The tax plan and budget – best characterized as a battle plan for no-holds-barred top-down class warfare drawn up by apparently innumerate xenophobes – would in effect transform the healthcare and food aid of the poor into bricks for a US-Mexico border wall, guns for an already swollen military, and – more than anything – a big fat payout to Trump’s bloated billionaire and millionaire cronies.

What becomes of this violent agenda now depends on Congress – and on the grassroots pressure that can be brought to bear upon its members.

But assuming the AHCA dies a much-deserved death – quite possible given the headwinds it faces in the Senate – we will still have to contend with healthcare present.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control released 2016 results from the National Health Interview Survey, giving us a fresh glimpse of where things stand today. And on the one hand, the news seemed good: the number of uninsured people fell from 48.6 to 28.6 million between 2010 and 2016.

On the other hand, it revealed utter stagnation: an identical number were uninsured in 2016 as compared with 2015, with about a quarter of those with low incomes uninsured last year (among non-elderly adults). It also suggested that the value of insurance is declining, with “high-deductible health plans” rapidly becoming the rule and not the exception: for the privately insured under age 65, 39.4% had a high-deductible in 2016, up from 25.3% in 2010.

Healthcare present, therefore, is an unstable status quo: an improvement from healthcare past, no doubt, but millions remain uninsured and out-of-pocket health costs continue to squeeze the insured.

Which takes us to the third vision, that of healthcare future. As it happens, another recent development provided a brief glimmer of hope for that vision. As the Hill reported, the Democratic congressman John Conyers held a press conference yesterday (Physicians for a National Health Program, in which I am active, participated) to announce that his universal healthcare bill – the “Expanded & Improved Medicare For All Act” – had achieved 111 co-sponsors, amounting to a majority of the House Democratic Caucus and the most in the bill’s history.

This bill – like other single-payer proposals – is the precise antithesis of Paul Ryan’s AHCA. Rather than extract coverage from millions to provide tax breaks for the rich, it would use progressive taxation to provide first-dollar health coverage to all.

Which of these three visions will win out is uncertain, but the outcome of the contest will have a lasting impact on the country. We can only hope that the thuggish, rapacious vision championed by Trump and his administration does not prevail.

The US healthcare system is at a dramatic fork in the road | Adam Gaffney

The US healthcare system – and with it the health and welfare of millions – is poised on the edge of a knife. Though the fetid dysfunction and entanglements of the Trump presidency dominate the airwaves, this is an issue that will have life and death consequences for countless Americans.

The Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) dismal “scoring” of the revised American Health Care Act (AHCA) on Wednesday made clear just how dire America’s healthcare prospects are under Trump’s administration. But while the healthcare debate is often framed as a choice between Obamacare and the new Republican plan, there are actually three healthcare visions in competition today. These can be labelled healthcare past, healthcare present, and healthcare future.

Let us begin with healthcare past, for the dark past is precisely where Republicans are striving to take us with the AHCA. The bill – narrowly passed by the House on 4 May – is less a piece of healthcare “reform” than a dump truck sent barreling at high speed into the foundation of the healthcare safety net.

Wednesday’s CBO score reflects the modifications made to the AHCA to pacify the hard-right Freedom Caucus, changes that allowed states to obtain waivers that would relieve health insurers of the requirement that they cover the full spectrum of “essential healthcare benefits”, or permit them to charge higher premiums to those guilty of the misdemeanor of sickness, all purportedly for the goal of lowering premiums.

In fairness, the CBO report did find that these waivers would bring down premiums for non-group plans. This, however, was not the result of some mysterious market magic, but simply because, as the CBO noted, covered benefits would be skimpier, while sicker and older people would be pushed out of the market.

In some states that obtained waivers, “over time, less healthy individuals … would be unable to purchase comprehensive coverage with premiums close to those under current law and might not be able to purchase coverage at all”. Moreover, out-of-pocket costs would rise for many, for instance whenever people needed to use services that were no longer covered – say mental health or maternity care.

Much else, however, stayed the same from the previous reports. Like the last AHCA, this one would cut more than $ 800bn in Medicaid spending over a decade, dollars it would pass into the bank accounts of the rich in the form of tax cuts, booting about 14 million individuals out of the program in the process. And overall, the new AHCA would eventually strip insurance from 23 million people, as compared to the previous estimate of 24 million.

It’s worth noting here that Trump’s budget – released Tuesday – proposed additional Medicaid cuts in addition of those of the AHCA, which amounted to a gargantuan $ 1.3tn over a decade, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The tax plan and budget – best characterized as a battle plan for no-holds-barred top-down class warfare drawn up by apparently innumerate xenophobes – would in effect transform the healthcare and food aid of the poor into bricks for a US-Mexico border wall, guns for an already swollen military, and – more than anything – a big fat payout to Trump’s bloated billionaire and millionaire cronies.

What becomes of this violent agenda now depends on Congress – and on the grassroots pressure that can be brought to bear upon its members.

But assuming the AHCA dies a much-deserved death – quite possible given the headwinds it faces in the Senate – we will still have to contend with healthcare present.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control released 2016 results from the National Health Interview Survey, giving us a fresh glimpse of where things stand today. And on the one hand, the news seemed good: the number of uninsured people fell from 48.6 to 28.6 million between 2010 and 2016.

On the other hand, it revealed utter stagnation: an identical number were uninsured in 2016 as compared with 2015, with about a quarter of those with low incomes uninsured last year (among non-elderly adults). It also suggested that the value of insurance is declining, with “high-deductible health plans” rapidly becoming the rule and not the exception: for the privately insured under age 65, 39.4% had a high-deductible in 2016, up from 25.3% in 2010.

Healthcare present, therefore, is an unstable status quo: an improvement from healthcare past, no doubt, but millions remain uninsured and out-of-pocket health costs continue to squeeze the insured.

Which takes us to the third vision, that of healthcare future. As it happens, another recent development provided a brief glimmer of hope for that vision. As the Hill reported, the Democratic congressman John Conyers held a press conference yesterday (Physicians for a National Health Program, in which I am active, participated) to announce that his universal healthcare bill – the “Expanded & Improved Medicare For All Act” – had achieved 111 co-sponsors, amounting to a majority of the House Democratic Caucus and the most in the bill’s history.

This bill – like other single-payer proposals – is the precise antithesis of Paul Ryan’s AHCA. Rather than extract coverage from millions to provide tax breaks for the rich, it would use progressive taxation to provide first-dollar health coverage to all.

Which of these three visions will win out is uncertain, but the outcome of the contest will have a lasting impact on the country. We can only hope that the thuggish, rapacious vision championed by Trump and his administration does not prevail.

Digital autopsies should be standard for probable natural deaths, says study

Digital autopsies should be the first-line approach in postmortem investigations of probable natural death, and should be offered free of charge to families, researchers have said.

About 90,000 autopsies requested by coroners are carried out in England and Wales every year, with the majority of deaths found to be a result of natural causes.

A switch to body-scanning techniques could prove valuable, say researchers, since a traditional autopsy can be upsetting for the bereaved and a number of religions, including Islam and Judaism, teach that a body should be buried quickly and not violated after death.

“The main benefit is about avoiding the autopsy,” said Bruno Morgan, co-author of the research from the University of Leicester. “The autopsy is not just a simple operation, it is opening [the body] up fully, taking all the organs out and slicing them all into pieces.”

CT scans have long been used to aid postmortem investigations, while more recently studies have explored targeted coronary angiography – another CT scanner-based technique that involves inserting a catheter into an artery and is used to reveal whether blockages are present in the coronary arteries, and to investigate the heart itself.

The latter is a major step forward, since one limitation of digital autopsies has been the difficulty of standard CT scans in establishing causes of death such as coronary heart disease.

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The latest study offers a large-scale comparison of the accuracy of the combined CT techniques to traditional autopsy.

“This paper is the first one that has come out and says this is as accurate as autopsy is in this setting. It works and therefore it is a valid alternative,” said Morgan.

Writing in the Lancet, researchers led by a team at the University of Leicester describe how they studied 241 cases of adults who had died suddenly and unexpectedly of natural causes or had died a non-suspicious unnatural death.

Each was assessed by a postmortem CT scan, with targeted coronary angiography successfully carried out in 85% of the cases. Standard autopsies were then carried out for each case, with the pathologists not told about the findings from the body scans.

After excluding 31 cases, including 24 cases for which the cause of death was clearly traumatic, such as a gunshot wound, the team found that the body-scan approach gave a cause of death, based on “the balance of probabilities”, in 92% of cases.

In 11% of this group, results from either the scans or the autopsy were at odds with findings from a combination of the two. Further analysis revealed that these discrepancies were evenly split between errors in the body-scan approach and errors in the traditional autopsy.

The team say the gold standard for postmortem is the use of both traditional autopsy and body scans, but say the findings support a move to using digital autopsy as the first-line technique in cases of probable natural death. Should more evidence be required, they add, a traditional autopsy can subsequently be carried out.

The public are already allowed to request – usually at a cost of about £500, typically paid by the family – that digital autopsies are used for postmortem investigations where appropriate.

But Morgan says that option should be made available free of charge – a service currently only offered by a small number of councils.

“If you don’t want an invasive autopsy on yourself or on your family, you should be raising the debate and saying why can’t the council pay for this?” he said. “It strikes me that it is wrong that we should make people pay for something that is a statutory obligation,” he added.

Dr Mike Osborn, a fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists, said that postmortem investigations are vital in understanding why people die, as well as improving understanding of disease. But he acknowledged that autopsies can be distressing and clash with religious beliefs.

The development of digital autopsies, including those based on CT scans, he added, was exciting and important. While Osborn noted that some conditions still require a diagnosis from a traditional autopsy, he welcomed further research in the field to reduce the number of traditional autopsies required. “The accuracy of cross-sectional imaging postmortem has improved over the last 20 years and is likely to continue to do so,” he said. “The College fully supports further research in this area while reinforcing the need for thorough and robust governance in this emerging field.”

Cannabis drug cuts seizures in children with severe epilepsy in trial

A new drug derived from cannabis has been shown to reduce the convulsive seizures experienced by children with a severe form of epilepsy by nearly a half – and in a small number, stop them altogether.

Doctors involved in the trials say the drug could change the lives of thousands of children for whom there is little treatment, and might also help children and adults with more common forms of epilepsy.

Dravet syndrome, which affects one in 40,000 children in the UK, can cause life-threatening convulsions several times a day. The trial at Great Ormond Street children’s hospital in London and centres in the US and Europe was launched because some parents desperate to help their children told of improvements after giving them cannabis derivatives bought on the internet.

“There was a lot of interest on the internet three to four years ago,” said Prof Helen Cross, a consultant in paediatric neurology at Great Ormond Street. That led to the trial of a carefully formulated pharmaceutical form of cannabidiol with virtually no THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is responsible for psychoactive effects.

“This is cannabidiol. It is not the oils that are available over the internet and the results cannot be ascribed to that,” she said. “Families should not be feeling this is something they should be able to get [for themselves]. This is a pharmaceutical product.”

The trial involved 120 children, aged two to 18, with an average age of nine. They were randomly assigned to take either cannabidiol in liquid form twice a day or a placebo. Neither the families nor the doctors knew which children were getting the active drug.

On average, the seizures experienced by the children were reduced by nearly 40% and 43% of those taking cannabidiol saw their seizures cut by half. Three children – 5% – stopped having seizures altogether. There were side-effects, which included drowsiness, fatigue, diarrhoea and reduced appetite – but these are similar to those caused by other epilepsy drugs.

The drug is not a cure, however. Cross said seizures returned in those who had stopped the drug. Children would probably be on the medication for life.

There is a need for more and better epilepsy drugs. A third of people with epilepsy do not respond to those that exist. Doctors think cannabidiol may work in at least some of those cases too, although the reason it works in the case of Dravet syndrome is unclear. “I have to say we don’t know,” said Cross. But asked whether it could be effective in other children and adults, she said, “Probably, yes.”

In young women, there has been concern over the drug sodium valproate, which can cause birth defects. Women and girls who may get pregnant are faced with deciding whether to stop taking a drug that may successfully keep their epilepsy under control.

Cross said cannabidiol may also prove to be an option for them, although trials would need to be done.

The results of the trial are published in the New England Journal of Medicine. In a commentary in the journal, Samuel Berkovic, from the Epilepsy Research Centre of the University of Melbourne, called medicinal cannabis “a hot-button issue in the treatment of epilepsy”, after anecdotal reports in the media of “spectacular results, coupled with the allure of using a ‘natural’ compound and long-held beliefs surrounding its recreational use”.

The trial was the beginning of solid evidence for the use of cannabinoids in epilepsy, but more research was needed, he said.

GW Pharmaceuticals, which makes the drug, will apply for a licence to the authorities in the US and Europe. If it is approved, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence will have to assess the drug for cost-effectiveness before it can be used in the NHS.

Cannabis drug cuts seizures in children with severe epilepsy in trial

A new drug derived from cannabis has been shown to reduce the convulsive seizures experienced by children with a severe form of epilepsy by nearly a half – and in a small number, stop them altogether.

Doctors involved in the trials say the drug could change the lives of thousands of children for whom there is little treatment, and might also help children and adults with more common forms of epilepsy.

Dravet syndrome, which affects one in 40,000 children in the UK, can cause life-threatening convulsions several times a day. The trial at Great Ormond Street children’s hospital in London and centres in the US and Europe was launched because some parents desperate to help their children told of improvements after giving them cannabis derivatives bought on the internet.

“There was a lot of interest on the internet three to four years ago,” said Prof Helen Cross, a consultant in paediatric neurology at Great Ormond Street. That led to the trial of a carefully formulated pharmaceutical form of cannabidiol with virtually no THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is responsible for psychoactive effects.

“This is cannabidiol. It is not the oils that are available over the internet and the results cannot be ascribed to that,” she said. “Families should not be feeling this is something they should be able to get [for themselves]. This is a pharmaceutical product.”

The trial involved 120 children, aged two to 18, with an average age of nine. They were randomly assigned to take either cannabidiol in liquid form twice a day or a placebo. Neither the families nor the doctors knew which children were getting the active drug.

On average, the seizures experienced by the children were reduced by nearly 40% and 43% of those taking cannabidiol saw their seizures cut by half. Three children – 5% – stopped having seizures altogether. There were side-effects, which included drowsiness, fatigue, diarrhoea and reduced appetite – but these are similar to those caused by other epilepsy drugs.

The drug is not a cure, however. Cross said seizures returned in those who had stopped the drug. Children would probably be on the medication for life.

There is a need for more and better epilepsy drugs. A third of people with epilepsy do not respond to those that exist. Doctors think cannabidiol may work in at least some of those cases too, although the reason it works in the case of Dravet syndrome is unclear. “I have to say we don’t know,” said Cross. But asked whether it could be effective in other children and adults, she said, “Probably, yes.”

In young women, there has been concern over the drug sodium valproate, which can cause birth defects. Women and girls who may get pregnant are faced with deciding whether to stop taking a drug that may successfully keep their epilepsy under control.

Cross said cannabidiol may also prove to be an option for them, although trials would need to be done.

The results of the trial are published in the New England Journal of Medicine. In a commentary in the journal, Samuel Berkovic, from the Epilepsy Research Centre of the University of Melbourne, called medicinal cannabis “a hot-button issue in the treatment of epilepsy”, after anecdotal reports in the media of “spectacular results, coupled with the allure of using a ‘natural’ compound and long-held beliefs surrounding its recreational use”.

The trial was the beginning of solid evidence for the use of cannabinoids in epilepsy, but more research was needed, he said.

GW Pharmaceuticals, which makes the drug, will apply for a licence to the authorities in the US and Europe. If it is approved, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence will have to assess the drug for cost-effectiveness before it can be used in the NHS.

This is what the blood donor service does after an attack – and how you can help | Jane Green

I was overwhelmed by how generously the people of Manchester responded to this horrific attack. Both our blood donor centres in Manchester had queues outside the doors before they even opened. Our national call centre was taking about 1,000 calls an hour by 10am, from people who wanted to help save lives by donating blood.

The response was driven by well-intentioned social media posts from the public. The desire to help was incredible. However we already had enough blood to supply the hospitals treating the victims, and we did not appeal for extra donors. We plan ahead to build in reserves to deal with major incidents. We hope that people who want to help will now become regular donors, because that is how they can best help us save lives when there is a tragedy.

Many people wanted to donate to help that day, but when you donate blood, it is not taken straight to a patient. We need time to test it and process it. The different components such as platelets and red blood cells need to be separated out. Typically, your blood donation will only reach a patient two or three weeks after you donate. The blood used to treat the Manchester victims would have been donated several weeks earlier, and those donors would have been from across the country.

Hospitals order blood from us in advance, without the need for blood to be brought in for each patient. We supply hospitals through our regional stock-holding units (what people refer to as “blood banks”) mainly through routine deliveries. Over Monday night we made 21 deliveries of blood to hospitals in Manchester, including 15 “blue light” emergency deliveries, delivering 346 units of red blood cells. We were able to meet all the hospitals’ requests, and our stocks remained good. We don’t know exactly how this blood was used, and much of the blood from the routine deliveries would have gone to patients not affected by the attack. But this was an exceptionally high level of local emergency demand and many of those precious donations would have been transfused into attack victims.

Trauma patients require more than just red blood cells. They also need platelets to help their blood clot, and other more specialised products: O-negative blood is especially important in emergencies because it can be given to anyone when time is short and you don’t have time to test for blood groups. We always need new O-negative donors because their blood is so valuable.

As Tuesday morning progressed, people began queueing to donate. Some had friends or family members caught up in the incident. We were worried they might be confused or upset about why there was no capacity or urgent need for them to donate that day.


We were inspired to see the diversity of people coming forward, because we need more black and Asian donors

We tried to spread the message about how people could best help across social media and through the press. I was working at Plymouth Grove donor centre, next to Manchester Royal Infirmary, where many victims were being treated, and I spoke to many people face to face. We were inspired to see the diversity of people coming forward, which was moving and very important – because we need more black and Asian donors. Patients benefit from closely matched blood, which will often come from donors of the same ethnicity.

Our message is that blood can best save lives in a tragedy when our stocks are already good through regular donations. Thanks to our loyal army of nearly 900,000 active donors, many of whom give blood three or four times a year, we can do that. But every year many of these donors have to drop out because of age, ill health and many other reasons. We need nearly 200,000 people to register as new donors every year.

If people have been inspired to donate for the first time, please go online, make an appointment, and donate. Blood saves lives, and your donation will help other people in urgent need, and make sure we are again ready for any major incident.

UEA course cut a blow for mental health work | Letters

All the parties in the general election have adopted mental health as a key issue. But this enthusiasm is not reflected on the ground and the electorate should not be fooled. We are students and former students on the internationally renowned counselling programme at the University of East Anglia. We trained to be counsellors, or “shrinks”, to quote Prince Harry in his recent interview. But now the university has closed the course and even made it impossible for some students to complete their professional qualification. As part of this draconian process, in which consultation was at a minimum, responsibility to students, staff and the wider local community has been completely deprioritised. This is exactly the opposite of what the princes, applauded by the government, were calling for.

The impact is not only on the course itself, but also on those therapy organisations where students have for many years worked as volunteers on placement and beyond, and on the availability of the kind of in-depth listening relationship – described as so crucial by the princes – in the university’s own counselling service. The management-speak reason given by the university for this closure is “a need for greater alignment of courses and a more coherent portfolio of activity centred on the teaching of education theory and practice”. What is the point of accenting mental health if there won’t be any counsellors to deliver it?
Sara Bradly, Dr Rachel Freeth, Bridget Garrard, Nikki Rowntree
Norwich

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters

Christy Turlington: ‘The closest I’ve come to death? The birth of my daughter’

Born in California, Christy Turlington Burns, 48, was scouted to be a model at 14 and went on to become one of the original supermodels. After suffering a postpartum haemorrhage in 2003, she took a masters in public health and set up non-profit organisation Every Mother Counts, addressing global maternal health. The charity has partnered with Toms shoes. She is married to actor Ed Burns, has two children and lives in New York.

When were you happiest?
Before kids, when I was 13 or so, on the back of my horse, running at full speed in an open pasture. Post kids, happiness happens often, but in more subtle ways. I now prefer the word “content”.

What is your greatest fear?
I don’t fear anything but fear itself. Fear makes humans behave inhumanely.

What is your earliest memory?
I have a collage of memories beginning around age four: my first walk alone to a store or to school, and early trips to Central America with my mom to visit her family.

Which living person do you most admire, and why?
A midwife named Jennie Joseph. She is a tireless activist for women, family health and equal access to quality maternity care.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I sometimes set unreasonably high expectations of myself and those around me.

What was your most embarrassing moment?
There are too many to name, but none of them keeps me up at night.

What makes you unhappy?
Government policy decisions that negatively impact the health and wellbeing of women and families.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
Having to talk about it.

Who would play you in the film of your life?
The world does not need a film about my life.

What is the worst thing anyone’s said to you?
A boyfriend once told me there was always going to be someone smarter, funnier and prettier than me, which at the time felt pretty mean, but it was true.

To whom would you most like to say sorry, and why?
To strangers. Living in New York, I see individuals every day who are invisible to so many. I want to say sorry that so many of us think their pain and suffering is not our own.

What was the best kiss of your life?
The first kiss from my husband and every one since.

What has been your biggest disappointment?
My father’s death before my marriage, and motherhood.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I might speed up a few details, but wouldn’t change anything, other than my dad still being here.

How do you relax?
Yoga, running, recreational reading.

What is the closest you’ve come to death?
The birth of my daughter.

What keeps you awake at night?
The fact that at least 300,000 women die every year from pregnancy and childbirth-related issues that are largely preventable.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
That I am more than I thought I was.

How would you like to be remembered?
As someone who didn’t waste a minute.

Popular social media sites ‘harm young people’s mental health’

Four of the five most popular forms of social media harm young people’s mental health, with Instagram the most damaging, according to research by two health organisations.

Instagram has the most negative impact on young people’s mental wellbeing, a survey of almost 1,500 14- to 24-year-olds found, and the health groups accused it of deepening young people’s feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.

The survey, published on Friday, concluded that Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter are also harmful. Among the five only YouTube was judged to have a positive impact.

The four platforms have a negative effect because they can exacerbate children’s and young people’s body image worries, and worsen bullying, sleep problems and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness, the participants said.

The findings follow growing concern among politicians, health bodies, doctors, charities and parents about young people suffering harm as a result of sexting, cyberbullying and social media reinforcing feelings of self-loathing and even the risk of them committing suicide.

“It’s interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and wellbeing. Both platforms are very image-focused and it appears that they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people,” said Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, which undertook the survey with the Young Health Movement.

She demanded tough measures “to make social media less of a wild west when it comes to young people’s mental health and wellbeing”. Social media firms should bring in a pop-up image to warn young people that they have been using it a lot, while Instagram and similar platforms should alert users when photographs of people have been digitally manipulated, Cramer said.

The 1,479 young people surveyed were asked to rate the impact of the five forms of social media on 14 different criteria of health and wellbeing, including their effect on sleep, anxiety, depression, loneliness, self-identity, bullying, body image and the fear of missing out.

Instagram emerged with the most negative score. It rated badly for seven of the 14 measures, particularly its impact on sleep, body image and fear of missing out – and also for bullying and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness. However, young people cited its upsides too, including self-expression, self-identity and emotional support.

YouTube scored very badly for its impact on sleep but positively in nine of the 14 categories, notably awareness and understanding of other people’s health experience, self-expression, loneliness, depression and emotional support.

However, the leader of the UK’s psychiatrists said the findings were too simplistic and unfairly blamed social media for the complex reasons why the mental health of so many young people is suffering.

Prof Sir Simon Wessely, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “I am sure that social media plays a role in unhappiness, but it has as many benefits as it does negatives.. We need to teach children how to cope with all aspects of social media – good and bad – to prepare them for an increasingly digitised world. There is real danger in blaming the medium for the message.”

Young Minds, the charity which Theresa May visited last week on a campaign stop, backed the call for Instagram and other platforms to take further steps to protect young users.

Tom Madders, its director of campaigns and communications, said: “Prompting young people about heavy usage and signposting to support they may need, on a platform that they identify with, could help many young people.”

However, he also urged caution in how content accessed by young people on social media is perceived. “It’s also important to recognise that simply ‘protecting’ young people from particular content types can never be the whole solution. We need to support young people so they understand the risks of how they behave online, and are empowered to make sense of and know how to respond to harmful content that slips through filters.”

Parents and mental health experts fear that platforms such as Instagram can make young users feel worried and inadequate by facilitating hostile comments about their appearance or reminding them that they have not been invited to, for example, a party many of their peers are attending.

May, who has made children’s mental health one of her priorities, highlighted social media’s damaging effects in her “shared society” speech in January, saying: “We know that the use of social media brings additional concerns and challenges. In 2014, just over one in 10 young people said that they had experienced cyberbullying by phone or over the internet.”

In February, Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, warned social media and technology firms that they could face sanctions, including through legislation, unless they did more to tackle sexting, cyberbullying and the trolling of young users.

The Guardian view on Google’s NHS grab: legally inappropriate | Editorial

That the Google-owned artificial intelligence company DeepMind obtained the personal medical records of 1.6 million patients on a “legally inappropriate” basis is unnerving. The complacency of both the NHS in north London and Google in the face of basic principles of privacy is remarkable. Why weren’t alarm bells ringing? The reason is the overwhelming asymmetry between a wealthy, technologically supercilious firm and overstretched public services in possession of our most sensitive, identifiable data.

DeepMind said it was designing an app that would diagnose acute kidney injuries early and therefore was entitled to all patient data, because it was, like a physician, offering direct care. In her first ever ruling, the national data guardian, Dame Fiona Caldicott, disagreed, saying the transfer was in effect unlawful.

It is now up to the information commissioner’s office to decide whether to fine Google’s AI division. It should levy the maximum penalty of £500,000, the amount of revenue Google clocks up in four minutes, and accompany this by a strong admonition of Silicon Valley’s unacceptable behaviour.