Saturday, September 13, 2014

Conservatives in Liberal Countries Happiest of All

How's this for a fact?

If you're a liberal, you tend to be more satisfied.  But if you're a conservative, you're happier.

Hmm.  Which is better?

The study that found this out was actually talking about countries that are liberal and conservative but I'm sure it applies to people, too.

I decided to do my own survey.  I'm a liberal, and I guess I'm satisfied.  But my husband has become a conservative, sadly, and he's not one of the happier people I know!  He's a great guy but he tends toward the pessimistic.

As for my friends, most are liberal.  And most are satisfied.  But would you call Rush Limbaugh happy?  

Here's how it breaks down in the study:  Liberal policies make people happy, while personal beliefs make conservatives happier.

I guess that makes sense.  

People living in more liberal countries are happier on average than those in less liberal countries, but individually, conservatives are happier than liberals no matter where they live, according to this study of people in 16 Western European countries.

People living in more liberal countries tend to think they're treated more generously and fairly, the survey found. 

"Liberal governments tend to do more to shield citizens against certain hardships, such as unemployment and poverty, which can make people feel happier overall," said the study's lead author, Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn, PhD, of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, according to "On the other hand, conservatives rate their well-being higher than liberals because conservatives more readily support and rationalize the status quo, thus, believing that socioeconomic hardships are a result of individual shortcomings." 

Could this be any truer in our country, where many of the rich believe the poor just need to work harder to get out of poverty?  Meanwhile, forgetting all the advantages that have put them where they are, way out in front of the rest of us.

To determine if a country was politically liberal or conservative, the researchers looked at ease of access to services such as pensions, sickness benefits and unemployment compensation. They also examined each country's level of spending on welfare.

Here's the most amazing finding of all: conservatives living in liberal countries are the happiest of all.

When researchers looked at what a country does for its citizens, greater liberalism corresponded with higher well-being, but when researchers looked at citizens' political beliefs, greater liberalism corresponded with poorer life satisfaction, the Web site quotes Okulicz-Kozaryn.

The study didn't delve into why.  

But I'll tell you this.  I know I'm happier than Rush Limbaugh!

Could Your Body Become a CVS?

Did you know your body can make its own drugs?

Well, not really, but scientists are finding that our microbes are a rich source of molecules that act like drugs, reports.  

Bacteria that normally live in and upon us have genetic blueprints that enable them to make thousands of molecules that act like drugs, and some of these molecules might serve as the basis for new human therapeutics, according to UC San Francisco researchers.

A bacteria found in the vagina might actually be used as an antibiotic, researchers found.  The antibiotic, lactocillin, is closely related to others already being tested clinically by pharmaceutical companies. Lactocillin kills several vaginal bacterial pathogens, but spares species known to harmlessly dwell in the vagina.

This example suggests that there may be an important role for many naturally occurring drugs – made by our own microbes -- in maintaining human health, according to the senior author of the study, Michael Fischbach, PhD, an assistant professor of bioengineering with the UCSF School of Pharmacy.
“We used to think that drugs were developed by drug companies, approved by the FDA, and prescribed by physicians, but we now think there are many drugs of equal potency and specificity being produced by the human microbiota,” Fischbach said.
About a third of all medicines used in the clinic are derived from microbes and plants, Fischbach said. These include antibiotics like penicillin, numerous drugs used in cancer chemotherapy, and cholesterol-lowering drugs. Although those who prospect for drugs from microbes have been combing the depths of the oceans and probing exotic soils around the globe, only now have scientists begun to look within our own bodies.
There are hundreds of bacterial species associated with each of us, and thousands of distinct strains among them. We do not all harbor the same species, and different species are found at different body sites, says.
There are ecosystems made up of many microbial species – found in the gut, skin, nasal passages, mouth and vagina.
In the study, the gene clusters identified by researchers encode enzymes that serve as molecular factories to produce specific drug-like molecules that fit into known classes of pharmaceuticals.
“We need to learn what these molecules are and what they are doing,” Fischbach said at “This could represent a pool of molecules with many tantalizing candidates for drug therapy.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Say Thank You And See What Happens

For a long time I stopped holding doors for people because I got so mad when they didn't say "thank you."  In fact, this morning I held the door for an elderly man in a white pharmacist's jacket and he didn't say a word.

Forgive me, but I said, "You're welcome!" as I slammed the door behind me and rampaged into Dunkin' Donuts.

But a new study says that saying thank you is more than just good etiquette.  It's actually essential to the social good.

According to, new research offers the first evidence that expressions of gratitude go beyond mere etiquette and provide real social benefit.

Researchers in Australia found the first known evidence that "gratitude leads to perceptions of interpersonal warmth, creating fertile ground for relationships to bloom."

Now, I've been onto "gratitude" since Oprah suggested keeping a journal to write down five things you're grateful, for every day.  I only kept it up for about a month but every once in a while now, I'll jot down, "heard the frogs in the pond" in the spring, or "my roses are finally growing (I have a black thumb)!"

One of the researchers noted that a simple thank you leads people to view you as a warmer human being and, consequently, to be more interested in socially engaging with you and continuing to get to know you to build a relationship with you.

The research was quite simple: university students were asked to act as mentors and critique younger students' admissions essays.  Some of the students wrote back fervent thank you notes, while others didn't.

The undergraduates who were thanked were more likely to want to continue their relationship with their mentee than those who were not thanked. In addition, the grateful mentees were rated as having significantly warmer personalities.

The study revealed that people develop new relationships with grateful others because of an enhanced perception of personal warmth.

But I'll take it deeper than that.  I feel good when I thank someone.  

An attitude of gratitude leads people to behave in more thoughtful, helpful and kind ways. Research has also shown that gratitude experienced more deeply and more often is linked to many benefits for people, including increases in well-being and decreases in depression.

I've learned to compliment people on just about anything.  I'll tell a woman in line in the grocery store in front of me that I like her shoes, or a man reprimanding his child quietly and kindly that he's a good dad (it drives my son and husband crazy).

Researchers noted that, when we feel grateful, it definitely connects us to others. One commented that there is so much evidence now that our emotions are an important component of our navigation of the social world, without the ability to feel, we would be in a lot of trouble.

And as for that gratitude journal?  If you do it every day, it doesn't just remind you of the good things that happen in your life.  It may just switch how you think about your life. 

Birth Season of Babies Influences First Walk

It sure was true for us.  Babies born in the winter learn to crawl sooner than summer time babies, according to a new study.

Our son, born in June, didn't learn to crawl until he was a year old, and didn't walk till he was almost 17 months.  I panicked about the walking.  People said, "Enjoy it," but I just wanted him to be like the other babies -- now running and jumping and climbing, while our son just tried to slide along the dirty floors in restaurants and anywhere we put him down.

Then, one night (I was sleeping), my husband was reading the paper and looked up and thought, oh, there's Phillip, walking across the floor to me.  Say what???

Like most kids who start walking at a later age, there was no falling down or bumping into things for him.  Once he walked, he walked.

The season of a baby’s birth influences its motor development during its first year of life, a new study by University of Haifa researcher's shows, according to Babies born in the winter (between December and May) start crawling earlier compared to babies born in the summer (June-November).

The study consisted of motor observations in the babies’ homes when they were seven months old, and a follow-up session when they began to crawl. Parents were asked to record the stages in their babies’ development before and between the observations.

The average age at which the babies started crawling was 31 weeks. But while the babies born in the winter (who started to crawl in the summer) started to crawl at an average 30 weeks, those born in the summer (who started to crawl in the winter) began crawling at an average of 35 weeks, with no differences noted between the boys or the girls or in the initial style of crawling (belly crawling or using hands and knees).
The score -- an observational assessment with high reliability --  was higher for those babies born in the winter, and the score for movement in the prone position, the scale most meaningful in connection with crawling was, significantly higher for the babies in the winter group.
“The difference in crawling onset of four weeks constitutes 14 percent of a seven-month-old’s life and is significant,” the researchers note, reports. “Documenting the trend by comparing the results of a standard evaluation scale strengthens the findings and points to a significant seasonal effect in the Israeli context.  The geographic location and the local climate where the study is conducted is important to understand the findings, they add.
"A seasonal effect is found in places where the differences in the home environment between summer and winter are significant. Studies done in Denver, Colorado and in Osaka, Japan found a seasonal effect that corresponds with the findings of the Haifa study, but a study conducted in Alberta, Canada, where winters are long and cold on the one hand, but the home environment (because of winter heating) is very similar all year round, the seasonal effect was not observed," the researchers say.
I'm not sure this has much validity because a baby born a week after Phillip was walking and dancing long before my son was.  But right now, outside playing soccer, he doesn't seem to show any ill effects!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

No, Exercise Can Not Give You A.L.S.!

Believe it or not, some people think exercise can harm you.

Maybe that's because many of the people we know who have or have had this dreaded disease were in sports, like Lou Gehrig, who died in his early 30's of it and hence, became its namesake.

But according to Gretchen Reynolds at The New York Times, exercise can not cause A.L.S., though there's long been "a scientific debate about whether participating in contact sports or even vigorous exercise might somehow contribute to the development of the fatal neurodegenerative disease, an issue that two important new studies attempt to answer."

The answer, right up top, is no, though there might be reasons to think so.  In the past decade, several widely publicized studies indicated that professional Italian soccer players were disproportionately prone to A.L.S., with about a sixfold higher incidence than would have been expected numerically. Players were often diagnosed while in their 30s; the normal onset is after 60, she writes.

But researchers did find "weak but measurable associations between playing contact sports and a heightened risk for A.L.S.," she notes.  The data even showed links between being physically active — meaning exercising regularly — and contracting the disease, raising concerns among scientists that exercise might somehow be inducing A.L.S. in susceptible people, perhaps by affecting brain neurons or increasing bodily stress.

She cautions that the studies were small and had problems with their methods.  

In the new study, which involved almost two dozen researchers from five nations, 652 A.L.S. patients were asked if they’d be willing to talk about their lives and activities, as were 1,166 people of matching ages, genders and nationalities. Extensive in-person interviews were conducted with each volunteer, asking them how active they had been in professional or amateur sports, at their jobs and during leisure time. They also asked about past histories of injuries and accidents, including concussions and other head trauma but also other injuries.

They then compared answers from the people with A.L.S. to those of healthier people.
The numbers showed that physical activity — whether at work, in sports or during exercise — did not increase people’s risk of developing A.L.S., Reynolds reports. Instead, exercise actually appeared to offer some protection against the disease. Even pro athletes showed no heightened risk, although they represented such a tiny subset of the patients with A.L.S. that firm conclusions cannot be drawn, the researchers say.
One aspect of people’s lives did significantly increase their risk of developing A.L.S.: a history of multiple hits to the head. Men and women who had sustained at least two concussions or other serious head injuries were much more likely than other people, including never-concussed athletes, to develop A.L.S.
So keep on exercising, and just watch those high pitches!

Why Offering A Job To Someone Not Looking Can Be Depressing (for Them!)

How could offering someone a job hurt them?

Well, a new study says it can if they're already employed in a job they like.

According to, unsolicited job leads can increase symptoms of depression in some people.
Not surprisingly, unsolicited job leads tended to relieve depression symptoms in people who were not employed full time or were unhappy with their financial situation. But researchers were surprised to see that similar offers increased feelings of depression in people who had full-time jobs or were satisfied with their financial situation.

The strength of the effect depended on how long a person had been in his current situation. Researchers say that unsolicited job leads were the most beneficial to people who lacked full-time jobs for five or more years and needed them most, and the most distressing to those who were employed full time and needed them least.  Duh.  (So that's why they get paid so much money!)

Here's why:  The offer could be perceived by the recipient as meddling, for example, or make the recipient feel indebted, inadequate or less capable than the person providing the lead or people who already have that kind of job. “This kind of negative social comparison is not good for mental health,” the Web site quotes study author Lijun Song, assistant professor of sociology and medicine, health and society, and Wenhong Chen of the University of Texas at Austin. And simply applying for the job can add to a person’s stress.

 I can certainly attest to that!

Sex and Skipping School -- Is There A Connection for Teen Girls?

A new study has found that teenage girls who skip school are probably doing much more than that. And none of it's good.
Failing tests and engaging in risky sexual behavior have a lot in common with skipping school, researchers found, after flipping through 18,000 reports written daily by 14- to 17-year-old girls, according to

The findings are based on a 10-year study of the development of 387 teenage girls' romantic/sexual relationships and sexual behavior, the Web site notes. During the study, the teens entered their daily activities and mood into a log.
"This study demonstrates that young women’s weekday reports of skipping school and failing a test were significantly linked to more frequent vaginal sex, less frequent condom use and different sexual emotions, on that same day," said lead author Devon J. Hensel, Ph.D.
Prior studies have shown that academic success is linked to lower sexual risk, but researchers have relied on retrospective information, she said.
“The strength of using multiple daily reports is that it allows us a more ecologically valid, or ‘real world,’ look at how young women’s academic and romantic behaviors are linked from one day to the next. Rather than relying on reports about what happened in the past, we have a unique view of events as they unfold," said Dr. Hensel, who is an assistant research professor of pediatrics in the Section of Adolescent Medicine at the IU School of Medicine, and an assistant professor of sociology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
"Romantic relationships become a primary social focus during adolescence, and school provides a venue where young women meet and interact with their partners," Dr. Hensel said. "Many of the same skills underlying academic outcomes -- such as communication, emotional awareness and behavior regulation -- are also linked to what happens in young women’s relationships. Using this idea, we hypothesized that what happened academically during a given school day would impact how an adolescent felt about her romantic partner, and the behaviors she engaged in with that partner.”
Academic behaviors included skipping school and failing a test; sexual behaviors were vaginal sex and condom use; and emotions involved positive mood, negative mood, feeling in love, sexual interest, partner support and partner negativity.
The part of the report that dealt explicitly with sexual activity might be disturbing to parents of teenage girls. The study found that vaginal sex was more frequent (13.5 percent vs. 5.4 percent) and condom use was less frequent (13.8 percent vs. 33.1 percent) on weekdays when school was skipped as compared to weekdays when school was attended. However, incidents of vaginal sex did not vary if the daily report author failed or did not fail a test (6.4 percent vs. 5.8 percent); but when sex did occur, condom use was less frequent when she failed a test (6.9 percent) compared to when she did not (27.1 percent).
Emotionally, young women reported significantly higher levels of negative mood, sexual interest and feeling in love, and lower levels of positive mood, on weekdays when they skipped school or failed a test, as compared to weekdays when neither of these events occurred. Moreover, skipping school was associated with significantly higher levels of partner support.
"Our findings raise the possibility that the emotional and behavioral experiences in young women's romantic and sexual relationships may impact her reaction to academic events, particularly if an event is more salient to her or to her partner. For example, condom use might be lower after failing a test if a young woman feels supported and loved by her partner. Conversely, if a boyfriend pressures a young woman to skip school, that same pressure could influence her to eschew condom use when sex occurs," Dr. Hensel summarized. “Our data reflect the importance of considering how the close links between different areas in an adolescent’s life can impact her overall health and well-being.”