Single and childless women are the happiest –  behavioral scientist


Men should get married to improve their wellbeing but women ‘shouldn’t bother’, according to a leading expert in happiness who says that unmarried, childless women are the happiest people in society.

Paul Dolan, professor of behavioural science at the London School of Economics, said yesterday that men benefit from marriage because they ‘calm down’, while the same wasn’t true for women.

‘You take less risks, you earn more money at work and you live a little longer. She, on the other hand, has to put up with that and dies sooner than if she never married,’ he said.

‘The healthiest and happiest population sub-group are women who never married or had children.’

Speaking at the Hay Festival, Prof Dolan added:

‘We do have some good longitudinal data following the same people over time, but I am going to do a massive disservice to that science and just say: if you’re a man, you should probably get married; if you’re a woman, don’t bother.’

Dolan’s latest book, Happy Ever After, cites evidence from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), which compared levels of pleasure and misery in unmarried, married, divorced, separated and widowed individuals.

The study found that levels of happiness reported by those who were married were higher than the unmarried, but only when their spouse was in the room.
Unmarried individuals reported lower levels of misery than married individuals who were asked when their spouse was not present.

Other studies have measured some financial and health benefits in being married for both men and women on average.

Dolan said the findings could be attributed to higher incomes and emotional support, allowing married people to take risks and seek medical help.


Feeling a sense of ‘purpose’ may add years to your life – study

People who feel a sense of purpose in their life are more likely to live long, healthy lives, according to new research.

The study, based on a large cohort of 6,985 people, was led by University of Michigan School of Public Health epidemiologist Dr Leigh Pearce, who specializes in cancer survival, and how to improve quality of life.

After a conversation with a colleague who researches life purpose, Dr Pearce decided to pivot her work to dig into this question.

She wanted to confirm if meaningfulness lowers mortality risk – an idea which has gained steam and solid evidence in recent years – would hold true in such a large group.

Her findings, which compile to form a remarkably uniform graph reflecting just that, suggested to Dr Pearce that it is worth trying to develop tools to capture a sense of meaning in the face of bleak diagnoses – whether it’s apps or therapy techniques.

Humans have been soul-searching, existential beings at least since we were painting on cave walls and creating the structures of worship – some hundreds of thousands of years ago.

It’s not exactly clear why we developed a need for meaning, when other species didn’t, but it is clear that our pursuit of meaning is as deeply-rooted a human instinct as hunting is for wolves.

What’s more, it’s becoming increasingly clear that those who do not feel they have a purpose, beyond surviving day to day, are more likely to die early.

Dr Pearce’s study, published today in the journal JAMA Network Open, adds to that.

Her team looked at data from a seven-item questionnaire filled out by around 8,000 over-50s in 2006.

Many of their answers touched on ‘life purpose’ and ‘life satisfaction’, and they were categorized on a scale of 0-6.

Life purpose, in this study, was defined as ‘a self-organizing life aim that stimulates goals, promotes healthy behaviors, and gives meaning to life.’

They then compared their answers to their physical health and death data years later, and found, unequivocally, that of the 6,000 adults who filled out the ‘life purpose’ questions, there was a strong correlation between those who felt a sense of purpose and living longer.

People with a sense of purpose, they found, are more likely to go to the doctor, create a community, and engage in healthier habits.

They are also more likely to have better outcomes after a stroke.

Trying to incorporate ‘meaning’ into healthcare is already tried, tested and successful in some parts of the world, most notably Japan, where the philosophy of ikigai – ‘something to live for, the joy and goal of living’ – is part of the culture from birth to death.

In the US, there has been resistance in the decades since Freud, as psychologists have striven to be recognized as ‘legitimate’ scientists, rather than dreamers.

But, with all this robust and growing evidence, it is only logical that we try to apply the findings in a practical sense, particularly to help people whose sense of meaning and mortality is challenged by a diagnosis.

There are a couple of challenges to taking this forward.

First, this study only included data on people over 50. The effects might be different in younger populations.

Second, and more importantly, ‘purpose’ is different for everyone, particularly when our entire sense of meaning and purpose is challenged.

In some, it is family; in some it is a legacy of written works, art, or a foundation.

Religion has been a boon for humans, allowing us to feel relaxed in the face of death, knowing that there’s something to look forward to, and that we are more than our degrading bodies. Indeed, research repeatedly shows that religious people feel more peaceful, happy, and less nervous – all things related to good health.

But, for some, nature delivers that.

This week, for example, the New York Times told the story of Isabella de la Houssaye, a 55-year-old mother-of-five with stage 4 lung cancer who is striving to make extraordinary trips with each of her kids. She ran an Ironman triathlon with one son, and she climbed the Andes with her daughter.

‘It is very individualized,’ Dr Pearce told

‘But what’s interesting is, I think about whether there is an overall approach to helping people find is what’s most important to them. Helping someone better understand what makes them tick, what their purpose is, their meaning.

‘And because it can be individualized, that’s where the value is. There’s no one-size-fits-all. But that means you can develop it in your own way.’

Helping someone else capture their own sense of meaning is difficult, partly because feeling meaning is distinct from feeling happy, as this 2012 study from Florida State University found.

We are happy receiving gifts, having less on our plates, and being excited and fulfilled in the here-and-now. But focusing on the present alone, and being less productive, hampers our sense of meaning.

We feel meaning when we think about the past and the future – things that, in the short term, can make us feel nervous – and when we are giving, working, and putting our ultimate goals ahead of our comfort.

There are attempts to find and strike that balance, though, and Dr Pearce is excited about the potential.

Mindfulness has been shown to be beneficial in breast cancer patients, she points out, and there are new efforts to develop apps, such as Purposeful, a ‘life coach’ on your phone.

Her next study, currently underway, is exploring the use of life coach apps for women with ovarian cancer diagnoses, looking at how effective it is in different stages of disease, remission, or recurrence.

Next, she hopes to look at how this could work for caregivers, too, who have high rates of burn-out and poor health.

‘It’s a departure from the work that I’ve done but I think that it may have benefit, and the evidence is very robust.’

Daily Mail 

Study: Shampoo chemicals may increase risk of diabetes and obesity

Chemicals found in shampoo, toys and floorboards may increase the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, research suggests.

A study found people with higher levels of the gender-bending chemicals in their urine were more likely to be obese or diabetic.

They also had dangerous amounts of fat in their bloodstream and showed signs of liver damage, which can cause metabolic disorders.

However, experts have hit back at the research, carried out by the University of Novi Sad in Serbia, saying there is ‘not enough evidence’ to support its conclusion

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Levels were compared against body weight, type 2 diabetes diagnoses, and markers of impaired liver function or poor metabolism.

Results revealed 66 of the participants had the chemical monoethyl phthalate (MEP) in their urine.

Obese participants had higher levels of MEP, as well as aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT).

AST and ALT are enzymes that get released when the liver is damaged and are markers of liver disease.

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Results further revealed the participants who were a healthy weight had lower levels of MEP, MEHP and cholesterol.

Study author Professor Milica Medi Stojanoska admitted the sample of participants was small.

She said the results suggest phthalates cause ‘toxic damage to the liver’, as well as altering metabolism to increase the risk of obesity and diabetes.

Professor Stojanoska added:’We need to inform people about the potential adverse effects of endocrine disruptors on their health.

And she called on scientists to look at ways to minimise human contact with the ‘harmful chemicals’.

The study was presented at the European Society of Endocrinology annual meeting in Lyon.

But critics of the research have hit back.

Professor Rob Chilcott, a toxicologist at the University of Hertfordshire, said: ‘The abstract simply does not provide sufficient information to support its conclusions.’

Professor Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of applied statistics at The Open University, added: ‘It’s much too early to be concerned about this piece of research.’

-Daily mail

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Research – Eating eggs regularly could protect against blindness

Eating eggs regularly could protect against age-related macular degeneration (AMD) the most common cause of blindness among the over-50s

This is according to a report from the journal Clinical Nutrition.

Check out celebrities who have ventured into the beauty industry

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Australian researchers monitored 3,654 people over 15 years and found that those who reported eating two to four eggs a week had a 49 per cent reduced risk of ‘incident late AMD’ in that time, compared to those who ate less than one egg a week.

Eggs are a naturally rich source of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which could modify AMD progression.

-Daily mail

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