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Hedonism Versus Finding Meaning In Life: Which Makes You Happier And Healthier?

Nowadays, a lot of folks pursue happiness as if it were their primary mission in life. But what is happiness?

Philosophers tell us there are at least 2 kinds. There is so-called “hedonic well-being” which is short-term pleasure derived from things like a tasty meal, great sex or a day in the amusement park.  Then there’s “eudaimonic well-being” which comes from living with a sense of purpose, which is usually actualized by participating in meaningful activities like volunteering for a worthy cause, raising children or caring for others.

allisforgiven 300x250 How to Measure HappinessScientists have recently joined their philosopher brethren in the analysis of happiness. Remarkably, they have produced evidence which suggests that people who are driven to achieve eudaimonic  happiness actually have better health outcomes than those motivated to achieve hedonic happiness. They are more likely to remain intact cognitively, for example. They even tend to live longer.

For example, in a cohort study of 7,000 people known as MIDUS (the Mid-Life in the US National Study of Americans), Carol Ryff and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin have tried to identify social and behavioral factors that predict one’s ability to maintain good health into old age. The team has focused on sociocultural sub-populations known to be associated with poor health outcomes…things like low education level. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Pizaazz*

Cartoon Characters Influence Childrens’ Cereal Preferences

Based on their experience during countless schleps to the market, moms know that kids pick cereals whose boxes have cartoon characters on them. Previous research by Yale scientists explained the phenomenon: kids say that the stuff poured from such boxes tastes better than the same stuff when poured from a cartoon-less box. The same thing happens when kids pick graham crackers, carrots and gummy fruit snacks.

tonythetiger Cartoon Characters Impact Kids Cereal PreferencesPictures of Shrek, Dora the Explorer, Scooby Doo and their kin make just about anything taste yummier, it seems.

Can this observation be leveraged to encourage kids to select healthier foods? Yes, it turns out. But the story isn’t as straightforward as you’d think.

To study the impact of licensed media spokescharacters and other nutrition cues on kids’ taste assessment of food products, scientists at the University of Pennsylvania fed cereal from a box that had been labeled either “Sugar Bits” or “Healthy Bits” to 80 kids. Half the boxes in each “brand category” were adorned with cute cartoon penguins, while the other half were not. The kids were between 4 and 6 years old. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Pizaazz*

Pain Medicines Used More Frequently By Men With Erectile Dysfunction?

The use of Motrin, Aleve and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) is associated with erectile dysfunction, according to a study by scientists affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

cantgetenough 300x200 NSAIDs Linked to Erectile DysfunctionThe apparent link surprised the scientists. They had hypothesized that the commonly used pain-killers would actually reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction since NSAIDS protect against heart disease, which has in turn been linked to the troubling condition.

To reach their surprising conclusion, Steven Jacobsen and colleagues used data from Kaiser’s HealthConnect EHR, an associated pharmacy database, and self-reports about NSAID use and erectile dysfunction from an ethnically diverse population of 80,966 men between the ages of 45 and 69.

After controlling for age, ethnicity, race, body mass index, diabetes, smoking status, hypertension, high cholesterol and coronary artery disease, the scientists found that men who used NSAIDS at least 3 times per day for at least 3 months were 2.4 times more likely to experience erectile dysfunction than those who did not consume them on a regular basis. The link persisted across all age categories.

Remarkable in its own right was the finding that overall, 29% of the men in the study reported some level of erectile dysfunction.

The authors emphasized that their findings do not prove that NSAID use causes erectile dysfunction. For example, the study findings could have been confounded by factors not considered by the scientists (such as subclinical disease or the severity of the comorbid conditions that were studied), and the chance that NSAID use was actually an indicator for other conditions that caused erectile dysfunction.

In addition, the scientists recognized that their study had some limitations. These included an inability to temporally link NSAID use and the development of ED, and possible selection bias.

As a result, they cautioned men against discontinuing NSAIDs based solely on the findings of their study. “There are many proven benefits of non steroidals in preventing heart disease and for other conditions. People shouldn’t stop taking them based on this observational study. However, if a man is taking this class of drugs and has ED, it’s worth a discussion with his doctor,” Jacobsen said in an interview.

The write-up appears in the Journal of Urology.

*This blog post was originally published at Pizaazz*

Treatments For Kids With Autism And Cerebral Palsy On Insurance Chopping Block

One of the great challenges facing the folks who have been tasked to implement the Big O’s health care law is defining “essential benefits,” the core medical services that insurers must cover.

insurance Are Habilitative Services Part of Essential Care?Despite its voluminous nature, the law is remarkably vague in this regard. It does identify 10 care categories that health plans must provide to consumers who use federally-funded health insurance exchanges to select a plan, but the categories and associated lists aren’t comprehensive or specific (the categories appear at the end of this post).

The Institute of Medicine has been tasked to flesh out the lists of required services. It has begun work amid a frenzy of lobbying by private insurers and consumer groups. Habilitative services are one contentious area, and they illustrate the challenges faced by the IOM. Unlike rehabilitative services which help people recover lost skills, habilitative services help them acquire new ones.

Habilitative services can help autistic children improve language skills, or those with cerebral palsy learn to walk. They can also help a person with schizophrenia improve his social skills. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Pizaazz*

Millions Watch YouTube Videos Of Teens Cutting Themselves

Millions of people watch YouTube videos depicting teens injuring and cutting themselves, according to a new study. The authors conclude that the videos may serve to legitimize the behaviors as acceptable, even normal.

selfinjury 300x163 Self Injury Videos on YouTubeTo assess the scope and accessibility of self-injury videos on the Internet, Stephen Lewis of the University of Guelph, and colleagues searched YouTube for keywords like “self-harm,” and “self-injury.”

They found that the top 100 most frequently viewed videos were watched more than 2.3 million times. Ninety-five percent of the viewers were female. Their average age was 25, although Lewis’ group suspects their actual average age was lower, since some YouTube viewers provide restricted content only to older viewers. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Pizaazz*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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