Friday, February 29, 2008

Married people are no more happier than singles

Attention all victims of nagging mothers: getting married is not necessarily the key to achieving eternal bliss. Most people were no more satisfied with life after marriage than they were prior to marriage in a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The study, which measured life satisfaction levels of more than 24,000 individuals living in Germany, looked at how people adapt to both positive and negative life events, according to author Ed Diener, a psychology professor at the University of Illinois. Results conclusively showed that though people react strongly to events such as marriage, they return to their personal "set point of happiness" after a certain period of time.

Some people are happier than others, that's clear. And there are things you can do to make yourself happier, but something external like getting married isn't a royal road to changing your set point

The study's authors call this process of returning to one's set point "hedonic leveling" because of its equalizing effect on people's overall happiness levels. "If you become super happy, there are forces that will bring you back to a more average level [of happiness]" . "People tend to be slightly to very happy, but not ecstatic all the time"

Study results, for example, showed, spikes in respondents' happiness levels both before and after marriage, but the increase was minimal—approximately one-tenth of one point on an 11-point scale—and was followed by a return to prior levels of happiness.

On a positive note when something bad happens, humans react negatively, but bounce back over time, says Diener. The study found that after about five years, even widows and widowers returned to the levels of happiness they had before their spouses' passing.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Smokers might benefit from earlier colon cancer screening

New evidence suggests screening for colorectal cancer, which is now recommended to begin at age 50 for most people, should start five to 10 years earlier for individuals with a significant lifetime exposure to tobacco smoke.
An examination of 3,450 cases found that current smokers were diagnosed with colon cancer approximately seven years earlier than people who never smoked. The study is also one of the first to link exposure to second-hand smoke, especially early in life, with a younger age for colon cancer onset.
Over the 40-year period smoking habits changed, with a decrease in the percentage of current or active smokers and an increase in the percentage of former smokers. Still, the age at colon cancer diagnosis was 6.8 years younger among current smokers and 4.3 years younger for former smokers who quit less than five years ago, the results showed. People who quit more than five years ago had no significant increased risk.

However, people who reported they began smoking as young teens (before age 17) or who smoked heavily (1 pack a day or more) were the most likely to be diagnosed with cancer much younger than their never-smoking counterparts. Past exposure to second-hand-smoke was an additional, significant risk factor, compared to never smoking. In fact, when active smokers and passive smoking were combined into one subgroup, the age at cancer diagnosis was nearly 10 years earlier.

Although smoking is a well-known risk factor for many cancers, only recent studies have suggested that cigarettes may cause colon cancer.

The biological reasons for the cigarette smoke-colon cancer risk are unclear. However, researchers believe that cigarette smoke reduces the body’s resistance to malignancies, just as smoking can depress immune function in general, impairing the ability to fight off infections and viruses. Carcinogens from smoke reach the bowel through direct circulation or by swallowing smoke and passing it through the intestines.

Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer among men and women. Genetics account for about 10 percent of new cases, the study said, while more than 75 percent of the cases arise from sporadic mutations and/or environmental and lifestyle factors such as smoking, a poor diet, alcohol use, lack of exercise and obesity.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Older women more susceptible to depression

Older women appear more susceptible to depression and more likely to stay depressed but less likely to die while depressed than older men, factors that contribute to the higher burden of depression among older women.
Major depression affects approximately 1 percent to 2 percent of older adults living in the community, but as many as 20 percent experience symptoms of depression, according to background information in the article. These symptoms are more likely to affect older women than older men for reasons that are unclear.
The findings were consistent over the four time intervals, providing strong evidence that depression is more persistent in older women than older men, the authors note. This is surprising, because women are more likely to receive medications or other treatment for depression