Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, January 29, 2015
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happiness influences human gene expression, researchers have found,
and different kinds of happiness have surprisingly different effects on
our physical health.
Researchers at the UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology and the University of North Carolina note that philosophers since antiquity have distinguished between hedonic wellbeing-the kind of happiness that comes from satisfaction from pleasurable experiences-and eudaimonic wellbeing-the
kind that comes from striving toward meaning and noble purpose beyond
self gratification. It turns out the molecular mechanics of good health
tend to favor people who find happiness striving for higher goals.
PhD, a professor of medicine, psychiatry and behavioral sciences at
UCLA and a member of the Cousins Center, and colleagues including Barbara Frederickson, director of the Positive Emotions and Psychology Lab
at the University of North Carolina, have spent a decade studying how
stress, fear, loneliness and other miseries impact the human genome. In
his paper "Social Regulation of Human Gene Expression: Mechanisms and Implications for Public Health,"
Cole reported that people who experienced long term loneliness had a
gene expression profile showing high inflammation and lower immune
function. Inflammation related illnesses include heart disease,
neurodegenerative diseases and some types of cancer.
stress-related gene expression profile characterized by high
inflammation and low immunity is known as CTRA, for "conserved
transcriptional response to adversity." Cole and colleagues wanted to
find whether happiness is just the opposite of misery, or whether it
would activate a different kind of gene expression. They took blood
samples from 80 healthy adults assessed as having either hedonic or
eudaimonic happiness, and used the CTRA gene expression profile to
examine potential biological differences. Both groups had high levels of
positive emotion. Those in the eudaimonic wellbeing group had favorable
gene expression profiles, with low inflammation and functioning
immunity, while those in the hedonic wellbeing group showed the opposite
gene expression profiles. The study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
this study shows is that doing good and feeling good have very
different effects on the human genome, even though they generate similar
levels of positive emotion," Cole, the lead author, said in a UCLA release.
"Apparently the human genome is much more sensitive to different ways
of achieving happiness than are our conscious minds." The UCLA release
says this research, showing specific signals and pathways associated
with a positive state of mind and gene expression, is the first of its
his paper on social regulation of genes, Cole wrote that the human
genome is influenced by social environment, and that the "regulatory
architecture" of the genome lies outside the cell "in the constraints
and affordances present in the social ecology."
knowledge and technological advances that allow researchers to examine
the way genes and environment interact on a molecular level can have
profound impact in public health, he suggests. "Social regulation of
gene expression implies many aspects of individual health actually
constitute a form of public health in the sense that they emerge as
properties of an interconnected system of human beings," the paper says.
In an interview, Frederickson
suggested our bodies may respond better to happiness related to human
connectedness and purpose than to hedonic wellbeing, which she called
the emotional equivalent of empty calories.
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, January 8, 2015
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The risk of developing many kinds of cancer may rely on random luck.
, PhD, and Bert Vogelstein
, MD, cancer scientists at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, report in a Science
magazine article that many cancers are caused by random mutations that
happen when healthy stem cells divide. Cancers are known to result from
life styles, inherited proclivities, and environmental exposures, as
well as causes that can't be identified. A New York Times story by Denise Grady
reports that the authors found chance was a bigger factor than they'd
expected. "It was about double what I would have thought," Dr.
Tomasetti, a biostatistician and professor told the Times.
Basically, the risk of cancer is highly correlated with the number of stem cell divisions over time.
A Johns Hopkins press release
explains that Tomasetti and Vogelstein charted the number of stem cell
divisions likely to occur in 31 tissue types during an average life
span, and compared these rates with the lifetime risk of cancer in the
same tissues among adult Americans. Adult stem cells
are a specialized population of cells in each organ or tissue that
divide or self-renew indefinitely to generate replacement parts as other
cells wear out.
researchers report, for example, that the large intestines have more
stem cells than small intestines, and those cells divide 73 times a
year, compared with cells in the small intestines that divide 24 times a
year. The lifetime risk of cancer in the large intestine is 4.8
percent, which is 24 times higher than the risk of a small intestine
cancer. Their calculations show that about two thirds of the variation
in cancer risk was explained by the number of stem cell divisions, and
about one third is explained by heredity and environment.
compare cancer with a car accident. The longer the trip, the higher the
risk of accident. They say the mechanical condition of the car is a
metaphor for inherited genetic factors and road conditions are like
environmental factors. We may not know which of these three conditions
contributed most to a particular wreck, but well maintained roads and
vehicles can reduce overall risks. Knowledge that some factors are
beyond our control may reduce stigma and comfort some cancer patients
who blame themselves for their illness. Findings also suggest more
cancers will appear simply because aging increases the number of stem
cell divisions, the authors say in the release, so research on early detection, treatment and the biology of the disease is more important than ever.
and prostate cancers were not included in the study because researchers
lacked data on breast and prostate stem cell division rates. Lung
cancer cases were divided between smokers and non-smokers, leading some
readers to note that smoking also contributes to many other cancers. The American Lung Association reports that smoking causes nearly 90 percent of all lung cancer cases.
In a lengthy blog post on the article, oncologist David Gorski,
MD, cites research suggesting one third to one half of all cancers are
"potentially preventable," meaning they come from environmental factors
that could be altered, such as smoking, alcohol use and weight control.
He has some quibbles with the article, and wishes the discussion of it
had been more nuanced. Bob O'Hara and GirrlScientist writing in The Guardian
complain that too many news stories about the research confuse the
variation in cancer risk with absolute risk of cancer, thereby blurring
what constitutes bad luck.
Sometimes luck is randomly good. In the press release,
Dr. Vogelstein observes cancer free longevity in people exposed to
tobacco smoke and other carcinogens, often attributed to good genes, is
likely to be good luck.
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, December 25, 2014
Updated: Monday, January 5, 2015
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Myth and legend surround the history of the turkey and
extraordinary international travels precede its prominent place in
American supermarkets. Benjamin Franklin called it a "bird of courage,"
more suitable than the bald eagle to be the emblem of America. And today a roasted turkey is a popular holiday treat.
Charles Dickens may have provided the first literary celebration of the Christmas turkey dinner. In A Christmas Carol, published in 1843, a transformed Ebenezer Scrooge presents his underpaid, overworked employee Bob Cratchit with a fat prize turkey
to replace a less expensive thin goose that would have barely nourished
the seven members of the impoverished Cratchit family. In England,
turkey was already recognized as tasty fare. In America, many still
viewed Christmas festivities as unseemly
and holiday feasts were frowned upon. While celebration was becoming
more common in the middle of the nineteenth century, Christmas wasn't declared a U.S. federal holiday until 1885.
The turkey familiar to us today is
extinct in the wild. Its ancestry has been traced to Mexico, where the
Aztecs domesticated a wild game bird they called the huexoloti. They
regarded the bird as a god, and held festivals in its honor. North
American natives also considered the turkey a powerful spiritual symbol,
and prized its feathers for warmth and guidance into the next life. "The Flight of the Turkey," a story in the Economist, and a "Short History of the Turkey" by Andrew G. Gardner say that when Hernando Cortes, the Spanish conquistador, came to Mexico in 1519 he found the court of Moctezuma
had a ravenous appetite for huexoloti's feathers and meat. Moctezuma
gave Cortes about 1,500 turkeys, and gold, right before Cortes's armies
razed his capital. Historians think Columbus took turkeys back to Spain
after his fourth transatlantic visit in 1502, because in 1511 Spain's
King Ferdinand demanded that all Spanish ships returning from the New
World must bring back turkeys to be bred. Afterwards, turkeys spread
rapidly to France, Italy, England and Scandinavia, and back to America.
traces the circuitous linguistic path of the creature's name.
Initially, the Spanish thought the birds from Mexico were peacocks.
Spanish ships were often manned by Arabs from the Ottoman Empire, and
Europeans thought of their fowl as Turkey birds even though many were a
different bird that came from Africa. The Economist says even
Shakespeare was mixed up about turkeys. The bard describes a "swelling
turkey cock" in mocking reference a character in Henry V. Historically,
The Economist says, the available bird would have been an African
guinea hen. In Turkey, turkeys from Spain were called hindi, on
supposition they came from India. The French named turkey the dinde for
the same reason. The Economist notes Linnaeus was also confused when he
classified the bird in 1759: he called it Meleagris gallopavo gallopavo,
which translates from Latin as guinea-foul-chicken peacock
In centuries past, the elite prized
exotic creatures and novel foods. Today, elites prize the authentic
and home grown. Because commercial domestic turkeys have been bred for
large white meat breasts, they can't mate and their eggs have to be artificially inseminated. Heritage turkeys, that can cost more than $200, are an effort to restore earlier bird variants. Linguistically, too, the turkey has evolved. In 1970s slang, a theatrical bomb or an inept individual was called a turkey, presumably because poultry farmers have reported that turkeys do dumb things. Earlier, "talking turkey" meant straight talk, no gobbledy-gook. And the tough talk idea is a likely root of "cold turkey," the phrase often used to describe immediate unassisted cessation of
drug use. The turkey has also contributed to a popular American icon: Big Bird's feathers are white turkey feathers painted yellow. So enjoy this noble creature if it graces your table!
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, November 27, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, November 26, 2014
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and psychologists studying human contentment have found a recurrent
pattern in countries across the world. People report that life
satisfaction declines in the first couple of decades of adulthood, hits
bottom around age 50, then rises with age, often above the levels people
felt in their 20s. The pattern, which emerges with regularity in large
data sets, is called the U-curve of happiness.
Jonathan Rauch, in a provocative article in The Atlantic,
describes recent research, interviews the social scientists who
conducted it, and presents an intriguing possibility: there may be some
underlying pattern of life satisfaction that is independent of economic
status, work and career achievement and personal relationships. He says David Blanchflower of Dartmouth and Andrew Oswald
of the University of Warwick found the U-curve in 55 of 80 countries
where people were asked about their general life satisfaction. The nadir
was, on average, age 46. Other researchers who conducted surveys in 80
countries found a similar curve and the average age of rock bottom
dissatisfaction was 50. Examining statistics from 27 European countries,
Blanchflower and Oswald found that antidepressant use peaks in the late 40s, and that being middle aged nearly doubles the likelihood that a person will take antidepressants.
Oswald and four other scientists, including two primatologists, even found a U-curve over time in the state of mind of chimpanzees and orangutans.
Zoo keepers, animal researchers and caretakers were surveyed about the
well-being of more than 500 captive primates in five countries and
reported that well-being was at its lowest in ages that would be
comparable to ages 45 to 50 in people. So biology may play some part in
middle age doldrums.
good news is the upswing on the U-curve when studies show people tend
to become more optimistic as they age. Rauch points to research by
Stanford University psychologist Laura Carstensen
and others who say "the peak of emotional life may not occur until well
into the seventh decade." Carstensen told Rauch that as people age,
their time horizons get shorter, they focus more on the present, and
their goals tend to be more concerned with meaning and savoring the moment. They pay less attention to regrets and unmet desires.
Rauch also interviewed Dilip V. Jeste,
a psychiatrist with multiple titles at University of California at San
Diego, who has studied the aging brain to find clues for how people age successfully
even with the onset of chronic health conditions that might be expected
to make them depressed. Jeste explains that as a native of India he
grew up in a culture steeped in respect for wisdom,
and concepts about wisdom, he says, are remarkably constant across time
and geography. The traits of the wise, Rauch summarizes, include
empathy, compassion, good social reasoning, tolerance of diverse views,
and comfort with uncertainty and ambiguity. Jeste sees wisdom as an
emergent property of many other functions, with its roots in biology and
evolution. Wisdom gives societal function to people who are no longer
fertile. He's also looking for clues in neuroscience. While the science
of wisdom is in its infancy, Jeste suspects age may change the human
brain in ways that make wisdom easier.
So if you're experiencing mid-life distress, take heart in the likelihood that the future will get better.
As Andrew Oswald observes in a New York Times story,
"It's a very encouraging fact that we can expect to be happier in our
early 80s than we were in our 20s. And it's not being driven
predominantly by things that happen in life. It's something very deep
and quite human that seems to be driving this." Read Rauch's piece here.
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, October 30, 2014
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farmers have grown rice in paddies irrigated through an intricate
network of canals and aqueducts built around hundreds of tiered water
temples for more than a thousand years. Priests in the temples and
hundreds of grower collectives known as subaks evolved a well
orchestrated collaboration to control pests and make sure water was
the 1980s, international development organizations introduced chemical
fertilizers and re-engineered growing and harvest patterns with the goal
of growing more rice. The water temples and subaks
were disregarded. Several years into the program, rice yield had
plunged and rats and other pests were proliferating. In his
extraordinary book Aid on the Edge of Chaos, Ben Ramalingam
tells the story of the subaks in Bali and the dynamic self-organization
that had allowed growers to cooperate in management of complex issues
related to soil quality, pest control, crop yields, and rainfall and to
make continual adjustments as local conditions required. The subaks also
performed social, legal and spiritual functions.
Researchers from the Santa Fe Institute
found that the farmers cooperated on the basis of their own dominant
needs. Those upstream were most worried about pests, and those down
stream worried about water shortages. Ramalingam explains the
researchers used ecological simulation models to show how humans were
reshaping the ecosystem, and how cooperative behavior emerged over time.
With the water temples as the nodes, he writes, the subak networks
were "a particular form of social organization shaped by a process of
cooperative agents co-evolving in a changing environment." By 2012, he
says, the government of Bali had arranged that the subaks would be
preserved in perpetuity as a vital part of the country's unique
cultural, social and economic farming system.
believes an understanding of complexity science and complex adaptive
systems can help cultivate new mindsets that will enable policy makers
and program designers to increase effectiveness as they try to improve
health and economic conditions, reverse adverse impacts of climate
change, and build peace in war ravaged areas. He provides lucid
examples and commentary on the work of many complexity scholars,
including John Holland, Stuart Kauffman, Jane Jacobs, Herbert Simon, Joshua Epstein, a scholar of agent based modeling, and Warren Weaver, a mathematician who wrote an influential paper on "Science and Complexity" in 1948. He quotes Friedrich Hayek's
1974 Nobel acceptance speech in which the economist said we can't
acquire enough knowledge to master complex events, so we need to use the
knowledge we can get to "cultivate a growth by providing the
appropriate environment" for growth the way a gardener does for plants.
cites several innovative development and humanitarian efforts that draw
upon the concepts of complexity: they include dealing with epidemic
outbreaks in Asia, water sharing in Bhutan, subsistence farming and
urban change in East Africa, disaster responses in Southern Africa, and
industrial production globally. This informative book is filled with
memorable stories, well-turned phrases, extensive research, and a
wide-ranging exploration of the insights of complexity science. While
the focus is aid, the usefulness extends to just about any field.
In a section on positive deviance, Ramalingam describes the work of Monique Sternin and the late Jerry Sternin in reducing childhood malnutrition in Vietnam. The Sternins pioneered the use of positive deviance (PD)
in social and behavioral change. They helped parents living in
impoverished villages discover that some of their neighbors had
healthier kids despite having no additional resources. The parents of
the healthier children were gathering shrimps, crabs and greens that
were free but generally considered unsuitable for children, and they had
different mealtime practices. Ramalingam also notes the successful use
of PD in reducing MRSA rates and in improving business operations. Plexus Institute led an initiative in which several hospitals using PD processes dramatically reduced the incidence of healthcare associated infections. In an interview with Ramalingam, Monique Sternin noted Plexus Institute's role in developing the science and theory behind PD and scaling up the work.image from wikipedia
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, October 16, 2014
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In parts of Sierra Leone and much of West Africa, people have
traditionally kept the bodies of loved ones in their homes for several
days after death as mourners wash, caress, dress them and pray over
them. Because the corpses of Ebola victims are highly contagious, the
tradition has been a key vector in spread of the disease. Burial teams
from the Red Cross and other organizations have been attacked trying to
interfere with care of the dead. Some families have even hidden corpses
to make sure proper rituals can be performed.
In a Psychology Today post
, Steven Hayes
, PhD, Foundation Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Nevada, writes that behavioral science is as important
as medical science in discovering alternative rituals that honor both culture and safety.
Four years ago Beate Ebert, a German psychologist and others formed Commit and Act
, a nonprofit in Sierra Leone devoted to bringing psychotherapy to people traumatized by a decade of civil war and violence. Hannah Bockarie
a social worker fluent in Krio, the local language, led workshops,
evaluated through a partnering agreement with the University of Glasgow,
to train indigenous counselors and health care workers. When Ebola hit,
the organization was in a unique position to help. Hayes explains that
Commit and Act, already known in the community, was able to educate
people about Ebola and the practices needed to halt its spread
Bockarie also led local groups through therapeutic sessions that helped
them come up with alternative burial customs that honored their values
while allowing health care workers to safely dispose of bodies
beautiful example one group came up with was substituting the corpse
with a banana trunk," Hayes writes. "The body of the infected and now
diseased person is burned. Relatives keep a banana trunk at home, and
perform all the customary rituals on it, including kissing the banana
trunk before burial. In the end the banana trunk is buried."
says he is awed and inspired by "a pathway forward" that could not have
come from the outside, and that could not have been produced by
military intervention nor dictated by foreign aid workers.
He explains that the evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson's Evolution Institute
combined with Commit and Act to use Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
along with principles from the late economist Elinor Olstrom
, who won a Nobel Prize in 2009 for works showing the skill of indigenous people in protecting common resources.
People who face a problem are the best poised to find ways to solve it. That's a key insight of Adaptive Positive Deviance
After the disclosure of the Ebola infection of a second nurse who
worked at the Dallas hospital where a man died of the disease, health
officials have aimed to promote caution without feeding panic. The
second nurse flew on a commercial airline
before she had symptoms and the CDC has asked all 132 passengers on her flight to self-monitor
and call a CDC hotline. Some politicians
propose a ban on travel to the U.S. from Western African countries. In Texas, a community college announced it was rejecting students from any country with confirmed cases of Ebola
don't know exactly how the two Texas nurses were infected, though
multiple news reports have suggested infection control protocols in place at the hospital were insufficient for Ebola
. National Nurses United
a nurses' union, said nurses at the hospital complained of confusion,
frequently changing policies and protocols, inadequate protection from
contamination and spotty training. Indeed the CDC has now recommended extra levels of protection for healthcare workers
caring for Ebola patients, as well as detailed guidelines for the
potentially hazardous process of removing contaminated protective gear.
CDC Director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden has said the most important
protection is for a site manager to oversee workers as they put on each
piece of personal protective gear, and as they remove and properly
dispose of each one. One hopes front line workers will be engaged in
finding the best ways to adhere to new protocols.
When Plexus Institute led a multi-year initiative to stop MRSA infections
the protocols in use at the time differed from what is being
recommended now for Ebola. But MRSA infection rates dropped dramatically
when front line healthcare workers collaborated to developed methods
that would achieve the most consistent adherence to the known protocols.
The late Jasper Palmer, a patient transport worker at Einstein Medical
Center in Philadelphia, devised a way to remove protective gear safely
while also reducing the volume of contaminated trash. It became known as
The Palmer Method. Watch here
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, September 4, 2014
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Richard Stratton, executive, author and former drug smuggler, enjoyed
counting piles of hundred dollar bills. He says it was a "pleasant,
relaxing experience." Harvard Economist Kenneth Rogoff thinks hundred
dollar bills are nothing but trouble.
Both expressed their individual expertise in an NPR
interview with Melissa Block and Chris Arnold. Stratton, a novelist,
friend of the writer Normal Mailer, and later TV executive and magazine editor,
once served eight years in prison for drug smuggling. He told NPR the drug
business involved generating and smuggling huge sums of money as well as
narcotics. Rogoff thinks $100 bills are
all too often used to finance illegal activities, and that's a good reason to
get rid of them. Rogoff notes these big bills allow a person to carry $1
million in a briefcase. And why would anyone not engaged in nefarious
enterprises want to do that?
Rogoff goes even further. Writing
in the Financial Times, he proposes getting rid of paper money entirely and
replacing it with electronic money. Among other things, he argues, as electronic
payments, even for small amounts, become increasingly prevalent, the need for
paper currency declines. There would be complications, of course, and
international cooperation among governments would be needed. But Rogoff
suggests getting rid of large denomination bills would be a good start.
Rogoff and others have said 75 percent to
percent of all U.S.
currency world-wide is in $100 bills. And many experts think easy flow of
huge amounts of anonymous cash facilitates
tax evasion as well as illegal trafficking in drugs, weapons and human
Times notes that when someone with Rogoff's heavyweight credentials
questions the future of physical money in a conservative, influential
publication like the Financial Times, "The world should sit up and
from physical to virtual money would be momentous. Would underground and
unofficial currencies flourish? Would crooks find ways to exploit the
transition? Stratton, who no longer holds $100 bills, told
NPR he thinks criminals would adapt.
Judson, an economist at the Fed, told
NPR she's not convinced there's a need to get rid of the Benjamin Franklin
bill because there's really no way to know how much cash in circulation is
being used for good or evil. Some historically huge $100 bill transactions have
been conducted by government. After the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the U.S.
$12 billion in shrink wrapped hundred dollar bills to Iraq to pay Iraqi
ministries and U.S. contractors. Planes delivered literally tons of cash from
New York to Bagdad for disbursement by the U.S. led Coalition Provisional
Authority. Congressional investigators later found control of the cash was
lacking, and accounts
on how much remains unaccounted for.
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, August 21, 2014
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makers concerned with income inequality need to focus more attention on
improving the early environment of disadvantaged babies and toddlers,
recent economic analysis suggests. Being born into poverty doesn't have
to mean a lifetime of deprivation, researchers say, and the earlier the
helpful intervention, the higher society's return on the investment.
quality early childhood programs have been shown in numerous studies to
have substantial benefits in reducing crime, raising earnings, and
improving educational outcomes, Frances Campbell, Gabriella Conti, James Heckman and colleagues wrote recently in Science magazine, and now research shows that life's earliest experiences strongly effect adult health.
and Conti are among the top economists who have done extensive studies
on human development. They have found that wealthy children and those
from deprived environments have disparities in cognitive performance
even before they start kindergarten, and the gap doesn't close with
time. Research by Heckman and Flavio Cunha
at the University of Pennsylvania shows that the divergence between
rich and poor kids in math ability is about the same at age 12 as it was
at age six.
Eduardo Porter writes in The New York Times
that the achievement gap between rich and poor American students is one
of the widest among the 65 countries that take part in the Program for International Student Assessment run by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Porter suggests the acrimonious debate over how to improve American
education misses the most important time-the years from infancy though
pre-school. Heckman, Conti and others report that interventions from
infancy through age five pay extremely high returns.
Good early programs improve cognitive skills and foster softer skills
such as sociability, motivation, perseverance and self-regulation.
Heckman and colleagues say those are the traits that enable kids to use
their cognitive skills for future learning and adult success.
Two well documented programs are illustrative. The Perry Preschool Project
offered intensive social and cognitive skills building for
disadvantaged three and four year olds from 1962 to 1967 in Ypslanti,
Michigan. A study found Perry graduates at age 40 were more likely than
those in a control group to have finished high school, to hold jobs, and
have higher earnings.
The Abecedarian Project in North Carolina
started in 1972 with 111 infants who were followed from birth through
their mid 30s. The children were randomly assigned with half in an
intervention group and half in a control group. Children in the
treatment group received regular pediatric care, good nutrition, and
stimulation in language, cognition, and emotional self-regulation from
infancy through age five. Parents also were trained. In the second
phase, through age eight, the focus was on math and reading. The group that received the special early care did better
educationally, and by age 30, members of this group were four times
more likely than those in the control group to have graduated from
college, be employed and have health insurance.
health findings were a surprise. Men in the treatment group had less
hypertension and none had metabolic syndrome, the cluster of conditions
that raise the risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke. One in four
of the control group had metabolic syndrome. Women in the treatment
group were less likely to be obese, less likely to drink before age 17,
and they had healthier habits.
about the small size of these samples? Heckman says the dramatic
disparities between these treatment and control groups actually
strengthen results because such differences are unusual in small sample
In a New York Times article, Heckman wrote
that "the economic rate of return from Perry is in the range of 6
percent to 10 percent per year per dollar invested, based on greater
productivity, and savings in expenditures on remediation, criminal
justice and social dependency. This compares favorably to the estimated
6.9 percent annual rate of return of the U.S. stock market from the end
of World War II to the 2008 meltdown." The Abecedarian Project lasted
five years and cost $67,000 in 2002 dollars, he said, and produced
substantial adult health benefits and cost savings. In Heckman's view:
"Early childhood interventions are an unexplored and promising new
avenue of health policy."
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, August 7, 2014
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After following nearly 800 Baltimore school children for almost three decades, researchers at Johns Hopkins University found most of the children grew up to have about the same socio-economic status as their parents. Those born poor stayed poor. Those born to more economically successful families fared better.
Johns Hopkins sociologist Karl Alexander PhD, and fellow researchers, the late Doris Entwisle, PhD, and Linda Olson MA, tracked 790 Baltimore children from the time they entered first grade through their late 20s. They repeatedly interviewed the students, their parents and their teachers through their school careers, and continued conversations with the maturing students as they entered the work force and started families. Their research is presented in their book, The Long Shadow: Family Background, Disadvantaged Urban Youth, and Transition to Adulthood.
The findings are described on the Johns Hopkins website. Only 33 children born to impoverished families earned high incomes as young adults, whereas 70 would have been expected to have high incomes if the family of origin did not impact the children's prospect for upward mobility, the researchers reported. Only 19 of those born to well off families dropped into the low income bracket as adults.
Only four percent of those from low income backgrounds had a college degree by age 28, a figure Alexander found shocking. By contrast, 45 percent of children born to higher income families had college degrees. And race played a significant role in adult outcomes. While 45 percent of white men from low income families had landed one of the shrinking number of industrial jobs in the area, only 15 percent of black man from low income families had such jobs. White men self-reported having the highest rates of drinking, smoking and drug use, though black men had slightly higher arrest rates and white men were more likely to be employed despite their records and substance use. Alexander said white men were more likely to have social networks that helped them find jobs.
In an interview with NPR, Alexander said we expect that if we "Play by the rules, work hard, apply yourself and do well in school ...that will open doors for you." But the Baltimore study suggests that what makes the difference between success and failure is money and family. Still, a few defy the odds against them. NPR interviewed one young woman in the study whose harrowing childhood included drug addicted parents and neighborhood chaos. "I remember being so immune to death, so immune to shootings and killings. I just remember wanting them to rush, like get the body out of the way so we can get back to playing hopscotch or dodgeball," she said. But she managed to get a well-paying job and give her two children more stability and motherly support. She says she has a strong relationship and plans to be married.
Posted By Prucia Buscell,
Thursday, July 17, 2014
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technologies allow us to be "in a persistent state of absent presence"
that can erode empathy and connection, according to Virginia Tech
fact, researchers found just having a mobile device within easy
reach-even if you're not holding it or using it-can lessen the quality
of a face to face conversation, reduce empathy among friends, and
deflect our attention from what is happening right before our eyes.
"Mobile phones hold symbolic meaning in advanced technological societies," a research team led by Shalini Misra of Virginia Tech wrote in an article in the journal Environment and Behavior.
"In their presence people have the constant urge to seek out
information, check for communication and direct their thoughts to other
people and words."
the study, 200 participants were divided into pairs and asked to chat
for 10 minutes on either a meaningful topic or a trivial one. Nearby
researchers recorded their nonverbal behavior and the presence or use of
any mobile device at any time during the conversation. Afterwards,
participants were asked about their feelings of personal connectedness
and empathy with their conversational partners. When a mobile device was
visible, participants rated the encounter less fulfilling and less
empathetic. That finding held for trivial and substantial topics, and
the negative relationship between the presence of devices and empathy
was even more pronounced when the conversation was between people who
knew each other. Apparently the mere presence of a mobile device can
derail the natural empathy between friends.
Earlier research by Andrew Przybylski and Netta Weinstein
of the University in Essex in the UK produced similar findings. Pairs
of strangers conversed while seated facing each other. A nearby table,
out of their direct line of vision, held a book and one other item. When the other item was a cell phone, participants reported lower connectedness and a lower quality encounter than when the other item was a notebook.
Research by Sara Konrath and colleagues, reported in Scientific American and at the University of Michigan website,
indicates college students of today are less empathetic than they were
30 years, ago, and that empathy has declined the most in the last
decade. Konrath conducted meta-analysis combining the results of 72
different studies of American college students between 1979 and 2009.
While reasons are uncertain, researchers note the trend has accompanied
the rise of social media and mobile communications.
scientists say those results aren't necessarily discouraging. They show
our brains are plastic and subject to experiential influence. And as
Konrath writes in a Psychology Today blog
mobile communications can make people feel closer to distant loved
ones, and that they have tremendous still fully untapped potential to
help people manage physical and mental illnesses. She notes that
paradoxically the same technology associated with our being stressed and
distracted can be used for people to provide electronic encouragement,
kindness and support to each other.