What's the Latest Development?
Mood has long been known to affect health, with those living in consistently happier states enjoying a lower risk of disease. Now, researchers at the University of North Carolina and UCLA have found deep genetic roots for the relationship between mood and health. "Specifically, those volunteers whose happiness, according to their questionnaires, was primarily hedonic, to use the scientific term, or based on consuming things, had surprisingly unhealthy profiles, with relatively high levels of biological markers known to promote increased inflammation throughout the body." Such inflammation has been linked to the development of cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
What's the Big Idea?
Individuals who self-identified as happy thanks to having a greater goal, beyond that of achieving pleasure, such as serving others or fealty to a higher purpose, "had profiles that displayed augmented levels of antibody-producing gene expression and lower levels of the pro-inflammatory expression." Such individuals were also a small minority of the overall group. Still, having a higher purpose in life does not mean ascetic renunciation. Rather, say researchers, it requires thinking of someone else before yourself when making decisions, or having a goal greater than immediate gratification.
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