Thursday, November 16, 2006

Supposedly, Happy People are Healthier

Over at Carnegie Mellon University, it looks like somebody scored a grant to test who gets sicker: happy people or angry ones. Surprise, surprise: the happy people seem healthier, reports CNN.

In the experiment, volunteers were collected, parsed into emotional groups (happy and angry), given nose drops carrying cold or flu bugs, then asked to report on their condition. As you might expect, the people with a "positive emotional style," appeared to resist colds better.

"People with a positive emotional style may have different immune responses to the virus," one scientist told CNN. Hm… interesting theory.

Is it just me, or does this sound like new age, pseudo-science nonsense? How do you determine a "positive emotional style," or, for that matter, a negative one? Since I'm so critical of this study, do I fall under the negative banner? I rarely get sick. And, come to think of it, the liveliest people in my office take the most sick days. Are they really sick, or does their zest for life just lead them to fake being sick so they can take more days off to frolic in the sun, maybe walk their dogs or help old ladies across the street?

The CNN report was vague on the research method used to measure both emotional state and illness in the Carnegie Mellon study.

"Researchers had 193 healthy adults complete standard measures of personality traits, self-perceived health and emotional "style," read the CNN article. But what does all that mean? Sounds like weak science to me. How can you repeat this experiment using such a broad range of vague tests? Furthermore, how can you repeat it for another culture?

Another questionable part of the study is this: researchers measured sickness by asking subjects how they felt, and collecting "objective data, like daily mucus production." On the first point, of course positive people will tell you they feel better than they actually are, that's why they're positive people. And this business of measuring snot. Seriously. Is this the basis of good, hard science?

I expect to see this kind of feel good story on the local TV news, but not at CNN online. I'm a tad angry. And you know what? I feel healthier than ever.

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.