Monday, July 27, 2009

Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage and Your Health

Newswise recently reported yet another interesting study. Bottom line is that divorce and widowhood have a lasting, detrimental impact on health, even after one ties the knot again. The study found that married people that were previously divorced show worse health on all dimensions, over those married and never divorced. And worse still, those divorced or widowed who don’t remarry are even worse off. University of Chicago sociologist Linda Waite co-authored the study with Mary Elizabeth Hughes, Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The subjects were 8,652 people aged 51 to 61. This is the first study to examine both marital transitions and marital status on a wide range of health dimensions, according to Newswise.

Previous research has shown that the transition to marriage tends to immediately improve the health benefit ‘stock’ for both men and women – men because they start to live and eat healthier, women because their financial well-being generally improves. This continues to be the case throughout marriage for most couples. But divorce or widowhood undermines these benefits and a drop in our ‘health stock’ is experienced after either occurs. The authors cite drop in income and increased stress over a number of issues including shared child care as reasons.

Other findings include:

• Divorced or widowed people have 20 percent more chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer than married people. They also have 23 percent more mobility limitations, such as trouble climbing stairs or walking a block.

• People who never married have 12 percent more mobility limitations and 13 percent more depressive symptoms, but report no difference in the number of chronic health conditions from married people.

• People who remarried have 12 percent more chronic conditions and 19 percent more mobility limitations, but no more depressive symptoms, than those who are continuously married.

Here’s how the authors explain the findings? Prof. Waite says the impacts of marriage, divorce and remarriage on health are based on the ways in which the various illnesses develop and heal. She says, with my comments in brackets, “Some health situations, like depression, seem to respond both quickly and strongly [negatively after divorce or widowhood; positively after remarriage] to changes in current conditions. In contrast, conditions such as diabetes and heart disease develop slowly over a substantial period and show the impact of past experiences, which is why health [as compared to mood] is undermined by divorce or widowhood, even when a person remarries.”

Okay, that explains it, but here’s what I think is really more important, all else being equal of course:

1. Marriage on its own is good for you – health stock improves both after one’s initial marriage or any subsequent marriages.
2. Divorce is generally bad for you – health stock stays impaired even after remarriage.
3. Divorce has a bigger negative impact on your health than marriage has a positive one.
4. Remarriage does not eliminate all the negative impact.

Thank you professors Waite and Hughes, but wait a minute – haven’t I read that somewhere else before this study was ever thought of? I’m sure I did. Seems to me my pastors have been teaching these lessons from the Good Book for years. Oh well, some people will never believe something unless a PhD. gets to say it. And sometimes, not even then.

Anyway, that’s how this Presentologist sees it. In the meantime, keep on ortho-thinking, and don’t forget to follow me on www.twitter.com/pappou .

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Christianity Under Fire I

This is the first in a new series of blogs under the title Christianity Under Fire (CUF) – a term shared, I’m sure, by many other authors who feel that indeed our Faith is Under Fire. While we scour all sorts of media for our topics and examples, admittedly it’s very difficult to find such articles from liberal sources. And unfortunately, we have to sometimes rely more on the conservative media to get them to us. Although, in my opinion, they do cry “Wolf” a little too often, they are still providing accounts of situations that the mainstream media would rather you not know about.

Our first such CUF topic was an item written by Bob Unruh and posted by WorldNetDaily (WND) on June 19, 2009. It was called “City corrals Christians at weekend Arab fest; Judge won't let ministry deliver tracts on sidewalks”.

Here’s the bottom line: A federal judge allowed festival organizers in Dearborn, Michigan to ban a Christian ministry from handing out religious information on public sidewalks. Dearborn is 30 percent Muslim according to WND. The celebration of the city’s Arab International Festival followed later that weekend.

Judge Nancy Edmonds’ decision, however, did not intervene with the lawsuit filed on behalf of the Arabic Christian Perspective (ACP) group by both the Thomas More Law Center and the Becker Law Firm.

ACP workers and volunteers have attended the same festival five previous years without any disruption of the public peace. But this year Dearborn police warned ACP their people would not be allowed to walk the public sidewalks to hand out information and instead would be confined to a specific spot. Negotiations prior to the lawsuit being filed failed to resolve the issue. Why this year, why this group?

Here’s what the president of the Thomas More Law Center, Richard Thompson, had to say: "It's ironic that while Americans are applauding the free speech exercised by hundreds of thousands of Muslims on the streets of Iran, the city of Dearborn is restricting free speech rights Christians are attempting to exercise on the city's public sidewalks". Again why this year, why this group?

Law Center attorney Robert Muise, who argued for the Christians' rights before Edmonds said, "This case involves an important constitutional question regarding the government's ability to prohibit peaceful speech activities". I repeat, “why this year, why this group?”

Finally Mary Landroche, director of the city's department of public information, said the judge's ruling agreed the city had the right to establish rules for maintaining order. "[She – judge Edmonds] did agree with the city we have an interest in controlling the crowds," Landroche told WND. She added the city's rules are "content-neutral," but she could not provide information about any other group impacted by the change. She also said the city just decided the public sidewalks are "part of the festival grounds." You know what’s coming – “Why this year, why this group?”

All this took place because the American Arab Chamber of Commerce in Dearborn filed a complaint saying “we do have to think about the safety of everyone” as the Detroit News quoted there spokesperson. The AACC in Dearborn also indicated there was "no problem" with the Christians being at the event. So, somebody please tell me, “Why this year, why this group?”

And then according to the WND, the complaints cited a police statement that the Christians would be classified among "political parties and protesters," and would be limited to a single location. So, who made Christians a political party to be defeated or fought against? Who labeled us as ‘protesters’ in today’s sense of the word? I promise this is the last time I’ll ask it: “Why this year? Why this group? Why Christianity?”

Might it just have something to do with the fact that people of all kinds, of all faiths, of all nations, of all political agendas, etc., really sense a change in America that is becoming more and more evident since the big event in Washington on January 19th, 2009? Is it possible that Washington with what they say or don’t say, with what they do or what they leave undone, is signaling the fact that it is time to forget the “faith of our fathers” and accept “the faith of our brothers”? Time to forget Christianity and embrace other faiths, not the least of which is Islam? (Remember the trouble Jacob got into when he agreed to Laban’s idea of marriage.)

I remember back in the days when I worked in government. One of the big pressing issues at the time was the political agenda of the feminist movement. This movement knew that the time to make progress on all their causes was during the terms of liberal governments that were sympathetic to their goals. I see a clear parallel now in the United States. The country has a government that wants to embrace the world at the expense of what are clearly strong American values and belief systems – including those that espouse the family and Judeao-Christian tenets. If it continues in this course, I believe, its citizens will ultimately lose the very freedoms they celebrated last July 4th.

Anyway, that’s how this Presentologist sees it. In the meantime, keep on ortho-thinking, scan the media for more CUFs, and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Why Looks, Money, and Fame Just Don’t Cut It

Last May Newswise reported on a study that demonstrated an inverse relationship between good looks, lots of money, and the admiration of others on the one hand and one’s sense of happiness on the other. Really? Yes, really.

While pursuing goals generally has a positive impact, this is not true for all goals according to the study’s author Edward Deci, professor of psychology and the Gowen Professor in the Social Sciences at the University of Rochester. Chief among the goals that don’t result in positively contributing to a satisfying life are those of attaining wealth and fame.

The research paper appeared in the June issue of the Journal of Research in Personality (you can get all the details about methodology there). Here’s the bottom line of what it found while tracking 147 alumni from two universities during their second year after graduation. The study confirmed that the more committed an individual is to a goal, the greater the likelihood of success. But unlike previous findings, this analysis showed that getting what one wants is not always healthy. This is contrary to the historical psychology theory that says if you value goals and attain them, wellness will follow. That’s not the case if you consider the content of the goals according to lead author Christopher Niemiec, a doctoral candidate in psychology at the University.

He says the study shows reaching materialistic and image-related milestones actually contributes to ill-being; despite their accomplishments, individuals experience more negative emotions like shame and anger and more physical symptoms of anxiety such as headaches, stomachaches, and loss of energy. Wow. The wisdom found in the Old Testament book of Proverbs wasn’t wrong after all. But wait, there’s more, the authors go on to say that by contrast, individuals who value personal growth, close relationships, community involvement, and physical health are more satisfied as they meet success in those areas. This latter group experiences a deeper sense of well-being, more positive feelings toward themselves, richer connections with others, and fewer physical signs of stress. Wow. Again the Old Testament Solomon and the New Testament Jesus had it exactly right.

Of course, the researchers feel their findings support the Self-Determination Theory developed by Deci and Richard Ryan which states that well-being depends in large part on meeting one’s basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. In their opinion, “intrinsic aspirations seem (Niemiec’s word) to be more closely related to the self, to what’s inside the self, rather than to what’s outside the self.” Well, we’ll take issue with that another day. For now, let’s be thankful for their finding that striving for wealth and praise does little to satisfy deep human requirements.

The authors also suggest that for this younger set of career people, time devoted to extrinsic pursuits, like working long hours, often crowds out opportunities for psychologically nourishing experiences, such as relaxing with friends and family or pursuing a personal passion. They say craving money and adoration can lead to a preoccupation with “keeping up with the Joneses”. And what’s wrong with that? Well, behind this striving to ‘keep up’ are upward social comparisons that breed feelings of inadequacy and jealousy. Really. Solomon and Jesus both hinted at this, but you’ll have to find that out for yourself as you dig into their works.

Finally, the researchers indicate that the benefits of caring relationships and hard-earned skills are lasting while the thrill of extrinsic accomplishments fade quickly. As they would ask, “do you still rave about your last salary raise or promotion?” I hardly think so.

My advice – get smart, and pursue what really counts in life. Anyway, that’s how this presentologist sees it. In the meantime, keep on ortho-thinking and don’t forget to follow me on www.twitter.com/pappou .

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

For Men (& the Women Who Love Them)…Please Reduce Your Colorectal Cancer Risk

Three months ago Newswise communicated the findings of a simple UK study reported in The European Journal of Cancer Prevention, published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health, a leading provider of information and business intelligence for students, professionals, and institutions in medicine, nursing, allied health, pharmacy and the pharmaceutical industry. Here’s the bottom line:

The study led by Professor. Donald Maxwell Parkin of Cancer Research UK Centre for Epidemiology, Mathematics, and Statistics, London, identified five lifestyle factors that researchers believe would reduce colorectal cancer in UK men substantially (26% overall including 31.5% in men and 18.4% in women) over the next two decades plus. Here are the lifestyle changes that make the difference as reported by Newswise:

• Consumption of red and processed meat - no more than 80 or 90 grams per day.
• Consumption of fruit, vegetables, and fiber - at least five portions per day.
• Exercise - at least 30 minutes on 5 or more days per week.
• Alcohol consumption - no more than 21 units per week for men, 15 units for women.
• Overweight and obesity - reduced to rates of 20 years ago.

The greatest reductions would be in those age 50 or older. However, the proportional reduction in risk would be larger at younger ages.

Colorectal cancer is a major problem in not only the UK, but also in Canada and the United States. I know, I had it and maybe still do. When first discovered, the doctors wanted to surgically remove a good portion of my colon and reconnect me – assuming they could do it successfully, but without any guarantees. When they said this was to prevent future recurrence, I opted to go for the drastic life-changes above. Two of my three specialists were skeptical that would make any difference. It did. Six months later during my second colonoscopy, they only found a normal polyp and removed that easily. Next month I go in for my regular six-month colonoscopy (I guess if they can’t operate, they’ll see to it that they keep me visiting twice a year which is better than an operation as far as I’m concerned.)

For me, it was a matter of faith – they told me they thought I was 95% cured when they removed the cancerous polyp. I told them 5% probability of not being cured is not sufficient reason to cut me up. They reluctantly agreed when I told them that they themselves learned that ‘just noticeable difference’ in statistics was about 15% and that I believed my faith in God covers me 100%, not just 95%.

For you, your reasons may be different as to why you should try to reduce your risk of cancer. But whatever they are, just do it. Sure, I miss the steak and the pork chops and the hamburgers – but there are great alternatives out there and I still enjoy my fish, especially small ones. Life could be a lot worse.

By the way, there’s a new video on YouTube that is getting a lot of attention – it’s about Ted Blair and his cancer experience. Well worth it if you have cancer or if someone you love has it. You can catch it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQqPNl87RIM .

Anyway, that’s how this presentologist sees it. In the meantime, keep on ortho-thinking and don’t forget to follow me on www.twitter.com/pappou .

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Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.