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Stress & the pursuit of happiness

February 28, 2007

Thanks to The Thinking Meat Project (one of the most useful science blogs on my list) for this reference to stress related disease. It makes the interesting point that higher primates (I think we are included in that category) induce stress reactions for psychosocial reasons. This triggers reactions that have evolved for physical threat over extended periods of time with consequences for health. Some primates overcome this with mutual grooming, but humans have additional mechanisms such as social support and alternative means of gaining status. They quote the example of the low status filing clerk who is otherwise captain of a softball team. Of course humans also engage, given the opportunity, in mutual grooming, but social interaction is something special. Towards the end of the article there is a reference to the US constitution and its inclusion of the pursuit of happiness and a few examples including this:

Two of the healthiest states are Vermont and Utah, while two of the unhealthiest are Nevada and New Hampshire,” he noted. “Vermont is a much more left-leaning state in terms of its social support systems, while its neighbor New Hampshire prides itself on no income tax and go it alone. In Utah, the Mormon church provides extended social support, explanations for why things are and structure. You can’t ask for more than that. And next door is Nevada, where people are keeling over dead from all of their excesses. It’s very interesting.

After this we get some depressing stuff about atrophy of the hippocampus and how the ends of your chromosomes fray and in consequence your DNA stops working. All of which tells me I should not have got stressed about Richard Dawkins on the same blog and should get settled down with a herbal tea to clear the backlog of writing (including the promised blog on project management).

**Late news: OMG, Euan has got the Dawkin desease as well, have entered the fray and will see what develops.
** later news: the Euan debate developed …..

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