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Lack of Joy Ups Early Death Risk

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People who don’t think life is worth living are more likely to die within the next few years, research from Japan shows.

The increased death risk was mainly due to cardiovascular disease and external causes — most commonly, suicide.

The research is the largest to date to investigate how ‘ikigai’, or “joy and a sense of well-being from being alive”, affects mortality risk, and only the second to examine death from specific causes, according to Toshimasa Sone and colleagues from the Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine in Sendai.

The investigators looked at 43,391 men and women 40 to 79 years old living in the Ohsaki region who were followed for seven years, during which time 3,048 died. All were asked, “Do you have ikigai in your life?” Fifty-nine per cent said yes, 36.4% said they weren’t sure, and 4.6% said no.

Those who didn’t have a sense of ikigai were less likely to be married or employed, and were also less educated, in worse health, more mentally stressed, and in more bodily pain. They were also more likely to have limited physical function.

But even after the researchers used statistical techniques to adjust for these factors, people with no sense of ikigai were still at increased risk of dying over the follow-up period compared to people who did have ikigai. The relationship also was independent of history of illness and alcohol use.

Overall, people with no sense of ikigai were 50% more likely to die from any cause during follow-up compared to those who did have a sense that life was worth living. They had a 60% greater risk of death from cardiovascular disease, most commonly stroke, and were 90% more likely to die of “external” causes. Of the 186 deaths due to external causes among study participants, 90 were suicides.

Another study released in August said that happiness could increase a person’s life span by 7.5 to 9 years.

“Happiness does not heal, but happiness protects against falling ill,” reported Ruut Veenhoven of Rotterdam’s Erasmus University. The Dutch professor said the effects of happiness on longevity were “comparable to that of smoking or not”.

Sources: The Times Of India

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Happiness Keeps the Doctor Away

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Keep humming “Don’t Worry Be Happy“. The 1980s New Age-inspired hit got it right. New research shows being happy can add years to life.

“Happiness does not heal, but happiness protects against falling ill,” says Ruut Veenhoven of Rotterdam‘s Erasmus University in a study to be published next month.

After reviewing 30 studies carried out worldwide over periods ranging from one to 60 years, the Dutch professor said the effects of happiness on longevity were “comparable to that of smoking or not”. That special flair for feeling good, he said, could lengthen life by between 7.5 and 10 years.

The finding brings a vital new piece to a puzzle currently being assembled by researchers worldwide on just what makes us happy – and on the related question of why people blessed with material wealth in developed nations no longer seem satisfied with their lives.

Once the province of poets or philosophers, the notions of happiness and satisfaction have been taken on and dissected, quantified and analysed in the last few years by a growing number of highly serious and respected economists – some of whom dub the new field “hedonics”, or the study of what makes life pleasant, or otherwise.

In Veenhoven’s findings, the strongest effect on longevity was found among a group of US nuns followed through their adult life – perhaps reflecting the feel-good factor from belonging to a close-knit stress-free community with a sense of purpose.

In his paper, Veenhoven first looked at statistics to see whether good cheer impacted on the sick, but concluded that while happiness had helped some cancer patients suffering from a relapse, in general “happiness does not appear to prolong the deathbed”.

Among healthy populations, on the contrary, happiness appeared to protect against falling ill, thus prolonging life. Happy people were more inclined to watch their weight, were more perceptive of symptoms of illness, tended to be more moderate with smoking and drinking and generally lived healthier lives.

They were also more active, more open to the world, more self-confident, made better choices and built more social networks.

Sources: The Times Of India

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Simple Therapy for Back Pain

Paracetamol and keeping active are the best cures for back pain, according to Australian researchers who warn that other treatments do not work.

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A Lancet study of 240 back pain sufferers found anti-inflammatory drugs and spinal manipulation did not make any difference to recovery time.

Yet currently, both treatments are recommended in several guidelines.

Experts said patients needed to be reassured that avoiding bed rest and taking paracetamol would work.

Researchers at the University of Sydney assigned patients to receive either an anti-inflammatory drug called diclofenac, a dummy drug, spinal manipulation or fake manipulation therapy.

They had already received simple treatment advice from their GP to keep active, avoid bed rest and take paracetamol for the pain.

The study found no difference in recovery times after 12 weeks in patients who also received diclofenac or spinal manipulation.

Almost all the patients had recovered by the end of the study no matter what treatment they had received.

Adverse effects

Study leader Mark Hancock said there was no clinical benefit from the additional treatments.

And both non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as diclofenac or ibuprofen, and spinal manipulation are associated with adverse effects, he added.

“GPs can manage patients confidently without exposing them to increased risks and costs associated with NSAIDs or spinal manipulative therapy,” he said.

Dr Bart Koes from the Department of General Practice at Erasmus University in the Netherlands, who wrote an accompanying article in The Lancet, said the results were probably applicable to other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen.

He told the BBC: “It is very likely that for many patients with acute low back pain currently treated with NSAIDs and/or spinal manipulation this would not have been needed if adequate first-line treatment with paracetamol and advice and reassurance was given.”

Dr Stuart Derbyshire, senior lecturer in the School of Psychology and expert in pain at the University of Birmingham, also agreed with the findings.

“For most people, providing simple care and advice should guide the patient through their acute phase of pain and allow them to return to normal life when that acute phase is over.”

Back pain is the largest single cause of sickness absence from work.

But Tony Metcalfe, president of the British Chiropractic Association warned the therapy in the study could not be compared with the treatment provided by chiropracters in the UK.

“Spinal manipulation is just part of a package of care offered by BCA chiropractors which also includes lifestyle and posture advice, rehabilitation and specific exercises.”

He added that spinal manipulation therapy is a safe treatment and none of the study participants reported serious adverse reactions.

Nia Taylor, chief executive of BackCare said the key message for people was to keep moving.

“We know that many GPs feel ill-equipped to help patients with low back pain and sometimes people are not given the right advice and reassurance when they first see a GP.”

She added: “In the UK a standard appointment of 10 minutes may not be long enough to give adequate advice and reassurance and convince the patient that a regime of paracetamol and keeping active is enough to ensure recovery.”

You may click to see:->Yoga ‘can help to cut back pain’

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>Exercises for Back Pain

Sources: BBC NEWS:Nov 9th. ’07

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