Health and Happiness

Looking Younger Without Plastic Surgery

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How to look younger without plastic surgery? Psychologists of the Jena University (Germany) have a simple solution to this question: Those who want to look younger should surround themselves with older people. Because when viewing a 30-year-old we estimate his age to be much younger if we have previously been perceiving faces of older people.

"People are actually quite good at guessing the age of the person next to them," Dr. Holger Wiese says. The psychologist of the Jena University is responsible for one of six research projects in the DFG-sponsored research unit "Person Perception" lead by Professor Dr. Stefan R. Schweinberger.

In the experiment the Jena psychologists were able to prove that the volunteer testers were systematically wrong at estimating other people's age after having adapted to the faces of people of a specific age group by intensely looking at them. If many faces of elderly people were shown on the computer first, followed by the test face of a middle aged person, the test candidates estimated this person as substantially younger. After studying younger faces the middle aged test face was estimated as being substantially older. "These effects occur independently of the viewer's age and sex", Schweinberger says. However when adaptor face and test faces show people of the same sex the after-effects of age perception are even stronger: this is the study's second result. In other words: the perception of age and sex in faces is not a completely independent process. These results may hardly surprise non-experts but they contradict various previous opinions of experts.

The scientists of the Jena University used the most modern digital image editing techniques and a data bank of faces without any make-up and with distracting elements having been touched up. The first people partaking in the experiment were students. In a second so far unpublished study elderly people were being asked to give their estimations.

Stefan Schweinberger sums up the result of their findings: "We are able to change the subjective perception of a face." Nobody knows though how long this effect lasts. Holger Wiese adds: "The age of the person next to you is one of the most important characteristics for our perception of other people. This leads to exciting crossovers into other areas of scientists who are dealing with the interactions of social groups."

The founder of the "Playboy" magazine might be surprised by these findings of the Jena scientists. Because he prefers to surround himself with young women, not knowing that they make him look much older. So Hugh Hefner should surround himself with elderly gentlemen instead of perhaps thinking of plastic surgery.

The Jena psychologists have published their scientific findings in the scientific journal Vision Research: Stefan R. Schweinberger, Romi Zäske, Christian Walther, Jessika Golle, Gyula Kovács, Holger Wiese: Young without plastic surgery: Perceptual adaptation to the age of female and male faces."

Axel Burchardt
Friedrich-Schiller-Universitaet Jena


Long-Term Relationships are Good for your Mental Health

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Lasting relationships are good for people's mental health - and you don't have to be legally married to feel the benefits.

New research published in the January issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry shows that men and women who are in relationships lasting longer than 5 years are less likely to be depressed, to consider or attempt suicide, or to be dependent on alcohol or drugs. And importantly, it does not matter if people are married or co-habiting.

Previous studies have shown that marriage is associated with improved mental health. However, there has been little research into co-habiting relationships. Researchers from the University of Otago followed a birth cohort of over 1,000 people living in Christchurch, New Zealand. At the ages of 25 and 30, the participants were asked about their relationships over the previous 12 months. They were also asked whether they suffered symptoms of mental health problems such as depression, anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobias and substance use.

The team found that longer relationships were associated with declining rates of mental disorder. For example, at the age of 30, 15.6% of people who were not in a relationship showed symptoms of depression, and 23% of people who had been in a relationship for less than 2 years. However, the rate was only 9.8% among people who had been in a relationship for 2-4 years, and 9.2% among people who had been in a relationship lasting more than 5 years.

Similarly, the rate of alcohol abuse or dependence was 12% among 30-year-olds who were not in a relationship and 13.5% for people who had been in a relationship for less than two years. In comparison, rates were 4.4% among those who had been in a relationship for 2-4 years, and 2.9% among those who had been in a relationship for more than 5 years.

The researchers found that this association remained after they controlled for other factors, such as family background and previous mental health problems.

Lead researcher Dr Sheree Gibb, said: "Our study suggests that partner relationships are protective for mental health, with the protective effect increasing as the length of the relationship increases. This could be because emotional support and financial stability tends to increase over the course of a relationship.

Dr Gibb continued: "Interestingly, we found that the legal status of the relationship did not make a difference. In other words, it was the length of the relationship that had a positive effect on people's mental health - and it did not matter if the couple was married or co-habiting. This is a contrast to previous studies, which have reported lower rates of mental health problems among people in legal marriages than in co-habiting relationships.

"Our study suggests that people who are at high risk of developing mental health problems may benefit from efforts to improve the stability and duration of their partner relationships, such as improved access to relationship counselling services."


Gibb SJ, Fergusson DM and Horwood LJ. Relationship duration and mental health outcomes: findings from a 30-year longitudinal study. British Journal of Psychiatry 2011; 198: 24-30

Royal College of Psychiatrists


Improve Your Prospects by Standing Tall

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Show enthusiasm, ask questions and bring copies of a resume. These are just a handful of the most common interview tips for job seekers, but a person's posture may also be a deciding factor for whether they land a coveted position - even when the person on the other side of the desk is in a more powerful role.

According to new research from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, posture plays an important role in determining whether people act as though they are really in charge. The research finds that "posture expansiveness," or positioning oneself in a way that opens up the body and takes up space, activates a sense of power that produces behavioral changes in a person independent of their actual rank or hierarchical role in an organization.

More importantly, these new findings demonstrate that posture may be more significant to a person's psychological manifestations of power than their title or rank alone. Led by Kellogg School of Management professor Adam Galinsky and Kellogg PhD candidate Li Huang, along with Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Deborah Gruenfeld and Stanford PhD candidate Lucia Guillory, this research is the first to directly compare the effect on behavior of having a high-power role versus being in a high-power posture. The paper is titled "Powerful Postures Versus Powerful Roles: Which Is the Proximate Correlate of Thought and Behavior?" and appears in the January 2011 issue of Psychological Science.

Although not anticipated by the researchers, they consistently found across three studies that posture mattered more than hierarchical role - it had a strong effect in making a person think and act in a more powerful way. In an interview situation, for example, an interviewee's posture will not only convey confidence and leadership but the person will actually think and act more powerfully. "Going into the research we figured role would make a big difference, but shockingly the effect of posture dominated the effect of role in each and every study," Huang noted.

"The December 5, 2005 cover of the New Yorker is a classic example for how indicative posture can be in determining whether people act as though they are in charge," said Galinsky, the Morris and Alice Kaplan Professor of Ethics and Decisions in Management. "The image depicts the power relationships between former President George W. Bush - shown with an apron, feather duster, and a slouched, constricted posture - while former Vice President Dick Cheney has both arms expansively extended across the back of a sofa, his legs sprawled across a coffee table. When hierarchical role and physical posture diverge like this, posture seems to be more important in determining how people act and think."

To test their theory, Galinsky, Huang and co-authors conducted three experiments to explore the effects of body posture versus role on power-related behaviors. The first two experiments demonstrated that when individuals were placed in high- or low-power roles while adopting expansive (i.e. open) or constricted (i.e. closed) body postures, only posture activated power-related behaviors. In the expansive posture condition, participants were asked to place one arm on the armrest of a chair and the other arm on the back of a nearby chair; they were also told to cross their legs so the ankle of one leg rested on the thigh of the other leg and stretched beyond the leg of the chair. Conversely, in the constricted posture condition, participants were asked to place their hands under their thighs, drop their shoulders and place their legs together.

During various tasks such as a word completion exercise and a blackjack game, participants with open body postures were thinking about more power-related words and generally took more action than those with closed body postures. Although people in a high-power role reported feeling more powerful than did those in a low-power role, the manipulation of role power had little effect on action. These findings demonstrate that role and posture independently affect participants' sense of power, but posture is more responsible for activating power-related behaviors.

In a third experiment, the researchers demonstrated that posture also has a greater effect on action than recalling an experience of being in a high- or low-power role. Participants verbally recorded a time when they were in a high- or low-powered position while adopting either expansive or constricted body postures, and were then asked whether they would take action in three different scenarios. Participants in the expansive body posture condition took action more often than those with constricted postures, regardless of whether they recalled a time of being in a high- or low-powered role.

According to Galinsky, the role of powerful postures is important for those seeking new jobs in 2011. "With 1.9 million new jobs on the horizon this year, our research suggests that your posture may be quite literally the way to put your best foot forward in a job interview," said Galinsky.

Keri Chiodo
Association for Psychological Science


What To Do For The Stomach Flu

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A post-holiday crush of patients is crowding into area physician offices and hospital emergency rooms as individuals of all ages suddenly find themselves laid low by a highly contagious and quick-striking virus.

"This bug goes by a lot of names. But whether you call it a stomach flu, a vomiting virus or any other name, the fact is that if you get it you are going to feel badly for a few days," said Dr. Christopher Zipp, a family physician at the UMDNJ-School of Osteopathic Medicine. "This virus causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, fever, and head and muscle aches. Although the virus itself most often is not a serious health threat, it can cause serious complications like dehydration, which can be especially dangerous for young children and older adults."

Dr. Zipp offers these tips for surviving a bout with the 'stomach flu.'

* Drink plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration. Water or half-strength juices are best. Avoid soda or sports drinks as they have little nutritional value, but they can be given to individuals who cannot tolerate the preferred liquids.

* Get plenty of rest.

* Take over-the-counter, non-aspirin pain relievers like acetaminophen for fever and body aches.

* Stay home until fully recovered. Sick individuals may continue to be contagious for up to 72 hours after they feel well again.

* Practice good hygiene to prevent the spread of the virus. Wash your hands often and dispose of used tissues immediately. Wash soiled bed linens or clothes separately from other laundry.

"Keep in mind that this illness is caused by a virus. Antibiotics, which work against bacterial infections, will not help you to recover," Dr. Zipp added. "Most people will begin to feel better after a couple of days, but don't hesitate to contact your physician if you or a family member experiences extreme symptoms, such as uncontrolled vomiting or a high fever that persists and does not respond to over-the-counter medications."

Source: University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ)


Cardiologists Uncover New Heart Attack Warning Sign

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Cardiologists at the University of Connecticut Health Center have identified a protein fragment that when detected in the blood can be a predictor of heart attack.

Their research, led by Dr. Bruce Liang, director of the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center, is published in the January 11 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. It found heart attack patients had elevated levels of the protein fragment known as Caspase-3 p17 in their blood.

"We've discovered a new biomarker for heart attack, and showed that apoptosis, or a particular kind of cell death, is a cause of heart muscle damage." Liang says. "The ability to see a heart attack coming with a simple blood test and to develop new therapies to block apoptosis would enable us to get a head start on treatment and preserve crucial heart muscle and cardiac function."

If it is successfully applied one day, researchers say the discovery would mean another way to diagnose heart attack and the possible development of new treatment.

Co-investigators include Drs. Mariela Agosto, Michael Azrin and Kanwar Singh from the UConn Health Center and Dr. Allan Jaffe from the Mayo Clinic and Mayo Medical School, Rochester, Minnesota.

Chris DeFrancesco
University of Connecticut

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