Denmark Ranks as Happiest Country; Burundi, Not So Much

Denmark has reclaimed its place as the world’s happiest country, while Burundi ranks as the least happy nation, according to the fourth World Happiness Report, released on Wednesday.

The report found that inequality was strongly associated with unhappiness — a stark finding for rich countries like the United States, where rising disparities in income, wealth, health and well-being have fueled political discontent.

Denmark topped the list in the first report, in 2012, and again in 2013, but it was displaced by Switzerland last year. In this year’s ranking, Denmark was back at No. 1, followed by Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Finland, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden. Most are fairly homogeneous nations with strong social safety nets.

Sewell Chan, New York Times, March 17, 2016

Paleo-diet debates evolve into something bigger

The article kicked off not just a diet but also a movement. Appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine in January 1985, “Paleolithic Nutrition: A Consideration of Its Nature and Current Implications” argued that the human body is “genetically programmed” to run not on a modern diet but on the foods consumed by our Stone Age ancestors.

Three decades later, that academic ripple is now a popular tidal wave. We have not just Paleo diets — the subject of multiple bestsellers — but also Paleo exercise, Paleo sleeping and Paleo toilets. They’re all based on the premise that our bodies are more suited for Paleo-era habits.

But even as the “cave man” diet rose to become the most-Googled diet in 2013 and 2014, evolutionary biologists, with much less fanfare, were using advanced DNA techniques, sometimes on ancient bones, to suggest that Eaton and Konner’s premise may be off the mark: In fact, it seems, we have evolved.

Peter Whoriskey, Washington Post, March 7, 2016

Happy kids may become adults with lower heart attack risk

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Kids who live in a stress-free environment may grow up to be adults with a lower risk of heart attacks than their peers who experience social, emotional or financial difficulties during childhood, a Finnish study suggests.

Researchers assessed these challenges – known as psychosocial factors – in 311 kids at age 12 and 18. Then, at age 28, they looked for calcium deposits in their arteries that can narrow blood vessels and increase the risk of heart attacks.

The adults who had high psychosocial wellbeing as kids were 15 percent less likely to have calcium deposits clogging their arteries as adults, the study found.

Lisa Rapoport, Yahoo! News, March 15, 2016

Power Suits: How Dressing For Success At Work Can Pay Off

Clothes appear to shape thinking, and the effect — although brief — seems to come from being better dressed than your peers, researchers say.

[D]o slouchy clothes make for slouchy work? Behavioral scientists say it may be so. A study California State University psychology professor Abraham Rutchick and others published last year found that, in fact, formal clothing made people think more expansively and abstractly — more like a leader. The study of men and women found that those less formally dressed tended to focus on more immediate, pragmatic concerns.

NPR, Yuki Noguchi, March 18, 2016

Ignition lock laws cut alcohol-related crash deaths

States that require convicted drunk drivers to install ignition interlock devices in their cars had a 15 percent drop in alcohol-related crash deaths compared to states without these requirements, research shows.

Ignition interlocks use a built-in breath analyzer. If the driver’s blood alcohol limit is above the programmed limit – usually 0.02 grams per deciliter – the car does not start.

Kathryn Doyle, Yahoo! News, March 18, 2016

Studies Suggest Multilingual Exposure Boosts Children’s Communication Skills

[We] found there really was a significant difference between those who were exposed to a another language at home or somewhere in their lives and those who weren’t. [W]e found that children who were bilingual were really good at taking the adult’s perspective.

So I think that children who hear more than one language have, you know, incredibly rich social experiences that monolingual children don’t face. And so, you know, these kids do things, like they attend to who speaks which language to whom, when and where different languages are spoken, who understands what content and so forth.

NPR, March 21, 2016

California Steps Into the Gun Research Void

<p>American exceptionalism.</p> Photographer: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Homicide and unintentional injury are two major causes of premature death in the U.S. Firearms, which kill or injure about 100,000 Americans annually, are a key component of both. Yet, very little research has been done to find out how best to prevent gun violence.

For two decades, Congress, at the gun lobby’s behest, has blocked federal funding for such studies… What the gun lobby calls advocacy, others call “science.”

Editorial Board, Bloomberg View, March 22, 2016

Finally, millennials are moving out of their parents’ basements (and driving up rents)

Homebuyers are becoming more optimistic, and millennials are finally moving out of their parents’ homes, according to one of the most important institutions in the housing market.

Fannie Mae’s (FNMA) Home Purchase Sentiment Index (HPSI) increased in February to 82.7 from 81.5 in January.

Driving up the index is a view that home prices will rise at a slower pace than the current rate over the next 12 months, notes Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s chief economist. The HPSI is based on six questions in a survey of about 1,000 homebuyers.

Lawrence Lewitinn, Yahoo! Finance, March 11, 2016

Women Who Make First Move in Online Dating Are Rewarded, Study Finds

If you’ve never used the apps or websites like OkCupid, Tinder and Bumble, the opening lines above might sound horrible. If you have used the apps, and you are a woman, those lines most likely sound horribly familiar.

The boring conversations — if you can call them that — tend to be started by men, owing to centuries of Western courtship convention that have remained mostly consistent in the digital age. But in data published Monday, OkCupid, a popular online dating site, said women who take the initiative to reach out to men are rewarded with higher response rates and more desirable men.

Daniel Victor, New York Times, March 9, 2016