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Happiness Linked to Health

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Recently I attended a conference on how happiness affects the health of people in general. Part of the conference presentation was from the findings of a longitudinal study called the “Nun Study.”

This research is actually still in progress. The research was conducted on 678 Nuns. The Nuns were all similar in background ad behavior in that they did not drink alcohol, use drugs or tobacco. They all had a similar reproductive history as well. Upon becoming a Nun they were required to write a personal narrative about their lives up to becoming a Nun. The narrative included why they wanted to become a Nun, what they hoped to accomplish, what their likes and dislikes were and a history of their lives. The research examined the narratives and the narratives were then determined to have a positive outlook or a negative outlook. Based on the emotional tenor of the narratives, researchers were able to reliably predict longevity and wellness among the Nuns that were studied. In addition a number of the Nuns ranging in age from seventy five years of age to one hundred and two years of age agreed to donate their brains to the research once they had passed away.

While the research into the lives of the Nuns continues, one of the most salient outcomes so far is that Alzheimer’s may manifest itself differently in different individuals. As the Nuns aged their cognitive abilities were measured at certain age milestones. In a number of instances Nuns who retained great intellectual abilities into old age and until their deaths were thought to be free of the disease known as Alzheimer’s. However, a number of higher functioning Nuns whose brains were examined upon their deaths were found to have disease in their brains including advanced Alzheimer’s. While conclusions are still being framed by researchers it is now being recognized that certain individuals may do quite well functionally in spite of having a brain that is diseased.

Reach the writer at Hurlburt@wildblue.net

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