Your parents’ jobs likely had a strong influence on what you do for a living, according to a study that questions the belief in social mobility in the United States. “A lot of Americans think the U.S. has more social mobility than other western industrialized countries. This makes it abundantly clear that we have less,” said researcher Michael Hout, a sociology professor at New York University. He analyzed national data gathered between 1994 and 2016. Taking pay and education into account, occupations were given a socioeconomic score on a 100-point scale, ranging from 9 (shoe shiner) to 53 (flight attendant) to 93 (surgeon). “The underlying idea is that some occupations are desirable and others less so,” Hout said in a university news release. He found there was a good chance that children would have similarly ranked occupations as their parents. For example, half the children of parents in top-ranked occupations now have jobs with a score of 76 or higher, while half the children of parents in bottom-ranked occupations now have jobs that score 28 or less. “Your circumstances at birth — specifically, what your parents do for a living — are an even bigger factor in how far you get in life than we had previously realized,” Hout said. “Generations of Americans considered the United States to be a land of opportunity. This research…  read on >

If you’re happy and you know it, so will a goat. New research suggests that goats can read people’s facial expressions and prefer those who appear happy. The study included 20 goats that were shown pairs of images of the same person’s face with happy or angry expressions. The goats were more likely to interact with the happy images, approaching them and exploring them with their snouts. This was particularly true when the happy faces were placed on the right of the test arena, suggesting that goats use the left hemisphere of their brains to process positive emotion, according to the researchers. The study was led by Queen Mary University of London researchers and was published Aug. 28 in the journal Royal Society Open Science. “The study has important implications for how we interact with livestock and other species, because the abilities of animals to perceive human emotions might be widespread and not just limited to pets,” said Alan McElligott, who led the study. He is now based at the University of Roehampton in London. The study’s first author, Christian Nawroth, is now at Leibniz Institute for Farm Animal Biology in Dummerstorf, Germany. “We already knew that goats are very attuned to human body language, but we did not know how they react to different human emotional expressions, such as anger and happiness,” Nawroth said…  read on >

Do you get way too involved when following sports events? Whether it’s the World Series, the Super Bowl or the Olympics, it’s important to draw a line between being a fan and being a fanatic … so your actions don’t spiral out of control. Rooting for your favorite team is one thing. But researchers from the University of Arkansas found that overly involved sports fans are more likely to engage in unhealthy lifestyle behaviors — such as too much food and alcohol — than non-sports fans. This can increase their risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and even early death. One of the first health problems is often a rise in BMI or body mass index, a ratio of weight to height. This results from eating a high-fat diet with a lot of fast foods, fewer vegetables and whole grains, and too many alcoholic beverages. High-profile football game days, for instance, are among the heaviest days for alcohol consumption, on a par with New Year’s Eve. Diehard sports fans often feel like they must drink during “big games” — and in doing so may become belligerent, arguing over game plays and refs’ calls, as well as with fans of opposing teams. This behavior has social disadvantages, too, leading to the potential loss of friends and alienating co-workers, depending on whom you’re with. While being…  read on >

You’ve probably heard about the high-carb diet and the low-carb diet, but a new study suggests a moderate-carb diet could be the key to longevity. Researchers followed more than 15,000 people in the United States for a median of 25 years and found that low-carb diets (fewer than 40 percent of calories from carbohydrates) and high-carb diets (more than 70 percent of calories) were associated with an increased risk of premature death. Moderate consumption of carbohydrates (50 to 55 percent of calories) was associated with the lowest risk of early death. “This work provides the most comprehensive study of carbohydrate intake that has been done to date, and helps us better understand the relationship between the specific components of diet and long-term health,” said senior study author Dr. Scott Solomon, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston. The researchers estimated that from age 50, people eating a moderate-carb diet would live another 33 years, four years longer than those with very low carb consumption, and one year longer than those with high carb consumption. The investigators also found that all low-carb diets may not be equal. Eating more animal-based proteins and fats from foods like beef, lamb, pork, chicken and cheese instead of carbohydrates was associated with a greater risk of early death, while eating more plant-based proteins and fats from…  read on >

As a tool to reduce the public health toll of drinking, higher taxes on alcohol get the most bang for the buck, a new study finds. Worldwide, more than 4 percent of diseases and 5 percent of deaths are directly linked with alcohol, previous research suggests. In this study, researchers looked at data from 16 countries to find out which of five alcohol-control strategies would be most cost-effective in reducing alcohol-related harm and deaths. Their conclusion: A 50 percent increase in alcohol excise taxes (those included in the price) would cost less than $100 for each healthy year of life gained in the overall population. And it would add 500 healthy years of life for every 1 million people, the researchers said. Such a tax increase would be pennies per drink, according to the study published Aug. 9 in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. “Tax increases may not sound the most attractive of policy options but are the single most cost-effective way of diminishing demand and reigning back consumption,” lead researcher Dan Chisholm said in a journal news release. Chisholm is a program manager for mental health with the World Health Organization in Copenhagen, Denmark. Previous studies showed that state excise taxes in the United States average 3 cents for a 12-ounce beer or 5-ounce glass of wine and 5 cents for…  read on >

If you want to be happier, try having meaningful conversations. A new study finds that quality conversation is associated with greater happiness, while small talk has no effect on mental state. The results were true for both introverts and extroverts. The findings from the study of 486 people were published recently in the journal Psychological Science. “We define small talk as a conversation where the two conversation partners walk away still knowing equally as much — or little — about each other and nothing else,” said study co-author Matthias Mehl, a professor of psychology at the University of Arizona. “In substantive conversation, there is real, meaningful information exchanged. Importantly, it could be about any topic — politics, relationships, the weather — it just needs to be at a more-than-trivial level of depth,” Mehl said in a university news release. It’s not clear whether quality conversations actually make people happier, or if happier people are more likely to have quality conversations. And the study didn’t prove cause and effect, so that’s a question for future research. Still, “I would like to experimentally ‘prescribe’ people a few more substantive conversations and see whether that does something to their happiness,” Mehl said. More information Mental Health America outlines how to live your life well.