While marriage can be hard work, a new survey suggests it can also be a powerful elixir for happiness. Adults who are married report being more satisfied with their lives than those in any other type of relationship, the Gallup poll showed. “Any way you analyze those data, we see a fairly large and notable advantage to being married in terms of how people evaluate their life,” poll author Jonathan Rothwell, principal economist at Gallup, told CNN. In the survey, which included data spanning from 2009 to 2023, more than 2.5 million American adults were asked how they would rate their life, with zero being the worst rating and 10, the highest. Then, respondents were asked what they thought their happiness level would be in five years. To be considered thriving, people had to rank their present life as a seven or higher and their future life as an eight or higher. Over the survey period, married people consistently reported higher happiness levels, ranging from 12% to 24% higher depending on the year. The gap remained even when researchers adjusted for age, race, ethnicity, gender and education. Experts offered up a few reasons why marriage might be integral to happiness. “At its bare minimum, the concept of commitment implies the experience of being bonded with another. At its very best, it means being bonded with someone who…  read on >  read on >

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced that it is cracking down on air pollution. Specifically, the agency introduced a tougher air quality standard that takes aim at fine particulate matter — the tiny bits of pollution that can penetrate the lungs — by lowering the allowable annual concentration of the deadly pollutant that each state can have. “This final air quality standard will save lives and make all people healthier, especially within America’s most vulnerable and overburdened communities,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in an agency news release announcing the change. “Cleaner air means that our children have brighter futures, and people can live more productive and active lives…” The EPA noted that “a broad and growing body of science” links particulate matter to serious, and often deadly, illnesses such as lung cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, neurological disorders, asthma attacks and stroke.  Reaction to the new standard was enthusiastic. “The Biden administration is taking lifesaving action to protect people and rein in deadly pollution,” Abigail Dillen, president of the nonprofit law organization Earthjustice, said in the EPA news release. “The science is crystal clear. Soot, otherwise known as fine particle pollution, is a killer. It is driving heart disease, our asthma epidemic, and other serious illnesses. The people who suffer most are children and older Americans who live in communities of color and low-income…  read on >  read on >

American teenagers cite stress as the leading reason they might get drunk or high, a new report reveals. That only underscores the need for better adolescent mental health care, according to the research team behind the study. Better “access to treatment and support for mental health concerns and stress could reduce some of the reported motivations for substance use,” concluded investigators from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the study, a team led by CDC researcher Sarah Connolly looked at 2014-2020 data on over 9,500 people ages 13 to 18, all of who were being treated for a substance use disorder. Teens were using a myriad of substances, including alcohol, marijuana, prescription painkillers (often opioids), prescription stimulants (for example, Ritalin), or prescription sedatives (such as Valium or Xanax). The teens were also asked why they thought they were using or abusing substances. Easing stress in their lives was the leading factor cited. “The most commonly reported motivation for substance use was “to feel mellow, calm, or relaxed” (73%), with other stress-related motivations among the top reasons, including “to stop worrying about a problem or to forget bad memories” (44%) and “to help with depression or anxiety” (40%),” Connolly’s team reported. Stress relief wasn’t the only motivator, of course: Half of the teens reported using substances “to have fun or experiment.” This reason…  read on >  read on >

Dementia care can eat through the savings of cash-strapped seniors, a new study warns. The average senior with dementia in non-nursing residential care facilities spent 97% of their monthly income on long-term care, researchers found. Meanwhile, those living in nursing homes spend nearly 83% of their monthly income on their care, results show. “Because dementia is such an expensive illness, it really is in a category of its own when we start to think about funding for long-term care,” said senior study author Jalayne Arias, an associate professor in the Georgia State University School of Public Health. “Our study shows that if you compare people with dementia to their age-matched counterparts, they experience costs that are untenable to manage,” Arias added in a university news release. For the study, researchers analyzed data from a national sample of more than 4,500 adults aged 70 and older, focusing specifically on out-of-pocket expenses for dementia care. “It’s really striking to see that the [average] individual with dementia is basically putting nearly all of their income toward long-term care,” said lead researcher Jing Li, an assistant professor of health economics at the University of Washington School of Pharmacy. “We hear about this anecdotally, but to get confirmation of that from the data is really concerning.” On average, seniors with dementia paid $3,090 a month out-of-pocket for non-nursing residential care…  read on >  read on >

Filling the day with simple activities could be the key to improving mood and well-being after a person has suffered the loss of a loved one, a new study finds. These “uplifts” — activities that can improve a person’s mood — helped ease grief on a day-to-day basis, researchers reported recently in the journal Applied Psychology Health and Well-Being. “In other words, there are things we can do — which are accessible for most people — to improve our moods,” said researcher Shevaun Neupert, a professor of psychology at North Carolina State University. “And those things can help us most on days when we most need it.” Uplifts that can help a person manage their grief include: Completing a task. Getting enough sleep. Dining out. Visiting, phoning or writing a friend. Spending time with family. These uplifts helped just about everyone, regardless of their age or financial status, researchers found. “Uplifts were good for everyone, but there is some nuance in not only who is most impacted, but when the uplifts are most powerful,” Neupert says. “For example, we found that the positive effect of uplifts was more pronounced for people who had experienced traumatic loss, and especially so on days when they reported feeling older.” For this study, researchers worked with data from 440 U.S. adults ages 50 to 85, 356 of whom had…  read on >  read on >

Preliminary data from the largest survey examining the quality of life for transgender and nonbinary Americans show they suffer high levels of unemployment and harassment. In the early findings, released Wednesday, the National Center for Transgender Equality gathered responses on 600 questions from more than 92,000 transgender and nonbinary Americans, age 16 and up, from every state in the country. This latest survey, conducted in late 2022, drew more than three times as many respondents as there were in 2015, the last time the survey was conducted. “You don’t see data sets like this,” survey leader Sandy James said during a media briefing, the New York Times reported. “Tens of thousands of trans people knew that it was imperative that they make their voices heard.” What did they want Americans to hear? Many respondents reported daunting financial challenges. Eighteen percent said they were unemployed, much higher than the national rate, and one-third said they had experienced homelessness at some point in their lives. More than one-quarter reported not seeing a doctor when they needed to in the previous year because of cost. But financial problems were not their only burden to bear: Nearly a third said they had been verbally harassed in the previous year, while 3% said they were physically attacked in the last year because of their gender identity. Still, they also shared positive…  read on >  read on >

Reducing homelessness by 25% could save nearly 2,000 lives lost each year to opioid overdoses, a new study estimates. It also could save 850 lives from alcohol poisoning and 540 from cocaine overdoses, researchers from the University of Georgia estimate. This is the first study to suggest that homelessness contributes to deaths from substance use, the researchers said. “One of the frustrations for people who study and recommend policy changes is that homelessness and the opioid crisis are persistent,” said researcher David Bradford, a professor with the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs. “Our study shows that there is a causal effect. Homelessness is making the opioid crisis worse.” For the study, researchers analyzed federal data kept on homeless people between 2007 and 2017, comparing it with death certificates with drug overdose or alcohol poisoning as the cause of death. Researchers found that even a small decrease in homelessness could save lives. For example, even a 10% decrease in homelessness could save more than 650 from death by opioid overdose, their results show. “That’s a lot of lives,” said researcher Felipe Lozano-Rojas, an assistant professor in the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs. “Deaths from opioids used to be a rare event, but it has become increasingly prevalent.” Evictions have skyrocketed in recent years, with the lifting of the…  read on >  read on >

Ohio resident Erica Hutson was in her 20s when she found out she had high cholesterol through a health check required by insurance. Because she was young and fit, Hutson shrugged off the test result. But Hutson changed her mind about it a decade later, when her father died of coronary artery disease in his 60s and she discovered it ran in her family. “His death really made me think about things and put my life into a whole different perspective,” said Hutson, now 37. More Americans need to follow Hutson’s example and discover their heart risk factors earlier in life, according to a new national survey conducted by Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. Fewer than half of Americans know their blood pressure or ideal weight, and less than one in five know their cholesterol or blood sugar levels, the survey found. “Recognizing heart disease risk factors early and adequately treating them can potentially prevent heart attacks, strokes and heart failure. As a society, we need to shift from sick care to preventative care so people can live their best and fullest lives possible,” said Dr. Laxmi Mehta, director of preventative cardiology and women’s cardiovascular health at Wexner. The survey asked more than 1,000 adults nationwide if they knew their blood pressure level, ideal weight, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. The highest number knew…  read on >  read on >

Divorce later in life might be harder on women than on men, based on patterns of antidepressant use in a new study of people aged 50 or older. Both sexes tended to increase their antidepressant use when going through a divorce, break-up or the death of a partner, researchers found. But women’s use of these drugs was greater than men’s, results show. Antidepressant use increased by 7% in women prior to a divorce and 6% before a break-up, compared to 5% and 3% for men, researchers found. Within a year, antidepressant use went back to normal levels for men. It was a different story for women, however. Women’s use tailed off only slightly immediately after the end of a relationship, and then increased again a year after and onward, results show. “The greater increases in [antidepressant] use associated with union dissolution among women in our study may indeed relate to the fact that the costs of union dissolution on mental health fall more heavily on women than men,” wrote researchers led by Yaoyue Hu, an associate professor with the Chongqing Medical University School of Public Health in Chongqing, China. This could have widespread repercussions around the world, researchers noted. “Gray divorce” from the age 50 onward is becoming more frequent in high-income countries, researchers said. Later-life depression is also relatively common, affecting an estimated 10%…  read on >  read on >

Music may be good medicine for older adults, boosting both their mental and physical health, a new survey finds. Virtually all people between the ages of 50 and 80 (98%) say they benefit in at least one health-related way from engaging with music, according to results from the latest University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging. Three-quarters said music helps them relieve stress or relax, 65% said it helps their mental health and mood, and about 60% said they get energized or motivated by music. Overall, nine of 10 survey participants (89%) said music is very or somewhat important to them. “Music has the power to bring joy and meaning to life. It is woven into the very fabric of existence for all of humankind,” said Dr. Joel Howell, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School who worked on the poll.  Music can benefit a variety of ailments related to aging, Howell added. “We know that music is associated with positive effects on measures from blood pressure to depression,” Howell said in a university news release. Most of the older adults surveyed said they listen to music, with 85% listening a few times a week and 80% watching musical performances a few times over the past year. Two in five (41%) attended a live concert. Fewer actually make music…  read on >  read on >