In a previous post I described new research showing that a sense of purpose in life is linked with greater longevity. That’s just one of an increasing number of studies that add to the recognition that we are biological-psychological-spiritual-social beings. All dimensions – internal and external – interact with each other and shape our total experience of life: our overall health, level of wellbeing, growth of our capacities – or stagnation and illness.
Here are some other new findings that add to this picture. All have implications for our emotional attitudes, our mental perspectives our physical health and our behavior through life.
Materialistic People Have A Higher Likelihood Of Depression
This research, conducted at Baylor University, found that the more materialistic your attitudes and behavior are, the more likely you are to be depressed and unsatisfied with life. Published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, the research suggests, according to the researchers, that materialistic people find it more difficult to be grateful for what they have, which causes them to become miserable. Gratitude appears to be the key.
That is, a news release from Baylor reports that the research found those who rated low on gratitude were more likely to be materialistic and less satisfied with life. “Materialism tends to be “me-centered. A material outlook focuses on what one does not have, impairing the ability to be grateful for what one already has,”researchers said.
The new research, they reported, is similar to previous findings that materialists, despite the fact they are more likely to achieve material goals, are less satisfied overall with their lives. They are more likely to be unhappy and have lower self-esteem. They also are more likely to be less satisfied with relationships and less involved in community events. Meanwhile, those who are grateful are likely to find more meaning in life, previous research shows.
Frequent Arguing Increases Risk of Mid-Life Death
This research indicates that frequent arguing may dramatically increase the risk of middle-aged death. The researchers led by Rikke Lund of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, looked at how frequent arguing impacted all-cause mortality.
The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, found that constant conflict with anyone in the subjects’ social circle was associated with a 2-3 times the risk of death from all causes, compared with those who said frequent conflict in their social circles was scarce.
Researchers studied nearly 10,000 men and women between 36 and 52 years who were a part of the Danish Longitudinal Study on Work, Unemployment and Health. Participants were questioned on their social relationships in everyday life, including sources of conflict and how often these situations arose. Using data from the Danish Cause of Death Registry, the researchers tracked the health of the participants between 2000 and 2011.
In an interview, Lund pointed out that may be many factors at play. For example, past research has associated stressful social relationships with increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, high blood pressure, increased risk of angina and higher levels of inflammation. All of these could act as “plausible pathways between stressful social relations and increased mortality,” she said. And now, “Another possibility is the higher risk of adverse health behaviors among those with stressful social relations.”
Cynical Attitudes Are Linked With Dementia
This study, that I described in a previous post, fits in with those above by adding to the system-wide impact of our emotional attitudes. To review, it found a new connection between one personality dimension —cynicism — and the likelihood of dementia in later life. The research, published in the journal Neurology, found that people with high levels of “cynical distrust” were three times more likely to develop dementia than people with low levels of cynicism.
The researchers, led by Anna-Maija Tolppanen at the University of Eastern Finland, defined cynical distrust as the belief that others are mainly motivated by selfish concerns. They assessed level of cynicism by asking people how much they agreed with statements such as “I think most people would lie to get ahead,” “It is safer to trust nobody” and “Most people will use somewhat unfair reasons to gain profit or an advantage rather than lose it.” The researchers reported they adjusted for other factors that could affect dementia risk, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. Moreover, the link between cynicism and dementia was not accounted for by depression; they appear to be independent factors
It’s been known from previous research that cynical attitudes are associated with other health problems, such as a higher rate of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular problems and cancer-related death. But this was the first study to look at the relationship between cynicism and dementia. Tolppanen noted that “We have seen some studies that show people who are more open and optimistic have a lower risk for dementia so we thought this was a good question to ask. These results add to the evidence that people’s view on life and personality may have an impact on their health.”
I think studies like the above — which are steadily accumulating — illustrate the significant, system-wide impact our emotional attitudes and perspectives about life have upon our entire being. That includes attitudes and perspectives that we consciously create and shape; or that take root from our unexamined, unresolved life conflicts. All have impact on every aspect of our lives.A version of this article also appeared in Psychology Today.