27 thoughts on “Random news article I found interesting

  1. A year with Josh makes me very twitchy about these types of articles, especially ones that flat out state they don’t have a solid causation. I’m also inclined to notice that this survey wasn’t based on actual physical status, but the participant’s own opinions of their health as “excellent”, “very good”, “good”, “fair”, or “poor”. Given the article’s opening line that:

    Confirming what many couples already knew, a government study concludes it’s healthy to be married.

    I think that we can postulate a bias on the part of married participants to believe they were in fair or better health. Although the consistency between age groups is interesting, its hardly conclusive, or even scientifically valid. Their hypothesis might be accurate, but this study was a waste of time and resources. Please don’t use this sort of popular junk science for political reasons — its ruining the credibility of science in public discourse.

  2. I certainly understand that this isn’t a statement that if one gets married, one will get healthier, or that if one gets healthier, one is more likely to get married… And perhaps I should have added such a disclaimer to my original post.

    However, even the fact that married people think that they are healthier implied that they are at the very least happier about their health. And there were some statistics about married people being less likely to smoke and drink.

    Yes, statistics can be manipulated in many, many ways. I just found the article interesting, that’s all… And I suspect that there’s a good amount of truth to their findings.

  3. So the article doesn’t mean anything; it just indirectly implies something that resonates with your viewpoint. I think that an integrity of mindset requires eschewing the use of and even disliking such material. (Poor Rush would probably be out of a job, though.)

    That said, there’s a lot to be said for traditionalism. Being surrounded by a massive support network of people who agree with your basic ethical traditions in a societal structure that has had hundreds of years to work out its kinks is a very comfortable way of life.

    Oh, and I do plan to marry. :)

  4. I would. It’s human nature to make large, unsubstantiated webs of support for our mindsets and ideals. Excess certainty is responsible for most of the atrocities in the modern world. Only by actively preventing ourselves from endorsing half-baked, self-justifying material can we escape this natural character flaw.

  5. There is a lot of evidence out there that married people tend to be happier than unmarried in general. I hadn’t seen anything on health before, though happiness and health tend to be positively correlated. Of course, this is all correlational, no one knows if marriage makes people happier, or if happier people get married etc. It would be highly amusing to do a controlled experiment, but terribly unethical. Still “you there, participant number M5, draw a number from this hat, congratulations, you’re marrying participant nuber F23, enjoy the rest of your lives folks, we’ll check up on you every year or so” I love being a psychologist…

  6. actually you can’t escape that character falw, you will always make generalized judgements about htings in the world based on insufficient data and past experience or cultural influences, without these mental shortcuts we couldn’t process our world fast enough to live. Unfortunately we apply them to just about everything, and some things are more likely to be affected by these “rules of thumb” than other things, especially human groups and traits.

  7. Human groups, traits, government, faith, foreign policy, social structures, reasoning paradigms…

    I believe you’re absolutely right that it’s impossible and even undesirable to banish the mechanism entirely, but I think that with proper discipline and good education, we can escape the worst of it.

  8. There’s nothing wrong with the study itself, as far as I know. However, I can’t see of any conclusions of practical value one can legitametely draw from the study. In particular, one cannot conclude that, for example, discouraging cohabitation in favor of marraige would improve health, or that one should get married as soon as possible. Unfortunately, I suspect that it may be used in that way by some people.

  9. Something about what it implies appealed to you, otherwise you wouldn’t have mentioned it.

    *shrug* It’s not a big deal. It’s not like you pointed to a study that mentions a correlation between homosexuality and criminal behavior. However if you had pointed to such a study, certainly “it’s something interesting to note” would sound ridiculous.

  10. many? Given the wild fluctations in what the authors call statistically insignificant margins (sometimes less than 1% is significant and other times more than 3% isnt, and every one of the fudges skews in favor of the married=healthy hypothesis), I’d go as far to say that NO conclusions can be drawn from this data.

  11. Statistically significant has a well-defined meaning in statistics when combined with a confidence level, such as 95%. When dealing with a smaller sample, a larger difference is needed to achieve statistical significance.

    Of course, this is not to say the study wasn’t done in a biased way, simply that what you point out isn’t a smoking gun.

  12. You see, it appeals to you because it pats you on the back for feeling the way you do about things. It can’t do that unless you allow its message to support you. You didn’t reject it.

    You see, even if you acknowledge that it doesn’t help you in an argument, your failure to reject and disdain the article outright is reflective of mankind’s general propensity to support its ideas with everything it can get its hands on. Islamic fundamentalists who think that the US is the devil have plenty of half-arsed material that supports them, and, just like you with this article, it makes them feel good about their view of the US when they read about, say, atrocious crimes in New York.

    Certainty is not a virtue.

  13. Right. And this was a study done with 127,545 people, which I believe is a large enough sample to make a couple tenths of a percent significant.

  14. Yes, thank you. I do understand your point.

    And yes, I suppose that I do allow it to support me. But I acknowledge that that level of support is very very small. But I don’t think that it’s zero.

  15. And I think treating it as a zero is absolutely necessary for integrity, so that your personal certainty isn’t based on an unsubstantial web of half-supports, just like every other competing notion in the world.

    I’d go a step farther and suggest that you should ignore supporting evidence, and instead only feel supported when open-minded consideration of opposing views doesn’t weaken your resolve. You shouldn’t wait for people to attack your ideas; that’s your job.

  16. It’s not a matter of objectively deciding what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s about having a reasoning paradigm that doesn’t try its damnedest to settle on the local minimum.

    In our day to day actions, we don’t have to reason. We have a core set of assumptions that help us operate in our day to day life.

    But when we sit down and think about ourselves, which we should do regularly, we need to train ourselves to think in such a way that lets us seek and give full faith and credit to opposing viewpoints.

  17. Stay tuned for next week’s exciting episode of PC Posts Political Pickles. Will take a conservative position? Will explain it away with psychology? Will prove the problem doesn’t mathematically exist? Will write a post that bemoans a metaphysical construct? Find out next week, same Pete Time, same Pete Channel.

  18. I took the time to read the original CDC study (www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/ad/ad351.pdf). Due to the way it was done, one MIGHT be able to say that in general married people THINK they are healthier. That is about all though. Those are the same married people who are more obese than the people in the other categories, so they’re not considering the health risks there involved (I wonder how many have already had heart attacks, or like my dad are in denial about having had a stint put in – he says he can’t have a heart attack now – NOT TRUE!!! The stint doesn’t make the heart disease go away it just keeps the one blocked artery open. He has 4 others that can still get blocked and with the way he eats it’ll happen sooner than later). I personally feel that in general Americans are not well enough informed of the health risks involved of any of their risky behavior. If it’s true that all the smokers and drinkers who were married have died off already, and that its the younger generation who have not yet gotten around to getting married and thus may be cohabbiting or not who are still doing so, then I can see them giving themselves a lower health rating than the married people gave themselves. The only non surprising part of the survey was that widows, regardless of age were the unhealthiest. In my experience with surveys though, I’ve seen too many people LIE. I have a tendency to not trust them because of that. Especially when it’s about health and people have a hard time admitting that they suffer from illnesses (some of my family members wouldn’t think twice about lying on a survey like that). I also have family members who think they’re dying every time they experience a headache. I’d prefer to see a medical team go through records with a set of protocols for what makes a person fit into each health category and see if the result is the same.

  19. I read the original study. The authors conveniently ignored any mention of health insurance as a potential factor influencing the subjects’, well, health. Wouldn’t you agree that people who have access to free or low-cost healthcare are more likely to be able to nip their health problems in the bud and, therefore, end up being “healthier” in the long run?

    I’d also guess that more married couples (than unmarried individuals) in America are insured. In most cases, employers allow workers to obtain insurance for their immediate families, including spouses. Similar benefits for unmarried partners are rather rare. (Of course, it might turn out that my assumption is wrong, and that, in fact, a greater number of unmarried people is more gainfully employed and sufficiently insured. Either way, though, ignoring medical insurance as a factor renders this study meaningless and a total joke. Haha, medical insurance might have, in fact, turned out not to play any role at all, but–once again–not taking this potentially important factor into account from the start made the authors appear completely incompetent.)

    Another (though much smaller) “gem” is that the authors had no way of knowing whether the respondents were truthful. They didn’t even know whether all the people who claimed to be married (or otherwise) were in fact married (or otherwise). I know that if I lived in certain parts of the country, I wouldn’t be truthful.

    Go, read this study…

  20. There are plenty of employers who weasel their way out of providing any benefits to their workers, but that’s a different story. My point about presence/absence of medical insurance potentially being one of the most crucial factors that affect people’s overall health still stands.

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