Saturday, August 08, 2009

What Does Religious Mean? 

You can break down religiosity into at least three dimensions, religious attendance, devoutness, and affiliation. I have seen several studies showing high correlations with mental health problems and religiosity or attendance, at times conflicting other studies. 

Additionally, dimensions are not distinct, in that religious attendance could really be a measure of a regular life, and not a religious component per se. Growing up as an atheist - clearly, since I was 12 - I can attest to the enormous familial resentment and anger I was subject to because of my beliefs; many people might be ostracized from their families.

Region and Happiness

Although I'm an atheist, I do believe it is true that attitudes like religion - a less rigid attitude about spirituality - might be the underlying reason for a correlation with happiness. Also, comprehensive overviews would likely show a correlation between high levels of religiosity and low levels of country development coupled with low suicide rates. Religion seems to be the "opiate of the masses," and it is effective, but the bigger picture would show that by-country religiosity correlates with social dysfunction and low degrees of social welfare. Although this piece attempts to be balanced, and is likely accurate, it is too narrowly focused. 

GDP and Life

Galbraith wrote about economics years ago, that we were past the point of material need, that we could direct our economic energies to services and other quality of life activities, but the GDP measure has won out, to the ruin of American lives. Objectively, GDP has little or no relationship to quality of life, nor does productivity, in its simple form, although there are material, economic benefits related to the rate of GDP growth. Going further, one might likely find negatives related to GDP, such as more hours worked, but again, this has no benefit to quality of life in the developed world. Not much to say, other than just the facts, although many inobjective cases can be made for the necessity of GDP growth to people's lives. 

Academics and Liberalism

If conservatives bothered to look at the traits of academics, they would find rational explanations for liberals in academia. Academics are more open-minded, and essentially more intelligent, and in both cases much more so than average America. Generally, and very much so among those of liberal parentage, IQ correlates positively with liberalness, overall about 0.3 to 0.4, and >0.5 for those from liberal homes. Additionally, the traits of conservatives, unlike those of liberals, are anti-intellectual, fearful, conformist, and conventional, certainly not the kind of personal traits appreciated in academia, although it might be appreciated among the religious and business-oriented. 

Women and Longer Life

Although women live longer than men do, their lives are typically of lesser quality, hampered by the health issues associated with old age, as well as by having less money.

Similarly, exercise does correlate with extended life, and generally equates with greater life extension, but doing so would typically entail decreases in sex life, as well as time taken away from other pleasurable activities. 

Calorie Restriction and Quality of Life

I've read detailed studies of calories restriction - some studies have been conducted on humans - as well as one of Walford's book, and although life extension could certainly be an outcome, so can depression and lack of sex drive. Most likely, some calories restriction is good, but the typical lab study on animals uses a diet designed to keep study subjects' weight 30% below litter mates, which is untenable in humans.

While very low weight is associated with loss of sex drive and depression in humans, numerous qualities are associated with increased mass, such as intelligence, popularity, happiness (some studies), and longer life; a few recent studies have shown all-cause mortality to be lower in the moderately overweight. 

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