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Unhappiness Does Not Cause Illness, Say Researchers

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iStock

Good news for those of you who hate positive thinking: Researchers say that being unhappy does not increase your chances for illness or premature death. The two are related, they argue, but not the way we think. 

These findings are the result of a 10-year study, published today in The Lancet, involving nearly 720,000 British women between the ages of 50 and 69. Researchers sent out questionnaires asking study participants about their health, their income, their lifestyle, and their emotional wellbeing. Women were asked to rate their happiness, stress, relaxation, and feelings of control over their lives. The respondents completed the same questionnaires every three to five years.

By the end of the study, 4 percent of study participants had died. As previous studies have shown, women who reported being unhappy were more likely to be smokers. They were more likely to be poor, more likely to live alone, and less likely to get regular exercise. 

But once all those factors were controlled for, they were no less likely than their happy counterparts to get sick and die. The researchers found no significant difference in the death rates of happy and unhappy women. Nor did they find an increased death rate in women who reported high levels of stress. Women who were sick were more likely to say that they were stressed, unhappy, not relaxed, and not in control of their lives, but the researchers found no evidence that these factors were actually responsible for the illness. 

All these findings sharply contradict recent trends in research, which have emphasized the role of stress and unhappiness in causing disease.

Members of the research team are quite confident in their conclusions. Speaking in a press release, co-author Sir Richard Peto of the University of Oxford said, “Many still believe that stress or unhappiness can directly cause disease, but they are simply confusing cause and effect. Of course people who are ill tend to be unhappier than those who are well, but [this study] shows that happiness and unhappiness do not themselves have any direct effect on death rates.”

Still, it’s worth noting that happiness is pretty hard to measure. “There is no perfect or generally agreed way to measure happiness or related subjective indices of wellbeing,” the research team admitted in their paper. “Different approaches thus limit comparability between studies.” 

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'Lime Disease' Could Give You a Nasty Rash This Summer
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iStock

A cold Corona or virgin margarita is best enjoyed by the pool, but watch where you’re squeezing those limes. As Slate illustrates in a new video, there’s a lesser-known “lime disease,” and it can give you a nasty skin rash if you’re not careful.

When lime juice comes into contact with your skin and is then exposed to UV rays, it can cause a chemical reaction that results in phytophotodermatitis. It looks a little like a poison ivy reaction or sun poisoning, and some of the symptoms include redness, blistering, and inflammation. It’s the same reaction caused by a corrosive sap on the giant hogweed, an invasive weed that’s spreading throughout the U.S.

"Lime disease" may sound random, but it’s a lot more common than you might think. Dermatologist Barry D. Goldman tells Slate he sees cases of the skin condition almost daily in the summer. Some people have even reported receiving second-degree burns as a result of the citric acid from lime juice. According to the Mayo Clinic, the chemical that causes phytophotodermatitis can also be found in wild parsnip, wild dill, wild parsley, buttercups, and other citrus fruits.

To play it safe, keep your limes confined to the great indoors or wash your hands with soap after handling the fruit. You can learn more about phytophotodermatitis by checking out Slate’s video below.

[h/t Slate]

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Lia
Lia Is a Disposable Pregnancy Test You Can Flush Down the Toilet
Lia
Lia

It’s a common Hollywood plot point: A character spots a discarded pregnancy test in a bathroom trash can. Surprise! Someone’s pregnancy is revealed, though they weren’t yet ready to tell anyone (and perhaps never planned on telling them at all). Lia is a new type of disposable pregnancy test designed to be flushed down the toilet to make sure no one ever experiences that kind of privacy violation, according to Glamour.

Lia hasn’t hit the market yet, but when it does, it will be the first major redesign of the home pregnancy test in decades. The first at-home pregnancy test in the U.S. debuted in 1977, and while it took two hours to show a result, it gave women the option to learn their pregnancy status with relative accuracy (it was 97 percent accurate for positive results, but only 80 percent accurate for negative results) for the first time without going to the doctor. In 1988, Unilever came out with the first wand-style pregnancy test—the plastic kind you pee on to reveal the blue stripe indicators. Since then, not much has changed about the basic design of the at-home pregnancy test except the graphics that companies use to convey the test’s results. (The science undergirding the tests has advanced over the years, though.)

Unlike the plastic sticks, Lia is disposable and can be flushed down the toilet or composted. With the shape reminiscent of a sanitary pad, it works similar to the traditional pee-stick test: You urinate on it, then wait for the stripes to appear. While it’s water-resistant enough to withstand the two minutes of pee-soaking required to get a result, the test strip is made of the type of plant fibers that go into toilet paper and will eventually disintegrate in water. It can also be composted: In one experiment, it took 10 weeks to completely degrade in soil.

A diagram of Lia's features
Lia

Like other pregnancy tests available at the drug store, Lia’s results are based on the concentration of human chorionic gonadotropin (a pregnancy hormone) in your pee. It’s FDA approved, and the company reports that it’s more than 99 percent accurate, comparable to other tests on the market.

No matter what the circumstances surrounding a pregnancy are, most people don’t want to share the fact that they could be pregnant with everyone they might share a bathroom with—most people wait several months into their pregnancy to announce the news—and even if they want to tell the world immediately, they probably don’t want to do so via trash can. Lia’s paper design makes it easy to dispose of the test without worrying about who might stumble upon your wastebasket. It’s also more sustainable and won’t clog up landfills like plastic tests. While people don’t use as many pregnancy tests as, say, plastic straws, the over-the-counter plastic pregnancy test market is still a huge one, and a contributor to environmental pollution. As a bonus, the lack of plastic makes Lia cheaper to produce, too.

Lia will eventually be available in stores and online. It’s scheduled to be released sometime in 2018.

[h/t Glamour]

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