Livin' on the MDedge

The age of maximum misery, and why Marcus Welby was gray


A year to forget


47.2. Just another number, right? Nothing too special about it. But this innocent number is hiding a deep, dark secret. It is the number of misery.

More specifically, 47.2 is the age when human misery hits its peak, according to a study distributed by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The data, collected from 132 countries, show that human happiness is actually U-shaped. We all start out pretty happy, you know, being infants and all. Sadly, life takes a pretty sharp downhill turn when we’re born, and that slide doesn’t abate until the magic age of 47.2. That’s the point in our lives when we’re at our most unhappy.

We do have some good news if you happen to have been born in early November 1972 and you’re having a rough time of things lately. That U-shaped curve will be your friend from now on, as your happiness will, according to the data at least, grow constantly from this point forward. Once you get past 70, at least in the United States, you’ll be as happy as you’ve ever been in your adult life.

Of course, that’s not much comfort for those of us who’ve yet to hit that magic number. So if you thought the daily existential crises were bad now, just wait: Apparently, they’ll only get worse. Won’t that be fun?

Why Marcus Welby was gray

Manuel-F-O/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Stress is a key ingredient in the Bureau of LOTME’s recipe for success. The deadlines. The office coffee. The serial commas. And what do we get for all that stress? Other than fan mail (thanks, Mom) and cease-and-desist orders?

Gray hair.

Is the correlation coefficient between stress and our silvering LOTME coifs truly zero? We think not. And now science agrees: Stress may indeed be gray hair’s follicular fertilizer.

Harvard University scientists say they’ve mapped the path from after-hours EHR data entry to premature silver fox status. Specifically, like a pharma rep with a new drug to detail, stress wears on nerves, which help spew norepinephrine and deplete the stem cells that regenerate your hair follicles’ pigment cells. Presto! You’ve got gray hair and a med closet bursting with more drug samples.

More accurately, the Harvard researchers found that stress damages the color-restorative function in the hair of mice. Which means 92-year-old Mickey Mouse is clearly hiding a dye job. (Ed. note: C’mon, people – another Disney cease-and-desist letter?)

We know no one knows stress as intimately as physicians. That’s why we’re planning a complete line of hair coloring products we call “Just for Docs,” featuring colors like “Pre-Auth Platinum Blonde,” “MOC Magenta,” and “EHR Red.” And, of course, “Burnout Brunette.”

Mr. Bedbug goes to Washington

You’ve heard it a million times: The old good news/bad news delivery.

Well, make that a million and one, because it’s time to play “Good news is bad news!”

Good news: Baltimore is no longer the bedbug capital of the United States. Bad news: It only dropped from first to second place on Orkin’s Top 50 Bed Bug Cities list. More bad news: Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States, is now the bedbug capital as well. [Insert joke about Congress here.]

Good news: Kids in England are getting less sugar and salt in their packed school lunches than they did a decade ago. Bad news: They are also getting less vitamin A, vitamin C, and fruit, according to a study in BMJ Open.

Good news: Drinking skim or 1% milk instead of 2% can add more than 4 years to your life, and the reduction in lifespan is even greater for whole milk. Bad news: “Children who drink whole milk are actually 40% less likely to be obese or overweight than kids drinking reduced-fat milk,” Study Finds reported.

Wait a second. That’s not exactly bad news, is it? Maybe for those who are drinking low-fat milk to add a few years to their lives. They will live longer, but they’ll be overweight while they’re doing it.

Thank you for watching “Good news is bad news.” Remember, if you’re not confused, you haven’t been paying attention.

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