A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York.

By Nina Pajak

I like to read about studies in health and popular science. It’s part of my job for one, and for two, it’s interesting.

But for three, it is astounding to me how many idiotic studies get proposed, funded, and actually carried out. And then I guess once it’s out there, someone has to report on it. But I consistently find myself aghast that in a world riddled with public health crises, uncured diseases and disorders, and improperly tested and dangerous medications on the market, we’re wasting money on research that boils down to a conclusion like “smiling makes us happy!”

Allow me to illustrate, lest you missed some of these important gems.

This one is late-breaking: A study in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, as reported by USNews.com’s “Health Day,” concludes that a person’s desire to be thin isn’t solely based on cultural influences, but rather by hereditary and environmental ones in large part. Broken down, this means that people who are genetically predisposed to thinness and have parents who pick on them for gaining weight are more likely to be susceptible to the pressures of keeping trim. Um. Yes. Seriously? If your family is thin and you’re “supposed to be” thin, and your mom thinks it’s funny to point out your capacious butt, chances are you will look at photos of Giselle Bundchen with all the more longing and emulation. I mean, a few episodes of “Arrested Development” could have cleared this one up for the cost of a Netflix subscription.

From the journal Psychological Science, via MedlinePlus. People with arachnophobia benefit from talking about their fear of spiders in a way that is honest, and not trying to downplay how terrifying a spider really seems to them. Say what? You mean, if you are feeling something that is distressing and difficult to overcome, you can just . . . talk about it? And you’ll feel better? From, like, talking about stuff? Why, it’s suddenly all so simple! You know, I think this is a concept that could really take off. People with problems and difficult feelings could pay some sort of professional listener to sit for—I don’t know—say 45 minutes while they unload with the hopes of feeling better over time. Nobody steal my idea. I think I could get a solid $200/hour for this sort of scam.

Here’s a little abstract from the august-sounding National Center for Biotechnology Information, with a bit of humble news: the more attractive a woman is, and the more intensely she smiles, the higher others’ perceptions are of her trustworthiness. Sooo, those television people are onto something.

More smiling news! It’s good for you! It makes you happy, even if you’re not! Your mother was RIGHT.

They’re not all “duh” in the traditional sense. Some are just plain useless, in that they don’t even go so far as to prove something already widely accepted as truth. For instance, this gem via ABCNews, from the journal Pediatrics, which sort of kind of maybe concludes that mothers who suffer from depression in the first year of their children’s lives are more likely to have kids who are short. When they’re around four or five. Beyond age five, they either grow out of it (literally), or the study just didn’t bother tracking them to see if they remained stunted.

So I guess this has grave implications on pee wee football leagues, or people determined to groom their children into NBA players. I wouldn’t know about such things.

Which of these studies did you find the most obvious? Are they a waste of time and money? Sound off below…

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