In Brief

Your laptop might be a health risk, especially if you are a younger user, suggests research by Florida State University's Neil Charness, PhD. In a small, observational study he conducted with colleagues, Charness found that people were more likely to report pain in their arms, shoulders or wrists when they used laptops than desktops. The increased strain among laptop users might be because laptops allow for "more comfortable" positions—slouching on the couch, for example—postures that don't conform to ergonomic ideals. Interestingly, younger workers in the study reported more pain than older workers, possibly because older computer users have learned safer ergonomic positions working at traditional desktop computers over the years, Charness said. To avoid the potential laptop strains, Charness recommended trading in the bed- or couch-based workstation for a docking station, getting a keyboard and a good chair, and adopting the good laptop postures found in "Ergonomics guidelines for using notebook personal computers," Industrial Health, Vol. 38, 421–434.

Money can buy happiness, but not friendships, according to research by Ed Diener, PhD, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His analysis of a Gallup poll of 136,000 people in 132 countries found that people with larger incomes reported a stronger sense of happiness with their lives, but that income did not correlate with stronger social relationships, feelings of respect or daily reports of positive feelings.

Professional comedians live longer than other entertainers, according to research by Saybrook University's Steven R. Pritzker, PhD, based on life-span calculations by Brown University psychiatrist Arnold M. Ludwig, MD. Pritzker compared 73 famous comedians with other eminent entertainers and found that the comedians lived 71.7 years on average, as compared with musicians who lived to age 57.2, thespians who lived to 63.4 and composers, who lived to 65.1. The key to comedians' longevity may stem from their ability to make light of adversity, he said.

Listing five things a day that you're grateful for can reduce depression symptoms, finds research by York University psychology professor Myriam Mongrain, PhD. She and student Susan Sergeant asked 202 moderately depressed people either to complete a gratitude exercise or listen to uplifting music every day for a week. They found that the exercise especially increased well-being among people who tended to focus on the negative things in their lives.

Poor fitness level accounts for about 16 percent of all deaths in both men and women, and moderately fit men live about six years longer than unfit men, even when taking other factors, such as body mass index, smoking, high cholesterol and diabetes, out of the equation. An ongoing longitudinal study by Steven Blair, PED, a professor of public health at the University of South Carolina, also finds that 25 percent to 35 percent of Americans are inactive, putting them at an elevated risk for many health problems.

Thirty percent of 9-year-old, 55 percent of 10-year-old and 65 percent of 11-year-old girls believe they're fat, according to research by Edward Abramson, PhD, professor emeritus at California State University–Chico.

Do humans forage differently from other animals? To find out, York University graduate student Heidi Marsh compared how orangutans and human adults and children search for food in a familiar location. She found that orangutans tend to remember the food's absolute distance from landmarks (two feet from the big rock), while humans tend to use geometric relations among landmarks (midway between the big rock and tree)—but humans will switch strategies if that doesn't work.

Remembering what life was like as a child can enhance adults' creativity, finds research by North Dakota State University graduate student Darya Zabelina. Zabelina and colleagues asked 76 college students to write for a few minutes, either about their typical day as a 7-year-old or their typical day as an adult. She then assessed their creativity using the Torrance test, which scores the originality of pictures people make out of shapes or scribbles. The participants who imagined life as a playful, care-free child scored significantly higher than those who described their current lives, and introverts benefitted from the exercise more than extroverts.

—S. Dingfelder, S. Martin and M. Price