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April 15th, 2010
12:08 PM ET

Materialistic people less happy, less liked

By Elizabeth Landau
CNN.com Health Writer/Producer

Let's say you get a check for $50 for your birthday. Would you spend it on something material, like a watch or a bracelet, or an experience, like a day at the beach or nice dinner?

Research has shown that experiences bring people more happiness than material possessions. That's because we become accustomed to objects - after a few weeks or months, that shiny new car is just a means of getting around - but remembering activities can give us pleasure indefinitely. Read more about those studies

Now, pioneers of those ideas have demonstrated that people who pursue happiness through experiences are better liked by others than those who are more materialistic. Their new study is published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Leaf Van Boven, psychology professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and colleagues gave undergraduate students a national survey, which they used in five experiments to test their ideas.

In one of them, participants were told about people who had bought a material object or a life experience. Researches found that when the undergraduates learned about someone making a material purchase, this caused them to like that person less than a different person who purchased something experiential.

The authors concluded that people tend to have negative stereotypes about materialistic people. Participants asked to describe a materialistic person often used words such as "selfish" and "self-centered." When they described a experiential person, adjectives such as "altruistic," "friendly" and "outgoing" came up, the authors said.

Study co-author Thomas Gilovich, professor and chairman of the psychology department at Cornell University, has pointed out in the past that comparing recent material purchases with friends generates more jealousy than trading stories about recent vacations. Material purchases can be compared physically - one person's television can be objectively bigger and brighter than her friend's - whereas each experience is unique and precious in its own way to the individual.

For those who by nature enjoy buying things, the authors recommend a change of pace. Given that experiences not only bring more happiness, but also social approval, a materialistic person would benefit from investing more in experiences and less in objects, the theory goes.

Watch Van Boven discuss the research online here.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


April 15th, 2010
11:55 AM ET

How dangerous is MRSA?

As a feature of CNNhealth.com, our team of expert doctors will answer readers' questions. Here's a question for Dr. Gupta.

From Kathleen

“If a person was found to have MRSA cluster in the nose while in the hospital but not given anything for it, how dangerous is it to be around this person and for how long? I was wondering why they didn't give her the antibiotic for it – everything I read on line seems to lean towards MRSA as a ‘forever’ thing. Please help us to know the facts – I worry about my two very young grandchildren catching it if I get it. Thank you so much!”

Answer:

It is tough to give a definitive answer to your question, Kathleen, without knowing more about why the culture was done and whether there were signs of an actual MRSA infection. To help answer your question, a little background about MRSA might help.

MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant staphylcoccus aureus.

"Staph aureus is ubiquitous, it is everywhere," said Dr. Gregory Moran, of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center.

Staph bacteria are very common and do not pose a big threat to most healthy people. In fact, we are exposed to staph on a daily basis. About one-third of us are walking around right now with the bacteria in our nose, and it is not affecting our health, according to Moran.

Keep in mind that there are different strains of MRSA out there. Your concern may stem from the more aggressive strains of MRSA we hear about in community settings – the strains that have proven fatal for some in prisons or among athletes. Those MRSA strains are genetically more toxic than what is typically encountered in hospitals, in addition to being resistant to some of the antibiotics we have to fight them. They most often cause skin infections, but in rare cases the bacteria can penetrate to internal organs, causing an otherwise healthy person to become very ill, and in some cases die.

Hospital-acquired MRSA strains are less dangerous to healthy individuals, but testing for them is common to avoid spreading infection among hospitalized patients with weakened immune systems or during operations. The strain of MRSA that was most likely found in this hospitalized patient would not be expected to cause problems at home. A non-aggressive strain usually would not require an antibiotic, and usually is not dangerous to healthy people.

And that brings us back to the most critical part of your question, Kathleen. Will this MRSA strain detected at the hospital harm your grandchildren? The likelihood is extremely low, however, be on the alert for the telltale first sign of a MRSA infection: a painful skin lesion resembling a pimple or a spider bite. If it crops up for you or your grandchildren, go see your doctor.


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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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