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Monday, May 17, 2004
This New York Times article confirms what I've always suspected: social status is the true currency of happiness.

The notion that status in and of itself - not just as a stand-in for money, education or nutrition, quality of medical care, bad habits or good genes - largely determines how healthy you are has become a cutting edge of public health research. Biologists, neurologists, economists, psychologists, primatologists and more have been trying to pinpoint precisely what links the two. "The whole issue of health disparities is very hot now," said Nancy Adler, a professor of medical psychology at the University of California, San Francisco. "There is a meeting every other minute."

Some economists disagree:

Critics have a different lament. Economists in particular are extremely skeptical that anything besides money and education - and the material advantages and lifestyle they bring - are at work. Angus Deaton, a professor of economics and international relations at Princeton, who says he is probably more sympathetic to the argument than many of his colleagues, still thinks the supposed links between prestige and health are fuzzy. "I'm sure there's some effect of social status. But I don't know how strong it is."

But then what do they think all that putting each other down and Prozac's about? The suggestion that status is unrelated to good genes probably misses the point. Grossly misses the point. Status, properly quantified, is just a more sensitive marker of genetic fitness among social animals than health or disposable income -- and one to which we are acutely responsive even while we remain to a surprising extent unconscious of it, mistaking it for other things like health, wealth, and moral virtue. Our brains have the tools to measure it, even if economists don't.

Anyway, the writing's on the wall: I've gotta get out of Amway.