Brian J. Zikmund-Fisher is an Associate Professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, University of Michigan School of Public Health, as well as a Research Associate Professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine, University of Michigan Medical School. He has been part of CBSSM and its precursors at U-M since 2002 and acts as CBSSM Associate Director.
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Scott Roberts, PhD, is Professor of Health Behavior & Health Education at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health (U-M SPH), where he directs the School’s Public Health Genetics program and teaches a course on public health ethics. A clinical psychologist by training, Dr. Roberts conducts research on the psychosocial implications of genetic testing for adult-onset diseases.
Dr. Harris’ research examines issues at the intersection of clinical obstetrical and gynecological care and law, policy, politics, ethics, history, and sociology. She conducts interdisciplinary, mixed methods research on many issues along the reproductive justice continuum, including abortion, miscarriage, contraception, in vitro fertilization (IVF), infertility and birth, and racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities in access to reproductive health resources.
Reshma Jagsi, MD, DPhil, is Professor, Deputy Chair, and Residency Program Director in the Department of Radiation Oncology and Director of the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine at the University of Michigan.
She graduated first in her class from Harvard College and then pursued her medical training at Harvard Medical School. She also served as a fellow in the Center for Ethics at Harvard University and completed her doctorate in Social Policy at Oxford University as a Marshall Scholar.
Rating your satisfaction with your life may not be a completely personal decision. See how your satisfaction rating may be influenced by others.
When answering this question, imagine that there is someone in a wheelchair sitting next to you. They will also be answering this question, but you will not have to share your answers with each other.
How satisfied are you with your life in general?
Extremely satisfied 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Not at all satisfied
How do you compare to the people surveyed?
You gave your life satisfaction a rating of 1, which means that you are extremely satisfied with your life. In a study done where people with a disabled person sitting next to them wrote down their life satisfaction on a questionnaire, they gave an average life satisfaction rating of 2.4, which means they were very satisfied with their lives.
What if you'd had to report your well-being to another person instead of writing it down?
In the study, half the people had to report their well-being in an interview with a confederate (a member of the research team who was posing as another participant). When the participants had to report in this way, and the confederate was not disabled, the participants rated their well-being as significantly better than those who reported by writing it on the questionnaire in the presence of a non-disabled confederate (2.0 vs. 3.4, lower score means higher well-being). The scores given when reporting to a disabled confederate elicited a well-being score that was no different than that when completing the questionnaire in the presence of a disabled confederate (2.3 vs. 2.4).
Mean life satisfaction ratings, lower score means higher satisfaction
|Mode of rating well-being||Disabled confederate||Non-disabled Confederate|
What caused the difference in well-being scores?
When making judgments of well-being, people (at least in this study) tend to compare themselves to those around them. This effect is seen more when well-being was reported in an interview than when the score was privately written down, due to self-presentation concerns. A higher rating was given in public so as to appear to be better off than one may truly feel. Note that the effect was only seen in the case where the confederate was not disabled. While well-being ratings were better overall with a disabled confederate, there was no difference between the private and public ratings. Social comparison led to a better well-being judgment, but it appears that the participants were hesitant to rate themselves too highly in front of the disabled person for fear of making the disabled person feel worse.
Why is this important?
Subjective well-being is a commonly used measure in many areas of research. For example, it is used as one way to look at the effectiveness new surgeries or medications. The above studies show that SWB scores can vary depending on the conditions under which they are given. Someone may give a response of fairly high SWB if they are interviewed before leaving the hospital, surrounded by people more sick than they are. From this, it would appear as though their treatment worked great. But suppose that they are asked to complete a follow-up internet survey a week later. Since they do not have to respond to an actual person face-to-face, and without being surrounded by sick people, they may give a lower rating than previously. Is this because the treatment actually made their SWB worse over the longer term, or simply because a different method was used to get their response? The only way to really know would be to use the same methodology to get all their responses, which might not always be feasible. These are important considerations for researchers to keep in mind when analyzing results of their studies. Are the results they got the true SWB of their participants, or is it an artifact of how the study was done? And is there a way to know which measure is right, or are they both right which would lead to the conclusion that SWB is purely a momentary judgment based on a social context?
For more information see:
Strack F, Schwarz N, Chassein B, Kern D, Wagner D. Salience of comparison standards and the activation of social norms: Consequences for judgements of happiness and their communication. British Journal of Social Psychology. 29:303-314, 1990.
Dr. Fagerlin served as Co-Director of CBSSM from 2010-2015. She is currently Chair of the Department of Population Health Sciences at University of Utah School of Medicine and Research Scientist, Salt Lake City VA Center for Informatics Decision Enhancement and Surveillance (IDEAS)
Christian Vercler is a Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatric Plastic Surgery at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. He is a service chief of the Clinical Ethics Service in the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine (CBSSM). Dr. Vercler has a special interest in ethics in surgery and he holds master's degrees in both Theology and Bioethics. He has a passion for teaching medical students and residents and has won teaching awards from Emory University Medical School, Harvard Medical School, and the University of Michigan.
The 2012 CBSSM Research Colloquium took place on Thursday, May 10, and was attended by over 130 people. This year's colloquium focused on research around medical decision making, and featured presentations by numerous faculty, fellows, and students. In addition, the CBSSM Research Colloquium featured the annual Bishop Lecture in Bioethics as its keynote address. Drs. Jerome Groopman and Pamela Hartzband of Harvard Medical School jointly presented the Bishop Lecture with a talk entitled, "When Experts Disagree: The Art of Medical Decision Making." For more information about the event and to view photos and a video of the Bishop Lecture, click here.
Funded by the National Institutes of Health
Funding Years: 2015-2020
Every year, one in 10 older people fall and sustain injury requiring medical care. Fall-related injury is the number one cause of accidental death in older Americans. However, fall injury is rarely considered as a outcome in controlled trials, which have traditionally focused on death and cardiovascular events. Until recently, we lacked methods of capturing fall-related injury in large healthcare databases. We will first use the Health and Retirement Study, a national study of older Americans, to develop a method of classifying severe fall injury in found in Medicare claims data across acute, ambulatory, and long-term care. Next, we will study how a national healthcare system, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), delivers aggressive hypertension care (AHC) and whether AHC results in net benefit or harm due to cardiovascular events and severe fall-related injury. Hypertension is the single most common chronic condition in older adults. Medication treatment prevents important cardiovascular events (strokes, myocardial infarctions and heart failure), however also contributes to risk of falls. We do not fully understand the net benefits and harms among our oldest patients in clinical practice, especially after age 75 - those most prone to severe fall-injury. Thus, we aim to study the net harms and benefits associated with AHC.
PI(s): Lillian Min
Co-I(s): Timothy Hofer, Kenneth Langa, Neil Burton Alexander, Andrzej Galecki, Eve Kerr, Hyungjin Myra Kim
Dr. Sussman is a Research Scientist in the Center for Clinical Management Research at the Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Health System and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School. He attended medical school at the University of California, San Francisco, completed internal medicine residency at Yale-New Haven Hospital, and was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar at the University of Michigan.