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The Dead Hand Journal



I had occasion to drive home early this morning.

While I was in my car, I heard an interesting radio ad for financial advisor Smith Barney. The ad was narrowly targeted at wealthy people concerned with how to share their wealth with their kids without spoiling them.

Hmm. I cocked an eye at the clock and decided I'd awakened into good company. Truth be told, I arrived home feeling rather smug.

When I got home—no more than ten minutes later—I flipped on the TV to catch the news while I was making coffee. Up pops this dude with an outrageous ZZ-Top beard, spilling his guts about how the sponsor's real-estate buying program had, you know, changed his life and stuff. Call now and buy our CD set with a credit card—only $199!!!—and we'll throw in a free gift!


So then I didn't feel quite so smug.

Of course, I Googled it... and immediately came up with this December 2006 article in "Canada's Leading Medical Journal." Here's the abstract:

Early to bed and early to rise: Does it matter?

Kenneth J. Mukamal*, Gregory A. Wellenius{dagger} and Murray A. Mittleman*{ddagger}

From the *Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center; the {dagger}Department of Environmental Health and the {ddagger}Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Heath, Boston, Mass.

Background: Controversy remains about whether early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise (the Ben Franklin hypothesis), or healthy, wealthy and dead (the James Thurber hypothesis).

Methods: As part of the Determinants of Myocardial Infarction Onset Study, we determined through personal interviews the bedtimes and wake times of 949 men admitted to hospital with acute myocardial infarction. Participants reported their educational attainment and zip code of residence, from which local median income was estimated. We followed participants for mortality for a mean of 3.7 years. We defined early-to-bed and early-to-rise respectively as a bedtime before 11 pm and wake time before 6:30 am.

Results: Hours in bed were inversely associated with number of cups of coffee consumed (age-adjusted Spearman correlation coefficient r –0.07, p = 0.03). The mortality of early-to-bed, early-to-risers did not differ significantly from other groups. There was also no relation between bed habits and local income, nor with educational attainment.

Interpretation: Our results refute both the Franklin and Thurber hypotheses. Early to bed and early to rise is not associated with health, wealth or wisdom.


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