I can't tell you how many people I've seen in
an emergency room who are panicked about a high
blood pressure or cholesterol test they've taken
in a drug store; or are having fantasy symptoms
after having read about the side-effects of their
current medication in the latest "drug book."
For some people, just worrying about an illness
is enough to make them sick.
And whose fault is this paranoia? Well, it's
probably mine. As a writer, I've learned that
few things bring home the impact of a story more
than quoting big numbers. That's why I often add
statistics to my articles. It's interesting to
tell about my mother-in-law's battle with cigarette
smoking but it somehow gives more "oomph"
to a story to add that 50 million Americans still
smoke and half a million die each year from smoking
related ailments. And so I've fostered fear in
every smoker with a cough.
Recently, I reviewed several of my old articles.
In an effort to lend credibility to my stories,
here are just some of the statistics I've quoted.
- 11 million Americans suffer migraines
- 40 million suffer degenerative joint diseases
- 12 million suffer depression
- 1 million whiplash cases
- 3.7 million chicken pox cases
- 4 million with Alzheimers, and
- 20 million cases of herpes.
And then sometimes, of course, I use percentages.
- 50% of men over 60 develop prostate disease
- 1 in 10 women develop breast cancer
- 5% of us will develop colo-rectal cancer,
- 10% have gallstones.
Based on those kinds of numbers, simple arithmetic
has to tell you that everybody in America has
or is going to have some disease soon. And I have
yet to write about a myriad of other diseases
that diminish the quality and length of our lives.
It is the statistics in my articles and in medically
related magazines and books that incite people
to worry about their health. And the operative
word is "worry."
Certainly, reasonable concern is good. But who
can help not thinking they're a potential victim
when I and others are busily mentioning that millions
are suffering from this or that.
Just glancing over the statistics, it might
not be unreasonable to conclude that we are a
terribly "sick" society. However, I've
come to the opposite conclusion. The vast majority
of us are pretty healthy. The statistics aren't
wrong. I'm just convinced that it is a select
unfortunate few who a plagued with a bounty of
ailments. For example, rarely will I see a patient
with a history of simple migraine. More often,
that same patient will have migraines and endometriosis
as well as gallstones and herpes, or hypertension
and renal failure with psoriasis and ulcers. And
bad luck seems to accompany bad health. That same
patient will probably complain of whiplash from
a recent auto accident too or some slip and fall
So, what's my point? Well, despite the shocking
statistics that millions are suffering from this
and that, the numbers don't mean a thing. I'm
convinced that just as there are a few multi-millionaires
who have most of the wealth in this country, there
are a few really sick people who have all the
diseases. All I have to do now is find some statistic
to back up that theory. In the meantime, as an
old philosopher once said, "DON'T WORRY.