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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Sick in the Head

I’ve got nothing clever to add to this little snippet, but I thought that it was funny, worth sharing, and, when you stop to think about it, probably pretty obvious.

All this brings to mind a fascinating article published in last week’s British Medical Journal by Iona Heath, a London physician who focuses attention on a troubling paradox. Heath draws on work done by the economist Amartya Sen to illustrate the following point: “It seems that the more people are exposed to doctors and contemporary health care,” Heath writes, “the sicker they feel.”

Heath points out that the enormous emphasis on preventive health care in rich countries such as Britain and the United States has some significant disadvantages. An ounce of prevention may be worth a pound of cure, but what are the costs of making an obsession with avoiding ill health, or more precisely risk factors for ill health, a central focus of one’s life?

Heath uses Sen’s comparative economic work to illustrate that people in the United States are far healthier by every objective measure than people in a particularly poor Indian state, yet have vastly higher rates of self-reported illness.

I would just point out that there might be a second, and very interesting question to ask: as people are exposed to mental health care and have more exposure to mental health care professionals, does self-diagnoses of mental illness rise with no corresponding rise in actual illness?

Anyway, another good article by often infuriating Paul Campos.

Read the story.

Update: Kindly linked by Deb, who probably expected the whole trackback thing to work. Heh. Fooled her.

Update the Second: Also linked by De Doc, who is not only a friend, but an actual doctor. I kind of wonder what his view on this subject is…

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