Personal Health Care

Even admitting, as I readily do, that the advent of the Internet has had an almost-magical effect on many aspects of our lives, there are things about it that I hate. The loss of privacy and, hence, the narrowing of our self-perceived – and perhaps, eventually, actual – ability to speak our minds freely is one that I have already written about. Another is its tendency to try to convince us that we are ill and need whatever product or service some part of the medical/pharmaceutical industry is trying to sell today.

No doubt The Algorithm has figured out that I am no spring chicken, and consequently concluded that I quite likely have health worries. After all, I am at an age when most people are taking pills in an effort to ward off or treat this or that ailment – or more likely, multiple pills to deal with multiple problems, real or imagined. I just about can’t click on a link to any website without being asked by some advertisement whether I have considered that I just might be suffering, or even on a path to dying, from something or other that it just so happens that their treatment can alleviate or cure.

Do I have these symptoms? Then probably so! I had better go right to my doctor and ask about whatever nostrum they’re selling.

Such ads play foster the illusion that our health problems are always to be addressed by medical intervention rather than changes in lifestyle that reflect healthier decisions. Live as you like, if you develop a problem, there’s a pill – or an operation – for that. Your health is our responsibility – for a price.

The ads also imply that we should live our lives pain-free – but Mother Nature gives us aches and pains to tell us when we should be paying particular attention to something or other. Some pains come from stupid mistakes, some are the prices we pay for the vigorous exercise that will make us stronger if we do it right, or cause injury if we don’t. And of course, some pains do us little or no good: once a toothache has told us in no uncertain terms to go to the dentist, it has done its job. When somebody is at death’s door or under the knife, the strongest drugs may prove a great blessing; for the most part, though, I think we’re better off listening to what our bodies are telling us.  

Don’t get me wrong: sometimes people really are ill; sometimes pills – and the intervention of medical professionals – are lifesaving, or dramatically life-improving. Every hypochondriac is eventually correct, after all. If I ever get cancer or some other dread disease, or am in a terrible accident, I will be terrifically grateful for the advances of modern science and the ministrations of the medical/pharmaceutical industry. (Indeed, I have been in accidents and have had operations, so I have seen the wonders that medicine can accomplish).

Meanwhile, though, I am convinced that most of us – myself most certainly included – would benefit a lot more from a regular re-examination of our daily habits, and an attitude of serious, proactive personal health maintenance, than we ever will from looking to the medical/pharmaceutical industry to fix our problems.

I don’t mind being an old rooster, really, though advancing years do come with undeniable physical drawbacks; but I do hate being constantly told that I am probably ill by those who rather hope that they’re right.

M.H. Johnston

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