Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Relationships are bad for health

Here is a New York Times article I could cutely use to support my view that relationships are harmful to one's health. The article, titled Divorce, It Seems, Can Make You Ill, discusses a study that shows people who have been divorced or widowed have poorer health, which the study measures by looking at rates of chronic health problems. Unfortunately, this article is sensationalist and good for nothing more than generating conversation. One of the only reasons I mention it is because it fits in with my general view that relationships can cause particularly traumatic experiences.

The article does a lot of scientific wishful thinking about why it is that divorced or widowed people might have more chronic health problems: well, having a spouse is good for you because they can take you to the doctor, but the end of a relationship is usually traumatic, so perhaps this is why you never recover. The article cites a couple of other studies: one that shows people taking care of loved ones with Alzheimer's experience telomere shortening, and one where married couples' physical wounds take longer to heal after conjugal discord. While this information is all interesting and good, it seems rather narrow-minded to focus just on relationships: divorce, death of a spouse, and fighting with a spouse don't seem to be on a different level than other traumatic life events such as losing one's job, losing one's home, or fighting with a peer. A logical set of other studies to mention are the ones showing positive correlations between traumatic life events and/or depression and chronic illness. From those studies we might conclude that the results of this study are either obvious or confirm the hypothesis that relationships tend matter enough to have the potential to affect one's stress levels.

Anyway, the fact that I wrote a whole blog post on this shows that even when articles about studies are not that useful for furthering scientific knowledge, they are useful for generating (perhaps useless) conversation*.

* Although it is important to recognize the flaws of such articles!

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