Cats cause suicide. Surprised? I was. I always believed the sneaky, furry creatures were more apt to creep onto my face at night and smother me rather than drive me to suicide. This accounts for my scrupulous sobriety any time cats are in my vicinity. I can tell they’re plotting and waiting for someone to get drunk enough to pass out, rendering the victim incapable of responding when the cat-like smothering starts. But suicide?
And using an iPad at night can cause depression. Damn. I thought not having an iPad caused depression or, at the very least, envy. My friends with iPads always act so happy. Now I have to consider the joy of owning one may be the public face they’re showing while inside they’re crying.
In Britain, over 500 breast cancer deaths a year are believed to be caused by working the night shift. I worked the night shift for several years. I knew I was at risk for weight gain and insomnia, but no one explained the breast cancer connection. As more companies hire overnight workers, isn’t this a public health concern we should forcefully battle? Particularly as there are professions that demand night work such as police officers, fire fighters, air traffic controllers, flight attendants and hospital employees. Should we ban women from working those hours?
It seems every time I read the health section of a newspaper I find another unexpected and sometimes unavoidable risk factor for a disease I don’t currently have, but may get. How worried should we be?
Well sexy headlines, like “cats cause suicide,” serve a purpose far greater than alerting the public to a potential problem. Consider that there were no health advisories after the cat-suicide connection research was published to have people with cats checked for evidence of T. gondii, the parasite allegedly responsible for the suicidal behavior. There was no public outcry to ban cats. Instead the researchers cautioned that there were limitations to the study, a larger population needed to be examined, and, even if a direct connection was found, there were no drugs to treat T. gondii. The study recommendations were to practice hand hygiene and food safety, making prevention options for suicide in cat owners the same as prevention options for food poisoning. Helpful.
What did the headlines and publicity actually accomplish? Generate interest in further research. Conducting research is expensive. Dollars for research face stiff competition. Sexy headlines attract focus which attract dollars. Sort of like when a celebrity gets a disease and starts a foundation. Suddenly everyone is lining up to get involved.
Research is good, but attaching it to a controversial or provocative headline may be more about drumming up donors and discussion and less about conclusive results which can improve our health. Being overly concerned about every newspaper story or article that comes along warning of early research findings that may harm our health is harmful to our health.
If we’re going to believe the headlines, let’s focus on the happy ones. Red wine, chocolate and sex all have reported health benefits. Enjoy those in moderation (and then you won’t have to worry about death by cat suffocation either).