Do We Complain too Much About our Health?

How has the summer weather been in your area so far?

This question appeared on the Globe and Mail website recently. Many readers responded to the question. Of the 11,287 people who registered their opinion, 71 percent thought the weather was unusually cold. Twenty percent said the weather was average and nine percent felt it was hotter than normal.

My response to the question would have been – the weather is weird. But there were only three choices to pick from. So what do you do? Whine and suffer in silence. You can curse nature but you cannot fight it. In any case, my opinion would not have changed the course of the next hailstorm or lightning.

Unpredictable weather brings with it unpredictable dangers.

During the summer months there is immense heat, drought, rain, wind, thunder, lightning, hail, floods, tornados and forest fires. This causes damage to life and property.

Then there is danger of West Nile virus. In 2002, Canada had 426 cases of West Nile virus. In 2003, there were 1335 cases. Unfortunately there is no specific treatment yet. The movement of the virus is unpredictable. All blood products are screened for the virus, so are the donor organs for transplant. The only way to prevent the disease is to protect against mosquito bites.

Summer is not the only time when we face danger. A recent AIDS conference reminded us that many millions of people continue to die from this illness through out the year.

The Canadian Journal of Infectious Disease and Medical Microbiology has an editorial on this subject. It reminds us that it has been 25 years since the first case of AIDS was recognized in gay men in Los Angeles. Since then the disease has spread around the world in a relentless fashion. The editorial says, “The virus is now a permanent fixture in our human landscape.”

In couple of months winter will be here and we will be worried about flu and SARS. The cycle of worrying, whining and complaining goes on.

I was looking at some newspaper clippings on my desk. I found one from the Globe and Mail dated May 23rd, 2003. It is an article written by their columnist, Marcus Gee. Its title, “Stop your snivelling, you bunch of pathetic hypochondriacs”.

Gee starts by saying, “People living in Canada and other rich countries today enjoy a healthier, safer life than any other generation in the whole of human history. Yet if you picked up the newspaper this week, you wouldn’t know it.”

One year later, we have the same sort of headlines. He was talking about SARS. Now we are talking about the weather and the West Nile virus. And our whining and complaining goes on through out the year. He says we have become a nation of pathetic hypochondriacs, snivelling over little hurts while people in poor countries drop dead like flies from real killers like malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis.

Has he got a point? Are we a nation of pathetic hypochondriacs? Do we spend too many precious health care dollars worrying about too many little things? Well you have whole summer to think about this. In the meantime this column takes a little break and will be back in a month.

Have good summer and don’t let the bugs bite you!

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