After 25 years of medical expansion, we've come a long way. Advancements through research have helped doctors put a stop to diseases and create devices to help aid in early detection. After all that you'd think people would have an optimistic outlook on health care, but it's not so.
Hui Zheng, an assistant professor of Sociology at Ohio State, examined several large, multinational datasets that asked people to rate their health between 1981 and 2007. Zheng then compared that data to the medical innovations that took place across 28 countries in that time. What he saw was the growth of medical technology and services, and the decline of people's confidence in health care.
Zheng explained the results in a press release:
"Access to more medicine and medical care doesn't really improve our subjective health. For example, in the United States, the percentage of Americans reporting very good health decreased from 39 percent to 28 percent from 1982 to 2006."
He admits the idea “seems counterintuitive, but that's what the evidence shows. More medicine doesn't lead to citizens feeling better about their health — it actually hurts.”
Even when taking education and socioeconomic status into account, Zheng reported that “the improvements we might expect to see in subjective health as economies grow and citizens become richer seem to be offset by medical expansion."
With better doctors and detection, people begin to feel that there are more “new” diseases cropping up when that just isn't the case. The science is better, giving people a name to what disease X or Y is now, and to the masses, this information may lead to a skewed perception — there's more to be afraid of. Perhaps there is a certain burden of truth that comes with these advancements, as well as the dawn of sites like WebMD — a place where every self-diagnosed ailment yields at least one result relating to cancer.
All the aggressive screenings and an over-diagnosis of patients, he says, only further contribute to this altered mentality of health. Zheng thinks that some people may be overly optimistic when it comes to expectations.
“Consumers begin demanding more medical treatment because of the declines in subjective health and the increasing expectations of good health, and medical expansion continues. It is a cycle.”
Read more at Science Daily.
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