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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Guiliani May Be Hazardous to Your Health

By Keith Schmitz

No wonder the Guiliani campaign is tanking.

Today the New York Times reported the findings of a study suggesting obsessing over terrorism can take a greater toll on one's health than terrorism itself:
After the attacks of Sept. 11, the scientists monitored people’s fears of terrorism over the next several years and found that the most fearful people were three to five times more likely than the rest to receive diagnoses of new cardiovascular ailments.

“It’s amazing how enduring these feelings of fear are, but look at what’s been going on,” said Alison Holman, a professor of nursing science at the University of California, Irvine, the lead author of the study. “I’d be surprised if those terrorist alerts didn’t contribute in some way to the ongoing worry about terrorism in our sample.”
Here's the payoff pitch:
After controlling for various factors (age, obesity, smoking, other ailments and stressful life events), the researchers found that the people who were acutely stressed after the 9/11 attacks and continued to worry about terrorism — about 6 percent of the sample — were at least three times more likely than the others in the study to be given diagnoses of new heart problems.

If you extrapolate that percentage to the adult population of America, it works out to more than 10 million people. No one knows what fraction of them might consequently die of a stroke or heart attack — plenty of other factors affect heart disease — but if it were merely 0.0003 percent, that would be higher than the 9/11 death toll.
The article talks about that these people will rationalize away the real risk against the imagined one because of the prospect (albeit slim) of masses of people dying at once. Sort of when someone has a fear of flying and will take to the road, despite the reality that a long trip in a car presents greater odds of dying in a crash than sitting in an airplane seat.

So it turns out constant mentioning of 9/11 can spark these fatal anxieties. Someone stop Guiliani before he kills again.

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