Thursday 2 December 2010

Fake Health Stats Lead To ... Fake Health Stats

"Each day a few more lies eat into the seed with which we are born, little institutional lies from the print of newspapers, the shock waves of television, and the sentimental cheats of the movie screen." Norman Mailer
If I were a BBC website editor, I couldn't have engineered a more apposite article to complement my recent efforts here than this.

One in five people aged over 50 lie to their GPs about their lifestyle, according to a new survey by Saga.

The UK-wide study asked patients about their visits to the doctor and found a huge number are covering up their health habits.

A quarter of men lie about the amount of alcohol they drink, while one in five women avoid the truth about their diet.

One in five people tell fibs about their stress levels, while 7% refuse to divulge the truth about the number of cigarettes they smoke.
Well, of course they would. It's a natural human position when faced with a government tabling policy on the back of game theory, as I do believe I talked about last month.

As a concept of social control, [game theory] fails miserably since it relies on people acting as a homogenous, computer-generated, mass of unthinking drones with no outliers or rebels.

Humans are not machines. They cheat, they avoid, and they self-administer in a society which has been accustomed to a semblance of freedom. In short, the British tradition of self-determination has never been compatible to the application of a one-size-fits-all measure of the perfect lifestyle.
The state can advise with no problem at all, but once the wagging finger - or, the more prevalent 21st century state bully's rough prod - is unsheathed, unintended consequences abound.

People will lie because they feel intimidated, threatened even, by the approach public health is taking. Is it really so surprising, then, that the reaction to the wildly out-of-control nanny state is personal self-preservation by way of fibs, or a refusal to reveal personal information?

Now, let's just apply this to the recent series of articles I posted surrounding dentist enrolment forms and the insistence on garnering info on alcohol and tobacco intake.

If the dentist is unable to access the information he may feel necessary to maintain your oral health and dental care he could decide that he would therefore be unable to treat you.
I suggested that this defence was overly melodramatic, but the BBC ramped up the scare exponentially when talking of GPs.

Doctors have warned that lying during medical visits can have dangerous consequences.
Dangerous, so it is. Patients are in mortal peril if they don't tell doctors what is going on in their lives. And they may very well be correct, who knows?

Yet it is precisely the hectoring, condemnatory attitude of many GPs which provokes such a defensive stance in their patients. And how have GPs been manoeuvred into acting in such a way? Well, by the abrupt, rigid and over-weening policies of organisations such as the Royal College of GPs, the Royal College of Physicians, the Faculty of Public Health, and the National Obesity Forum, amongst others.

The health professionals who are now talking up the danger of lying to one's GP are the very same people who created the problem in the first place.

Now, come on guys and girls, let's place the blame where it truly belongs, eh? If the public's health is in danger, it's your arrogant self-indulgence which has caused it.

But that's not the end of the chain, now is it? Because their irresponsible (if their own risk assessment of lying is to be believed) tactics are dictated by a practice which brings us full circle.

That being the bare-faced mendacity of fake charities, vested interest quangoes, pharmaceutical profiteers, mortgage-funding civil servants, rent-seeking lobby groups, funding-hungry faux scientists, and generally obsessive health freaks with a profit motive. In every area mentioned above, from tobacco control, through alcohol temperance, to fast food restriction, salt hyperbole, and exercise regimes, the lies spew forth on a daily basis.

They lie, sometimes outrageously, and it leads eventually to GPs being fed lies as an antidote. It's a great big game of 'quid pro quo', with cash flying into healthist bank accounts while everyone's life is rendered that little bit more miserable and poorer as a result.

As Mailer said, "each day a few more lies eat into the seed with which we are born"; and our spirit; and our way of life; and our enjoyment of it. But while the state still promotes the professional lying industry, they will increasingly reap the same by return from the public.

Thereby rendering future intentionally dodgy health stats even more meaningless than the dodgy ones already used to dictate policy. Fake health statistics have led to even more fake health statistics which make any public health initiative by Westminster flawed from the outset.

If any government wants to tackle health problems, perhaps the first thing they should be doing is clamping down on the dangerous liars who produce bullshit for a quick buck.


Curmudgeon said...

Only one in five? Really?

cornyborny said...

The other 4/5 might, of course, have been lying.

PT Barnum said...

Even if you tell the truth the doctors don't believe you because your answer is not sufficiently damning. Or is that just me?

Xopher said...

I've just had a good night out and couldn't agree more.
When my surgeon asks the question --- I will lie.
Still it was a good night out and against his advice --- I enjoyed myself.
Worth an larf/google? - smoking rates in Britain are between 22 and 33% depending on where you look. Even the EU or was it the WHO or is it the ONS (with a questionnaire designed by ASH)can't agree but then again truth doesn't matter when only one side to an argument is allowed.
Anyway it was good to see limpid Lansley, an academic with no sense, accept everything the DoH told him. Why? Because it's another display of how useless he and many others are.
Thank you Dick for being a stubborn bast**d and telling the world.

Anonymous said...

@ Chris B.

Here, here! We may be a compliant nation at the moment because we have been forced to be (just like the German people in the 1930s) but we are also a stubborn nation. At the moment, a minuscule minority is dictating how we (smokers - a minority of the population, but still 20% thereof) can live out lives. But we are stubborn. We will not accept dictatorship, even if it is imposed by a 'nudge, nudge' method. WE WILL NOT! Eventually, and it might take some time, the majority of the minority will come together and be defiant. It MUST happen, otherwise, our freedom is shot to bits.

"Fake health stats lead to...fake health stats". You should look at Frank Smith's debate. a lot of stuff is being revealed.

Mark Wadsworth said...

As Curmudge says, I'd be surprised if it's as few as on-in-five.

To add to the hilarity, what sort of f***ing stupid survey question is that:

"Do you lie to your doctor about your tobacco and alcohol consumption?"

So they expect people who are dishonest in a situation where it might (at the very margin) make a significant difference to their health, but then to be honest about it with some clipboard wielding lady in the street?

(or her modern equivalent, an anonymous telephone call from a young lady with an charmingly slight foreign accent).

ElectronicCigFan said...

Interesting comments but I think we can all agree on how harmful smoking can be.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to go partially off-topic but you might be interested in an item from the blog of:

William M Briggs (Statistician to the stars!)

(but don't be put off by that unassuming title!)

"The United States of Diabetes?"
(Some good comments, too.)

Briggs is a consulting statistician and teaches the subject in the USA. He is from a similar mould used to produce John Brignell of Number Watch who is, of course, unrepeatable!

Alan Bates

Dick Puddlecote said...

Alan, Mr Briggs is on my RSS feed. Good, inne? :)

The Travelling Toper said...

The best way to confuse the statistic fiddlers in to answer in Imperial or other measures.
When asked how many units I drink every week I reply in multiples of gallons and quarts. Before having to desist from the glorious weed I always rated my weekly consumption by packs or, on one memorable occasion,yards! I do wonder however at the willingness of people to divulge details of their personal habits to the seedy sorts who collate such information.

Eric Crampton said...

Family friend, ages before the health nazis took over, would always tell his doctor that he drank a 12-pack of beer a day (when he really drank six). That way, the doctor would tell him to cut back to six and he could go away happy to be following doctor's orders.