Alarmism And Push-ups
We continue on from where we last left off last time, interview part II. This time we talk a little about current health topics being highlighted in the media.
Bob: After the last chronicle where we explored your thoughts about the new and exciting 20’s, I thought we would discuss the present a bit more.
Erik: That sounds reasonable, after all, that’s where we are.
Bob: What is your impression on everything being reported on health right now?
Erik: We can well conclude that the collective reporting on the Coronavirus is at very high levels of alarmism. It feels neither balanced nor rectified to fuel people’s worry in this way.
Bob: Can you be a little more concrete?
Erik: There has hardly been a day in the past month without incendiary, dramatic and extremely alarmist headlines. We have to remember that a large number of people get the flu every year, and the media doesn’t write much about it, do they?
Bob: OK, so you bother with the media and how they report, not so much on the virus itself?
Erik: Right. There must be a reasonable proportion between what is going on, i.e., a viral epidemic in China, and the risk of it affecting us. We should remember that stress and anxiety come with a high price, especially in messy times like these when many struggle with their mental health.
Bob: But is it not the duty of the media to warn and inform the public about what is happening in other parts of the world?
Erik: Sure, but there is a difference between a factual dissemination of information, and shouting WOOOLF, if you understand. I mean, the weeks before the Coronavirus showed up, there were strong and dramatic warnings for world war, or at least a major new conflict in the Middle East between the US and Iran, which then quickly blew over. When it becomes apparent that the Coronavirus will not become the world epidemic that the media warns us of, we can expect new worrisome headlines with inflated drama. Most likely on the roster will be: warnings for a new economic “meltdown”, that remains to be seen. To put it short and simple, the media seems to constantly be on the hunt for drama nowadays, and it bothers me.
Bob: So maybe your criticism is not primarily directed at the current reporting on the coronavirus, but more about…
Erik: … that in general the alarms are disproportionate and exaggerated regarding what might happen, exactly. Drama attracts attention, but then when you realize that there is not so much substance, you get tired pretty quickly. But I can understand how many get wrapped up in the drama, especially initially, and thus constantly want to update themselves on what is happening. It is a little reminiscent of when Dad (on the family’s only TV) wanted to check both News shows at 7:30 and 9:00 because some new misery might have happened during the last hour, which was “good to know”.
Bob: So what’s the solution to all this?
Erik: Individuals can reflect over how much news they feel good about watching, especially days like these. Scrolling through one threat / crime / misery after another may not be entirely optimal for many people’s mental health, especially if you feel a bit mentally fragile. It is better to focus on what is positive and rewarding, if you ask me, there a lot of good in the world as well. Worry comes with a price, we must remember that.
Bob: And the message to the media?
Erik: Ask yourself a little more often if alarmism is really justified. In medical ethics, as a simple example, the discussions usually return to the relationship between benefit and risk. The benefit of a factual and balanced news reporting is probably not one to question, but the risk of conveying a constant drama is that you make people unnecessarily worried.
Bob: So how about a little positive news, you did say that that was what people needed, right?
Erik: Thanks, so glad that you ask! How about the following: The most read article last year in the highly regarded medical journal JAMA was a study that showed that the number of pushups that one can do is strongly decisive in terms of the risk of premature death from cardiovascular disease. (1)Not only has the public taken note of, but the medical field as well, that what keeps us alive is not so much the latest medical advances, but relatively simple things like a healthy and active lifestyle, nutritious food, sleep and recovery, and social factors. This is a truly positive development.
Bob: Sounds like it, and now we have some balance to this article. Any closing words?
Erik: Enjoy life, and don’t worry too much. Test a news detox for a few days and see how you feel about it.
1Yang J, Christophi CA, Farioli A, et al. Association Between Push-up Exercise Capacity and Future Cardiovascular Events Among Active Adult Men. JAMA Netw Open. 2019 Feb 1;2(2):e188341.
This is a guest post. Any opinions expressed are the writer’s own.