Sunday, December 24, 2023

Cause and Effect, Redux

Long-time readers know I’m fond of stories or issues where cause and effect are either unclear or confused. I am forever writing “correlation does not equal causation.” 

I’ve got another one for you today, from a Swedish study which found that hypochondriacs die younger than those who don’t share this fear of (or imagination of) illness. And it says we should call the condition “Illness Anxiety Disorder.” Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.

Some of the excess deaths were from suicide which makes sense because IAD is related to mental illness, which is often a precursor of suicide. However there were also excess deaths from natural causes. These the study found difficult to explain. How would imagining one is ill cause death?

Think about it with the famous “causal arrow” pointing in the opposite direction. What if an awareness at some level that all was not well with one’s body causes what appears to be IAD or hypochondria? At least some hypochondria may be a sense one is ill when our current state of medical diagnosis cannot yet pick up the clues. 

Just as some individuals have exceptionally keen senses of smell or taste or vision, some may have an exceptional awareness of problems with their circulatory or respiratory systems that haven’t reached the level where diagnostics can identify them. Plus, many with IAD have family members with severe illnesses and predispositions to certain health problems do run in families.