Thursday, October 10, 2019

We Don't Need a New Thermometer

This morning after waking up and having a sip of cold coffee, I checked NBC News, curious, don’t you know, if Europe is still there. The headline in text at the bottom of the screen said:

Politics is taking a toll on Americans’ health, according to a new study

The text was actually shorter, but what I’m quoting is an online article by NBC published September 25, 2019. That date is what “new” means in the headline. The NBC article is here. NBC itself was summarizing the content of an article that appeared in Plos One, a recently founded scholarly journal. The original article, titled “Friends, relatives, sanity, and health: The costs of politics,” is available here.

The essence of the content? The study is based on a survey of individuals reporting their own feelings. One in ten of those participating reported feeling badly about politics these days. From the Abstract:

Though anecdotal evidence suggests that the costs of politics may in fact extend beyond economics to frayed personal relationships, compromised emotional stability, and even physical problems, no systematic evidence on these broader costs exists.

Thus the article thus is what you might imagine. Scientific up to a point, but mostly reporting on how people felt when asked about politics. One in ten is not a very high number. But the headline makes you think that things are in a pretty sorry state. “Even physical problems” were reported. We need a new thermometer now. On the other hand, I saw an ad the other day that showed a man giving himself an EKG by touching two tiny pads on a table with his left and right index fingers. The EKG results appeared on a cell-phone sized screen. So maybe we don’t need a new thermometer now. But we certainly need a new politics.

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