4 Backwards Medical Beliefs In Otherwise Developed Countries
America is currently suffering from a mass outbreak of bullshit. Long-eradicated diseases are kicking off a comeback tour because people choose to take their medical advice from a washed-up actress and a guy who literally talks out of his ass. Despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, less than half of U.S. adults believe human activity has affected climate change, while a fifth say that global warming isn't even a thing. It's almost as if a significant portion of the populace has chosen to flip science the bird and go back to the good old days of drowning uppity women to find out if they're witches. But lest you think this is strictly an American phenomenon ...
Sweden Has A Debilitating Case Of Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity
Electromagnetic hypersensitivity is a supposed allergy of sorts to the electromagnetic radiation incessantly emitted by newfangled technologies such as power lines, cell phones, and WiFi routers. Blind studies have found zippo evidence that the symptoms described by EHS sufferers are in any way related to the presence of an electromagnetic field, but that data's done precisely nothing to staunch the steady flow of folks claiming that walking into a Starbucks is like reenacting a scene from Scanners.
Nowhere is the condition more prevalent than in Sweden, where a full 5 percent of the population believe they are, to some degree, hypersensitive to electromagnetic waves (that's a more than 200 percent increase since 2002). Those hundreds of thousands of cases are probably why Sweden is currently the only country to acknowledge electromagnetic hypersensitivity as an official functional impairment, meaning Swedish citizens can receive financial compensation for the negative effects resulting from the condition. Swedish social services sometimes pay to electrically "sanitize" homes via the installation of metallic shielding, or even rent out remote cabins to the most severe cases of those who cannot stomach populated areas. Expensive, EHS-friendly healthcare facilities have been made available to the public, and there's even talk in Stockholm of constructing an entire EMF-free community, which we're going to go ahead and assume would be the village from The Village.
All this for a condition that is entirely self-diagnosed, mostly because there's not one damned bit of scientific evidence that it truly exists. One thing we can say for certain about the Swedish government: They have no shortage of faith in their citizens.
Now, none of this is to say that sufferers of EHS aren't really suffering -- with the exception of the occasional chronic hooky-player, they're most definitely experiencing all manner of uncomfortable symptoms, ranging from headaches to fatigue to nausea to nosebleeds. However, studies have demonstrated that cognitive behavioral therapy (of the same type used to treat conditions such as depression, stress, and anxiety) can significantly reduce so-called EHS symptoms after a mere six months of treatment. So while we're not downplaying the plight of hypersensitive Swedes, we are saying that maybe, just maybe, constructing a goddamned Sweden-sized tinfoil hat isn't the answer.
Germans Are Deathly Afraid Of Drafts
In a telephone survey conducted by Germany's Allensbach Institute, more than a third of those interviewed said that a warm midwinter wind commonly known as the foehn -- pronounced "fern," like the houseplant -- caused noticeable changes in their health, while one in five said it was the meteorological equivalent of a kneecapping. But that's pretty standard stuff. After all, there's a good chance your mom once had you convinced that the common cold was so named because it was caused by actual cold.
Odder is the fact that opening a window on a sweltering bus in Germany is likely to earn you irritated shouts of "Es zieht!" and a swift smack with the riding crop we imagine every German carries. Directly translated, that means "It pulls" -- because the draft supposedly pulls the health and well-being straight out of you. So fearful of air currents are some Germans that they blame them for conditions ranging from migraines to insomnia to kreislaufzusammenbruch. No, we didn't kick our laptop down the stairs and into a passing thresher; that monstrous word translates to "circulatory collapse," and while in most places such a condition would get you good and dead, in Germany it gets you a day off work if you're lucky. Because what's a little organ system failure to a people who consume their beer by the liter?
Interestingly, there is one real, measurable effect of the much-feared German drafts: When the aforementioned foehn blows in, it brings with it an uptick in traffic accidents and crime. Perhaps because everyone is convinced it's a sign that their days are numbered. In neighboring Austria and parts of Switzerland, the foehn is even recognized as a mitigating factor in criminal proceedings, making this quite possibly the only circumstance in which the Swayze defense is a viable strategy.
France Is Suffering An Ongoing Epidemic Of "Heavy Legs"
Have you ever had one of those days when your legs simply do not wish to carry your ass to work? Well, so has the entirety of France. They've even coined a special term for the condition: heavy legs syndrome.
Unique to France (aka the place with more pharmacies than any other European country), heavy legs syndrome has no concrete medical definition, probably because it's not recognized as a condition at all anywhere else. Rather, it's vaguely described as an "unpleasant sensation of pain and heaviness" in the lower extremities. It's generally treated with a variety of topical creams, a veritable cornucopia of pain medications, and presumably millions upon millions of dollars in lost productivity.
The thing is, all those French people calling in sick to work because their calves have gone up a weight class likely don't realize that they're contributing to an epidemic of an entirely different variety. You see, assigning a set of symptoms their own "syndrome" could be more damaging than anyone realizes. The symptoms of so-called heavy legs syndrome, for instance, align nicely with real, treatable conditions, such as varicose veins -- which more than half of French women and one third of French men suffer. By apathetically tossing drugs at the symptoms, however, you're never getting to the root cause of said symptoms.
That's how you wind up with a heavy drug consumption culture in which nearly a quarter of men under 35 fear that they're suffering from some medical boogeyman, even when experiencing no symptoms whatsoever. Luckily, there are over 5,000 drugs readily available in France, more than half of which "serve no useful purpose" other than shooting their social medical system budget straight to shit.
In India, Homeopathy Is A Legitimate Medical Practice
In 1796, German physician Samuel Hahnemann had an idea. Building upon his principle of "like cures like," he developed an approach to medicine positing that substances which would normally induce negative effects on the human body could, when diluted to such a degree that they were no longer even the substances in question, be used to treat ailments whose symptoms resembled the aforementioned negative effects. (Stomach cramps and convulsions? Here, have a trace amount of arsenic!) He called this newly minted field homeopathy, and it's been causing physicians worldwide to roll their eyes ever since.
Except in India, where a homeopathy practitioner can hang their fancy Homeopathy Practitioner Certificate on the wall of their honest-to-god medical practice. Indeed, it's the second most popular form of medical treatment in India behind allopathy (better known to most of the world as "non-bullshit medicine"), with around 10 percent of the population putting their trust in flower petals and crossed fingers to cure everything from swine flu to cancer. And they're doing so with the backing of the government -- India is home to hundreds of homeopathic medical colleges and university programs, with state councils training and registering thousands of new practitioners at a growing rate each year.
More horrifying yet is the fact that the Maharashtra state government, in response to an ongoing shortage of science-based medical practitioners, is all set to promote hundreds of homeopathic placebo peddlers to actual doctors, citing the oft-ignored "good 'nuff" school of medical training. That's sort of like if Florida had a shortage of plumbers, so they handed out plumbing certifications to everyone who'd ever played Super Mario Bros. Either scenario involves disturbing levels of both shit and random mushrooms.
Wes Corwin is a stand-up comedian currently based in Dallas. You can like him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, or if you live in Dallas and prefer analog comedy over digital, check out his weekly show at Noble Rey Brewery on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.
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