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Reading this could be bad for your health


It seems like every time Beyond the Bedpan picks up a newspaper we’re bombarded with scare stories: “Sellotape dangers revealed!”, “Gossip magazines linked to brain tumours!”, “Fresh air more dangerous than smoking!”. If we’re confused, how must our patients feel?

If we really did take heed of everything we read in the media, we’d find ourselves sitting in a darkened room, eyes wide with terror, avoiding anything and everything that came near us. Someone has even gone to the trouble of creating a group on Facebook to helpfully highlight the things best avoided if you want to live. Particular favourites of ours include turning on the lights at night to go to the loo, radioactivity (just no irony whatsoever), left-handedness, flip flops and candle-lit dinners.

The media loves a good scare story, especially when it comes to health of the nation. Not a day goes by without news about a study warning us off chocolate, or booze or lawnmowers. It’s only a matter of time before we see “reading cancer scare stories causes cancer”.

And then there are the stories that just seem a bit, well, obvious.

Like a story this week claiming that busy lives are preventing women from eating well. We know, shocking revelations. Pick yourself up of the floor and take some deep breaths. Frazzled Beyond the Bedpan has known this for years, but it took researchers months of analysis to arrive at this conclusion.

So what can we, as nurses, do to help patients wade through all this hype and find out what’s really best for their health? Does the media have a role in helping them keep healthy, or would swearing off tabloids be the first thing you prescribed?


Readers' comments (3)

  • My usual advice is - everything in moderation, nothing to excess, & it'll be all right. Newspapers are not concerned with the health of their readers - they just want to get our attention with big, scary headlines so as to sell more copies! Don't believe everything you read!! :)

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  • If you want a defence against the daft reports by journalists, read Bad Science by Ben Goldacre. It ought to be on the reading list for all students before they start their nursing course.

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  • Hear!Hear! and I gather from my patients that a lot of people are at last getting wise to the scaremongering of the media. Soon no-one will take any 'latest research' seriously. Mind you, I am personally collecting all the evidence published regarding the benefits of red wine and chocolate. Obviously in moderation, but what wonderful excuse to enjoy that flake and a moderately sized glass of red...

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