Forget the Fitbit fusspots and get on with living life
Let's stop this obsessive monitoring of our health before the Well Woman industry makes fussing ninnies out of us
As someone who’s come near to being struck off by three doctors because I called on their services so little that they thought I’d moved out of their area, I think I can safely say that hypochondria is not one of my varied vices.
I’m robust for an old bird pushing 60, despite my wicked ways, and I think this is partly down to not fretting about my health. I once walked on a fractured foot in Benidorm for five days after kicking a mobility scooter, believing that I’d only stubbed my toe. I know it wasn’t big or clever, but I can’t help boasting about it.
Though I’m led to believe that the Well Woman industry is feminist in intent, I think it attempts to make fussing ninnies out of us. I prefer to be a Tough Broad than a Well Woman. And now “self-care” is the big thing, which is basically believing that modern life (Having a job! Having sex! Having the vote!) is so taxing for us delicate ladies that we need to spend a good part of our down time lying on a chaise longue snuffling up the smelling salts in order to build our strength back up.
If you do have the bad luck to get sick, your attitude to it can really make a difference to whether people seek out your company or not. I’ve got friends with cancer and amputated legs who are an absolute joy to be with, and I’ve got friends who can’t stub their toe (let alone fracture their foot) without making a song and dance about it. Needless to say, the latter don’t tend to be turning potential playmates away from the door.
As if the fusspots needed more encouragement to work themselves into a tizzy about their wellbeing, now they can bring Fitbits into the picture – “a family of fitness products that help you stay motivated and improve your health by tracking your activity, exercise, food, weight and sleep”. Is it just me, or did we once dream of the day we’d leave home and live a carefree life without our mom forever fussing about us?
Worrying about not getting enough sleep is the thing that makes people mope even more than the lack itself – I’ve had chronic insomnia for four years and I rarely recall being perkier. And now health officials are scolding us to become as familiar with our blood pressure reading as we are with our PIN number, claiming that “thousands of heart attacks and strokes could be prevented” this way. “Prevention is at the heart of our vision for improving the health of the nation, empowering people to stay healthy, not just treating them when they’re ill,” tutted UK health secretary Matt Hancock.
This is nothing less than advocating hypochondria as a modus operandi – and it’s not just aimed at adults either. Every week a Windsor seems to visit an infant school telling tots that they’re about to go insane if they don’t practise “mindfulness”.
But there’s a school of thought, backed up by a lot of actual scientific research, that says we find happiness when we’re not actively seeking it – when we become really good at something and get lost in it. Of course, to get really good at a thing you have to practise a great deal – which no doubt would be seen as contributing to the demon “stress” which has taken on the status of incipient polio among youngsters in the fearful minds of their parents.
I’m not underplaying the risk of depression in young people – my son suffered from it in his teens and committed suicide because of it in his 20s. But I do think that presuming that the majority of youngsters are susceptible to it is in danger of becoming something of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
It’s not social media that is ruining our lives – on the contrary, social media should toughen us up by teaching us that names can never hurt us without our consent. It’s the world outside which – from weathermen telling us to wrap up warm, to universities telling us free speech will upset us, to children’s books telling them the world is about to end because of plastic bags – creates a climate of fear.
At a time when life is improving as never before, we are in danger of raising a generation who move from being Little Lord Fauntleroy to Victor Meldrew without ever becoming cheerful, autonomous adults in between.
– © The Sunday Telegraph