A fascinating 1995 finding from the 1921 Terman study of 1,528
bright California children: going through your parents' divorce as a
child (before 21) and/or going through a divorce yourself as an adult
may shorten your life by perhaps as much as four years! In addition,
certain personality traits, such as conscientiousness vs.
irresponsibility, are also powerfully related to longevity (Friedman, et
al, 1995). Stress and personality factors influence how long we live as
much as blood pressure, cholesterol level, or exercise-diet factors.
These are not minor factors in your life.
Likewise, a survey of 6,307 HMO patients found that 10% had
anxiety that had not been treated (15% had been treated for anxiety).
These untreated anxiety patients (80% also had untreated depression)
had suffered marked reductions in general functioning, health, and
well-being, resulting in their utilizing a high level of primary medical
care (Fifer, et al., 1994). Science can't yet calculate how much the
millions of untreated psychological disorders are costing us.
Current thinking is: if we can express our emotions, talking openly
or acting out our feelings, we can sometimes improve our health. If we
can relax, meditate, let ourselves be touched by others, or establish
warm, caring relationships with others, sometimes we get better or get
worse more slowly. Heart disease has been reversed by diet, exercise,
meditation, and a support group. Women with breast cancer meeting
with a support group lived twice as long as similar women who were
not in such a group. We need human contact, with it we live longer,
e.g. married cancer patients survive longer than unmarried ones. NB:
Don't get the idea that relaxation and supportive human contact can
cure cancer or clean out a blocked artery.
Between 10% and 30% of patients diagnosed as having
psychological disorders are later found to have a physical or
neurological problem (Bondi, 1992). This highlights the need for
referrals by psychotherapists to medical specialists. Likewise,
physicians should refer many of their patients to psychological-
psychiatric specialists. For decades family physicians have estimated
that 2/3rds of all the illnesses they treat are psychogenic, i.e. caused
by psychological factors or stress. A 1995 report said 75% of
complaints brought to MD's were psychological. It has been found that
stress contributes to heart disease, strokes, cancer, breathing
problems, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, suicide, and many other
leading causes of death. So, why is the treatment of most illness,
physical and mental, still in the hands of very expensive MD's who
have little training in dealing with psychological factors? Because our
old laws and health insurance companies have enabled doctors to
continue to monopolize health care and because science, until
recently, has shown relatively little interest in treating psychogenic
disorders. But anyone can see the importance of learning more: our
annual medical bill totals $400+ billion, and 25% of the U.S. work
force misses 16 days per year due to stress, costing $8,000 per
worker. There is clear evidence that psychological treatment is the
best treatment for many stress-related disorders--and, of course, for