Why is it important to understand how people make “health decisions”?
What us surprising about people’s behaviour, in his opinion?
What kind of information about health risks do people rely on most?
If asked, “What are health decisions?”, most of us would answer in terms of hospitals, doctors and pills. Yet we are all making a whole range of decisions about our health whish go beyond this limited area; for example, whether or not to smoke, exercise, drive a motorbike, drink alcohol regularly. The ways we reach decisions and form attitudes about our health are only just beginning to be understood.
The main paradox is why people consistently do things which are known to be very hazardous. Two good examples of this are smoking and not wearing seat belts: addiction helps keep smokers smoking; and whether to wear a seat belt is only partly affected by safety considerations. Taken together, both these examples underline elements of how people reach decisions about their health. Understanding this process is crucial. We can then more effectively change public attitudes to hazardous, voluntary activities like smoking.
Smokers run double the risk of contracting heart disease, several times the risk of suffering from chronic bronchitis and at least 25 times the risk if lung cancer, as compared to non-smokers. Despite extensive press campaigns (especially in the past 20 years), which have regularly told smokers and car drivers the grave risks they are running, the number of smokers and seat belt wearers has remained much the same. Although the number of deaths from road accidents and smoking are well publicized, they have aroused little public interest.
If we give smokers the real figures, will it alter their views on the dangers of smoking? Unfortunately not. Many of the “real figures” are in the form of probabilistic estimates, and evidence shows that people are very bad at processing and understanding this kind of information. Giving people information like that contained in leaflets and posters should alter their behaviour, but it is unlikely to.
The kind of information that tends to be relied on both by the smoker and seat belt non-wearer is anecdotal, based on personal experiences. All smokers seem to have an Uncle Bill or an Auntie Mabel who has been smoking cigarettes since they were twelve, lived to 90, and died because they fell down the stairs. And if they don’t have such an aunt or uncle, they are certain to have heard of someone who has. Similarly, many motorists seem to have heard of people who would have been killed if they had been wearing seat belts.
Reliance on this kind of evidence and not being able to cope with “probabilistic” data form the two main foundation stones of people’s assessment of risk. A third is reliance on press-publicized dangers and causes of death. American psychologists have shown that people overestimate the frequency (and therefore the danger) of the dramatic causes of death (like aeroplane crashes) and underestimate the undramatic, unpublisized killers (like smoking) which actually take a greater toll of life.
What is needed is some way of changing people’s evaluations and attitudes to the risks of certain activities like smoking. What can be done? The “rational” approach of giving people the “facts and figures” seems ineffective. But the evidence shows that when people are frightened, they are more likely to change their estimates of the danger involved in smoking or not wearing seat belts. Press and television can do this very cost-efficiently. Programmes like Dying for a Fag (a Thames TV programme) vividly showed the health hazards of smoking and may have increased the chances of people stopping smoking permanently.
So a mass-media approach may work. But it needs to be carefully controlled. Overall, the new awareness of the problem of health decisions and behaviour is at least a more hopeful sign for the future.
from “Why do we still dice with death?” by Robert Hallet in New Society
Complete these statements by choosing the answer which you think fits best. Prove your choice.
The subject under discussion in this article is
(a) why people persist in running health risks.
(b) why people fail to make health decisions.
(c) how people estimate the dangers of smoking.
(d) how to use the mass media for health education.
The writer suggests that the main reason that people don’t stop smoking is that
(a) they tend to imitate friends and relations who smoke heavily.
(b) they are unable to break the habit although they know the risks.
(c) they are unaware of the degree of danger involved in smoking.
(d) they don’t accept the statistical evidence against smoking.
Publishing figures for health risks has been found to have little effect because people
(a) found them difficult to interpret.
(b) considered them to be exaggerated.
(c) were too shocked to respond to them.
(d) usually fail to read such reports.
A reason given for using the mass media to publicize health risks is that they
(a) are known to be successful in changing people’s habits.
(b) can reach the widest cross-section of the population.
(c) are the only really effective means of frightening people.
(d) are an economical way to influence large numbers of people.
The most optimistic aspect of this article is the fact that
(a) the media are having an increasing effect in health education.
(b) Attention is being paid to hew people assess health risks.
(c) People are becoming more concerned about their own health.
(d) Precise figures are now available to underline health rusks.
Expand on the underlined sentences in the text.
A HEALTHY MIND AND A HEALTHY BODY
1. Which of the things do you think are important for good health?
enough sleep, good food, hobbies, friends, plenty of money, regular medical check-ups, people who care about you, a nice place to live, regular exercise, interesting work, pets
Comment on your idea.
2. Answer the questions in the questionnaire:
What do you have for breakfast?
What do you usually have for lunch?
What did you have for dinner last night? Is this typical?
How much water do you drink every day?
Do you think your diet needs to improve? In what way?
How much physical activity do you do every day?
Would you like to get fitter? How?
What new sport would you like to take up, if you could?
How much sleep do you get every night?
What time do you usually go to bed?
How do you usually feel when you wake up?
Do you fall asleep easily, or do you have trouble falling asleep?
Do you ever wake up in the night? Why?
What is the last thing you usually do before going to sleep?
3. Speak on the things that stop people from sleeping and explain why it stops people from sleeping. Now read the text and see if your guesses were right.
Are you getting enough sleep?
Today many doctors say that sleep can change our health. If we want our bodies to work well, we need sleep. If people don’t have enough sleep, they can suffer from depression as well as illnesses such as heart disease.
The most obvious effect of not having enough sleep is to make us weaker and it makes it harder to fight illness; in other words, people who do not sleep enough are more likely to get sick or ill.
Many people have sleeping problems. Studies in the USA have found that 60 per cent of adults have problems sleeping a lot of the time. More than 40 per cent of adults say that they feel sleepy in the daytime and that this makes their lives difficult. 20 per cent say they sometimes have problems sleeping. At least 40 million people in the USA suffer from sleep problems that need treatment – because they sleep too much or too little – but very few people actually go to a doctor about their sleep problem. So what are the things that affect sleep? Well, firstly, there’s noise. If there are noises such as barking dogs, dripping taps and loud music, you’ll probably find it difficult to sleep. What is interesting is that women seem to notice noise more than men, while young children do not notice noise as much as adults.
If you are sitting in a chair, you’ll find it very difficult to sleep. But you will probably have no problem falling asleep if you are lying down. This is another thing that affects sleep – sleep surface. We need to be horizontal and we need to have enough space.
A third thing affecting sleep is temperature. You may have noticed that you have difficulty sleeping if it is very hot or cold. Studies have found that if the temperature is below 12°C or above 24°C, we will wake up.
Altitude too, can change the way we sleep. If you are at an altitude of over 4,000 m, you need to breathe differently because you don’t have as much oxygen. It will take you about two weeks to get used to this.
So, if you want to sleep well:
Do not do exercise before you go to bed.
Do not drink alcohol or drinks like coffee that have caffeine.
Do try to relax.
We hope this helps. Sleep well.
Are you getting enough sleep?
DON’T GET STRESSED OUT!
Stress is difficult to define, but the majority of us who live in today’s urban areas know what it is like: It is the feeling that you can no longer cope with the everyday business of living. Stress plays such a big role in so many of the illnesses of modern life that it makes sense to try and do something to reduce it. To do this, first you have to work out what situations are stressful for you and then think of ways in which you can avoid them.
1. Read dictionary definitions of the word STRESS
Stress is the feeling of being worried because of problems in your life;
Stress is a worried or nervous feeling that stops you relaxing, caused, for example, by pressure at work or financial or personal problems
and say which of these things stress you? Why?
Parents, university, studies, groupmates, boyfriends/ girlfriends, clothes, teachers, money, brothers and sisters, homework, world news, computers, the weather, mobile phones, transport, exams, etc.
2. Look at the phrases in the box and say how they are related to STRESS.
To have a bad dream, to have a headache, to sweat a lot, to feel angry, to forget things, to feel nervous, to suffer from anxiety
3. Agree or disagree with the following statements:
Most people find changes stressful.
Stress can sometimes help you to do well.
You shouldn’t eat sugary snacks when you are feeling stressed.
Drinking coffee can help you feel less stressed.
You shouldn’t do exercise when you are stressed.
4. Read the text. Write the paragraph headings in the right places in the text:
How to deal with stress. What is stress? Different kinds of stress.
a)………….. Do you ever feel that you don’t know what to do because there are too many things in your life? Then you probably feel stress. Things that cause stress are called “stressors”. One important stressor is change. For example, going to a new school or starting a new job can give you stress. Other common stressors are taking a test or being ill.
b)…………. But some stress can be good. For example, before a race most athletes feel nervous. This stress helps them get ready. What makes stress good or bad? Let’s look at an example: Jack has a new job in another city. He and his wife are very excited, but their children are sad to leave their family and friends. The move to another city is a good stressor for the parents but a bad one for the children. The parents and the children have different feelings about the situation.
c)………….. When you are feeling stressed, these tips can help you:
* Eat lots of fruit and vegetables and meat and fish without fat. Salad is good too. Don’t eat any snacks, like crisps, and don’t drink any caffeine.
* Don’t eat too much sugar – put the chocolate and cakes away.
* Do exercise every day. Laugh! Make time for fun.
* Talk about your problems.
Read the text again and write: a definition of stress, a definition of “stressor”, an important stressor, things that can make stress good or bad, things that can make you feel better, food that is bad for you when you are stressed.
5. Answer the questions:
Think about changes in your life. Did they cause you stress?
Can you think of a time when stress helped you get ready?
What is a good stressor for you? What is a bad one?
What do you do when you are stressed? Do you use any of the tips?
6. Comment on the following problems from students of English:
“I get stressed when I read in English because there are many words I don’t know.”
“Sometimes I can’t do grammar exercises, so I get stressed.”
“I like to speak English, but I worry about my pronunciation.”
“I want to learn lots of words, but I don’t know how”.
Do you have the same problems with your English? Can you say that you are under stress because of your English? Is learning English stressful? What are the things about English that can be stressful? What you can do to help yourself?
7. Read a magazine article about how different people handle stress and put down 10 questions to the text.
8. Explain the underlined phrases and sentences in your own words.
How I Combat Stress
Like every 15-year-old, I often feel under pressure about all sorts of thing. I tend to be dissatisfied with my weight when I compare myself with girls who are taller and slimmer than me, but my mum points out that I am no different from the majority of my friends, who are really just as plump as I am. Another problem is schoolwork, and the end of term is a time when I get especially anxious because of exams. I have developed a range of strategies for periods when I have a lot to do and get really worked up. One of them is making a list of all the things that I have to get done, on order of importance. That way, I can plan my time better.
I recently realized that my stress and anxiety is due to the absence of direction in my life. For me, schooldays were a time when I misbehaved and fooled about. I wasn’t the brightest pupil around and found most lessons very demanding. Sport was the only thing I was good at. This means that I now do not have the qualifications that I need to get a good job. So I have to set myself some goals and enroll at a college where I will be attending evening courses for adults next term. I hope this will give me the confidence that I lack, and better job prospects.
Being 16, my biggest cause of anxiety and stress is my future. I sometimes feel I shall never satisfy my parents, whose own professional success means that they expect me to do well in life. The only person who really understands me is my brother, and when we are together, we joke and talk about anything that makes us forget about our responsibilities. I have also joined a sports club, where I work out twice a week, and that has made a difference. After I have been to the gym, I find I am physically tired, but I have the mental energy to face the problems that seemed impossible to me earlier on.
While I am aware that being overweight is a health risk, I don’t get worried about my excess kilos or my appearance. Instead of just worrying about being fat, I go to keep fit classes, which is marvelous for reducing stress. Being active is not only good for losing weight but is also good for the circulation. I am not a fanatical weight-watcher, although I try to keep to a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruit, vegetables, whole grain, bread and milk. I am not like those health freakswho tear around health food stores examining the labels on food products to see how many calories that contain. I just use my common sense. It amazes mo more people do not adopt a similar attitude.
I have a husband, for children, and a full-time job, which is a very good reason why I cannot call my time my own. There is always someone who wants something, or some job that needs doing. At the times when I can’t cope any more, I sit or lie down and just close my eyes and think of somewhere quiet and relaxing – a warm, sandy beach, a grassy meadow or even the local park. Afterwards, I have a wonderful sense of relief and the things that I thought were urgent are not so important any more. Just a few minutes of this makes all the difference.
Tell how you DO combat stress.
The government has just announced that it is cutting the money it gives to the Influenza Research Centre. Complete these texts about it with an appropriate form of the verb given. Use the present perfect continuous if possible; if not, use the present perfect or past simple. Indicate where more than one of these tenses is possible.
a). Dr Petra Adams, the Director of the Centre, talks to a reporter:
It’s remarkable to think that since 1950 influenza (1)______(claim) more than 50,000 lives in this country, and in 1957 alone around 6,000 people (2)_____(die). But over the last 20 years we at the Centre (3)______(make) considerable progress on understanding the illness. We (4) _____ (produce) over a hundred books and articles reporting the results of our research and in 1995 they (5)_______(award) the Nobel Prize for medicine to one of my colleagues. In our more recent work we (6)______(look) into the effects of influenza on heart disease and we (7)_______(also explore) a possible link between climate change and the recent increase in the number of cases of influenza. It is a tragedy that the government (8)_______(make) this decision now.
b). Kenneth Sparks, the Opposition spokesperson for science, talks to a television interviewer:
The previous government (1)______(invest) huge amounts of money into the Centre and I think it’s terrible that present government (2)________(announce) this cut when the number of cases of influenza (3)_____(increase). The Centre (4)_______(run) successfully for many years. But this decision is just typical of this government. It (5)_____(neglect) health research ever since it was elected, and (6)_______(cut) back on spending on science generally. Although the government says the cut is necessary because of the recent world economic problems, I (9)_____(speak) to the Minister about this yesterday and (10)_______(also write) to the Prime Minister demanding that the decision should be reversed.
Study this conversation extract. If the underlined verbs are wrong, correct them using either the past perfect (active or passive) or past perfect continuous.
A: How was your weekend?
B: Not great, actually. I’d really been looking forward to a relaxing couple of days. But early on Saturday morning Mum phoned to say that Dad had been taking ill.
A: Oh, no! What had happened?
B: She had just been hearing that he had been flown by helicopter to hospital in Edinburgh from a village called Contin where he had fished with my Uncle Mark.
A: And is he okay? What’s wrong with him?
B: Well, Uncle mark said that Dad had been complaining of a bad headache most of yesterday, but he hadn’t been wanting to go back to the hotel and spoil the day. But then in the evening, just as they had stopped fishing for the day, he had been collapsing…..
Here is the rest of the conversation. If the underlined verb is wrong, correct it using the past simple, present perfect, past perfect, present perfect continuous or past perfect continuous as appropriate.
A: Did he have any health problems recently?
B: Well, he’s been suffering from high blood pressure for some time, but we have thought a fishing holiday in Scotland would be relaxing for him. He worked too hard for months now, and we’ve been trying to persuade him to have a break for ages before he finally agreed.
A: So Have you gone up to Scotland when you have heard?
B: No, Mum has gone up to be with him, but the doctors have checked him over and had been saying that it’s not too serious. They gave him some medicine to bring down his blood pressure and had told him that he needs complete rest for a couple of months. So Mum’s driving him back in the car tomorrow.
A; Well, send him my best wishes when you speak to him.
B: Thanks, I will do.
Study the underlined parts of this email. Make corrections if necessary. Give alternatives where possible.
Yes, Tony’s a lot better, thanks. Pretty much back to his old himself. We got vaccinated ourselves against hepatitis before we went to West Africa, so Tony was just unlucky to get it. He went into work after we got back although he was feeling bad, and some of his colleagues were worried about getting it themselves. I know that some of them had checked themselves by the doctors. By coincidence, his boss said that he’d caught himself hepatitis when he was in Africa a few years ago. When he’s completely recovered, Tony and myself are off to Paris for a few days, and we’re going to occupy us with looking at the galleries and having a rest.
Must go now. The children have just shouted that they want some juice and they can’t reach it themself.