Medical Conditions & Lifestyle Limitations

Medical conditions occur to people with various degrees of severity.  They may be something as simple as the common cold, or they may be something as serious as a major stroke.   The United States Department of Labor Family and Medical Leave Act regulations define a "serious health condition" as an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that requires in-patient care, or involves incapacity, or are chronic, long-term and require multiple treatment.  The specific nature of a medical condition causes physical discomfort, but it may also impose various lifestyle limitations as a result.

A typical lifestyle scale may consist of the following levels:

We will now cite some data on the lifestyle limitations imposed by medical conditions.  The data came from the 2003 MARS OTC/DTC Pharmaceutical Study.   This is a mail survey of 21,106 adults conducted during the first quarter of 2003.   Within this survey, the respondents were shown the statement "Medical conditions limit my lifestyle to some extent" and 12.0% of the respondents said that they agreed a lot with it.

In the following chart, we show the incidences by age/sex groups.  The incidences increase monotonically with age, reflecting the fact that the body deteriorates as it ages.  In modern times, a combination of better nutrition, education, healthcare and medicines have allowed people to live longer and longer.  But the age survivors are not all looking at golden years of tranquil enjoyment and relaxation, as their bodies and minds may be racked by various medical conditions.

(source: MARS 2003)

Although the human body can be affected by many different kinds of medical conditions, there are varying degrees of debilitation and pain.  In the following chart, we show the incidences by those who have suffered various medical conditions over the course of the preceding twelve months.  The incidences have been ranked from low to high.  The blue bars are for those incidences that are lower than the overall average of 12.5% and the orange bars are for those incidences that are higher.

The conditions with lower incidences tend to be occasional minor irritations (such as influenzas, colds, coughs, headaches, seasonal allergies (hay fever), etc).  In fact, those who have suffered from hangovers are likely to have a freer lifestyle than most other people.  Such minor conditions can be treated easily with over-the-counter non-prescription drugs, or just plain rest.  Those conditions in the middle range include some long-term, low-level conditions (such as obesity, non-insulin diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension) that are working silently and may lead to other more dangerous manifestations later.  When these conditions are detected in their early stages, they may be treated or ameliorated by medication or lifestyle changes (e.g. strict diets, exercise, less work).  Those conditions in the high end are chronic incurable disease of deterioration (Alzheimer's diseases, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, insulin, heart attack/diseases, stroke, COPD, etc) that are sometimes accompanied by extreme chronic pains and weaknesses. 

(source: MARS 2003)

Most people enjoy their lives because of the many pleasures that they have come across.  Conversely, they fear death because it represents annihilation and the loss of all that they have loved.  In much of religious piety, eternal life is a recurring theme (as in John 3:16 NIV: "God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life").  But what if eternal life consists of increasing pain and debilitation?  And there is nothing to look forward to but, as in the final words of GŁnter Grass's novel Local Anesthetic: Immer neue Schmerzen ("there will always be new pain").

(posted by Roland Soong, 5/7/2003)

(Return to Zona Latina's Home Page)