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Home > Research Articles > Aging not a disease, doctors say

Susan Aldridge, PhD

Monday, April 15, 2002

Aging not a disease, doctors say Susan Aldridge, PhD A new survey shows that there are many conditions and problems which doctors do not consider to be illnesses in their own right. There's a growing tendency to 'medicalise' human experience. People used to take experiences such as pregnancy, menopause and aging in their stride. Now they may demand medical help in order to cope. A survey of British doctors reveals where they think the dividing line between illness and experience might lie. Aging tops the list of conditions that doctors don't consider to be an illness. Also in the top 20 are baldness, infertility, obesity, jet lag, cellulite and chronic fatigue syndrome - and even depression. There are some clear advantage to having your condition labelled of course, and this probably accounts for the growing trend toward medicalisation. You get sympathy and may be able to opt out of certain responsibilities. It is also reassuring to have an explanation for your suffering. But the downside includes problems in gaining insurance or a mortgage if a condition appears in your medical records. Some diseases carry a stigma, and being labelled may have a negative impact on your self-image. No-one wishes to deny the genuine suffering involved in some of these 'non-medical' conditions - it's just that classing a problem as an illness may not be the most positive way of dealing with it. Source British Medical Journal 13th April 2002 Volume 324 pages 883-5