If you pay extra attention to the probability of dangerous diseases that you may suffer from in the future, you are probably suffering from what is being termed as ‘Angelina Jolie syndrome’, a study warns.
The politicisation and commercialisation of health issues in today’s Western culture have led to growing healthism — a peremptory idea of self-preserving behaviour.
This approach criticises everything that fails to fit into the glamorous standards of a beautiful, young and slim body.
“But even simple concerns about the ‘standards’ of physical condition may provoke hypercorrection, such as surgery on a healthy body,” said study author Evgenia Golman from National Research University Higher School of Economics, Russia. More widespread displays of healthism include the boom in diets, fitness fads, plastic surgery, organic food along with the popularity of mobile apps for health monitoring.
“Popular healthcare policy today often shifts the responsibility for health from healthcare institutions to individuals themselves, and shifts the focus from treatment to prevention — including prevention of even purely hypothetical pathologies,” Golman wrote in her paper. Preventive medicine undoubtedly helps prevent many diseases and can save a lot of resources for families and the state.
But if ‘calculation’ of sicknesses and idealisation of beauty and healthy body standards are understood improperly — especially in a purely commercial way — they can lead to mass neurosis and a social obsession with complying to healthist fashion.
“The most dangerous thing is that such an approach stigmatises everything that doesn’t fit in with the model of a ‘healthy lifestyle’,” the researcher warned. A young, beautiful and slim body is becoming not just a ‘glossy’ cult, but a measure for an individual’s socio- economic position and even their ‘value’ to society. A person not only obsessively monitors every bodily manifestation, but also starts detecting signs of imaginary sicknesses. Everything that doesn’t fit into healthist standards (from excessive weight to facial features) can become an object of discrimination.
Golman emphasised such sources of healthism as “the politicisation of health” and economic feasibility of lower health care costs, social transformations such as the cult of individualism, as well as “medicalisation of everyday life”.
The study was published in the Journal of Social Policy Studies.
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