The inverse care law


In this recent BMJ column (subscription required), Dalrymple finds common cause with W W Jacobs (1863-1943), whose short story “A Circular Tour” illustrates a point Dalrymple has made: that the people most worried about their health are often the healthiest people. This humorous snippet from Jacobs’ story captures it quite well:


Illness? said the night watchman, slowly. Yes, sailormen get ill sometimes, but not ’aving the time for it that other people have, and there being no doctors at sea, they soon pick up agin. Ashore, if a man’s ill he goes to a horse-pittle and ’as a nice nurse to wait on ’im; at sea the mate comes down and tells ’im that there is nothing the matter with ’im, and asks ’im if he ain’t ashamed of ’imself.

2 thoughts on “The inverse care law

  1. Jaxon

    If I’m not wrong Capt Cook was really quite ill even as he forged on to latitude 71°10′ South… and more besides of course.

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  2. Simon

    I think sometimes it is about ‘mind over body’. When you tell yourself that you are sick, then your body will react accordingly. We can go against the law of science and reverse the action if we learn how to. However, in this ever-modernizing era, we will be enticed to visit the doctor or consume painkiller the moment we sense a little tinge of pain. It is really difficult to change our habits and technology has actually caused us harm too, alongside its benefits.

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