Employee and Family
CMR Canada - Employee and Family Assistance Programs Head Office: Suite 600, Bow Valley Square 4, 250 - 6 Avenue SW, Calgary, Alberta T2P3H7 Telephone (403) 263-2200 Fax (403) 256-8291 E-mail: email@example.com October 2000
CREDIT CARD STRESS: Mountain of debt linked to poor health
A study on credit card use and disease found those with mounting debt were at higher risk for a range of illnesses.
With a vigorous economy, it's easier than
ever to be approved for multiple credit cards, as financial companies
swarm to lend consumers
While a credit card can be useful, paying for goods and services with plastic leads to a growing pile of debt for many. In San Diego, for instance, at any one time the local chapter of the non-profit agency Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) is working with some 5,000 families--who collectively owe $138 million dollars--to eliminate and manage what can be near-crushing debt.
CCCS clients plagued with debt from credit cards, loans, bills, and other circumstances come from all sectors of society, from the very rich to the very poor. A study from Ohio State University, the first of its kind, has linked greater debt stress with greater incidence of disease. The deeper the financial pit, the greater the occurrence of disease, researchers found. "Any one of us who has debt knows that it can cause stress in our lives, and it makes sense that this stress may be bad for our health," said study co-author Prof. Paul J. Lavrakas. The study consisted of two separate surveys involving a total of 1,036 Ohioans. Lavrakas and his colleagues also found that people with a higher proportion of their income tied up in credit card debt showed higher levels of physical impairment. The study adds to a growing body of understanding about psychosomatic illness.
A divorced mother of two, who spoke on the condition that her identity remain private, says using credit cards to help feed and clothe her two teenagers, while juggling her own college fees and two jobs, was no joy ride. "It makes you worry when you pull out the plastic for something. I get anxious," says the woman, who now uses a computer program for managing her finances and re-payments.
"I've always tried to live within my means, but there was always the chance that some unexpected expense would come up. You don't want to cut your kids out of what they deserve: a normal childhood. Sometimes it would just add up. I would wake up in the middle of the night and think about money."
By tightening her spending, shopping at factory clothing outlets, packing her lunches for work, and looking for discounts or special deals when addressing real family needs, she has been able to step back from the brink of serious financial harm. Payment coupons are slowly being reduced, and she recently paid off her car loan. In the right environment she may consider buying a home. "You can take control, and you can see how long it's going to be. It makes it easier every month," she says
When Dr. Ellen Beck, MD, associate professor of family medicine at the University of California, San Diego, attends to patients' ailments, she investigates any possible emotional or situational stress that may be contributing to the physical problem. "We often don't realize that when we come in with physical symptoms and say, 'Our back hurts or our head hurts, we have diarrhea,' more often than not, stress is a component of that illness."
Beck thinks a lot of people hurt financially. "Maybe the country thinks it's in an economically wonderful condition, but I don't think a lot of individual people feel that in their own lives."
She advises a person facing the emotional, personal tangle of debt to share money burdens with professionals who can help find solutions. "Many people in our society are feeling exactly the same way, but are afraid to seek help. At least you can help somebody begin to make a change," she says. "Set some goals. Look at the future, and take care or yourself. I do think that physicians can really help people do that," she adds.Edited by CMR Canada Reference: INNX Health
By CHRISTINE GORMAN
It's called the "hygiene hypothesis," and researchers invoke it to try to explain why the number of children who develop asthma has grown so dramatically over the past three decades. Bolstered by a handful of studies, the basic idea is that modern urban society is too clean for the kids' own good. A hundred years ago, children's immune systems would have faced all kinds of bacterial and viral infections. Today those immune systems don't know what to do in our supersanitized environment, so they wind up attacking pollen, dust mites and other usually innocuous substances instead. In the worst cases, a dangerous overreaction occurs that can shut down the lungs, killing the child.
Now comes word of more evidence for the anticleanliness argument. In a study involving more than 1,000 U.S. kids, published in last week's New England Journal of Medicine, researchers at the University of Arizona compared youngsters who had attended day care before the age of six months with those who had enrolled at a later date. As you might expect, the younger kids, who were exposed to other children earlier and more often, experienced more infections and wheezing. But after they turned six years old, their risk of asthma was less than half that of the children who had enrolled in day care after they were six months old. The researchers' cautious conclusion, according to co-author Anne Wright: "More infectious disease early in life might afford a lifetime protection."
But before you decide to plop your baby next to every runny-nosed kid in sight, there are a few things you should know. Finding an association does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship. Furthermore, some infections can by themselves be quite harmful, even life threatening. The last thing any doctor would suggest is that outbreaks of, say, meningitis or diphtheria are good because in the long run they might protect the survivors against asthma.
Yet even if the association between early infections and a reduced risk of asthma turns out to be real, you can't use it as a basis for healing kids afflicted with asthma. Their immune systems have already made a fundamental shift into asthmatic overdrive. Uncontrolled exposure would only make them sicker. Similarly, the Arizona findings would not apply to babies who are born prematurely and are thus more vulnerable to infections than full-term babies.
Although researchers are still pondering what's behind the alarming increase in asthma, there are plenty of things that parents can do to help allergy-prone or asthmatic kids. For example, many allergists find that giving children a series of shots containing varying amounts of carefully selected irritants can desensitize the immune system and get it back on a more normal track. (The injections don't generally trigger an overreaction because they are delivered not into the respiratory system but through the skin.) "The shots usually aren't given before age 4," says Dr. Ira Finegold of St. Lukes-Roosevelt Medical Center in New York City. "But it can be done earlier."
There are also medications that can stop asthma attacks as they occur, as well as still other drugs that help prevent future ones from happening. But for all the advances in treatment, asthma is still something of a mystery. Even so, if you take advantage of what is known, you may help save your child's life.
Edited by CMR Canada Reference: Time Canada
"SORRY, MY KARMA RAN OVER YOUR
Edited by CMR Canada
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CMR Canada, a national EFAP management firm founded in Alberta in 1990, delivers programs and services that enhance the health and performance capability of individuals and organizations. The firm delivers services to individuals plus their families in organizations located throughout Alberta - Municipal Governments, Hospitals, Unions, Universities, and Corporations and the General Public.
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CMR Canada - Employee and Family Assistance Programs
Head Office Suite 3500, Bow Valley Square 2 205 - 5 Avenue SW Calgary, Alberta T2P2V7 Telephone (403)263-2200 in Calgary, or 1-800-567-9953 from elsewhere Fax (403)256-8291 E-Mail: CMR Canada
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