Is Ignorance Truly Bliss? How Information Aversion Could Kill You

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Is Ignorance Truly Bliss How Information Aversion Could Kill YouNobody likes bad news, and most people certainly don’t greet it with an open invitation. But this reaction can create a pretty big problem when it comes to your health.

Some say ignorance is bliss, and in some cases, it is. But sometimes, ignorance can have deadly consequences. I don’t want to generalize, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most people choose to ignore their health. The fact that you’re reading this probably puts you in the minority—and you’re doing the right thing, because when it comes to your health, one thing is certain: knowledge is power.

The issue is that most people don’t want to know what’s wrong with them. Sure, they might feel sore or unhealthy, or maybe they’re experiencing some problems, but they just go along with it. My friend’s father, for example, ignored a tumor in his throat that ultimately took his life. He knew there was a problem, but he didn’t want to acknowledge it.

He isn’t alone. After all, who would want to have tests run that are designed to tell you you’re sick? Why go in for a blood test only to get the bad news that you have hepatitis, HIV, or diabetes? Why have your prostate examined only to find out you have prostate cancer? How could you go in for a mammogram knowing it could cost you a breast?

People are scared to know, and it’s not a new phenomenon.

It’s called information aversion and it’s more common than you may think. A recent test looked at whether or not university-aged students would submit to a herpes test. They were told they would be tested for one of two types of herpes. They would be tested for a less serious version (HSV-1) of the infection and another that is more severe (HSV-2). They were explained the differences graphically and shown pictures.

Even when they were told they had to pay $10.00 if they elected not to learn the results, five percent of them turned down learning whether or not they had the less severe type, while 15% declined results for the more severe type. The most common explanation of why it was that they paid money for less knowledge was that they were nervous or anxious about discovering what they really had.

Tests are scary, I won’t deny that, but the results are essential to your survival. Being aware of any condition you might have gives you the tools to live accordingly and extend your life in comfort. Practicing a preventative lifestyle and making healthy choices is always a good way to hold off disease, but it offers no guarantees.

Book an appointment with your doctor and run the gamut of tests. It’s the only way you’ll truly know how healthy you are.

Sources for Today’s Article:
Ganguly, A., “Fantasy and Dread: The Demand for Information and the Consumption of Utility of the Future,” Social Science Research Network web site, May 28, 2014; http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2370983, last accessed July 30, 2014.
Vedantam, S., “Why We Think Ignorance Is Bliss, Even When It Hurts Our Health,” NPR web site, July 28, 2014; http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/07/28/333945706/why-we-think-ignorance-is-bliss-even-when-it-hurts-our-health?sc=ipad&f=1128.

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