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What can you learn from The Million Women Study?
The Million Women Study being run out of Oxford University in Britain was originallyset up to study hormone replacement therapy, involving more than one million UK women aged 50 and over. 1.3m middle aged women were signed up between 1996 and 2001 and over 1 in 4 women in the UK in the target age group are now participating in the study making it the largest study of its kind in the world.
The Oxford-based researchers have accumulated an astonishing database, and nowadays the epidemiologists appear to come up with different ways of querying their extraordinary resource for answers that will look good in the headlines. The study is becoming a kind of manual for living.
For example, we learn from it that women with partners are less likely to die of heart disease, even though they are just as likely to get it in the first place.
They have found out that: the more children you have the fatter you are, unless you breastfed them for at least six months, in which case you will be thinner. You can smoke until you're 30 with almost no impact on your life expectancy, but smoke after 40 and that's 10 years off it. They have also noticed that taller people get more cancer and are now considering if owning a cat influences your chance of getting brain cancer. No kidding. It is on the website.
The question though is where does this get us?
In our modern soundbite driven media world - Studies become the measure against which we judge ourselves. Worse, they become the measure we hold other people to. Studies define us, and they define otherness. The more we know about the epidemiology of cancer or obesity, the more stringent we can be in our condemnation of those who refuse to live by the rules.
While it's interesting to hear that women are less likely to die of heart disease if they have a partner, no one's going to go out to find one in order to have a marginally better chance of making it to old age.
Just get out there and enjoy life for what it's worth!!!
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