Z-list illnesses

Sorry, people who actually read the stuff I put on Facebook – it’s this again. Here is tonight’s rant, my subject: popular illnesses.

Now, assume I am sitting behind an attractive, antique wooden desk, leaning back in an old leather-covered chair and talking to you in my most waspish Oxbridge academic tone:

Why do you think that some illnesses have a better image than others? Oh? You don’t? Well, take mental health. In 2014 in the U.K., approximately £115 million was spent on mental health research. You may think that is a large amount, but as approximately one quarter of us will have some experience of a mental health problem within a year that equates to around £10 – a couple of pints of quality real ales to you or me – per sufferer per year. Almost incredibly, the most common mental illnesses, depression and anxiety, get even smaller slices of the cake: £1.55 and £0.21 spent on researching those illnesses per sufferer.

Now an illness with a far better image is cancer. Each suffer of that has £1571 spent on research on their illness each year – over 150 times more money that is lavished on the loons.

Now before you make some weaselly defence of this, let’s look at a better measure of a illness’ social acceptability. Again these are figures from 2014 in the UK. For every £1 spent by the government on cancer research the public admirably donates £2.55. And donations for mental illness? Again for every £1 spent by the government researching mental illnesses the generous public donates £0.003 – less than half a penny.

Hope you get a socially acceptable illness, is my suggestion. Me? I have PTSD and chronic psychosis – I can assure you they are, most profoundly, of very little sport.

Right, I’m out from the desk, although I’ll take the glass of Arlaud 1999 Clos St Denis from it as I bring you a leaflet with these numbers on for you to throw away. This data was reported by the Wellcome Trust (they paid me to do my DPhil) and is often used by the mental health charity Rethink Mental Illness (for whom I am a media volunteer).