Happy Anniversary – If You’re Still Alive
The study was being conducted by Dr. Meyer Friedman, the man who coined the term, “Type A Personality.”
The Meyer Friedman Institute was located in San Francisco about a five minute walk from where I was living and I was recruited through the place where I was ‘temping’, The Pacific Gas and Electric Company.
I was placed in a group with fourteen other men of the same age. The study was to see if we could reduce our levels of stress through behavior modification only, without the use of any drugs.
In the group were three cab drivers, three dentists, two retired military officers who now had their own security companies, another guy like me who worked as a ‘temp’, one teacher, an artist, and two men who could be classified as “business executives.”
We were scheduled to meet, under the guidance of one of Dr. Friedman’s associates, every week for the first year. After that the meetings were less frequent and eventually we were monitored, but didn’t meet as a group.
I thought it was an interesting idea and I got free semiannual physical exams out of it.
We were closely monitored to make sure that we were not physically ill going in, or just plain cuckoo.
Early on, as a group, we had an evening with Dr.Friedman where he explained the study and what was expected of us as participants. One of the men asked the Doctor a question
“After ten years how do you analyze your results?”
The Doctor smiled and said, “That’s easy. We just count the dead ones.”
So maybe it wasn’t as scientific as I thought.
As the study moved on I learned that cab drivers and dentists have very high rates of heart disease and suicide. Both careers, it seems, are very high stress, cabbies never know who is going to get into their cab and dentists are knowingly inflicting pain on people all day. Unless you are a sadist that has to be stressful.
I never thought of it that way.
I stayed with the study and after the ten years – they counted the dead ones.
Two dead from heart attack – the artist and one of the dentists.
Two dead from suicide – a cab driver and the other ‘temp.’
One dead from a botched medical procedure – Dr. Friedman. Of course he was also 95 years old and eating Mexican food could have done him in.
The rest of us were still alive and kicking.
I got a lot from being in that study. I did learn how to deal with stress in ways better than a murderous rage or in following the example of the cabbie and ‘temp.’ It hasn’t made me immune from stress, but even though I take a buffet of medications now to combat my high blood pressure, I am still alive. That is good enough for me.
Today is today.
I can make no promises for tomorrow.