More on the ‘Exciting’ Survey at the Surgery

In which The Author has cause to question
his life expectancy

I had an appointment at the surgery this morning. I was approached in the waiting room by a postgrad student from Cardiff University, who asked me if I’d be interested in helping with a research project. It was the ‘exciting’ project I told you about in about ‘I Want Some ‘Excitement’ in My Life‘.
Well, I had to go for it, didn’t I? After all, I’m always keen to help medical students out. I’ve been doing it for years. (Bless ’em, some of them can’t even write their own names without adult supervision, or use the telephone, or speak to strangers without their parents acting as intermediaries.) So I agreed to take part.
She explained that the object of the exercise was to enable GPs to better communicate health promotion and lifestyle changes to their patients. There’d be a short questionnaire about drinking, smoking, diet and so forth, to fill in before my consultation, and a more detailed questionnaire afterwards. There’d be a follow-up questionnaire sent to me in three months’ time, and then another meeting in a year’s time, to see what lifestyle changes I’ve adopted since signing up for the project. I was in no rush, so I agreed to take part.
The questionnaire itself was pretty straightforward. There was the usual ‘Have you ever had any of the diseases on this list?’ question – I swear I must have ignored every box on this list at least half a dozen times in the last year, on meeting every single nurse and doctor at orthopaedics clinics at Llandough Hospital and elsewhere.
There was a page about my smoking habits. I was able to ignore this as well – never have, never been tempted. Peer pressure? Piffle! Then there was a question about alcohol – also not applicable for the time being (although we’ll have to see what happens once the academic season and Christmas are upon us) – and a section about diet and exercise.
Since the operation on my shoulder I haven’t been able to do any heavy lifting, but in work I do a fair bit of fetching and carrying. I also cover a fair few miles in the course of a working week. (Jeff and I often say it would be fun to wear pedometers for a day and see how far we walk by the time we knock off.) I can run up a flight of steps without gasping for breath, and I can walk for ages without feeling any ill-effects. I also spend a fair proportion of the day sitting (at least two hours a day, just on the train to and from work), so I gave a fair approximation for these figures. I know I don’t get anywhere close to five a day, and I do like chips, but I don’t eat meat or much saturated fat.
I would have thought I’d be an ideal subject for the survey – if only to make up part of a truly representative sample. One of the other blokes waiting in the surgery was a chronic alcoholic of my acquaintance – he must be one of the unhealthiest specimens still in circulation in Aberdare. He and I would obviously lie towards opposite ends of the chart; if he was in, I wanted in as well.
My doctor had to countersign the forms. He took one glance at them, ticked a box, stamped and dated it, and gave them back to the researcher.
I’d been rated as ‘Eligible, but not appropriate.’
What does that mean?
I’m forty-two years old, I’ve been off the beer for six weeks, I’ve always been tobacco- and drug-free, and I don’t have any life-threatening conditions.
Not that I know of, anyway …
It’s a longitudinal survey. That means that they track the subjects over time. Does ‘Eligible, but not appropriate’ mean that my number’s going to be up before the twelve months elapse?
As if I wasn’t already losing sleep …

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