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Friday, 3 February 2012

Alcohol and risk: surprising early warning from F Scott Fitzgerald.

F Scott Fitzgerald
@HealthMed More early 20th Century discussion in literary fiction of risks of over-indulgent lifestyle.
F Scott Fitzgerald addresses lifestyle risk twice in his 1922 novel 'The beautiful and damned': smoking as a risk for a young woman's complexion, and later in the book, risks of alcohol.
Usher girlfriend Georgina challenges Harvard man Anthony Patch on his drinking - both for the amount and as a daily habit, predicting serious disease. She comments: 'you and your friends keep on drinking all the time. I should think you'll ruin your health'. She then adds: 'Think what you'll be at 40'.
Anthony is dismissive, replying that 'I only get really tight once a week'. He is neither concerned about weekly binges nor about the long term. For him 40 is beyond his horizon.
Apparent insight, but not for him - for Fitzgerald - take heed of what he says, not as he does.
The book is remarkably prophetic in that the author himself did not live much beyond 40, dying aged ~44 after what was considered a second heart attack, with excessive alcohol considered a major health problem,  oesophageal varices suggested as the cause of a major illness. Retrospective risk factor ascertainment is of course problematic, however it is likely that his smoking contributed to his early demise, assuming the heart attack diagnoses are correct.

Notes on why and how to stop smoking. 

Smoking warnings in literary fiction

Smoking and hip fracture risk

Ideas for losing weight

French paradox

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