...is fear itself, according to the famous quote by Franklin Roosevelt. While this aphorism was intended to warn people away from the dangers of inactivity in the face of difficulty, New York Times science writer/libertarian John Tierney brings up a new study suggesting that there might be some scientific basis to the statement.
The numbers, of course, aren't perfect, but we can extrapolate a bit from what Tierney gives us. 6 percent of Americans are continually stressed about terrorism, and such people are three times as likely to develop heart disease. The American Heart Association estimates that about 80,000,000 Americans has some form of heart disease. Adjusting a little for the number inflation of which advocacy groups are often guilty, we can estimate that about 20% of Americans will get heart disease (that number I cited above puts the value at 37%, so I'm using a very conservative estimate). Now, if the people in that sample are three times more likely to get heart disease, this means that, on average, 60% of them - 3.6 million - will develop some sort of heart ailment. 2.4 million of those would not have had a heart problem if not for fear of terrorism.
The AHA further cites mortality rates at around 10% of the population. Again adjusting downward and using 5%, this means that 120,000 people died of heart disease that was related to fear of terrorism.
That number's probably still artificially large, but think about that for a moment. Al-Qaeda, in their wildest dreams, couldn't think of pulling a terrorist attack with 120,000 victims. If we sum all the victims of terrorist attacks on US soil since 1980, we can't break 5,000, even if we're generous with what constitutes an attack.
Interesting numbers. But here's the question - is Tierney causing even more heart attacks by making us fear fear?