Tuesday 24 April 2018

Husband habits - careful, you may get what you wished for


Illustration: Eorna Walton
Illustration: Eorna Walton

Maurice Gueret

When it comes to human addictions, our GP urges caution, as you just may get what you wished for.

Newton's Law

A lady once told me that she didn't recognise her husband any more. Not only that, she didn't like him, either. She had scolded her life partner for years about his cigarette smoking, excessive drinking and gambling of the little money that was left. Well, in one fell swoop, he gave them all up, for her. That's when he started getting on her nerves. She would complain that he was now too regimented. He no longer needed to leave the house a couple of times a day. He was getting under her feet. He was tidying up things that didn't need to be tidied. He was boring. He wasn't going out with his old friends. He was eating too much and putting up weight. He wasn't spontaneous any more, and was always planning too far ahead. I explained Newton's third law of physics to her. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. I'm not sure she understood what I was getting at. I tried to cheer her up by saying her new abstemious husband might live 20 years longer than the old one. A prediction that seemed to fill her with horror.

New Habits

Addiction is an interesting phenomenon. It's great that more people are giving dangerous habits up. When I was an impressionable teenager in the 1970s, half of the adults in Ireland smoked. Now the figure here is one in five. I don't credit individual health ministers. Smoking rates in England, Wales and Scotland are currently lower than our own. Just one in six is a smoker. We pay very little attention to the lives of those in 'recovery'. Giving up cigarettes six years ago this summer has allowed me some insight. Habit-formers are liable to replace old habits with new habits. Many new habits are put in place to guard against falling into old habits again. You are safer carrying an extra stone of weight than a packet of fags. And for the very worst of addicts, there is always exercise.

Swift News

Most interesting health news this summer was the decision of the Vhi to allow only their own policy-holders access to Swiftcare clinics from next September. Previously, anybody could turn up for treatment between 8am and 10pm and be seen for a €125 fee, or €65 with a GP note. Though based only in Dublin and Cork, the clinics have been an unmitigated success. Seven-day access to bricks and mortar healthcare is far more important than the gimmickry of 24/7 online virtual access doctors. The Vhi has been safely ahead of their insurance rivals when it comes to investment in real services. A single clinic with five or six patients an hour can turn over €5m a year. With good management of costs, the Vhi manages a small but healthy annual profit from this business. I wouldn't be surprised to see more locations announced before long. In the meantime, there may now be another big disincentive for one million subscribers to move their cover elsewhere.

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