In their analysis of 173 men’s lives as documented over a 40-year span, Dartmouth Medical school researchers George Vaillant, M.D., professor of psychiatry, and his wife, Caroline, found that those who suffered ill health and psychological problems in later years had one striking thing in common- they had been regular tranquilizer users (including sleeping pills and anti-depressant drugs) from college days through age 50. Even more surprising, tranquilizer use edged out smoking, drinking, being overweight and stress (measured by marital and job satisfaction) as the most significant predictor of poor physical and mental health at age 65.
The drugs themselves may not be totally responsible. The Vaillants look on them as flags to depression, which is often a symptom of poor health. “Although someone may be les healthy at an earlier age,” says Caroline Vaillant, “our research suggests that if they avoid tranquilizers, they may get a second chance at being healthier later.”
And even though the study only tracked men, women, too, can benefit from the findings, which seem to indicate that paying attention to drug-taking habits in early years might help alert you to health problems before it’s too late.
Vol 10 Issue 3 page 6