Comparison stinks

Comparison, they say, is odious. Yet it is something that we all tend to do. We use comparison as a way to measure how we are going in life. When we become ill the temptation to compare becomes even stronger as we look to see how well or sick, we really are. Research though suggests that comparing is not necessarily the best thing to do for your health.

Researchers have analysed the data from previous studies and found that comparison can cut both ways.

People who compare “downward” to others who are worse off, are less depressed than people who compare “upward” to people who are better off. Downward comparisons often are associated with immediate positive feelings such as relief and gratitude.

Nearly as often however, studies show the exact opposite.

People who compare upward do better on physical health measures and report feeling hopeful about their ability to improve. Still other studies demonstrate the negative effects of both types of comparisons; downward comparisons can lead to sadness or worry and upward comparisons can lead to dejection.

More research needs to be done in the area but it seems fairly clear that the Desiderata is right; do not concern yourself with comparison. The conflicting research on the potential effects of comparing suggests that you are better off with positive thoughts and acceptance.

In the end, comparison is to your health as the government is to interest rates; of dubious value. Then again, maybe that’s an unfair comparison.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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