Note: I first published this post five years ago, in 2011. Be sure to read Tom Beckman’s comments and click the link if you’re looking for the source of the quote. Thanks so much to Tom, who is the associate director of the Health Professionals Program at the HeartMath Institute, a great program for stress reduction, for this persevering research!
Note: It’s November 2022, and I want to add something about how stress and disease are related. Our autonomic nervous systems react to threats (severe, mild, and even imagined threats) by preparing us to take action (to run, fight, hide).
When this happens, our heart rate increases, pupils dilate, lungs take in more air, digestion slows, cortisol and epinephrine/norepinephrine are released.
In other words, stress prevents our systems from resting, repairing, restoring, regulating, and digesting — the functions that keep us healthy.
I’ve heard this statistic for several years. I’ve seen various forms of it in print, too, often attributed to the Centers for Disease Control but sometimes to the American Medical Association.
I’ve searched the CDC and AMA websites but haven’t found it.
I also searched Snopes.com, but it doesn’t include it.
Because there are variations (some say doctor visits, and the numbers range between 60 and 99 percent), it’s been difficult trying to hunt down the source of the quote.
That’s why I’m posting this. If any readers can shed some light on this, I would sure appreciate hearing from you. I’d love to have verification of the actual original quote and the date it was first published.
I’d like to use the quote with integrity.
Also — if this is close to true, is it possible that we’ve been chasing the rabbit down the wrong hole? That we’ve been addressing symptoms and not the cause?