Disease rankings

There is a hierarchy of prestige in medicine. Numerous studies have found that surgery and internal medicine are thought of most highly by doctors while while psychiatry, geriatric and child medicine come near the bottom. A study published in Social Science & Medicine took this idea one step further and looked at which diseases have the most prestige among the medical community.

Sociologist Erving Goffman wrote a highly influential book about the social dynamics of stigma in which he suggested that it has its social power through associating people with stereotypes.

It’s interesting that doctors who specialise in working with people who have the least status in society (children, the ‘mad’, the ‘old’) also have the least status in medicine.

The Norwegian researchers asked senior doctors, general practitioners and medical students to rate diseases and came up with the following list, which ranks diseases from the most prestigious at the top, to the least prestigious at the bottom.

Needless to say, mental illnesses fill most of the bottom slots.

Myocardial infarction [heart attack]
Spleen rupture
Brain tumour
Testicle cancer
Pulmonary embolism [normally blood clot on the lung]
Angina pectoris
Extrauterine pregnancy
Thyroid cancer
Meniscus rupture [‘torn cartilage’]
Colon cancer
Ovarian cancer
Kidney stone
Ulcerative colitis [inflammation of the bowel]
Kidney failure
Duodenal ulcer [peptic ulcer]
Pancreas cancer
Ankle fracture
Lung cancer
Sciatica [‘trapped nerve’]
Bechterew’s disease [arthritis of the spine]
Femoral neck fracture
Multiple sclerosis
Inguinal hernia [abdominal wall hernia]
Apoplexy [internal organ bleeding]
Cerebral palsy
Depressive neurosis
Hepatocirrhosis [cirrhosis of the liver]
Anxiety neurosis

Link to PubMed entry for study.

4 thoughts on “Disease rankings”

  1. They were assigned a list of 38 defined diseases and asked to rate each one. No inference can be made from the absence of breast cancer in the list (although yeah, that’s the first thing I thought off, too.)

  2. Fibromyalgia is a mental disorder.
    There is nothing physically wrong with these whacko-s except their abnormally-high need for attention.

    Rating: zero

  3. I have spinal cord injury and it is, sadly, all too real.

    I have a problem with autonomic dys-reflexia. It’s not fun.

    An acquaintance with “fibromyalgia” now claims that she gets autonomic dys-reflexia, too.

    If you’ve climbed Mount Everest to Base Camp 3, any overweight middle-aged woman with fibromyalgia has climbed to Base Camp 4.

    Whatever symptom your real and unfortunate disability has wrought on you, the fibromyalgics have the same thing- only worse, of course.

    Is that whiny voice part of their symptomology?

    Now, the fibromyalgics all seem to have Morgellons.

    “Fibrofog” is not “Morgellons Brain Fog”

    Euthanasia may be the best treatment.

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