To the Researchers Who Found That 1 in 5 Americans 'Exaggerate Illness for Sympathy'


Joe Coe is a patient advocate and social media manager for CreakyJoints.

That is the key finding from a “study” released by Vicks, the popular cough drop company. After scouring the internet for the contents of this study we, the CreakyJoints community, came up empty-handed. We could not find one peer reviewed publication and of course we cannot review the methodology used to conduct this “study.” Our data scientist contacted Vicks but we have yet to receive any information.

As an organization we find reports like this to be highly irresponsible. We represent more than 100,000 people living with a chronic disease and we know that the stigma people face is real. We know the frustration and hopelessness people battling disease feel. We know that healthy people don’t understand how devastating a chronic disease can be especially when the person “doesn’t look sick.”

As a person living with migraines (thankfully mostly controlled) I know some people may say I’m “exaggerating” when I mention that I am having one, or when I talk about how debilitating they can be, or that they think I use my headaches as an excuse to get sympathy. This is exactly why many don’t seek treatment and don’t share what they going through. They are afraid they will be judged as weak, whiny, or “exaggerating.”

We know that Vicks likely doesn’t have ill intentions. But know this, Vicks: you are not helping or comforting me or the members of the CreakyJoints community when you publish reports like this. We hope Vicks finds ways to work with all people, sick and healthy, and recognize the negative impact this “study” has on people who aren’t looking for sympathy but are very sick.

This blog was originally published on CreakyJoints.

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