I went for my Biobank session the other day (see earlier Post), and spent 90 minutes inputting details about my lifestyle and having my height, weight and bone density measured. This is all for the benefit of posterity. Half a million people between 40 and 69 are doing the same, and over time researchers will try and work out what are the common factors that contribute to some rather than others contracting cancer, dementia and so on.
Good idea, yes? I had thought so. But I came away feeling dissatisfied, and that feeling has grown. The Biobankers know a lot about one side of my life, but not much about another. They know about my normal walking pace, how much active DIY I do (none), what I eat for breakfast and the operations I have had. But they know very little about the elements that create quality of life. Very little on the reflective side – interaction with nature, yoga, meditation. Even pets – some research has suggested they give their owners longer and happier lives. I could have ticked a baffling category, ‘religious clubs’, but I was not asked if faith featured in my life. All that seems a big omission. At a simple level, fulfillment decreases stress and lower stress reduces propensity to illness.
A lot of research is going on into the connection between creativity and health – or ‘flourishing lives’ as the Centre for Humanities and Arts in Health and Medicine charmingly call them. But this particular bank won’t give future researchers much capital to go on.