Glasgow reveals Irn constitution

June 28, 1996

The stiff upper lip has achieved particular rigidity in Glasgow, according to a United States researcher investigating the health beliefs of different ethnic groups.

Carolyn Fong, professor of nursing at San Francisco State University, has been visiting Glasgow as a Fulbright scholar, building up background information for her study of the largest American ethnic group, white Anglo-Saxons.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the worldwide Fulbright exchange programme which was set up "to erode the culturally rooted mistrust that sets nations against one another."

Professor Fong found that most Glaswegians try to live with pain or discomfort, going to see a doctor only as a last resort. When asked how they responded to pain, virtually every interviewee said they ignored it, and would let symptoms build up before seeing a doctor.

"The custom is to see a doctor only when you're very ill. That's very different from the US where people will go see the doctor for health check-ups," Professor Fong said.

There were health promotion campaigns throughout the city, for example on stopping smoking and cutting down on alcohol, said Professor Fong, but interviewees smoked and drank significantly more than their counterparts in the US. Alcohol was also seen as a means of self-care, with hot toddies being used to clear colds.

While some cultures actively pursued good health, Glaswegians took a fatalistic approach, said Professor Fong.

"You look at the number of people who know smoking causes lung cancer and know about heart disease, and go ahead and smoke, and eat high-fat foods," she said. "There seems to be a belief that it's not going to happen to them, or if it happens, it happens."

Professor Fong said virtually everyone knew what constituted a good diet, but what they ate was very different from this. When asked about traditional Scottish food, they talked about haggis, salmon, porridge and potatoes. "But when you ask what they eat, it comes out that it's fish and chips and Irn Bru, and that their favourite food is curry."

But Glaswegians are open minded about alternative healthcare, particularly aromatherapy and massage, which some inter-viewees saw as a first line of treatment for minor illness.

"Massage is seen as good for your health here. In the States, we have massages, but we don't see it in a therapeutic light. And aromatherapy isn't a topic in the States," Professor Fong said.

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