Jewish World Review Nov. 3, 2003 / 8 Mar-Cheshvan, 5764

Keith Olbermann

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Consumer Reports

The science of pop-cultcha? | And once again, Mr. Science is here to explain vital issues of importance.

Research now shows that too much pop culture can cause stress and headaches. Research may also show that the sciences of pediatric medicine and sociology have too much time on their collective hands. First the headaches. This week's issue of "The New England Journal of Medicine" cites a physician reporting headaches in otherwise healthy children aged 8 to 10.

Dr. Howard Bennett eliminated the variables and put his finger on the problem. The kids were spending six to eight hours a day reading the novel "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix." At 870 pages, the book is often bigger than its readers. Here's the punchline, the number of cases of what Dr. Bennett calls Hogwarts headaches? Three. Three cases, and he writes it up in "The New England Journal of Medicine."

The remedy for these headaches, by the way, take breaks from reading.

That will be $60. You can pay the receptionist on the way out.

And, by the way, Dr. Bennett did not study headaches caused by kids whomping each other over the head with copies of the book, which brings us to the new research about anxiety, not just any old anxiety, Oprah anxiety. This stuff is from a man named Hale Dwoskin, who just happens to have self-help book out about stress and anxiety. So we're not sure if he's eligible for a Nobel Prize for this research.

But a survey commissioned by Mr. Dwoskin claims that about 5 percent of the country's adults-that would be nine million people-say they are so severely anxious and stressed that they can no longer cope. And half of that nine million say they are also fans of Oprah Winfrey. I don't make this stuff up. I just read it. Mr. Dwoskin's survey also claims that 76 percent of Oprah's fans wish their lives were calmer and that the non-Oprah fan is only half as likely to say that he can no longer cope as are the regular viewers. For some reason, Mr. Dwoskin has not released any survey data about Stedman.

You're probably thinking by now that this is some kind of vendetta on Mr. Dwoskin's part, identify Oprah as the nation's Typhoid Mary of stress and, who knows, maybe your book or your TV show or your magazine will replace hers. Evidently not. Mr. Dwoskin, the self-help, stress-reducing expert is not ripping Oprah at all. He thinks, he says, the connection between her and stress stems from the likelihood that her viewers-quote-"are probably just more aware, open and honest with their emotions. They're able to identify with how stressed out they are, just as they are able to identify with the heart-centered topics and stories that Oprah presents on her show."

So, to summarize these two breakthroughs of scientific research today, if you're feeling stressed and you're headachy, resist the temptation. Do not pick up your copy of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" and throw it through at the image of Oprah Winfrey on your television screen. Thank you.

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The writer hosts MSNBC's “Countdown with Keith Olbermann.” The news program, dedicated to all of the day’s top stories, telecasts weeknights, 8-9 p.m. ET. Comment by clicking here.

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