So tonight's the last night I'm at this conference (American Society for Bone Marrow Transplant if you're curious), so I figured it would be an appropriate moment to share some interesting data issues that came up in the sessions I went to.
The most interesting one came from a group out of Johns Hopkins, in their talk about their combined inpatient/outpatient program. About 20 years ago now, they started to transition their transplant patients from one long inpatient stay to a shorter stay with a sort of intensive outpatient clinic follow up. This worked really well, cut costs, helped patients feel more autonomous, etc. What was interesting is that as they followed up on patients and how they did, they found that patients treated under this model did better on every single quality of life metric* except one: feelings about appearance.
Since there is no reason to believe they actually looked any different, the only conclusion they could reach is that the more "normal" people the cancer patients saw, the more acutely aware they were of how they looked. When they were in the hospital, they were surrounded by other patients, but on the outside they were exposed to more healthy people.
I thought that was an interesting example of how much quality of life measures can depend on what your environment is and who you're being exposed to. We like to act like hapiness or contentment were definitive values that are totally internally generated, but they're not. People compare themselves to others. We just can't help it.
*The hard health measures (recovery, blood counts, etc) were the same with either method.