Alt: A doctor doodle says, “You’re in for a long battle against athlete’s foot. But you’re a fighter! You’ll win this war!” A patient doodle frowns, imagining a tiny version of himself fighting a giant foot with a sword.

Chances are you’ve heard of the “war on cancer.” Maybe you’ve written about someone who “beat” their disease—or “lost the battle.” Doctors, patients, and health writers use militaristic language all the time. But today, dear readers, we’re calling for a ceasefire in health materials.

Why? Because the connotations of these words can affect the health decisions people make and the way they feel about their health. Say someone dies of cancer and you write that they “lost their fight.” Could that imply that they didn’t try hard enough? That dying of cancer was somehow their fault? Ugh.

Research has shown that patients who use negative metaphors like “enemy” to describe their disease are more likely to feel depressed and anxious….



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