An Epidemic

In her first interview since her October hospitalization for fever and headaches, actress Lindsay Lohan says that her health woes were caused by exhaustion. ( USA Today, Nov. 22, 2004)

Dr. Charles Gold, an assistant dean at the UCLA Medical School, is worried. “Between the day I graduated from med school and this fall, I saw one true case of celebrity exhaustion,” Dr. Gold said. “It was 1975, and Earl Holliman had just finished shooting a TV movie. Then he did a Dean Martin roast, a Tang commercial and three Hollywood Squares in the same day. When they wheeled him into the E.R., the man was incoherent.”

Actor Vincent D’Onofrio, 45, was released from a New York hospital Friday after a diagnosis of exhaustion. (USA Today, Nov. 22, 2004)

“After Holliman, we would hear about ‘tired’ celebrities-Jack Lord, Charo, Carrot Top-but nothing close to real exhaustion, and never more than one or two cases per year,” said Dr. Gold. “The assumption in the medical entertainment community was that Holliman was a blip, an anomaly. So we ignored it.”

American Idol champ Ruben Studdard was hospitalized for exhaustion Monday in his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. ( USA Today, Nov. 26, 2004)

“But now, celebrities are working so hard-these kids are dropping like flies …. ” Dr. Gold paused to compose himself. “I had to do something. So I shelved my study on Alzheimer’s and put together this.” He waved a copy of his research results. “And these numbers are a wake-up call. You think flying to Cincinnati for a budget meeting is tough, Mr. Marketing Manager Guy? Try going to Vegas for a bachelor party, taking a helicopter to Palm Springs for rehab, getting back to L.A. in time to do Leno, and then breaking up with your girlfriend. Try that.” Dr. Gold slumped into his chair and closed his eyes. “Try that and you’ll wish you were Earl Holliman.”

FINDINGS:

Sample group findings of 97 exhausted celebrities (hospitalized between the Oscars and Nov. 27, 2004) indicate that most (89.3 percent) presented with typical symptoms: lethargy, memory loss, decreased motor skills. Despite their condition, following hospital admission, 78.7 percent insisted upon having a lengthy conference call with their agent and/or publicist, and 12.0 percent wrote a children’s book. (Note: Overall, “well-known” celebrities [22.3 percent] displayed less severe symptoms than “B-List” celebrities [39.0 percent], and the symptoms displayed by celebrities who are famous for no discernible reason [40.7 percent] were even more dramatic.)

CAUSES:

Initially, most celebrities (91.0 percent) cited typical causes for exhaustion (job stress, household responsibilities, baby/child care), but these responses were found to be misleading (e.g., 14 celebrities without children said they were tired because of baby/child care). Subsequent discharge interviews indicated the real reasons for hospital admission:

i) staff at Ritz-Carlton/Four Seasons wasn’t paying enough attention to patient (32.2 percent);

ii) patient had not gone to bed during preceding week (24.2 percent);

iii) tummy tuck (19.0 percent).

TREATMENT:

Extended nightly sleep (seven to nine hours) was recommended for all exhausted celebrities. Patients generally responded well to enforced bed rest, but success declined in inverse proportion to the number of guests the celebrity insisted upon having in their hospital room at all times. There was no discernible difference in recovery time for patients who smoked and had sex with visitors (19.9 percent), but fatigue levels remained consistently high in patients who drank large amounts of wine and cried more than four hours per day (22.3 percent).

In addition to bed rest, celebrities were visited by “fans” in an attempt to provide the patient with a sense of well being. 100.0 percent of celebrities responded favorably to the attention and there was little difference in a patient’s response to genuine adulation (from a loyal fan) and placebo adulation (from a person who had no idea who the celebrity was).

PROGNOSIS:

A permanent reduction in celebrity exhaustion seems unlikely. One week after hospital discharge, those patients who were still celebrities (81.6 percent) admitted to making no lifestyle changes.

“I was overtired and working myself to death,” Lohan, 18, told Jane magazine. “When you’re young, you think you can just keep going and going.”(USA Today, Nov. 22, 2004)

Dr. Gold stared out his office window, deep in thought. “A few years back, we sounded the alarm when Martin Lawrence ran down the middle of Ventura Boulevard waving a handgun because he was dehydrated. Now, a dehydration epidemic would look like a walk in the park.”

-Chuck Tatham

An Epidemic