The Cultural Revolution, Stress and Cancer

Tilak Abeysinghe, Jiaying Gu
JEL codes: 
SCAPE Working Paper Series

The link between mental stress and cancer is still a belief, not a well established scientific fact. Scientists have relied largely on opinions of cancer stricken patients to establish a link between stress and cancer. Such opinion surveys tend to produce contradictory statistical inferences. Although it is difficult to conduct scientific experiments on humans similar to those on animals, human history is replete with experiments that have caused enormous stress on some human populations. The objective of this exercise is to draw evidence from one such massive experiment, the Cultural Revolution in China. Cancer data from Shanghai analyzed through an age period cohort technique show very strong evidence in support of the hypothesis that mental stress causes cancer.