Angelina Jolie Syndrome is a phobia, or fear, of sickness. A person with this phobia takes preemptive measures to prevent hypothetically dangerous illnesses they may not even be at risk for. This may involve undergoing surgery, similar to how Angelina Jolie underwent a preventative mastectomy. Angelina Jolie Syndrome is also part of healthism, a growing problem in Western society; we are obsessed with fitting into the glamorous standards set by society and even more extreme altering eugenics to “correct” poor genes.
Other examples of healthism include diet trends, fitness, plastic surgery, organic food and apps that monitor health. These are all mechanisms that allow us to strive for perfect health and the perfect body. Body worshipping facilities, such as yoga studios, spas, fitness centers and natural food stores, also feed into healthism and support the obsession of fitting into society’s ideals.
There have even been changes in healthcare policies. There has been a shift away from healthcare institutions providing care to instead placing the role of care on ourselves and a shift from treatment to preventative care. Although preventative care is important because it can save the healthcare system billions of dollars and we can have a healthier population, if it extends to attempting prevention of hypothetical illnesses, it can become risky and expensive.
If there are grounds for preventative procedures, they could be life-saving, but if the information is incorrect and the standard of beauty trumps fact, preventative care can become commercial and lend itself to social obsession. Worse yet, there is an emerging stigma surrounding a healthy lifestyle and pressure is put onto those who do not practice one.
A healthy lifestyle has become widely commercialized with the rise of yoga studios, fitness trackers and organic food – all areas of health that bring in a slew of money. But these amenities are only available to those who can afford them, so those who are disabled or overweight are excluded from this group, which leads to segregation.
As healthism and Angelina Jolie Syndrome continue to gain momentum we could begin to see bigger gaps within society between those who are “in” and those who are “out.” And as the obsession grows, it raises fear that we will move past “fixing” ourselves physically and begin to play with our genetics as well.