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The Book Forum |

Lives in Distress. The Paths of the Elderly to the Psychiatric Ward

Samuel Friedman, MD
JAMA. 1964;189(7):590-591. doi:10.1001/jama.1964.03070070062035.
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Bearing a rather dramatic and poignant title, this slim volume is more realistically designated by its subtitle, "The Paths of the Elderly to the Psychiatric Ward." Apparently the first of a four-volume work on aging by the Langley Porter Institute, it analyzes how and why 530 elderly patients arrived at the psychiatric screening wards of the San Francisco General Hospital and describes their later disposition.

Quite obviously a tremendous amount of work was devoted to this inquiry, but it is apparent that too much of it was fed directly into the maw of an electronic computer. Thus the book is filled with a presentation of percentage distributions of various minutiae, of which the following is a characteristic example: "When the prime-of-life descriptions were intrapersonal, they were predominantly positive (81%); but when they were interpersonal, they were rarely positive (18%) and very often negative (42%, compared with 13% negative interpersonal qualities)."


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