Michael Jackson, Deepak Chopra, Lupus, and Child Abuse

A patient recently asked me about an article on People Magazine’s website about Deepak Chopra's belief that Michael Jackson had lupus and that this disease was connected to Jackson's childhood abuse.

Dr. Chopra cited ‘recent research’ in support of this contention.  

Here is some of what I wrote my patient: 

The article from the Mailman School is one of those associations that epidemiologists sometimes come up with that are not necessarily causal. What happens is that people with one medical problem virtually always have a higher frequency of a second medical problem, probably because (A.) they are much more in contact with doctors and (B.) they're much more aware of their bodies than are people who have not had to question their health. Epidemiologists (I was one once, thanks to Uncle Sam, but that's another story) are good for hypothesis generating but not for hypothesis testing. 

Other articles on this topic are more sensible. Quite a number of things about socioeconomic status have been investigated with regard to lupus. Although it is commoner in African-Americans, and African-Americans are on the whole poorer than Caucasians, there have been no bona fide associations between abuse and autoimmune illness that I know of.

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