Tuesday, May 16, 2017

You've never had it so good. You are WEIRD.

If you are reading this you probably live in the Western world, can speak English, have a computer or device of some sort and access to an internet connection.

You are probably WEIRD

You are a freak, an aberration. Most of the world does not live like this, for most of human history for most people none of this was true.

As in you are rich compared to most of the world, you probably aren't homeless, and democratic as in you get to vote every so often. Educated, you probably finished at least Secondary (High School).

You have access to a clean water supply, antibiotics and can buy all the painkillers you want.

You can say and do what you want within a certain legal framework without fear of being put in prison or arrested.

You have access to more information and knowledge than any other humans in history ever did.

If you are involved in an accident (in the UK) a helicopter will take you to a state of the art medical facility and give you the best treatment in the world for free and may save your life.

You are not trying to grow food to survive on a poor scrap of land owned by a despot you have never met. Your kids are not working in a dangerous mining operation for a dollar a day for 15 hours a day, 7 days a week.

You probably have a gym membership, go to coffee shops, eat out every so often and try to eat healthily some of the time. Depending where you live, you may have access to free healthcare and probably can go for a walk without fearing for your life.

You've never had it so good...

And yet

You are probably stressed and angry, over 70% of work related health and safety issues are stress related.

In the UK, 7.8% of the population meet the criteria for diagnosing anxiety and depression.
1 in 6 adults have a common mental health disorder
19.7% of people aged 16 or over show symptoms of anxiety and depression in 2014.
1 in 3 adults have high blood pressure
More than 25% of the population are obese.
4.5 millions people have diabetes (of which 90% have type 2)
And the number one cause of death of men under 50 is suicide.

Quote from the film Crash. Source: QuoteHD

You may have have a skewed body image and control what you eat to an extreme level because it feels like the only thing you can control. You could look in the mirror and think you are too small or too big, and be wrong in both cases.

You may self medicate with alcohol, class A drugs, prescription drugs, food, shopping or soap operas.

You live in a filter bubble to confirm your world view.

You should be healthy, fit and happy. Everything is in your favour.

And yet...

The cult of the self overtook us, women who are still paranoid about lifting weights and putting on 1 gram of muscle in case they get big and bulky, despite the overwhelming benefits of strength training; standard body image never changes for the masses.

And the young guys taking anabolics who are never stepping on stage or competing in any sport ever but want their biceps to look good in a t-shirt down da club.

We don't have to think about clean water supply or not eating. But as soon as these needs were satisfied something else overtook us, we had time to think and confront ourselves.

You could be unhappy, despite having more than any other humans in history, you could be trapped on a hedonic treadmill.

And yet...

Nearly all the diseases and conditions listed above are preventable, treatable and manegeable with simple interventions.


Its a cliche but the health system is reactive, it waits for you to break before it tries to fix you, mostly with pharmaceutical intervention.

The holy trinity of exercise, nutrition and mindfulness (or call it spiritual connection, or relaxation or spending time in nature, or being in the moment - we know all these things have a powerful effect on emotions, physical health and brain health).

And the thing about most of these things is they are essentially free. Going for a walk in the park is free. Replacing sugary snacks and processed foods with some vegetables is cost neutral. Buying less stuff, spending more time with friends and in nature and less time watching 24 hour news disaster should cost you less and make you more time rich.

Industry fail.

I'm not saying these things are easy. But somehow, in some fashion the fitness industry and leisure industry should be playing its part. Yes joining gyms and going for a swim (unless you go to a lake or the sea) costs money.

And all these pursuits can end up being middle class, white activities. They need to be spread further and wider into the population.

I don't know the answer, I don't have the grand plan. But I do know that the health 'reckoning' is already here.

The media want quick sound bite answers, it's more nuanced than that. They need to grow up and so do we.

And it has to be authentic, its not about paying lip service to schemes and bids for community projects. It has to be more.

People are angry and stressed, but at the wrong things for the wrong reasons in (in my opinion).

The industry has to step up, fuck instagram and the cult of self we helped to make. We need to take it back, it needs to be about health and well being for everybody.

Let me know your thoughts.

Statistic sources:
Various Office of National Statistics reports.