We’re # 1? Nope – #38 and dropping

What does overall life expectancy have to do with upstream distressors?  This BBC article does a good job at listing many of the ills that result from US style westernized culture.

Risk factors

Source: University of Washington

Unsurprisingly, many of the risk factors tend to be behaviors which involve  self-medicating and self-soothing for perceived stress, anxiety and depression.  Some are related to living in poor quality neighborhoods lacking accessible and affordable fresh whole foods and green natural spaces to walk, sit, play and socialize.  Some are results of poor work and school environments, where long periods of enforced near immobility induce ill health.

All of the listed risk factors are malleable, modifiable and can be replaced with healthier choices.  But some of those alternatives needs must be supported by national, state and local policies and funding.  Fat chance of that happening in Tea Partier America.

Scientific American must have been channeling along the same lines in its Myths piece.

Myth #3 speaks to the notion that access to healthcare is a primary determinant of health.  Not so.

Access to health care is only one of several factors that play an important role in determining how healthy people are. Several studies suggest that easily being able to obtain medical care does not play as big a role as education, lifestyle, income and modern housing, along with sanitation (pdf) and vaccinationin determining why some folks are healthier than others.

Where the availability of health care makes the biggest difference to the health of any group is when people have regular access to general or primary care clinicians, who are able to take care of most of the medical problems people face most of the time. Good nursing care is particularly important for people with multiple chronic conditions.

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Unemployment and Suicide

The BBC posted an article “linking” a significant increase in European suicides to a concomitant rise in unemployment.

The financial crisis “almost certainly” led to an increase in suicides across Europe, health experts say.

The analysis by US and UK researchers found a rise in suicides was recorded among working age people from 2007 to 2009 in nine of the 10 nations studied.

The increases varied between 5% and 17% for under 65s after a period of falling suicide rates, The Lancet reported.

Researchers said investment in welfare systems was the key to keeping rates down.

Beyond the distress unemployment creates via loss of work role, loss of dignity, loss in family roles, social class loss, etc., the underlying stress is that of fearing the loss of survival.  No income equals no food, no shelter, no clothing, no fresh water, no safety.  In agricultural societies, people could literally eke out an existence from the land and create shelters from the landscape.  Not so in industrial societies where homelessness has literally been criminalized and legislated into invisibleness.  There is literally nowhere to escape to.Researchers have demonstrated that when people feel trapped and intolerably distressed, their risk for suicide heightens. Where does one go when there is nowhere to go?

Addressing unemployment and living wage accessibility for all is a key upstream issue.  Employment and living wage conditions should correlate with lower suicide rates in working age individuals.