Affluenza: a moral issue

Diseases capable of taking human lives can be broadly split into two groups: diseases of poverty and diseases of affluence. Diseases of poverty such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, diarrhoea, measles and HIV/Aids are infectious diseases which thrive in communities with limited access to basic sanitation, healthcare and education. These diseases are easily prevented by modern medicine and healthcare education, but still take millions of lives in poorer countries.

Developed countries are not bothered by these diseases of poverty though. Nope, we have other troubles: the diseases of affluence. These are degenerative diseases which naturally result from constant abuse and neglect of body and mind through self-destructive lifestyle choices. Over time, such an unhealthy lifestyle naturally results in clogged arteries, extensive organ damage, malignant tumors, hormone imbalances and degradation of the brain and nervous system. In normal day-to-day language, we refer to these things by names such as heart attacks, strokes, all manner of cancers, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

Now the part where this becomes a moral issue is when you realize that poor people in developing nations do not have the means to prevent the diseases of poverty, while rich people in developed countries mostly bring the diseases of affluence onto themselves. Also, while the USA spends $8000 per person per year to try and treat its self-induced degenerative disease epidemic, vaccination programs costing a grand total of $17 per child can cut deaths from diseases of poverty in half.

It really all comes down to our lifestyle choices. As discussed in a previous post, traditional communities such as the Okinawa Islands in Japan have about a 7 times smaller chance of dying from degenerative disease, live about 5 years longer and spend about 5 times less on healthcare than Americans. Really, if this was not so tragic, it would actually be funny.

Massive healthcare spending does not extend lifespan.

The moral issues can be extended even further when considering our environmental and economic crises. The USA alone spends a whopping $2.7 trillion per year on healthcare. It can safely be assumed that simply maintaining a healthy lifestyle (which is well documented and very easy to do) can slice this number by a factor of five while extending their life expectancy by five years. This would free up around $2.1 trillion which is pretty close to the massive US budget deficit ($1.3 trillion) and the total global investment in renewable energy to date ($1.1 trillion). We can therefore greatly reduce both our environmental and economic crises by simply looking after ourselves. 

So, please immunize yourself against affluenza. Your personal health is not simply a personal matter, it is a global matter. 

12 thoughts on “Affluenza: a moral issue”

  1. Thanks again for your words and their challenge to our worldviews. A further thought to your concept of immorality is the idea that such services as health care / medicine or healthy food have become commodities for profit, removing them from consideration in valuing true quality of life and human dignity.

    1. True that. I’ve written about something along these lines in a previous post: https://oneinabillionblog.com/2012/06/21/disease-the-core-business-of-developed-nations/. I’m quite concerned about our systems which actually seem to be designed to make people sick so that we can make money out of trying to patch them up again.

      It becomes a bit deeper if you start questioning the whole concept of profit. I believe that ultimately we have to strive to create a system where making a profit becomes irrelevant because our systems are so effective that there is no scarcity any longer. I don’t know if you have heard about the Venus project. If not, look it up on Youtube and take a look at their concept of a resource-based economy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KphWsnhZ4Ag

      However, we are still many decades from such a possibility and cannot waste any time on such fantasies right now. We should keep it in mind, but our practical aim should be to slowly transition in that direction over many decades. Profit will remain the primary driver of constructive human action for a long time to come and I believe that the way in which to start this transition is to use price controls and consumer awareness to make sure that only things contributing to sustainable human wellness are profitable.

  2. Thank you for writing this article. I agree with what your wrote and with your thoughts. There is definitely a significant shift in developing countries from infections disease to degenerative disease, causing an increased rate of morbidity and mortality. This in turn is increasing the health care spending in these developing countries, which can be a obstacle in their path to be developed nation. Education and creating awareness about a healthy lifestyle plays an important role in improving global health.

    1. Thanks Santosh. Yes, we all have to contribute to spreading this simple message: happy, healthy, wealthy and sustainable living can solve every one of the world’s major problems. Personal lifestyle change really is incredibly powerful. If everyone of the richest billion people on earth simply took responsibility to reduce their ecological footprints, look after their health and look after their personal finances, all our problems would simply evaporate. And, just as an added bonus, the personal benefits to saving the world in this way are truly enormous 🙂

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