Ever wondered what the most burdensome disease is in the world today? According to the World Health Organization, the disease that robs the most adults of the most years of productive life is not AIDS, not heart disease, not cancer. It is depression. As with many conditions, mental health is widely misunderstood.
In South Africa, chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure are now responsible for more deaths than HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis combined. Approximately 225 South Africans die from heart disease every day, while around 10 people suffer a stroke every hour!
In 2020, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) received well over three hundred thousand calls asking for help and support – that’s more than three times the capacity of the FNB stadium.
Slow down for a few seconds, tune into your inner experience, and ask yourself: “How am I feeling right now? Sad, angry, happy, hopeful, excited, anxious…?” On an average day, we are often so busy focusing on tasks that we don’t pay attention to our emotions. And yet really, our emotions can actually affect our health.
When was the last time you saw an advert selling a pro-ageing face-cream? Even though ageing is the most natural part of life, we live in a world that is aggressively anti-ageing. In fact, “anti-ageing” has become an entire industry dedicated to promote, sell and obsess over how young you look.
We live in a switched-on world in which it’s almost unthinkable to be without social media for so much as a day. According to Statista, a company specialising in market and consumer data, around 30 million South Africans were on social networking sites in 2019. What’s more, this number is set to grow to close to 50 million by 2026!
There’s no two ways about it: being bullied isn’t just tough in the moment, it continues to take a toll in other areas of your life. Bullying leaves a trail of destruction in its wake. It shatters your self-esteem and increases your risk of anxiety, depression, sleep disturbance and self-harm. It can even result in physical health problems like high blood pressure, stomach pain and poor appetite.
It’s something that has puzzled researchers from the start of the pandemic – why do some people experience severe illness, and others do not? These differences extend beyond known risk factors – like age, and existing disease. To answer this question, researchers began studying the genetics of people exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus and were able to identify links between developing the disease and variations in specific parts of their DNA.
The pandemic has highlighted the idea of a disease being front and center in all aspects of our lives. However, for someone living with a chronic condition, this has been their reality long before COVID-19 came along, and the pandemic has simply made things worse. Economic, social and psychological distress is common amongst those living with chronic conditions, such as tuberculosis (TB).
Underlying all human rights is a deep respect for human life. There are those passionate people whose daily lives center around defending and upholding these precious rights so that we can all live in a more caring and just world. Each one of us can take inspiration from this and make choices that demonstrate how our own personal values uphold human rights.