More and more quality
of life is judged in terms of wealth rather than in terms of such
immeasurable faculties such as happiness, creativity, well being,
generosity of spirit and a sense of compassion and connectedness.
Even the education system is focused on the needs of big business
and children are narrowly focused on aims which do not enhance their
health or create a wider knowledge of their understanding of their
place in society or the nature of life itself.
The basic needs of freedom of poverty expressed
by such people as Galtung, Rawls, Max-Neef and Lasswell and Maslow
are not addressed for people even in higher socio-economic groups
ion the developed world. Such needs would address the needs specifically
for affection, understanding, participation, leisure, creation,
identity and freedom. The society is so stressed that by 2010, one
in three people will be suffering from depression which psychiatrists
consider needs medical treatment by drugs. So we come to the brave
new world of Aldous Huxley where the workers are placed on soma
to blunt their conception of what freedom or real quality of life
Poverty and Culture
According to the UN Development Report, Australia
is second only to Norway as the most desirable country in the world
in which to live. This report of the UN Development program measures
162 countries according to a range of factors such as life expectancy,
education levels, healthcare and income.
However, in this picture there is obviously no
room for complacency. According to research by the National Centre
for Social and Economic Modelling, University of Canberra for the
Smith Family welfare organisation in 1999, 1 in 7 Australians were
living in poverty.
Those most likely to live in poverty were those
on welfare, those with three or more children, sole parents or the
unemployed. The researchers warned that the risk of poverty is greater
for children than adults. NATSEM estimated that 752,000 dependant
Australians or 14.9% lived in poverty in May 1999. Also, 12.9% of
Australian adults lived in poverty in May 1999.
Some of the things that cannot be measured by
statistics is the concept of culture. Culture is also dependent
on quality of life and quality of life is also dependent on health
as well as education.
The Key To Culture
Often, the key to culture is found, not so much
primarily in the early experience of the child. It is dependent
on pre-natal items as to the kind of nutrition the mother has, the
kind of experience she has experienced during her pregnancy, the
kind of relationships she has, whether it is integral and stable
or unharmonious. After birth, the forms of child rearing, social
stimulation, love and care are very much significant as to the future
Our children are currently being born into a world
which is threatened by many, many factors, including those with
adverse effects. The factors the global community has to deal with
in the next hundred years are famine, global spread of disease,
civil war, international wars, competition for scarce resources,
civil disorder amongst the haves and have nots, housing shortages,
and the highly materialistic ethos of the possibility of human extinction.
Human beings have already changed the environment
of the planet radically and have caused many other bio-extinctions
of other species. If current trends continue the picture will get
worse. The projected extra six billion people in the next hundred
years, predicted for 2020 would need more room to live and grow
food. If there are more of us, there is less room for plants and
animals. There is less room for the tropical rainforests and the
planetary biodiversity of species.
Human beings are causing extinctions at 100-10,000
times the natural rate. This is the greatest way of extinction since
the end of the cretaceous period 65 million years ago when the dinosaurs
Yet, politicians generally do not think in terms
of large periods of time or even the next generation. Perhaps the
maximum term they can think of is three years which maybe the tenure
of their political term or contract.
The Economics of Happiness
This split between the more rational, the logical
and the creative approaches to economics is expressed also in the
way quality of life has been measured up until now. In his 1974
paper, the Economic Historian, Richard Easterlin formulated what
was later known as the Easterlin Paradox. Basically above a very
low level, economic growth does not seem to improve human welfare.
Later evidence confirms his observation, Americans were no more
likely to describe themselves as happy in the 1990's than they had
been in the 1940's.
Economist, Andrew Oswald at Waricks University,
England in his paper, 'Happiness and Economic Performance', April
1997, stated that industrialised well-being appears to rise as national
income grows but the rise is so small it is sometime undetectable
and employment however, seems to be a large source of unhappiness.
This suggests that governments ought to be trying
to reduce the amount of joblessness in the economy. In a country
that is already rich, policy aimed instead at raising economic growth
may be of comparatively little value.
In his most recent paper, Oswald was studying
whether money makes people happy. It showed that people who won
lottery money or received an inheritance had a higher mental well
being in the following year. A windfall of 50,000 pounds, was associated
with a rise in well-being of 0.1 and 0.3 standard deviations. He
ended by saying whether these happiness gains wear off over time
remains a good question.
It is interesting to see that the kind of parameters
he was using was dependent on the British Household Panel Survey
which consists of questions which could just as easily be asked
by a GP on his patients if the GP wanted to find out whether they
were depressed or not.
They were also based on stress reactions and did
not seem to be measuring basic personality types, cultural acquisition,
creativity, levels of actualisation, educational attainment and
Quality of Life and Culture
One thing we can say is that culture alters quality
of life and that that individual quality of life is enhanced by
a persons ability to be educated and be brought up in a warm, caring
Within this context of mind and matter there are several papers
which are of interest. First it has been shown that the intellectual
or emotional development of children from the age five to the completion
of high school is adversely affected by lack of social capital.
The social capital refers to unfavourable environments which basically
do not give care or support. The effect was specifically noted in
socio-economic deprived families, Quote Pediatrics Volume 101 1998,
Children who Prosper in Unfavourable Environments, the Relationship
to Social Capital.
Another study has found that dementia occurs at
a much higher rate amongst people with learning disabilities than
it does amongst the general population. This is independent of the
association between dementia and Downs Syndrome.
A further study examined the perception of parental
caring obtained by undergraduates relating to subsequent health
over an ensuing thirty-five years.
This was done on Harvard undergraduate men who participated in the
Harvard mastery stress study and the results show that subjects
identified in mid life as suffering from the common degenerative
diseases of Western society gave their parents significantly lower
ratings as perceived in terms of "parental care, loving and
just and share, hardworking, and clever," whilst in college.
It is obvious that intellectual stimulation and
loving, caring support from family, friends, and the community at
large is extremely important for the general well-being of the individual
as well as for the prevention of intellectual deficit later in life.
Globalisation on the free trade model of the neo-liberal
Washington consensus economics is colliding with local cultures
natural economic sovereignty, social customs and values, as well
as traditional agriculture, indigenous rights and the protection
of biodiversity and the environment. The fundamental issue is the
very economic model underlying today's Globalisation of technology,
trades and markets. The critics from many diverse perspectives agree
that free trade doesn't account for social and environmental costs
and cultural disruption in the price in traded goods and services
will continue to cause more harm than good.
The World Bank, the IMF, the US Government and
the WTO still refuse to recalculate prices and microeconomic indicators
including the GDP to include these social and environmental costs,
which contribute towards the deterioration of human life. Civil
society movement groups throughout the world are committed to the
idea of preserving human identity and enriching biological and cultural
Power of the Human Mind
Complex technologies have tremendous potential
for harm. The most under used resource on the planet is the human
mind. Although we may have finite resources, we have one infinite
resource which is the human mind and this faculty is the least understood
aspect of humanity on the planet, and should encompass the term
bio-mind which means the complete or self actualised human being.
Healing the Stressed Society
This has particular significance in terms of the
pre-eminence healing as an impact on creating a more successful,
dynamic and sustainable society, particularly in the Australian
nation. If people can understand the intimate connection between
the mind and body they could then realise how the power in each
of us has the ability to affect not only how we feel, but indeed
how to affect the course and outcome of illnesses.
Only recently in all medical schools in the Western
world, the connection between mind and body, that was the cornerstone
of Hippocratic medicine, was ignored. It was in the 1930's that
Cannon discovered the bodily fight and flight syndrome, a reaction
to any perceived threat by a living organism. Subsequently Canadian,
Hans Selye defined stress as the non-specific response of the body
to any demand. In the 1970's researchers began to understand the
flight and fight and stress responses were related to a variety
of human disease states and more recently with the work of George
Solomon, Stanford University, Robert Aider, University of Rochestor
and Candice Pert at John Hopkins, a new field has been mapped called
psychoneuroimmunology emphasizing the interconnection between the
mind, brain and the immune system.
George Engel a Professor of Medicine at the University
of Rochestor, has studied hundreds of patients with chronic disease
over a period of twenty years. He found that 70-80% of these people
who had suffered from heart attacks, cancer, stomach ulcers, ulcerative
colitis, multiple sclerosis, and other conditions had all experienced
extended periods of helplessness and times when they felt like giving
The vulnerability of the human being is found
even at the earliest age. Tiffany Field, and her colleagues at the
University of Milan Research Institute showed that premature infants
who were massaged several times a day for ten minutes demonstrated
a 47% weight gain and were able to leave the hospital six days earlier
than other prems who received only the customary hospital care.
This saved the hospital costs of $10,000 per baby per day.
The Control and Moderation of Stress
In quality of life assessment therefore we have
to understand that control and moderation of stress is a prerequisite
for people who with to live long fulfilling lives.
On top of this, what quality of life surveys have
not addressed is happiness and health. Happiness is not even touched
in quality of life assessments. A reference can be made to the poverty
outline discussed in the World Banks dissertation and research on
poverty. It is interesting to see that in the context of physiological
change, humanity has barely moved out of bodily integrity.
The primitive physiological drives for survival
for flight and fight and hunger are the basic modus vivendi for
most of humanity. What we need to emphasise and encourage in the
creation of culture are the dynamic needs that Maslow so aptly describes
in his dynamic hierarchy which are safety needs, belongingness and
love, esteem and self actualisation. Our current culture is a rapacious
assault on peoples senses of a belief system of success at all costs,
competition, exploitation of people and environment.
Healing above all else in terms of mind/body medicine
is the key to creating a culture that is more sustainable and vital.
A nation that is actively involved in its own healing and thereby
creating a unique culture is more able to satisfy and enhance its
Such a nation would be able to set an example
to the rest of the world in terms of its creative performance and
economic success. The ingredient is the development of a culture
which is based on physiological happiness which then becomes the
determinant for actual self actualisation both in terms of the individual
and also in terms of society. This reduction of stress will also
save billions of dollars in terms of the prevention of cardiovascular
disease, cancer and other degenerative diseases of western society.
The Healed and Creative Nation
From this point of view, the healer comes into
focus as being a significant player in the building of a knowledge
and creative nation. In this aspect everyone who comes to see a
physician could be helped to understand, the emotional, environmental,
work and social stresses that contribute to their illness. They
could be advised about proper nutrition, exercise and taught relaxation
techniques, self hypnosis and other appropriate strategies for self
awareness, self regulation and self actualisation.
Kofi Annan has recently talked about the ecological
print of unsustainability that humankind currently has on this planet.
The population is currently at 6,169,232,000, and increases at about
438 every ten minutes. "Humanity must solve a complex equation".
Annan said. "We must stabilise our numbers, but equally importantly
we must stabilise over use of resources and ensure sustainable development
There are certain fundamental factors that need
to be understood in healing. These are:
1. The control of stress
3. Mastery of life, and control of destiny
4. Support of the community
These four factors are essential for the health
and well being of the individual in society.
Mastery of life also includes: challenge, participation, commitment
and control. It has been found particularly that when people are
challenged, whether they are small children or adults, they rise
to the occasion much more effectively if they are not spoon fed.
A sense of involvement and participation in the
community is another form of healing as it empowers the individual.
This is one of the ideologies underlying the creation of development
and parental centres for children, in which children and parents
work together in a process which enables them to create unified
families and a productive and positive future.
The dominance of the market system has meant that
the GNP does not include environmental costs and benefits, or social
indicators. A new economics of sustainability should include such
social indicators as literacy, education, women's rights, crime,
suicide health and illness. The GNP does not reflect the way people
feel about themselves, or society. In this respect, we need a new
index which encompasses quality of life and wellbeing for a nation
in rapid transition and renaissance.
- Protection and Damaging Effects of Stress Mediators,
McEwen B.S., New England Journal of Medicine, 1998
- Mechanisms of Brain Development - Developmental
Health and the Wealth of Nations - Cynader and Frost, Book 1999
- Early Years Task Force Study Report for the Government
of Ontario, Canada -April 1998
- Independent Inquiries into Inequalities in Health
Report, London, The Stationery Office, Nov. 1998,
- "A Precarious Balance: Economic Opportunities,
Civil Society, and Political Liberty". The Responsive Community
Vol. 5., Issue 3, Summer 1995, pages unnumbered
- "Investing in the Future", World Bank
Conference on Early Childhood Development, Atlanta, Georgia, 1996
- The Selected Works of Melanie Klein and The Undiscovered
Self, Carl Jung
- Civilisation and Its Discontents, Sigmund Freud
- Conclusions About the Assessment and Management
of Common Mental Disorders in Australian General
Practice, School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales,
MJA, July 2001
- Men's Health Paper, Prof. Avni Sali, Head of Graduate
School of Medicine, Swinburne University, Victor