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Cognitive Implications of Lifestyle Diseases of Rich and Poor

Transforming personal entanglement with the natural environment (Part #1)

Human body systems
Representation of planetary system boundaries
Representation of human system boundaries
Representation of the set of human lifestyle diseases
Towards a method for identifying remedial correspondences
Patterns essential to individual and global health?
Lifestyle diseases as metaphors
Global and planetary problems as metaphors
Cognitive entanglement
Interrelating planetary and human systems through disease metaphors
Preoccupations of individual and global 'self-healing'
Towards a University of Earth?

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Lifestyle diseases (also called diseases of longevity, diseases of civilization, degenerative diseases, or noncommunicable diseases) variously identified and clustered are held to be a result of an inappropriate relationship of people with their environment.(Top 10 Lifestyle Diseases). As diseases of civilization, such diseases are found mostly in countries which are technologically developed and where the lifespan of the population increases. They may be understood as a direct consequence of development -- or of inappropriate development associated with an inappropriate relationship to the environment.

Lifestyle diseases typically take years to develop, and once encountered do not lend themselves easily to cure.The WHO World Health Statistics (2008) summarizes data collected from 193 member states and extrapolates future health trends. Mortality from non-communicable diseases -- lifestyle diseases -- is expected to rise while deaths from communicable diseases are expected to decline significantly over the next 20 years: 'Non-communicable conditions will cause over three quarters of all deaths in 2030" (Peter Gluckman and Mark Hanson, Mismatch: the lifestyle diseases timebomb, 2008)

As recent research on "happiness" is suggesting, it is appropriate to reframe the significance of "rich/privileged" and "poor/underprivileged" in relation to lifestyle diseases (Happiness and Unhappiness through Naysign and Nescience: comprehending the essence of sustainability? 2008). However 'lifestyle' is understood, any psychosocial "poverty" of the "rich" may be as significant to engendering such diseases as is the more obvious "poverty" of the "underprivileged" -- who may well be less vulnerable to "lifestyle diseases" as conventionally defined. It is a form of cynical misappropriation to imply that the disadvantaged do not have a 'lifestyle', even when they may not have chosen it. What is to be said of those who make a religious vow of poverty or a commitment to voluntary simplicity? What indeed is the incidence of such diseases amongst those who lead 'alternative lifestyles' -- including the monastic lifestyle?

It is misrepresentation to imply that such diseases are 'noncommunicable' when every effort is made to ensure communication of the cognitive and behavioural patterns (and peer group pressures) which engender them. As currently framed and undertaken, it might even be argued that 'development is the communication of lifestyle disease' -- if only through communication of growth-obsessed 'unease' regarding prevailing conditions, however demonstrable their sustainability (cf Veloping: the Art of Sustaining Significance, 1997). A recent study by the New Economics Foundation indicated that advertising, for example, creates dissatisfaction and misery, and encourage over-consumption.

The exploration in what follows focuses on the reframing of lifestyle disease through metaphor and the correspondence between such sets of metaphors and those used in reframing global strategies with respect to the ills of the planet. With respect to the individual, Penny Tompkins and James Lawley (The Mind, Metaphor and Health, Positive Health, 78, July 2002) argue that:

The British Journal of General Practice study shows how often patients spontaneously use metaphor to describe their symptoms (965 different metaphors were identified). Sometimes, however, they need to be invited to use such language. While giving a Healthy Language course for a group of nurses who specialised in Multiple Sclerosis, we were told that their patients often had difficulty describing the bizarre nature of their symptoms. We suggested they ask them, 'And when it's difficult to describe your symptoms, those symptoms are like what?'. This question acknowledges the patient's difficulty, and then invites them to use metaphor to describe the qualities and characteristics of their subjective experience of their illness.

When the nurses asked this question, they got responses such as "It's like ants running all over my body" and "It's like cheese wire wrapped round my legs." Further questions, such as 'And is there anything else about that [patient's metaphor]?' or 'And what kind of [patient's metaphor] is that?';, encouraged the patients to describe their strange sensations in greater detail. The nurses were surprised at just how relieved the patients felt when they could explain their symptoms in this way. Some patients said it was the first time they felt that someone had really understood what it was like to experience their illness.

The authors are specifically interested in the potential of cognitive reframing through metaphor (James Lawley and Penny Tompkins, Metaphors in Mind: transformation through symbolic modelling, 2000). Of relevance to this exploration is the extent to which military metaphors are both used in the engagement with lifestyles diseases and with the crises of the planet (Rebekah Richards, Military Metaphors in Cancer Discourse Cancer: "Battles," "Fights," and "Struggles",, 14 November 2009). Cancer is often portrayed through a military metaphor: as a battle, a fight, or a struggle.

09). Cancer is often portrayed through a military metaphor: as a battle, a fight, or a struggle.

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