This is strictly a non-scientific, purely observational opinion on the link to obesity, depression, and overall health as related to work and the way of life in modern Western Civilization. Namely, in America. The main focus of this article is on obesity and mental health. Despite many other factors that would affect the population during certain periods of time; this is a very narrow scope of merely a few ailments that contribute to the well being of the American population.
Time has become a luxury. The western world has become a non-stop, fast paced, extremely competitive environment. No doubt, most readers know that America evolved from an agricultural, to industrial, then technological and now information age. During that evolution, people, despite advances in the medical field have developed a much less healthy lifestyle. Yes, thanks to modern medicine, people are living longer; but, has the quality of that lifespan deteriorated? In other words quality verses quantity. Some might say yes. Of course there is room for argument to the contrary.
In the agricultural era, people lived off the land. Local farmers sustained the existence of themselves and their families through the harvest. It was hard work. But, in that hard work individuals were getting a lot of exercise and the amount of obesity in the nation was negligible. As far as the overall happiness of people during this time, I can not speculate on that matter. I would venture to guess that families were closer to each other and that people generally had a greater trust for others. Beyond that, I can not attest.
Once the industrial era began, the competitive nature of business began to take a stronger hold. Job opportunities became more abundant for individuals and the general population began to have an increased amount of disposable income. Although working conditions and the standards of safety in the working environment left much to be desired, especially in factory settings; people could now afford to some extent to indulge in more recreational activities. Family seemed to still play an important role in the quality of life and one’s happiness. As well, people still had a sense of trust for each other. I once did a search online to see at what time period people were most satisfied with life and from what I read, the 1950’s ranked among the highest. The health aspect during this period, concerning obesity, was still at a minimal. Portion sizes were smaller, individuals were still getting more exercise on the job and the need for things to be rushed to be completed was not as great as it is today.
As time progressed and technology advanced, the world went from a local economy to a global economy. Competition among business became an international concern. People became to be in much more of a hurry. Time once used to enjoy one’s self, became less of a commodity and more of a luxury. The type of jobs needed became less physical and much more intellectual. For instance, a lot more desk jobs, sitting behind computers and working more hours to stay competitive became a must. People spent less time with their families and friends and more time at the office. In such cases, the need to be able to stop and have a healthy meal became less available, giving rise to an increased reliance on fast food restaurants. Portion sizes became much larger and the amount of exercise one got on the job tremendously decreased. At this time, obesity and the consequences that came with it, became much more of a threat to individuals. Diabetes, heart conditions and the like were on the rise. As for mental health, the strains at work were carried home. Work seemed to have transformed from something one did in order to provide and enjoy time with loved ones, to being the forefront of one’s existence.
Finally, in this day of information, things have not changed as much from that of the technological age. The main difference is that information has become more valuable than developing greater technology to stay competitive. Technology still continues to grow and advance; however, it is for the purpose of gaining information and processing that information. Obesity, has become one of the top medical concerns in America. Diabetes is much more prevalent, the general happiness of individuals seems to have declined and the quality of interpersonal relationships has also seemed to diminish. Trust among people is extremely low, and depression has become another great health concern. Despite the small amount of exceptions, people do not exercise or engage in much physical activity. The family unit has undergone a great transformation. Although I see it as a good thing that people are becoming more accepting to the non-traditional family, the desire of individuals to pursue and maintain a family of any sorts is in the minority. Divorce is prevalent, children become split into the custody of one parent then the other. And the opportunistic nature of individuals and the need to put the need of one’s self above that of others is common place.
In conclusion, as I mentioned in the very beginning, none of these statements are based on research. Rather, they are based on the observation of people in daily life, the news and conversations with others. It is merely a question really, that is the quality of life and the health of individuals become greater with the passing of time? Yes, people are living longer, and have more opportunities (perhaps) than in the past. Ultimately, will individuals in society make the choice to improve the world in a way that is more beneficial for everyone verses themselves? And, are the consequences of gaining fortune outweigh the demise of one’s overall health?