Dr. Gabor Maté visiting Sudbury Feb. 7
These include obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, mental illness, cancer and addictions.
Why is this? Dr. Gabor Maté figures he has the answer.
He said we live in a “toxic” culture that places high levels of stress on the human body.
He said if society discovered a toxin in the water supply that was causing people to get sick, there would be immediate efforts to remove it. But the same doesn't seem to be true of stress, he said.
“It's always about what makes the most profit,” he said. “It's inevitable in a society like this that there's going to be a clash between human needs and social policy. More specifically, we're going to generate a lot of stress on people.”
Maté, a Vancouver-based physician who has worked with the terminally ill and drug addicts, is the author of four best-selling books on topics including stress and addiction, and travels the world for speaking engagements.
He'll be visiting Sudbury Feb. 7 to present a lecture at Laurentian University called Living Well in a Toxic World as part of the Dr. Dan Andreae Distinguished Presidential Lecture Series on Living in Healthy Communities.
The free lecture starts at 7 p.m. in the university's Fraser Auditorium.
Free tickets are available at the Laurentian University Bookstore, the J.N. Desmarais Library, Cambrian College Registrar’s Office, Collège Boréal Registrar’s Office, the Old Rock Roastery and the New Sudbury, South and Main Sudbury Public Library branches, as well as online at laurentian.ca/lecture.
Maté said the effects of stress on the body are well documented.
In Windsor, there was a 50-per-cent rise in children and adolescents seeking medical help for mental health disorders in 2008, when the recession led to the collapse of the city's main industry, car manufacturing.
He said kids are now becoming mentally ill, and some are being medicated because of the stress on the parents.
“So you can't separate individual illness from what's happening in the broader society. You've got to put people in that context. That's the stress effect.”
While stress is bad enough for children, Maté said childhood trauma such as sexual abuse can have devastating effects.
“In the case of the hard-core drug addicts I worked with, in every case, it was childhood trauma,” he said.
“No hard-core drug addict wasn't a traumatized child. It's that simple. All the women I worked with had been sexually abused, for example.”
Substance abuse isn't the only type of addiction, Maté said. People can also be addicted to work, shopping, eating, the Internet, sex or gambling, to name a few.
“More generally, addictions are an escape from internal discomfort, distress, unhappiness and emotional pain, all of which have their causes not in their genes, but in people's lives,” Maté said.
“That life is in a certain culture. The more stressed the culture is, the more addictions you're going to see.”
Maté said the first step to people living a happier, more stress-free life is to recognize they have a problem.
“Unless you're aware of a problem, you can't even address it,” he said. “The first thing is just to be aware of what's happening and actually going on, and investigate it, think about it, talk about it.”
Maté, who has given up his medical practice to focus on writing and attending speaking engagements, said he reaches a larger audience through these activities than he does speaking to patients one-on-one.
“I think I'm making an impact,” he said. “At the same time, if I worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it would still be a drop in the bucket compared to the pain and suffering that's out there.”
To learn more about Maté, visit drgabormate.com.