Health Literacy,  Stress

Social Determinants, Sitting, and How We Sacrifice Our Health for Society

Computer Stress Sitting Health Problems

New research is showing that sitting for prolonged amounts at a time can be extremely harmful to your health.

Keith Diaz, Ph.D., and her colleagues at Columbia University Medical Center in NYC, NY, found that adults in the US generally spend 12 or more hours per day sitting down, and that the more time spent sitting, the greater the risk of premature death.

The research did also find, however, that moving around approximately every 30 minutes may help you live longer by reducing the harms of prolonged sitting.

This echoes other studies in the vein, that are beginning to show that prolonged sitting is much more detrimental to our health than we previously realized. Harvard Health Publications published a report linking too much sitting to an early death in 2014, while one 2015 study linked sedentary behavior with increased risk of anxiety, another called it “the new smoking.”

Even though we’ve determined that this amount of sedentary behavior proves harmful to health, the information has been received with lackluster response. This is just one example of how our daily lives are filled with habits that are detrimental to our health.

Social Determinants and Duality

Even though we live in perhaps the most peaceful and successful age in terms of quality and longevity of life, health inequities are still ever present as a result of the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. The Kaiser Family Foundation lists the following as social determinants of health:

  • Economic stability
  • Neighborhood and economic stability
  • Education
  • Food
  • Community and social context
  • Health care system

These represent conditions that are hard to alter, simply because there isn’t a quick fix any one of them, and more often because access to resources may be limited. However, the greater point is that social determinants are a greater factor in health than many of us realize, be that because we physically sit at a desk for our job all day, or because we are mentally consumed due to social context.

For example, Rutgers Online’s infographic on social media and well-being shows that while social media has benefited our society in certain ways, it’s also been linked to development of depression, poor body image, envy, and feelings of worthlessness.

A duality has developed, and many of the things that we value in our society are actually harming us as much as they are benefiting us. To counter these negative effects, more people need to take a mindful approach to the ways they engage with certain aspects of their lives.

Being Mindful of Your Environment and Situation

The simple fact is that we can’t change society by ourselves. We can, however, lead by example, and hope that others see the benefits of staying mindful, healthy, and aware through us. In the case of somebody with a job where they sit for more than 12 hours a day, this can mean simply getting up and moving around every 30 minutes. For somebody who finds themselves depressed, sluggish, or just wants to feel more energetic throughout the day, investigate how much you use social media, or what your entire diet consists of.

To do these things, we need to practice mindfulness. That doesn’t necessarily mean meditating every day, but it does mean becoming more aware of where you are and what you’re doing.

In the end, it’s up to us to remember that our health is in our own hands. Our society will continue to evolve and bring us new and exciting things without foresight to guide us concerning health and wellness. That’s why health and wellness is ultimately up to the individual to take the reigns on.

Society will never ask us to stop sacrificing our health for it. The individual needs to come to that conclusion themselves.

Andrew Heikkila is a tech enthusiast, a futurist, and a business owner from the Pacific Northwest. He believes in the power of technology to guide the world in the right direction, but also understands human fallibility means it won't always be used to these ends. Still, he has hope that people will transcend their natural devices, and become the beings we have the potential to be.

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