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In a new study published in the Journal of World Psychiatry, lead researcher Dr. Seena Fazel of Oxford University compared the risk of dying from cigarette smoking to a variety of common mental health and mood issues.
The average decrease in lifespan for someone smoking 20 cigarettes a day is about 10 years. The researchers reviewed clinical studies that listed mortality risk from:
- Substance and alcohol abuse
- Cognitive issues in the elderly
- Cognitive issues in youth
- Learning issues
- Childhood behavioral disorders
- Mood issues
In total, over 1.7 million individuals and over 250,000 deaths were evaluated. The study found that substance abuse shortened life by 9-24 years. Mild but recurrent mood issues reduced lifespan by 7-11 years. More severe mood issues could reduce lifespan by up to 20 years.
In the UK, where this study was conducted, one in four people will receive care for a mental health issue during the course of a year. While much attention is given to the risks of smoking, mental health issues are often swept under the rug. Researchers believe mental health concerns are often not treated with the same care as physical health issues. The recent loss of Robin Williams may be representative of such a problem.
The Over-Stimulation Connection
The reality is that we, as a culture, are having a challenging time keeping our moods stable, mind clear and outlook on life cheerful. According to Ayurveda, this is in part a result of a culture that is overstimulated. Our satisfaction comes from shopping, movies, games, money, power, sex and food among so many more stimuli.
The cultural pendulum must start to swing back from extreme sensory stimulation to the art of finding peace without being stimulated, in one’s own silence and stillness.
As a practitioner, much of what I see is very sensitive people having a difficult time living in an insensitive world. People are wrongfully ashamed of their sensitivity, rather than seeing it as their greatest asset – which it is, according to Ayurveda. When you feel everything, it is natural to wall off those feelings. But when your feelings are walled off, so is your access to your own joy. You may try to initiate fleeting glimpses of joy and happiness with more sensory stimuli – which our culture seems to have a never-ending supply of – but over time, not having access to your feelings and your own joy is depressing and exhausting.
As a Vedic science, Ayurveda – while designed to support the health of the body – is primarily aimed at freeing the mind. Diet, lifestyle, yoga, meditation, herbs and behavioral recommendations are all body-based awareness tools that ultimately help maintain mental balance.