The Impact of Environment on Understanding Health Holistically

31 05 2011

On Democracy Now, there was A very interesting talk by Canadian Dr. Gabor Mate on the impact of our social environment and human development. He argues that stressful environments, such as children’s experience of disconnection, abuse and neglect, from their parents impairs children’s own human development.  That is, nurturing and caring environments for babies to young children, are required in order to produce particular brain chemicals (he talks about dopamine), which helps children know what happiness and a-life-worth-living feels like.  However, if parents are living in stressful or traumatizing environments, such as what post-industrial capitalist society is causing upon family structures, particularly in low-income and poorer communities, such as making parents work away from their children, or stressful life situations to the degree that they lose patience with their children, this creates conditions where parents are more pre-disposed to disconnect from their children, or neglect or abuse them.   This kind of social environment impacts the human development of their children, which leads to these children being more vulnerable to addictions (drug or social addictions).  Mate argues that people need more emotional connection in families or in communities, and these problems among people from stressful backgrounds or societies is not just a genetic issue.  Thus, societal institutions, from businesses, corporations, to hospitals, to education systems, to family structures, shouldn’t be taken off the hook when it comes to understanding how human well being can be achieved. Each institution has a responsibility to pay attention to the impacts that have on human relationships, and they have to also be part of creating contexts for human well being, and holistic health.

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