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Too Much Work, Food, Media May Be Hurting Health
Date:6/6/2011

le feel stressed out. Now mundane life is an emergency."

But doctors are finding that when people cut back -- by eating less or reducing their media viewing, for instance -- their mental and physical health improves, Rotheram-Borus said.

"The shift to paring down is new," Rotheram-Borus said. "Now we do better if we have less."

She emphasized that these problems are societal in nature. "It's structural," she said. "Changes in society have been major in the last 30 years, and we haven't adjusted our lifestyles. These are structural problems that have nothing to do with people making bad decisions."

Nonetheless, if something isn't done about this, Rotheram-Borus said, she sees a future in which obesity is rampant, stress is overwhelming and everyone is deep in debt from trying to fulfill their various appetites.

Wong doesn't completely agree with Rotheram-Borus' hypothesis. For example, she thinks most stress these days is not caused by having too much but rather by hoping to maintain what you already have in tough economic times.

"I don't think, in this current climate, that is as relevant to people as real economic need," Wong said. "I do know people who are driven by that 'chase of a dream,' but the general public is stressed out because they're wondering if they're going to keep their job or pay the rent."

And, though Wong agrees that stress from overfilled lives is contributing to the obesity epidemic, she doesn't think it's because people haven't adapted to having food readily available.

"People are overwhelmed, and they don't know how to deal with everything and become stressed or depressed," she said. "They turn to eating as a form of self-therapy."

But if people want to improve their health by cutting back, Rotheram-Borus and Wong suggest that they:

  • Set a consistent routine that is aligned with the values they want their children to have. For example, make family dinners the norm, rather than an
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