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Uncertainty and stress

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The Pharmaceutical Journal Vol 265 No 7106p114
July 22, 2000 Onlooker

Uncertainty and stress

According to a commentary by Richard Stone in Science for June 9, one notable effect of the liberation from communist rule of people living in Eastern Europe has been a reduction of life expectancy. Those groups showing the highest rates of premature death are young and middle-aged men. Some of this life shortening may be accounted for by defects in diet, smoking, alcoholism and infections, but these do not explain the difference between East and West Europe.
One factor, coronary heart disease, is not the only consideration. Apart from physical disease, depression and stress are held to have some responsibility. The notion that societal change may affect health is now accepted by social scientists if not entirely by biomedical experts. The link between psychological upset and mortality in Eastern Europe is being studied. After the end of the 1939-45 war, there was a transition from deaths from infectious diseases to deaths from non-communicable complaints in the East, at the same time as life-spans in the West were increasing.
It is thought that dwellers in Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia may have turned a sensation of euphoria into one of doubt, so inducing psychosocial stress which increased the onslaught of heart disease. This effect is considered similar to the stress following loss of a spouse, which calls for adjustment to a new set of personal circumstances. The suggestion is made that the economy of a region should be managed to remove from its population the serious uncertainties in everyday living which may beset it and add to the stress which is life-threatening.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 20002290

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