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Don't ignore health effects of the stress of modern life

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 15, 2012

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The news today that stress-related illness is on the rise and causing an increase in hospital admissions is proof, if it were needed, that hard times don't just hit pay packets and people's buying power.

Although there is no absolute scientific proof to connect the economic crisis with rising hospital admissions for illness brought on by stress, most people will see a link.

And research, out yesterday, that does positively link stressful jobs over which individuals feel they have no control with an increased risk of heart attacks, would seem to prove the point. Difficulties in the workplace – or out of it, for those who have lost their job – clearly impact on health.

The worry, for both those working in the National Health Service and their potential patients, is that the Royal College of Physicians are warning that the triple effect of rising demand, increasingly complex cases and falling bed numbers was causing problems and that, in some areas, the NHS is "on the brink of collapse."

That may be dramatic language, designed in part to promote the doctors' cause for greater investment in health care, especially given a change at the top of the Department of Health and a new Secretary of State, in the shape of Jeremy Hunt, to try to influence.

But as important as the news on stress-related illness is to health service professionals, it should also be heeded by the rest of us. Sustained periods of stress, we are told, can lead to mental health problems, diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular disease.

As Liz Redfern, director of nursing for the NHS in the South of England points out: "We know that some people, particularly men, are reluctant to admit when they are feeling under pressure and unable to cope but the reality is that this may make things worse over time and lead to more serious mental or physical illness."

So the message is clear. Whether in work or out, if you are feeling seriously under pressure it is best to get help sooner, rather than later. You will not only be protecting your own health, you could also be easing the pressure on the NHS by avoiding more serious problems that will be more difficult – and costly – to cure.

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Opponents of the badger cull fought fairly and within the law, to persuade the Government and the courts that the pilot cull of badgers to reduce bovine TB should not go ahead. They lost. Therefore, to adopt tactics that amount to intimidation – first by revealing the details of the Westcountry individuals in whose name cull licences will be issued and then by targeting Defra Secretary of State Owen Patterson, is despicable. We are sure the legitimate badger protection organisations are not behind this behaviour. But it is their responsibility to say so, loud and clear, and to condemn those that are. This is a controversial issue. Tensions need to be lowered, not raised, as the pilot culls comes closer.

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