We use cookies for site personalization, analytics and advertising. You can opt out of third party cookies. More info in our privacy policy.   Got it

Living Can Seriously Damage Your Health

Click here to subscribe to the print edition. [image, unknown] new internationalist 127[image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown] September 1983[image, unknown] Click here to search the mega index.

HEALTH [image, unknown] Warning

[image, unknown]

Living can seriously
damage your health

The overwhelming majority of disease is caused by dangers in our environment — many of them manmade. Anxiety and a sense of powerlessness often lower our resistance to those dangers. And with only ten per cent of illness affected by improvements in medical services alone, healthy living means changing the world we live in.

Causes at least 1 million premature deaths a year. Responsible for 37,000 lung cancer deaths and 9,500 heart disease deaths in UK and 33% of heart disease deaths in US.

Estimated increase in tobacco consumption between 1970 and 1980 was 4-13% in rich world but up to 33% in poor world.



Traffic kills 250,000 each year

50 million work accidents kill 100,000 and maim millions every year

5% of deaths in rich world are due to accidental injury.

1 Million US workers are exposed to cancer-causing substances

65,000 US workers have asbestosis

1 in 10 UK coal miners have pneumoconiosis

1 in 4 Indian textile workers have byssinosis


Cause of about 40% of deaths in poor world and 2% of deaths in rich world.

1 in 6 people has malaria

1 in 3 has hookworm

1 in 20 has bilharzia.

Each year diarrhoea kills 5 million under-5s, tuberculosis kills 3 million people, pneumonia kills 2 million people.


High stress doubles the chance of accident, mental breakdown and stomach ulcer.
For every 1% rise in US unemployment there is:

1.9% rise in cirrhosis and heart disease,

2-4% rise in mental breakdown, 4% rise in suicide. 10% of all prescriptions are for mood-changing drugs.



Cancer causes 20% of deaths in rich world.

80% of cancers are due to chemical or environmental factors

25% of chemicals sprayed on food are carcinogens. Only 13% of 55,000 chemicals in use have been tested as carcinogens.

At least 10,000 die and 500,000 people are seriously poisoned each year by pesticides.


Heart disease causes 50% of deaths in rich world. Among main causes are obesity and arteriosclerosis due largely to diet. UK diet contains 100% more sugar, 50% more fat, 90% less fibre than 100 years ago.

Alcohol causes 33-50% of fatal car accidents and up to 33% of accidents at work.

Cirrhosis is a major killer and up to 10% of people are alcoholics in some countries.


40,000 under-5s die each year from malnutrition and infection.

1 in 4 people has an inadequate diet.

2 in 3 under-5s in the poor world are malnourished.

Previous page.
Choose another issue of NI.
Go to the contents page.
Go to the NI home page.
Next page.

New Internationalist issue 127 magazine cover This article is from the September 1983 issue of New Internationalist.
You can access the entire archive of over 500 issues with a digital subscription. Subscribe today »


Help us produce more like this

Editor Portrait Patreon is a platform that enables us to offer more to our readership. With a new podcast, eBooks, tote bags and magazine subscriptions on offer, as well as early access to video and articles, we’re very excited about our Patreon! If you’re not on board yet then check it out here.

Support us »

Subscribe   Ethical Shop