Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers is a very depressing book, so depressing I didn’t read past the first chapter for months. In the end what I did was skip through to the final few chapters, where I found some interesting bits and pieces, for example, that poverty is likely to make you depressed, stressed and very, very sick, and that feeling poor can be just as stressful as actually being poor. No doubt poor people had already worked that out for themselves, but Sapolsky’s gathering of empirical evidence shows that “poverty is associated with increased risks of cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, ulcers, rheumatoid disorders, psychiatric diseases, and a number of types of cancer, just to name a few” (p. 366).
Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: The Acclaimed Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping
Sapolsky argues that in order to improve the general quality of health and well being in a community, it makes sense to spend money on public transport, safety, clean water, good public education and universal health care (p. 380) – and I guess in Australia we do fairly well with most of these although there was a falling off particularly in education during the Howard era, and rural Indigenous Australians miss out on most of it. Sapolsky’s next point makes sense of why when we have a Liberal government, or even a neo-liberal Labor Government, there’s usually a reduction in public spending. He argues, convincingly I think, that the wealthy don’t feel better when more money is spent on improving the lives of average people, they feel better when they can spend money on themselves (p. 380)! Social class, then, is a good predictor of health, well being and longevity.