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Falling In Love is Easy, but Staying In Love is Something Very Healthy

It’s my parents 55th anniversary today.  Not only have they enjoyed the years together (well most of the time anyway….smile), but research shows that their commitment to one another has given them greater health and a better lifestyle for their children and grandchildren as well!

mom and dad

Wedding Day, April 16th, 1960.

‘The pursuit of health has become a cultural phenomenon. Diet, exercise, supplements, relaxation and medications have all been touted as the way to achieve health. It’s surprising, then, that one of the most powerful predictors of health and well-being remains largely ignored by the health and wellness community. For the last 35 years, family sociologists contributed to compelling research suggesting married people enjoy significantly greater health than the unmarried.’ (1)

Dad, the 2nd born child in a family of five children, left home at 15 years old to start his career, with a grade 8 education.  Due to his strong work ethic and exceptional carpentry skills, he progressed from laborer to foreman to Manager of Campus Development at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology to the owner of his own residential construction business.  My mom was born on a subsistence farm in northern Saskatchewan.  Being the 8th child of 15, she also learned the importance of commitment to hard work.  They eventually met and married in Calgary, at 19 years old.  Four daughters and one (adoptive) son, 10 grandchildren, 6 great grandchildren, a battle with breast cancer, facing the heart-breaking tragedy of a family murder/suicide, vacations around the world, and the purchase of 73 vehicles later……they arrived at today!

It hasn’t been easy, but their loyalty to one another, for better or for worse, has offered them and their family, these tremendous health benefits.

waterskiing

Slalom skiing together on their 65th birthdays!

Physical Health – The emotional support offered within a loving relationship helps couples to stay healthy and recover from illness faster.  It is thought that this occurs because couples have a vested interest in one another which causes  them to encourage (that’s a nice way of saying ‘nag’) each other to take better care of themselves.  As well, mental health studies have shown that ‘married people have significantly lower rates of severe depression and at least half the likelihood of developing any psychiatric disorder then never-married, cohabiting and divorced people.’ (2)

Happiness – ‘In a new research paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, he (Professor Helliwell) and colleague Shawn Grover conclude not only that marriage does make people happier, but that being married to your best friend makes you extra happy.'(3)

Longer Life – “Virtually every study of mortality and marital status shows the unmarried of both sexes have higher death rates, whether by accident, disease, or self-inflicted wounds, and this is found in every country that maintains accurate health statistics.”(4)

Family Health Benefits – The health benefits to families raised in loving parental relationships are incredible.  ‘Children raised in intact married families are more likely to attend college, are physically and emotionally healthier, are less likely to be physically or sexually abused, less likely to use drugs or alcohol and to commit delinquent behaviors, have a decreased risk of divorcing when they get married, are less likely to become pregnant/impregnate someone as a teenager, and are less likely to be raised in poverty.’ (5)  Grandchildren also greatly benefit from the long life, health and happiness of their grandparents. ‘Besides modelling what constitutes a ‘normal’ relationship, grandparents provide children with a sense of safety and protection, a link to their cultural heritage and family history and a companion in play and exploration.’ (6)

photo-1

Celebrating my daughters wedding last summer.

I’m very thankful for my family heritage, the many adventures in fishing, camping, water sports, card games (of which my mom never loses), and all the love and support of my wonderful parents!  I’m not sure I truly realize the half of what their commitment to each other has meant to me and my family.  Congratulations mom and dad!

(1) http://www.focusonthefamily.com/about_us/focus-findings/marriage/health-benefits-of-marriage.aspx

(2) Lee Robins and Darrel Regier, Psychiatric Disorders in America: The Epidemiologic Catchment Area Study (New York: Free Press, 1991), 64, 334.

(3) The Globe and Mail, Jan 15, 2015 ‘Who is The Happiest of Them All?’

(4) Jonathan Gardner and Andrew Oswald, “How Is Mortality Affected by Money, Marriage and Stress?” Journal of Health Economics 23 (2004): 1181-1207.

(5) “Why Marriage Matters: 26 Conclusions from the Social Sciences,” Bradford Wilcox, Institute for American Values, http://www.americanvalues.org/html/r-wmm.html

(6) Article ‘Bonding with Grandparents’ Mary Gavin, M.D.


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The Bio-Psycho-Social-Spiritual Connection

It’s commonly accepted that our human make-up can be considered in four perspectives; the biological, psychological, social and spiritual.  Historically, health services have been able to provide support to all aspects of life, each independently holding a piece to the puzzle, with limited intersections.  Medical professionals have treated the body by considering medication, exercise, relaxation, diet and sleep.  Mental health professionals have treated the mind and emotions.  Social workers have brought health to relationships and other social aspects of life and spiritual care providers have facilitated healing through the integration of faith principles.

gateway It is widely accepted that human nature is complex and that the various aspects of life all affect the other, however, there has been a struggle historically, to provide a holistic approach to healing, with each discipline validating and soliciting support from the others.  Thankfully, this is changing.  More and more, health providers are embracing a multidisciplinary approach, seeking to deliver comprehensive strategies for the physical, psychological, social and spiritual aspects of all human dis-ease.

I love this!!

A few weeks ago I was able to take part in a panel discussion, hosted by Pastor Rick Boyes of Gateway Church in London Ontario, that brought to light the four perspectives of our human make-up and how they interrelate on matters of mental health.  On the panel was Medical Dr. Grant Mullen, Psychiatrist Dr. Ajit Ninan, Pastor Dave Andrews and myself (representing aspects of psycho-therapeutic intervention).  The attendees included health professionals, spiritual leaders and many people either suffering from mental health issues (or relatives of those suffering); attending in hopes of finding an approach that links the complexities of our human make-up, without discounting any perspective.   They weren’t disappointed. The panel was considerate, professional and insightful, representing their area of expertise with an open mind as to how it relates to the others.

From a faith-based perspective, the bio-psycho-social-spiritual connection is not a new concept.  Luke 2:52 speaks of Jesus development as growing in wisdom (psychologically), stature (physiologically), in favor with God (spiritually) and in favor with man (socially).  As well, the Apostle Paul delivered a wonderfully holistic speech recorded in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, ‘may the God of peace bring healing to your whole spirit, soul and body’.

I’m thankful for the progress being made in all disciplines of health care to embrace a more holistic approach. To me, optimal health is realized within a community where health services are offered for all aspects of life, without fear, shame or stigma.