Our treasured soft spots

The Eurostat survey that was released yesterday once again confirmed Greece’s singularity in the European family. We are the heaviest smokers in the EU, among the leaders in alcohol consumption, and we have one of the largest percentages of overweight people. Still, we live longer than all other Europeans. How do we combine our tendency toward debauchery with the greatest life expectancy? A doctor would, of course, respond: «Imagine how much longer we would live if we avoided these excesses.» But is this indeed so? Smoking can, no doubt, «seriously damage your health,» as we’ve been warned for years – in vain. The same could be said for the excessive consumption of alcohol and food. Excessive consumption, however, is one thing, while «a bad habit» or full abstention is quite another. Doctors tend to ban smoking, drinking, and fatty foods because they think it a more feasible prescription, while, simultaneously, they advise their clients who have felt their first heart complaints to avoid stress or too much work, to sleep more, to start a healthy diet, and lead a more relaxed and carefree life. This formula is of fundamental importance, as smokers, drinkers, and overweight people are not the only ones to become afflicted with heart disease. It’s clear, however, that if a working person today tried to follow the above advice for a carefree and relaxed lifestyle, they would most likely starve to death. What is easier then? To quit smoking, drinking, and rich food or to live happily like a naive bon vivant? This dilemma inevitably intensifies stress and insecurity. It seems that for many Greeks, smoking, drinking, and good food are the antidote to the basic, albeit unfeasible, prescription for a stress-free, laid-back lifestyle. But, not only do we live more than other Europeans, we come in last in suicides – the usual outcome for those who seek the unfeasible, rather than stopping to smell the roses.

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