Psychosocial

Separation from Our Culture Leads to Diabetes

The diabetes epidemic in the developed  world is a result of separation from our culture. While the evidence is in plain sight, we have largely ignored it.

Those of us in here who have diabetes are as much subject to the breakdown of culture as the indigenous peoples of the world whose cultural ties broke when they came into contact with us. “Diabetes Lessons from Indigenous Cultures” shows three examples of that collective trauma.

For us, what caused our cultural separation is different from what caused that of indigenous peoples. But the effects are the same, and they include diabetes.

Individuals are growing more and more isolated from each other and therefore from cultural norms and expectations. Of course, those norms weren’t always good for us, but they gave us a sense of belonging and of the right actions to take.

Family breakdown and diabetes

The first effect of of the cultural breakdown in the Western world was the extended family changing into the nuclear family as the basic social unit. Now we are well into the process of the changing from the nuclear family into the isolated individual. Like ever more Americans, I have lived alone most of my adult life — and I am the first member of my family to have diabetes. More than one-fourth of Americans were living alone in 2013, up from about 5 percent in the 1920s, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent population survey.

Even when we are in the presence of others we are becoming ever more isolated. Many of us are focusing on the content of our smart phones. Have you looked around your restaurants and coffee shops lately? Often I see each member of a so-called couple engrossed in his or her digital device rather than the other person at the table.

Poverty and diabetes

Researchers recognize being poor as a cause of diabetes. But poverty itself stems from the breakdown of culture. In traditional cultures and in the recent past of the modern world the family served as a safety net.

Recent research shows that poverty can double and even triple the risk of type 2 diabetes. “Subjects who lived more often in poverty during the 12-year study period had a 41 percent greater chance of developing the disease,” according to “Poverty a Leading Cause of Type 2 Diabetes, Studies Say.”

Urbanization and diabetes

Rapid urbanization around the world has fueled the diabetes epidemic, writes Dr. Frank Hu of the Harvard School of Public Health in “Globalization of Diabetes.” Another research report, “Urban rural differences in prevalence of self-reported diabetes in India,” shows that the proportion of people in that country who live in urban areas have more than twice the rate of diabetes as those in rural areas.

Because we have lost touch with the standards and values of our parents and other elders we are susceptible to the sales pitches of the scammers and the recommendation of the day by the so-called professional nutritionists. Our parents and other elders certainly weren’t right about everything. But they seem to me to have a better, albeit seat of the pants understanding of good nutrition than the experts have had for the past 40 or 50 years. They also wouldn’t have allowed us to eat all the junk food on the shelves now.

Americans take some justifiable pride in what we call the melting pot. But the forging of a common culture here inevitably led to the lost of our inherited cultures with far too little to replace it. The melting pot doesn’t work the way that proud Americans think it does. We don’t melt our various cultures into a unified culture. We melt it away.

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

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6 Comments

  • Reply Wendy March 25, 2015 at 9:33 am

    David-thank you for your frank sharing and continuing conversation on, not just diabetes but, the cultural connection of Commonsense living which our previous generations practiced.

    Jane-I relate to your recent widowhood, being one for the past 26 years. I was widowed at 30. I endorse your words, especially : being connected and present for other humans is essential for our well being. Well said! I helped formed a group, Widows of Grace, several years ago. By listening, offering support and love to scores of recent widows and their children I’ve seen despair translated to hope. I’ve also been blessed immensely! There’s always someone present to love. May you continue to enjoy the blessing of giving!

    • Reply David Mendosa March 25, 2015 at 9:44 am

      I can emphasize with both of you, Wendy, although my situation is somewhat different. I am a widower much later in life.

      With metta,
      David

  • Reply Jane March 15, 2015 at 5:03 am

    I relate to this post in a few ways. I don’t have biological family living nearby though I do have a family of friends. There is so much to keep learning about diabetes, I see the value of a support group in which information is shared & encouragement is received. I am overwhelmed at how much I need to read in order to understand the disease-and I’m a reader! Also, as a recent widow I feel the isolation yet I know it’s something to work through.

    While a family network might not always be the answer, a culture of support from others seems indispensable. I use my experience in other areas of life where finding like-minded people has been essential to my well-being.

    Locally I haven’t found a support group for diabetes & at the moment I’m not able to try and start one, but perhaps in the future. You identify a situation that is significant– being connected and present for other humans is important to our well-being.

    • Reply David Mendosa March 15, 2015 at 10:14 am

      Dear Jane,

      You and I are certainly on the same wave length. I hope that you will be able soon to join or start a diabetes support group. Meanwhile, I hope that you will keep reading my articles, all of which I intend to offer diabetes support. If you are not already a subscriber to my free monthly newsletter, please subscribe at http://www.mendosa.com/subscribe and then follow the prompts.

      Best regards,
      David

  • Reply Roger March 14, 2015 at 10:02 am

    David- I’ve been a longtime follower of your blog and really appreciate the information you share! I’m always looking for what seems to be common sense and well written information like yours. I have been following the South African symposium promoted by Dr. Noakes. I found this presenter and think his information is informative. I thought you might like to check it out if you haven’t already. http://intensivedietarymanagement.com/

    Keep up the good work!

    • Reply David Mendosa March 15, 2015 at 10:09 am

      Dear Roger,

      Thank you for your good words about my work and about Dr. Noakes and, in the link you shared, about Dr. Fung. I was already familiar with Dr. Fung and had just begun to be aware of Dr. Noakes and the symposium. These are indeed valuable resources!

      Best regards,
      David

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