Are you a Nigerian? Have you crossed the 50th Birthday bridge? If so you have my profound congratulations!
Looking through the text messages on my phone, I come across one from a friend who had asked me for medical advice. The advice I gave was to do some tests to diagnose his complaints. Unfortunately due to some Nigerian factors, he couldn’t have them done immediately. The tests were scheduled for 3 days after.
He died on the morning scheduled for the tests.
There was a time as a Nigerian you didn’t need to worry about some problems until you attain old age, but now the earlier you start worrying the better. Younger people are now dying of preventable diseases like heart diseases, kidney failure, and complications of diabetes and hypertension
This is not the place to talk about the low average life expectancy for Nigerians in general
Why more young Nigerians are dying before their 50th Birthday
- Stress Levels: Stress levels these days are very high. There’s extreme poverty and oppression in the land putting a lot of pressure on many young men and women just to survive. The society also puts pressure on you, nothing is working so you have to fund your own housing, water, electricity, education etc. You don’t feel safe when you move around. All these add to one’s stress levels.
- Adoption of Western lifestyle and diet: there was a time we were a largely agricultural population and produced what we ate which most times were organic. However with increased globalisation and exposure, we have discarded our diet and adopted the western one. Fast food and ice cream outlets are very popular these days as relaxation spots.
- Technology increase: People are generally more sedentary now. You don’t need to lift a muscle to get things done, even food. You can order via an app on your phone. Some park their cars right next to their office door in order not to walk too far.
- Cost of healthcare: We still pay for healthcare out of pocket. It is neither cheap nor subsidised. There isn’t a functioning National health insurance scheme so you have to draw a scale of preference before you spend on healthacare. Everyone knows you need an annual check up but who can really afford one? Tests and investigations are also on the high side. An MRI costs about N90,000 while a CT scan costs about 35,000. It is not unusual, and I have seen it in my practice where patients do the tests they can afford and leave the rest for the doctor
- Nobody has your time: everybody is too busy hustling, no one checks on anyone anymore. A text or WhatsApp message “how are you?” “fine thanks” is the best most of us can do these days. When last did you physically check on a friend you haven’t heard from? He or she may be sick, in need, on the verge of suicide etc
- You don’t have time: In a city like Lagos where people leave home for work 4am and return 11pm, there’s hardly time to cater to one’s health.
- keeping up with the Joneses: Young people are doing so many things these days to remain among the happening crowd these come with the peculiar associated lifestyle risks.
- Old age still far away : When you’re in your 30s and 40s there’s the temptation to think old age is still far away and your body system is still like a newborn baby. Nothing can happen to you. I call it the immortality complex. Some young people don’t see the need to exercise, stop smoking or go for health screening until they approach their 50s.
What are the solutions?
- Improvement in the economy will help. Nigeria is on another election path. Once basic needs of survival are met, one can begin to focus on health.
- A comprehensive health insurance program that covers the poorest in society
- We should all slow down and consider whether what we are pursuing is actually worth it.
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