Money and Health
Man surprised me most about humanity. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. – Dalai Lama
This simple observation is a frequent topic of discussion on the long walks the Grizzlies take around our neighborhood, and it’s a fitting end to our week-long look at healthcare.
Health is tied up in money, there is no way around this fact. Healthcare is expensive, and getting more expensive every year. In the US we have a particularly acute problem with healthcare costs. Healthcare as a % of GDP has increased from 5% in 1960 to over 17% today. With spending per capita increasing from $1000 to over $9000 in constant dollars. We spend a great deal keeping ourselves healthy.
However, all of this spending doesn’t seem to be buying us much. The US now easily tops the entire world in healthcare spending per capita. We spend more than double most of the other developed nations of the world. But as the US forges ever upward in spending on healthcare, we’ve moved sideways in the metrics that really matter: years of life, healthy children, freedom from chronic diseases.
Now some of this dominance in costs and failure in quality is tied up in structural problems within the US. There are MANY reforms on either side of the political spectrum that would change the system for the better. You would be hard pressed to design a system that would fair worse on these metrics than our current hodge-podge of government/private/free-market/over-regulated-system that we have today.
But the Grizzlies can never get past the belief that these results are tied up the quote at the top of this post. How often do we make choices in which we trade years of our lives, inches on our waist lines, and increased stress for a few extra dollars? And then how often do we turn around and spend those hard fraught gains on treatments, pills, and promises to correct the many problems caused by the crazy lifestyle we lead?
Health for Money
We’ve seen this in our own lives. I spent several years traveling for a big name consulting company. By the end, I was experiencing debilitating back pain on a regular basis. The consequence of a 6’4″ man trying to cram himself into an airline seat twice every single week. I tried multiple doctors and physical therapists. No luck. But as soon as I quit my consulting job the back problems cleared up.
And the damage is not confined to us. We see it almost all of our friends who work similar jobs, with similar hours and the same habits. I saw a good friend from college for the first time in several years. He had just landed a coveted position working for a big Private Equity shop. He is also about 60 lbs overweight, almost completely bald, and looks 15 years older than all of us now. He also complained about nearly constant migraine headaches and talked about the great doctor he sees to get them treated. I’m guessing the doctor will not be able to help him.
There is a partner at Mrs. Grizzly’s law firm that has grown increasingly fat every since she first met him a few years ago. He eats an almost exclusive diet of Chinese takeout. He’s now weighing in at a solid 400+lbs and can barely move from his office chair. He has a nice beard so we have simply started to refer to him as “The Walrus.” The Walrus has been diagnosed with high blood pressure (Shocking!) and is now on a steady regime of purple pills.
Another good friend had such a stressful job she decided that the best solution was to start on a prescription of Adderall to make sure she could ‘focus’. A dose of methamphetamine is always a good solution to life’s problems. One of many downsides to this plan was that she found she could no longer sleep. Solution? Start taking another prescription for Ambien. Problem solved!
There are a thousand other examples. People we know who have traded their health for their careers, for their ambitions. Well here is a shocking revelation – IT’S NOT WORTH IT! No amount of money is worth it. No prestige is worth it. No amount of power is worth it. And even with all the money in the world, you often cannot buy your health back. The solutions do not work because they don’t address the fundamental problems in your life.
A Better Way
Live your life, health will follow. – Grizzly Dad
There is a better way. A simpler way. No, I’m not going to advocate throwing out all Western Medicine. We still get baby bear vaccinated, and we’ll still take antibiotics if we get sick. But how much could we all improve our health if we all just slowed our lives down a bit? How many years of your life could you win back by shifting the focus of your life from your career to start focusing on your body and your spirit a bit more?
Take a long walk every night with your family. Take time in the mornings to go for a run or lift weights. Make wonderful healthy dinners and enjoy them over good laughs with friends. Leave the stress of your job at your job when you come home and actually enjoy the time with your family, without distractions. Or better yet – retire from your job at 35 and never work in the office salt mines again. Spend the weekend at the beach or hiking through green woods. In short, START LIVING YOUR LIFE, rather than sacrificing your life on the altar of your job. How much health could you win back by starting to do these few simple things? Things that we all enjoy! In short, live your life, health will follow.