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Induced Diseases of Modern Life

Nature volume 13, pages 508509 | Download Citation



HEALTH is proverbially one of the greatest blessings man can enjoy, and yet in this hardworking, hurrying, struggling age, many a one deliberately sacrifices it in the endeavour to succeed in his pursuits, commercial, literary, or scientific. Success is the object of their desires, and they are quite willing to pay for it the price of broken health and shortened life. This is even more the case with literary and scientific than with commercial men, for the latter generally look forward to several years of retirement and ease as a reward for their labours, while the former are rather anxious that their work itself shall be such as to secure them a certain place among the world's great ones, than concerned whether their fame be posthumous or not. In struggling to accomplish it they too often forget that “the race is not to the swift,” but rather to the long enduring, and that if Cuvier or Darwin had died before reaching middle age, not only would their names have remained comparatively unknown, but science would have sustained an irreparable loss. Sometimes the worn-out body reminds them only too forcibly of the dependence of the mind upon it, work becomes impossible, every occupation must be renounced for a time, and the vantage ground which has been gained by unremitting toil is entirely lost. Nay more, the exhausted energies require a long time to recover; when work is resumed it can rarely be carried on with the same vigour as before, and meanwhile some slower but steadier competitor steps in front and wins the longed-for prize, or makes the eagerly-desired discovery. Several years ago we began to ascend the long flights of steps which lead to the higher part of the island of Capri, at the same time with another party. They ran briskly up while we went slowly on, and they reached the top of the first flight while we were only half way up. But here they were out of breath and stopped to rest. We, on the contrary, never stopped; if breath began to fail we went more slowly, but we never stood still. The consequence was that we passed the other party about the middle of the second flight, and by the time they had reached its top, we had mounted the third. In such a competition as this the increasing difficulty of respiration soon warns a man to stop, but in the life-long struggle for existence it is not so easy for one to know when he is getting out of breath and to relax his exertions in time. As a help to do this Dr. Richardson's work is most valuable, for he paints in vivid colours the symptoms of disease from worry and mental strain, beginning with the slighter ones of restlessness, irritability, and “an overweening desire to do more and yet more work,” and ending with dementia, diabetes, &c. He gives a most salutary warning to those who strive to counteract the effects of mental overwork by adding to it hard bodily exercise, and his remarks on physical strain should be carefully perused by all young athletes. If his cautions were constantly attended to, we would have fewer instances of break-down either mental or physical. The effects of the passions on the body are next taken up, and then the action of alcohol and tobacco discussed at length.

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