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 Below is a map published today by Public Health England, which shows how much more likely you are to die prematurely if you live in certain areas (marked in red).  Map: Overall premature death rate

The government are considering what to do to improve the position for those areas.  It should come as no great surprise to anyone that the red areas are more deprived than the rest of the country.  The poorer an area, the lower the life expectancy of those who live in it, but the reasons are complicated.  We do know that lifestyle plays a part, including smoking, obesity and alcohol.  But why are smoking, obesity and alcohol linked to deprivation? It can’t just be about education – successive governments have run public information campaigns time after time, so no-one can say the information isn’t out there.   Is anyone looking at where mental health might fit in all this? 

There is a theory in addictions called the self-medication hypothesis, the idea being that some people use substances to alleviate/medicate symptoms perhaps of mental health problems, perhaps of distress or of stress.  If self-medication is behind even a part of the picture, shouldn’t we be turning our thinking on its head and be looking at what causes the distress, rather than simply telling people to stop smoking and eat and drink less?

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