Contagion – Part two: Non-communicable diseases, are they really not communicable?

By Anne Malatt and Paul Moses, Australia. 

In the not-so-distant past, contagious or communicable diseases were greatly feared, and the cause of many deaths, often on a mass scale. The Black Plague, the Spanish Flu, and smallpox all come to mind and are seared in our collective memories. With the advent of modern sanitation and medicine, these diseases have become much less common. As they have waned, the importance of non-communicable diseases has risen.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), non-communicable diseases (NCDs) now account for 68% of all deaths, worldwide, every year. (1)

In Australia, chronic diseases are the leading cause of illness, disability and death, accounting for 90% of all deaths in 2011. (2)

What are non-communicable diseases (NCDs)?

The four main types of non-communicable diseases are:

  • Cardiovascular diseases (like heart attacks and strokes)
  • Cancer
  • Chronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma), and
  • Diabetes

NCDs are largely preventable

Non-communicable diseases are largely preventable, through interventions that address the main risk factors, which are:

  • Tobacco use
  • Harmful use of alcohol
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Physical inactivity (3)

Eliminating major risk factors could prevent most NCDs

If the major risk factors for non-communicable disease were eliminated, around 75% of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes would be prevented, and 40% of cancer cases would be prevented. (4)

This is huge.

The largest causes of death are largely preventable, by modifying our lifestyles.

Knowing this (and we do) why do we still choose to live in a certain way, especially a way that is known to cause illness and disease?

Why do we choose to eat too much and to eat junk food, to smoke and drink, and lounge on the lounge watching TV?

We all know that these behaviours are harming us, so why do we do them, and then continue to repeat them, even when we can see and feel the consequences of these choices?

What do these behaviours do for us?

Is it possible that we use these behaviours in a specific way to not feel particular emotions we don’t want to feel?

Why do we smoke?

We may smoke because we are lonely – we miss ourselves, we miss true connections with other people, and some would say we miss our connection with our true purpose in life, and with God. Sure, cigarettes can be addictive, but there has to be an emptiness there for us to want to fill ourselves with smoke, a coldness and a dampness there that we warm, if only for a moment, when we breathe in stuff that’s on fire!

Why do we drink?

Alcohol can feel like our best friend too. We can use it as a substitute for truly caring for ourselves. The sugar picks us up and the alcohol numbs us, for a moment, from the sadness, the tiredness and the tension that we feel, but it is a poison for our bodies that we use instead of truly dealing with how we feel.

Why do we eat too much, or eat food loaded with fat, sugar and salt?

We eat for all sorts of reasons, but these foods offer us comfort – they can fill an emptiness and they offer us a degree of numbness from our pain and suffering, that allows us to carry on as we are – and they are cheap, quick and readily available.

And why don’t we move?

Many of us are exhausted and have given up on ourselves, and on life. And in time, this way of being can lead to depression, obesity, and further inactivity.

But these are not natural behaviours – they are learned behaviours.

And where do we learn them?

The vast majority of these behaviours are set up in our family home. We learn to eat, drink and live in a certain way from the people we grow up with, in most cases, from our parents. It can be very hard to change these behaviours that we learn at an early age, and many of us find ourselves repeating them, even if we swore we would not, as we observed them when we were young. These are not just ways of eating and drinking, but ways of living and being with each other. And they are ways we have developed to try and not feel the stress and tension, to numb the ill-at-ease, of our everyday lives.

So, if the way we live can lead to illness and disease, and these illnesses are largely due to our lifestyle and largely preventable, is it possible that these diseases are contagious too?

We don’t think of diseases such as heart attacks and arthritis as being contagious…but what if they are?

What if diseases that ‘run in the family’ (which we now call ‘genetic’) are just as contagious as the common cold?

What if the way we are with each other and the way we live can be passed on just as easily as the bugs we sneeze onto other people when we are sick?

How would this understanding change the way we viewed illness and disease, and the way we viewed raising families and being with each other?

If we saw that chronic diseases may also be contagious, through passing on the way we live, we would see that how we live can make a difference to our own health, and to that of everyone around us.

We have a responsibility for the choices we make, that affect the energy we are in, that then affects everyone, just as if we passed on an infectious disease.

But hang on!

Laughter is also contagious.

Joy is contagious.

So is harmony.

So is stillness.

And truth.

And love.

And the power of these feelings is far stronger than the force of the emotions that can lead to dis-ease.

It is our choice – whether to live in a way that leads us to illness and disease, or to live in a way that offers harmony, love, stillness, truth and joy, for ourselves and for everyone we meet.




Read more:

  1. True health: are we missing something? 
  2. The fat myth continues
  3. Bad luck causes cancer… and the world is flat
  4. The Art of Healing through Living



669 thoughts on “Contagion – Part two: Non-communicable diseases, are they really not communicable?

  1. Maybe we can go even further and look at whether there is a level of societal consciousness that affects us and the lifestyle choices we make – just as there is a family consciousness as we grow up. Are we born into a contagious fog that presents a lifestyle that we just buy into without being aware that we are doing so? Worth pondering in my view – and worth pondering how, if it is the case, how we can choose a different consciousness that is founded in Love, joy, harmony, stillness and truth. Oh, and laughter.

  2. There is plenty of information around us these days about the ill effects of smoking, alcohol, overeating, poor diet and lack of exercise / movement in our lives – and yet so many people still make these choices. We still choose to neglect our long-term health and wellbeing for a short-term fix that we have to keep repeating over and over again. My feeling is we must look deeper, to truly understand the reasons we are so desperate to change or deny what we are sensing in life. So desperate that we will indulge in activities that make us unwell, reduce our vitality, depress us etc. Blogs like this one give us an opportunity to reflect on what is behind these choices and offer us an alternative to consider. Contagious Love feels like a great place to start.

  3. Thank you Anne and Paul – I loved reading what you share here. It is especially awesome to connect to the fact that love and harmony are far more contagious than any disease or harmful way of being. You allow me to feel how joyful it is to live responsibly.

  4. Firstly I have to say I Love the way you write blogs together, building on each others ideas, forever expanding….
    Secondly you have offered a new way of defining communicable, if this new meaning were to be accepted as a truth of mainstream society there would be massive consequences to how we live with each other especially those in our private homes.

  5. This really makes everything so simple. It is up to us, our health and well being is all up to us, the way we feel the way we respond. And what’s more how we are has an influence on everyone else too. It becomes so obvious that the mess in the world is our mess and to change it starts with us changing ourselves.

  6. This is such a brilliant blog that calls us to deeply consider how and why we focus only on the symptoms of dis-ease to define the problem and how we then address the dis-ease, whilst overlooking the actual root cause of the dis-ease. Eliminating risk factors will not eliminate the unnatural behaviours that drive us to make lifestyle choices that cause us harm in the first place. This is why we so often see people re-lapse into dis-ease after medical attention. Unless we are willing to address, understand and heal the cause of our unnatural behaviours, we will continue to reinfect our lives with behaviours that do not support our well-being.

  7. When we choose to explore and embrace the power of love within us we will discover that the emotions that we engage in and are driven hold no truth or reflection of who we naturally are, and in fact serve to diminish and hinder the vitality we are all born to live with. And what is truly empowering to realise is that it is only us that has the power to choose how are lives are lived in every single moment of every day.

  8. ‘If we saw that chronic diseases may also be contagious, through passing on the way we live, we would see that how we live can make a difference to our own health, and to that of everyone around us.’ – this is a powerful call to the responsibility that we all have with the way we are with each other and what we bring to our relationships from the love we hold ourselves in. It is this responsibility accepted and embraced, coupled with the wonders and support of modern medicine, that will bring a loving change to our state of well-being within ourselves, our families and as all as a society.

  9. To consider emotional patterns such as anger, sadness, grumpiness, withdrawal, etc as non communicable dis-eases, is like the new frontier of approach to health and wellbeing, as over time, these patterns most certainly would have an effect on our biochemistry and thought patterns, that in turn, would effect the body.

  10. So much common sense wisdom in what you’ve shared here Anne and Paul… you are highlighting the fact we are all connected, we all affect one another constantly, and that the things we ‘suffer’ are the consequence of repeating choices… many of which we learn from our families. Understanding that a genetic predisposition is nothing more than the seemingly unconscious following of a familial pattern of behaviour. We have the power always to break that pattern and make different choices, and break the genetic predisposition for those who follow us in life.

  11. ‘What if the way we are with each other and the way we live can be passed on just as easily as the bugs we sneeze onto other people when we are sick?’ Awesome question. From my observations and experience of life I feel that this is indeed the case, although I had never thought about it in this way until reading this blog. Therefore does it not then mean that we have an absolute responsibility to live in away that inspire self-care and self-love? For we are all watching and learning from each other all of the time so if I am consistently self-loving and caring then that’s a pretty inspirational reflection I am offering to those who see me throughout life.

    1. Responsibility is what stood out for me too Lucy- that our choices do affect others and that we are constantly learning from one another. We can either contribute to more of the intensity that’s going on in the world around us, or reflect something different – always a choice, in each moment.

  12. It is amazing that we see many occurrences where diseases seem to run in the families – but it is never 100%. We need to look at why some get it and the others don’t, instead of leaving it as luck of the draw, and then maybe we will find it happens by choice, and not by chance.

    1. True Fumiyo – a closer look at why some get affected, and others don’t, would leave us much closer to the truth that there are no random accidents and that it’s not about being lucky or unlucky, but the choices we make in our day to day lives, that are then reflected back to us by our bodies.

  13. ha ha I jumped to every conclusion you came to as I read this before I read the thought I had just had. I started immediately thinking so these NCD are contagious and then thought so love can be contagious too – it was funny to read exactly what I was already thinking as I read – clearly your blog is contagious 😉

  14. I had grown up with parents that had only been social drinkers, they are now both no longer with us. The social bit was only on public holidays with the exception of my dad that would have one or two beers. There was never any yelling and screaming in the house. So, how did I become a 50 a day cigarette smoker and a functioning alcoholic? The only thing that was abundant in my childhood was the lack of love, joy, stillness and truth that should be the obvious suspect! As you have said Anne these were the choices I made.

  15. Lifestyle diseases are contagious. Although this is the first time I have read this presented like this and so clearly, I have read plenty of studies that support this notion. It has been shown that we take on the coping mechanisms we see in our families as kids. These become our fall back mechanisms that pop in before we can think, anytime we feel stressed or unable to cope. This body memory of a harmful default setting is what makes it hard to change when we are adults and know better. This is why it is so important for people to see role models who actually are healthy, vital and joyful to know there is another choice.

  16. Thank you both for another brilliant blog with a very powerful message throughout but, in particular, “It is our choice – whether to live in a way that leads us to illness and disease, or to live in a way that offers harmony, love, stillness, truth and joy, for ourselves and for everyone we meet.”

  17. I so enjoyed this blog, thank you. The ending is wonderful and so true, the power of joy, harmony, stillness, truth and love is huge and so much stronger than the force of emotions that lead to illness and disease. Let’s have a world epidemic of these feelings.

  18. Bring this on, I welcome the love, truth, joy, stillness, harmony and laughter…
    ‘We have a responsibility for the choices we make, that affect the energy we are in, that then affects everyone, just as if we passed on an infectious disease.

    But hang on!

    Laughter is also contagious.

    Joy is contagious.

    So is harmony.

    So is stillness.

    And truth.

    And love.’

  19. The stats are crazy….and so very telling of where we are at! ‘What if the way we are with each other and the way we live can be passed on…’ Yep, I’m open to that theory. It’s very easy for to pick up on someone else’s emotion, like anger for example and take it on if I choose to. We are all connected, but when we are not connected to ourselves first, we allow the emotions of others to enter us, often without realising. In saying that, when someone is standing straight in their power and all their amazingess, that can also be contagious, but the energy is different, it’s inspiring, and so we are met with a reflection that says we can access that too.

  20. So the responsibility of the well-being of the world is in our hands, or our breath, to infect the world with laughter, joy, harmony, truth and love.

  21. “What if diseases that ‘run in the family’ (which we now call ‘genetic’) are just as contagious as the common cold?” Yes it makes a lot of sense that a way of living that is leading to illness and disease is passed over from generation to generation and makes it in that way indeed a contagious disease.

  22. ‘The vast majority of these behaviours are set up in our family home.’ this is a very powerful statement and something to consider – our first relationships or our primary relationships begin in our home with our parents, siblings or who we are raised by. This is an enormous influence of how we learn to relate and have our needs met. When our needs are not met we substitute it for example with food. It’s more than our physical and emotional needs, it’s that very deep part of us, our essence, do we get met for who we are in our own homes, our very first relationships?
    The real disease is the cyclical pattern established by way we live from our formative years – from generation to generation that trains us to substitute our lives far from who we, are but to construct ourselves to try and be in life, yet we miss the truth and replace it with vices, which can never substitute the richness of the truth of who we are.

  23. It always comes back to honesty and responsibility – when these two qualities are present, true change is possible, whether that be lifestyle choices, non communicable diseases or the poor state of our world.

  24. This really does prove the enormous responsibility we hold in everything we do. It’s great to be reminded that not only diseases are contagious and all these things like joy, laughter and love are the best medicine of all.

  25. Great point.. what if our way of living and being with one another was contagious? There is enormous responsibility and empowerment in this: empowerment because we get to decide how we want to live, and how we want to be, in every moment, and responsibility because we are not isolated individuals: everything we do affects the quality of the whole. How we choose to live and how we are is reflected to others, as are their choices, to us.

  26. Yes Anne and Paul, living in a way where we see ourselves as individual and separate allows us a big dose of numbness and means we can keep going with the way ‘we like to behave’. The thing that we neglect to see is that this desire and impulse to indulge is not actually ours. And so the passion or belief we cling to is nothing more than a pollution that has for this moment contaminated us. Here’s to our opportunity now to clean it all up and disinfect our life, with Love.

  27. Some great questions to ponder on, this highlights how we do have a responsibility for what we reflect to others in the way we move, express and through our choices consciously bringing our awareness to know that what affects us always affects everyone around us.

  28. I loved this blog and the responsibility it is asking us to consider taking for our own health. Virtually everyone on the planet could improve their own health simply by cutting out harming behaviours or lifestyle choices as they are sometimes referred to. What if we were to look at the big picture that we are a part of? Health systems everywhere heading for bankruptcy entirely due to us all making lifestyle choices that mean we get illness and disease and want someone to fix us. We are heading for calamity because we all want to make these harming lifestyle choices without any consideration for the whole society that we are a part of. We are therefore responsible not only for our own choices but for the imminent collapse of the health care systems that we so rely on.

  29. Such a beautiful thought provoking blog Anne. We tend to think that plagues are things of the past but clearly we have modern plagues in the non-communicable chronic illnesses that are just as contagious and just as deadly to large proportions of the human population.

  30. It certainly makes sense that we pick up ways of behaving from other people and if those behaviours lead us to illness and disease then we have actually got those diseases from other people however it is not to blame them for we are the ones who have taken up those behaviours. When a behaviour becomes a habit and we begin to identify with it it can be hard to let go of but in order to stop the onset of more serious illness that is in truth what we have to do. I have found that as soon as I make the choice to change there is support for that change and it can come from the most unexpected places. Likewise my mind can sometimes try and convince me to go back to the very behaviour that I am wanting to get away from. Becoming very still and reconnecting to the true place within allows me to feel the truth again and allows me to stay steady in my commitment, knowing that this choice is deepening my care and love not just for me but for everyone.

  31. ‘If the major risk factors for non-communicable disease were eliminated, around 75% of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes would be prevented, and 40% of cancer cases would be prevented. (4)’ Wow. These are certainly sobering statistics that bring a whole new level of responsibility to our daily lives and would also noticeably reduce the demand on our overburdened health care system.

  32. It is crazy to feel how simple it is, that it comes down to choices. The difficulty comes from making the loving ones for ourselves. Simple self loving choices can get the ball rolling on a greater quality of life. Being tender with ourselves is a big ask for some. Tenderness is key.

  33. Sometimes it seems as though the most contagious disease of them all is called ‘normal’, followed by ‘that’s life’. They have been passed one from generation to generation, jump from one family to another, one nation to the next, they know no boundaries or borders. ‘Normal’ and ‘that’s life’ make us numb and despondent, lethargic and semi-comatose, only capable of reaching for the next stubbie (a beer bottle in Australia), another fag, a packet of salty chips or that cream meringue.

  34. As I am again remembering the harmony that resides naturally within I am constantly astounded as to how much my body responds when I choose this harmony. It settles, for it feels held and supported and it fills for in the settlement there is no tension which creates a spacious feeling in which I can feel my cells literally tingle with the pleasure they feel. In this it is easy to honestly feel how I have been caring for it, or not. It is given the space to communicate what it divinely needs for its ultimate support, to listen and respond to this communication is a learning like no other and one that grows in depth, awareness and information daily. This is not difficult unless we allow that which another dictates to be true to dominate our mind, instead of choosing again to reconnect to the harmony that our bodies know inside out.

  35. ‘The largest causes of death are largely preventable, by modifying our lifestyles.’ When people are diagnosed with an illness or disease, they start to change their lifestyle in order to support themselves, and yet rather than making all the self loving choices that are available, they choose to change their lifestyle enough to help support their condition yet at the same time they are not prepared to go to the next level, because they still want to hold onto the comfort that they have, which is really leaving the door open to more illness and disease.

  36. This could be a stand alone article, “If the major risk factors for non-communicable disease were eliminated, around 75% of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes would be prevented, and 40% of cancer cases would be prevented.” I remember how heart disease was in the early 80’s, I was only young but it seemed heart attacks were a regularly discussed topic. Now for me it would seem that cancers are what we discuss and I originally assumed heart disease must have gone away or improved but as we looked a little deeper it hasn’t. In fact it’s gone up as well???? What is this saying? and why aren’t we taking a different angle. I am not taking myself out of this equation and blaming you or them. It’s an ‘us’ thing and only us can turn it all around.

  37. Whilst reading this what really struck me was how we learn to eat from our parents and that rarely do we question those choices, so we now have generations of people who like fast food, convenience foods and takeaways. It’s scary really when you look at all the diseases that are preventable and related to the choices we make with food, alcohol and smoking – we cannot say that the NHS in the UK has not been educating us for many years and that we are ignorant of the facts of smoking and alcohol due to the ad campaigns on the TV, and on the cigarette packs. So why are we on such a destructive path with our health and why do we find it so difficult to make the healthy choices for our bodies? At what point do we take a hard look at ourselves and see that we are running out of get out of jail cards – in other words, how bad does it have to get.

    1. I think we tend to think that the bad consequences somehow won’t happen to us, they might happen to others but we will be ok. We think that we are indestructible and we can abuse ourselves anyway we like without consequences. Then the big stop and wake up call comes and we say why me?

  38. Non questioning the contagion of theses diseases is also a choice. Probably is not as evident as the contagious ones, but the effect is the same. We need to go deeper and see beyond the phisicality to understand how much harmful are the family patterns in which we have grown. To see that relation between the learned patterns and the disease, we have to be honest and observe the absence of love in those reflections we received, that there was ignorance, and also there was a choice about a certain way of living. In my case, I chose to stop my inherited family trends and in the beginning there was a reaction from some of my relatives, because they thought that by not choosing the same I was somehow rejecting them. And this is not the case at all. I reject the pattern, but not reject to them. I choice to take care of myself, to love myself, to offer another reflection to the world… this choice is the love I feel between us, respecting their own choices, knowing that they are much more… and that ‘much more’ is what I always love and will love from them.

  39. What really stood out in what you have highlighted here is the difference between our natural and learned behaviours. With this understanding it makes sense that we know within an innate way of being that allows a quality of life being truly committed to ourselves and each other and the responsibility we have in expressing from the truth of knowing who we are and reflecting the true qualities we naturally hold within.

  40. This really makes it so, so simple – the diseases we do or do not contract are the end product of the way we choose to live, which in turn is an end product of the energy we choose to express: either with the all that we are (love) or, with all we are not (not-love). Therefore, we are masters of our own circumstance in the sense that within every moment is the choice to express our love or not and then receive all that comes our way as a result of this choice and the many thereafter that follow.

  41. I was wondering whether dementia should be added to the list of the main types of non-communicable diseases? The statistics of the numbers affected by it and the costs to society alone make it worthy of mention.

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