Are we sicker than we look?

By Joshua Campbell, Ghent, Belgium

Are we sicker than our eyes would have us believe? Are we very good at band aiding our ill conditions and making it seem like all is ok? These are questions I have been pondering on ever since I moved to Belgium from a small town in New Zealand.

When I was growing up in NZ it was common to see only one hospital in each city, with the exception of a few bigger cities like Auckland which has three and this makes sense given its population is over one million. However, in Ghent, the city I now live in, a city of only 300,000 people, there are a whopping four large hospitals each with the full catalogue of services and specialists that you would expect in any large hospital.

In addition, Ghent also has 6 health centres, each with numerous doctors and other specialists on top of the already large number of general doctors and other specialists practising in their own clinics around the city. And if that was not enough, there are also night doctors, dentists and pharmacies and if you really are stuck, it is only a short trip to another city close by, which like Ghent has yet more hospitals and specialists there.

This as you can imagine was vastly different from what I experienced growing up, yet is the norm for people here in Europe. Most do not even seem to question that such access to health care is a warning sign for humanity. The healthcare here is fantastic, no question, in fact it is excellent and I am not criticising this in any way, but what I am asking is: why do we need such a large range of healthcare services just to function as a society?

Naturally, there were a number of questions that came flooding in when I realised the extent of health care here in Ghent and Belgium in general. Firstly, was the question of how so many health specialists could compete for business!? And how all these hospitals were able to fill beds and afford to keep themselves running. Obviously with the large numbers of people using these facilities, there must be a demand for so many to begin with, for them to even have been built. And hence my next question; if the demand is so high, there must be a high level of sickness, disease or illness within the community to justify such a demand, so is this a sign that this society is sicker than it looks?

I walk around Ghent and I see that most people are not bandaged up, on crutches or having to be wheeled round in wheel chairs. No, on the surface society seems to be doing well. But one of the things that struck me when I first came here was the incredibly high number of pharmacies. There is one on almost every street! All with a full range of basic and specific drugs and medications available for use. And again, if so many pharmacies are able to not only survive but do well in one single city, then there must be a high demand for them and that means a high demand for drugs, given that with so many pharmacies, a single pharmacy is serving only a fraction of the population.

It makes me wonder: if these medical facilities were not there in the many and varied ways in which they currently are, would we be able to cope? The evidence of so much illness and so much disease would be unavoidable and perhaps in such a state we could not hide the fact that as a race we are very sick.

I have observed that there is very little in modern-day life, with so many technological advances, that ought to be making us sick by circumstance alone. By this I mean that we have so many tools at our disposal to make life so much more physically supportive than was available even 50 years ago and because of this we should be less sick. Yet it is apparent there is more, yes more, sickness now than there was back when my parents were my age and this is not just true by statistics alone but also in the fact that so much has changed even in the twenty years since I was born. I can remember going to the doctor and talking about anything and everything, and yet feeling like the doctor was not rushed off his feet with patients to treat, nor overwhelmed by the ways of the system, or by complications that seemed to only get worse and not truly better, or that the health budget of the nation was bursting at the seams like it is today. Nowadays it feels like doctors and health systems are just getting by and one day they may not be able to cope, especially if we keep getting sicker.

So, why are we getting sicker when today we can have so much at our finger tips, literally to the point where we can order a taxi, a pizza and search the web on anything and everything, all from the ease of our phone!?

What if the downward trend in our health is related to our way of living? The two are not exclusive, as what we do more than anything is to live life. Recently, I have become more aware of the importance of self-responsibility in life and how it is not common for us to live much, if any, true responsibility for the quality of our well-being. There is a ‘life happened, fix me up’ mentality that is common in society, and I am starting to question whether it is this approach to life that is the cause of our worrying health trends.

This is indeed a much needed topic for us all to consider, for there is clearly more to living truly well and healthy than just mere function, as we are very good at restoring function in healthcare but clearly the overall state of our health is not great. Perhaps it’s time to take off the layers that have us believe that our state of health is ‘ok’ and start to question whether there is more to how we are living than would otherwise meet the eye.

Without the wonderful care of modern medicine, we would be looking and feeling a lot sicker… medicine is doing a great job, but it is also starting to ail and fail, because of the increasing burdens we are placing on it. It is propping us all up to continue living our unhealthy ways, patching us up and allowing us to go back out there and continue doing what made us ill in the first place, and protecting us from the full consequences of our choices. But we cannot continue like this forever…

Perhaps it is time for us to start taking responsibility for our choices and to live in a way that keeps us largely healthy and well, thus reducing the burden on our health care systems.


Read more:

  1. The new era in public health 
  2. What would happen if we became CEO’s of our own health? 


407 thoughts on “Are we sicker than we look?

  1. Awesome sharing Joshua. And the question that arises for me is – are the people of Ghent, in this case, being responsible for their own health or are they simply relying on all these medical facilities to keep them well? We can have many hospitals, many medical centres and many pharmacies but if we are not bringing a deep level of care to ourselves then all these facilities are providing is a bandaid, which like all bandaids are only temporary and what is brewing away underneath will finally be revealed.

  2. When sickness becomes a worldwide standard, suddenly wellness can mean just not being hospitalised. But if you understand true health to be based on how much you express love in your day – then this world is collectively in need of emergency treatment and a heart transplant.

  3. That is a very revealing article Joshua. Your perspective from somebody that has just arrived in Belgium, Europe is refreshing but confronting. I would say the Netherlands is not that much different than Belgium, as is Germany and the UK. I take the health care industry with all its hospitals and pharmacies as a normal, but in fact it is not. It would be interesting to see the trends over the years.
    Indeed we should question the fact why we need a health care system in this way. You could say we are getting sicker and sicker. And why is the system so much more extensive in Europe than in New Zealand?
    There is also an additional perspective to my point of view: could it be there is industry that has an interest in keeping us alive at all cost? That is able to keep us working, functioning, when in the old days people just would get sick? A cost in the end society is paying.

  4. Being in a position as a health professional to read people’s health history, I can absolutely agree we are sicker than we look. We are still functioning through things like caffeine and pharmaceuticals but our bodies are under strain and far from being in harmony.

  5. Pretty much all of the time we do not divulge exactly what is going on with our health and we certainly as a general rule do not take note of the small things that we’d now consider ‘normal’ – either because we’ve lived with it for so long or because so many others have the disorder in their bodies too. The disease and illness statistics show marginally better than this day to day honesty and yet these stats are not nice reading at all. So what then is our true state of health if this is the situation? I would answer yes Joshua, we are sicker than we look.

  6. Are we sicker than we look? A great reflection of how we are living and the acceptance of illness and ill health as normal with the huge increase everywhere of pharmacies popping up everywhere and the similar sections in supermarkets and small corner stores. Are we surviving and calling this wellness because we do not have a critical disease or are we enjoying vitality health and true well being choosing a loving quality of livingness everyday.

  7. “What if the downward trend in our health is related to our way of living? ” Good point Joseph. What choices do we now make in comparison with how we used to live? AS a child I dont recall even one takeaway being on the high street and a fish and chips out was a special treat. Nowadays it’s an everyday phenomenon. Could there possibly be a link?! And as for sugary fizzy drinks?…….

  8. What would 2 billion hospital beds look like? Where would we build the buildings to house them? Where would the staff and support services come from? It’s estimated that we will hit 8 billion in six years and 9 billion by 2042. Would the 25% be the tip of the iceberg?

  9. ‘What if the downward trend in our health is related to our way of living? ‘ This is a question many do not want to consider, but as medical technology isn’t keeping up with curbing the increasing rates of illness and disease despite valiant results, we are going to have to ask this question earnestly.

  10. It is so true so many people are on a range of medications these days. It is great that we have pharmacotherapy to support us in our ailments, but when do we stop to consider and change the way that we are living that may be contributing to our ills?

  11. I was talking to a lady the other day who felt she was very fit and well, despite her arthritic body and IBS. When I asked her about it, she replied, ‘well apart from most of my joints and my back aching, and my indigestion most of the day’. She had accepted the pain her physical body was giving her was normal and good health because she wasn’t having a heart attack or needing urgent medical care.

  12. Maybe we are sicker than we look and many people really are looking pretty sick too when I truly observe them.

  13. It makes me ponder on how Universal Medicine plays an important part to help us take responsibility for our lives. I used to live in a way where I wanted to get fixed. I didn’t, like so many, want to take responsibility for my life but I kept on receiving the Sacred Esoteric modalities and eventually it clicked, my relationship to self started to change. I began to see more clearly the connection between how I was living and my state of wellbeing. Unless we take responsibility for our lives then there is never going to be any real and true change.

    1. Very true Caroline. We want a quick fix and blame our doctors and our medical systems for not being there to sort us out – rather than take responsibility for our own health. The rise in obesity is blamed on sugary drinks and takeaway meals. But we have to choose to ingest these – we aren’t force fed!! Responsibility – as you say…

  14. Until we are prepared to give up solely relying on the band-aids and go straight to the cause we as a society are just going to get progressively sicker.

  15. I would say we are sicker than we look and if we were to just take away all over the counter medicine, all stimulants such as caffeinated drinks, sugar, alcohol, starchy foods for just one month around the world we would get to see just how sick we are in reality.

  16. It really shows that our health is something we have to care for collectively and we have to all play our part. When we put too much on the health care system alone it will bankrupt because it can’t keep fixing us up if we are not taking responsibility for our own part in it, our lifestyle.

  17. This is spot on Joshua, because when we feed animals our fast food diets they also get extremely ill so maybe we can learn from these types of experiences and go back to a natural diet, which comes from how our body responds to what we have eaten.

    1. Is there a reflection from our cats and dogs with what we eat, in the diseases, they are developing? Dogs have historically been the floor hover under the dinner table. When I was small the only thing my dog would not make vanish from my plate that I did not like, was Lima beans. Our pets are; obese, getting cancer, Dementia, food allergies and the list goes on. There are some of the same drugs that we use, that are now used by them. Are we, no longer satisfied with slow suicide for ourselves and bringing our pets with us, with our food, we are giving them?

  18. A comfortable life can dull us into a complacent imagination that all is well when we are far from it. This is a great example of how we could have a greater level of observation. Yes why do we have so many successfully busy pharmacies? In fact we can ask this about many other things such as why do we have coffee shops popping up everywhere? ….or how come we have such a booming entertainment industry? The immediate answer is “because I enjoy it”, but in my view if ever I find myself unable to go a month, a week or even a day without something, that is not just enjoyment , it is a clear need.

  19. ‘I can remember going to the doctor and talking about anything and everything, and yet feeling like the doctor was not rushed off his feet’ a friend of mine recently tried to make a doctor’s appointment and was given a date over three weeks later as the next possible appointment. I know that the health care system is not the answer to our health problems, we are, but when you do need to seek support we should have a system which is able to respond in a suitable time frame. Perhaps we are not doing our part an expecting the system to pick up the pieces.

  20. As a wider society, we don’t want to look at how sick we really are compared with the natural vitality and joy we really have the capacity to be. We have certainly accepted a lesser version of life and called it normal.

  21. I would be interested to know whether New Zealand has had to start building new or expanding the Hospitals they already have because it seems to be a world trend that we are all getting sicker and sicker even though medicine continues to advance. I grew up in New Zealand and I can only remember being surrounded by healthy people, cancer was virtually unheard of and now it is rare not to know several people that have been effected by it in one way or another. We do have to seriously look at the way we have gone from then to now and what has changed temporally as well as energetically.

  22. Some of us are simply not willing or able to take responsibility for how we are living as we are still holding on to our deeply held hurts and letting them go would mean we would have to own all the ways we have protected these hurts at a great cost to the body. It is important that we who do see the way forward pave the way and show all that it is possible.

  23. If we are complacent in living our own individual lives, blinded by the borders of what matters to us and ignoring the issues that are the ‘concerns of others’, then as a humanity we will never get out of the rot and dis-ease you’ve described in your blog Joshua. It’s important to truly see what is going on.

  24. If children were given this basic information about taking care of themselves at a young age, and encouraged to take more responsibility in general, it would surely impact on everyones health and state of well being.

  25. The number of pharmacies we have are a dead give away about how dependent we are on drugs. It’s actually astounding to think about it. How has it become normal to be reliant in this way and to not be super fit and healthy. It says a great deal about the state of the world and the state of people’s bodies. Why do we settle for this?

  26. ‘Recently, I have become more aware of the importance of self-responsibility in life and how it is not common for us to live much, if any, true responsibility for the quality of our well-being’. This is so true Joshua especially when we realise that taking responsibility for our own health is a very empowering step that we can all take. Responsibility is a word that is not embraced fully but rather seen as a burden when in truth it lifts us out of being a victim of life and allows us to feel the joy of being alive.

  27. Taking our own life into our own hands by looking after ourselves is fundamental to changing the increasing issues with the medical systems. Taking responsibility and making loving choices is the only way.

  28. Yes you have to wonder how people would manage without all the drugs and that includes not only what is sold via pharmacies but also coffee, sugar and the many, many other stimulants on offer.

  29. Great blog Joshua – this is true medicine. YES it is way past time we started to take responsibility for ourselves and our health and well-being.

  30. Brilliant blog here and a much needed conversation about health care. The ‘life just happened so fix me up’ mentality is strong in health care both among patients and also the medical professionals themselves but everything as you say is pointing to the fact that this way of approaching medicine is not sustainable and it will collapse eventually unless we start seeing all of life as medicine and how we live has the potential to be our best medicine.

  31. I particularly notice the difference with elderly people: students of Universal Medicine who are in their 70s and 80s are walking without a stick whereas many people in my local area use walking sticks, wheels walkers and in some cases, wheelchairs. For me it proves that our bodies don’t have to get so decrepit as we age.

    1. Carmel, I have noticed also the light in their eyes, how healthy they look and how committed to life they still are. As a reflection for how life can be at this stage in life I can’t think of anything more inspiring; these beautiful people are communicating purpose, joy, wisdom and so much more. It says to me that with aging there is a lot to look forward to!

    2. Carmel a great point, we have all these views on how things are going to go – what will happen with us, how we get sick and how we get old. What if, as you say, there are other ways, other ways of living that mean we set the true trend not follow the trend?

  32. We are at a point in evolution that we have to take responsibility for the way we live, and not pretend that the way we live has nothing to do with our health or dis-ease process. It’s an equation of cause and effect… simple bio-chemistry.

  33. I have been very inspired by this article, and since reading it for the first time I have been looking more closely at the larger movements of people in society with relation to the healthcare services on offer and it is true that there has been a very noticeable increase in what is on offer, which I had not associated before with the increase in demand by a population that also seemingly has available a huge range of services that offer support for what is considered healthy living. And so there is a ginormous question here that really does need to be asked about why we are still getting so sick.

  34. Do we treat our life as a pencil? Do we put to much pressure on it and have to continue to grind it down to make it thinner? Make mistakes that cause the erasure to become a stub surrounded by metal that renders it useless, that causes us to cross out with the pencil and leave scars on the what we have written. When we have exhausted everything we can and to the point, it can no longer support us anymore, do we get a mechanical pencil and still not address why we wore out the original one that was meant to last a lifetime?

  35. How far will it need to get to before we all start taking responsibility for the way we live and not living exactly how we please, leaving the Health systems to pick up the pieces and patch us back together?

    1. Kev I wonder, hopefully we will start to do these things sooner rather than later, or we will have no health system left.

  36. We have more health care facilities, health care professionals than ever and yet we do not have enough to provide what is needed. We are at that point where we need to really consider how we are living and the choices we are making, for they directly influence our day to day health.

    1. Not only this it is how our relationships have changed over the years. Years ago there would be a relationship with a GP in that they would know you and when you booked an appointment to see them spend time with you in why you had booked that appointment, now the system is ‘next please’. Also if you have 3 different things you would like to discuss with your GP you need to book 3 different appointments! This clearly shows how much our healthcare system is under pressure and not coping. It also shows that over the years despite all the billions of pounds that is pumped into research etc., our health has not changed … in fact it has got worse! Yep something definitely has to change.

      1. Very true Vicky. I live and work in a rural area and fortunately still very much see the ‘old fashioned’ approach to medicine – the family doctor. Doctors who have and still do care for the family from cradle to grave. But with the pressure of medicine the way they are even this is something that is bowing to the pressures. Not in every case, but what we see now is ‘medicine by the clock’ and payments by the clock too.

  37. ‘What if the downward trend in our health is related to our way of living? The two are not exclusive, as what we do more than anything is to live life.’ This could not be more important to realise as everything we do in life has an effect and it is crazy to believe therefore that our choices do not affect our health and from here it makes simple sense to know that in fact our health and wellbeing is entirely result from our choices.

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