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Stress Part 5: Industrial Disease

By John McManamy

In 2003, a World Values Survey of more then 65 countries ranked Nigeria number one in terms of happiness.

Huh?

According to the World Bank, the average Nigerian earns $300 a year and has a life expectancy of 45.3 years. The country is swimming in debt, AIDS/HIV is rampant, political corruption is endemic, and things like electricity and sanitary drinking water are luxuries.

The next year, a major World Health Organization survey found that Nigeria had by far the lowest rates of mental illness among 14 countries and two Chinese cities surveyed. Less than one percent of Nigerians in any given year had a mood disorder, as opposed to nearly ten percent of Americans.

What gives?

When I posed this question to the lead author of the survey, Ronald Kessler PhD of Harvard, a few years back, he speculated that the average Nigerian may be too busy simply trying to stay alive than worry about the things we worry about.

That could very well be true, but there are other things to consider.

This year, I had the opportunity to watch Megan Mylan's and Jon Shenk's eye-opening documentary, "Lost Boys of Sudan," which first aired on PBS in 2004. Some 20,000 young boys escaped the killing fields of a brutal civil war by trekking across hundreds of miles of desert. Thousands died en route.

The survivors were settled in numerous refugee camps, where they received schooling and rudimentary services. For years, they lived in a state of limbo, but somehow they learned to adapt.

As young men, some four thousand obtained visas to the US. The documentary follows the progress of a handful of the new arrivals making new lives for themselves in places like Buffalo and Pittsburgh. Following their initial enthusiasm of arriving in the Promised Land, it soon became evident that these poor souls were strangers in a strange land.

There was culture shock to contend with. They were homesick, they were isolated, they put in exhausting hours eking out existences on the margins of society, sending home whatever they could save to any family members that may have been alive, sacrificing their own education and advancement in the process.

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