chapter  10
Leisure and Health
BySEPPO E. ISO-AHOLA AND ROGER C. MANNELL
Pages 16

Health is the most valued commodity, and it is shown in many ways, as in New Year greetings in which people wish their friends and relatives health and happiness. One often hears people saying that nothing matters more than health, and they proclaim you cannot buy health and happiness. In addition, claiming to have good health is often a psychological safety valve, a compensation mechanism for disappointments and failures in other spheres of life, such as finances: ‘I don’t have a lot of money and cannot do the things rich people do, but I am healthy’. Given this perceived importance of health, what do people do to achieve or maintain it? An answer seems to be: very little. For example, while the health benefits of exercise are well documented and widely trumpeted in the mass media, 78% of Americans are sedentary (Blair 1993). In other words, by not exercising regularly, Americans are significantly increasing their risk of premature mortality due to heart disease, stroke and cancer. Similarly, about 25% of people smoke even though the health hazards of smoking are well established and known. Further, many people drink alcohol excessively and have poor diets. In fact, experts now attribute the epidemic of diabetes to the typical American diet: soft drinks, white rice, white bread, and french fries.