Today, my dad and I are cris-crossing New England to go to some family funerals.   It’s been a rough year for our family — a number of people from the oldest generation have died off after the usual round of Alzheimer’s, dementia, or frailty that accompanies old age in the 70s, 80s, and 90s.  But in our family, another group of the older members of the middle generation are perishing.  This time the causes are not so ‘benign’, as if one could refer to dementia and frailty as benign.  These second-line deaths have been attributable to three obvious causes:  drinking too much, smoking too much, and getting no exercise (either of the mental or physical variety).

As a society, my mother says, we condone four drugs to deal with stress, anxiety, and escapism — caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and sugar.  But since the start of school this year, lung cancer, alcoholism, and obesity have claimed three members of my family.  And maybe I drink too much coffee.

Couldn’t we find a better way of teaching people to deal with stress, anxiety, and escapism?

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