Stress is killing us: Dr. Sanjay Gupta diagnoses the cause—and cures—in HBO’s “One Nation Under Stress”


Americans are dying sooner, increasingly self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, and committing suicide at alarming rates, and according to neurosurgeon and CNN’s Emmy Award-winning chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta it all traces back to constant stress.

On “Salon Talks,” Dr. Gupta discussed the making of his new documentary, “One Nation Under Stress,” which premieres Monday, March 25 on HBO. The film explores our response stress and trauma, often caused by job loss, relationships, and more, and dissects what we need to change in our society to live longer, healthier and calmer lives.

"What we're now seeing is the objective impact of this, and it's pretty tragic. You talk about life expectancy dropping, and trying to find a unifying factor, and realizing that it's the constant stress that you feel like you can never get out of. That's your life and all these things play a role in it,” Dr. Gupta shared with SalonTV’s Alli Joseph.

In making the film, Dr. Gupta interviews developmental biologists, primatologists, pathologists, other neurosurgeons. He also visits the Princeton economists who coined the term “deaths of despair,” the combination of these early stress-related deaths including suicide, alcoholism and painkiller addiction. Deaths or despair are growing among low and middle class white Americans.

“They are self-inflicted, and they are all part of the same toxic mix, happening in this country at higher rates than in the rest of the world," Dr. Gupta said.

In terms of managing the day-to-day stressors that lay the foundation for larger stress-related issues, Gupta is realistic. "As much as we'd like to be Pollyanna-ish about this, and say we'd like to get rid of stress, that's neither possible nor is it probably a good idea, because we do need some level of stress," he said. "We need some level of stress to thrive and survive. But if stress itself is not the problem, it's the constant nature of stress."

Dr. Gupta acknowledged that like most of us, he always has his phone with him and uses social media, but said the problem is that we don't get a break from it. Watch the episode above to hear his tips for gaining control over your stress and to hear more about “One Nation Under Stress.”


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