As we celebrate Christmas and await the New Year, I take this unique opportunity to wish many readers who have sent regular compliments to me for the highly informative and helpful hints they have obtained from reading the column. In the same way, I want to sensitise us to the events of this period. It is on record that this period will witness several outings such as weddings, engagements, birthdays, funerals, memorials and more. A significant number of people will attend functions almost on a daily basis. The consequences of such outings are unknown to many people. I will emphasize them with these stories.
A story that brings our unusual situation in Nigeria to the front was an experience between Prof Adeoye Lambo of blessed memory and me.
As the Regional President of the International Federation of Medical Students Association, my office had dealings with the World Health Organisation. On one occasion, Prof Lambo, who was the Director-General of WHO at the time, wanted us to meet in Lagos during his short one week visit to Nigeria from Geneva. Unfortunately, we could not have the meeting.
He managed to put a call to me, saying that members of my committee and I should meet him at the VIP lounge in the airport as he prepares to catch his flight back to Geneva.
Lambo apologised for not meeting us in town. In his excuses, he characterised the Nigerian situation. “This is a challenging country. One will start the day with a friend’s or relation’s birthday, will quickly go from the breakfast reception and proceed to work. He will leave office to join a funeral service or meet the reception. That is if he did not have to attend a Christian wake keep the previous night.
“The journey could end up at another friend’s birthday night party. He gets home at about 10pm, if not at midnight, only to wake up in the morning to pay a visit to the aging father or mother in Abeokuta before proceeding to an Iwuye ceremony in Ijebu and go from there to Ondo or Benin for the 20 years memorial of an uncle,” he said.
According to him, he had become quite tired from the trip and he wondered how Nigerians managed to do all this. His concern was for our health. This pattern continues up till today.
The second story actually typifies another health hazard, which is our frequent use of cell phones.
I know a few relations and friends who have died recently of brain cancer, pancreatic cancer and acoustic neuroma metastasis. These are people who were very concerned about their way of life, who drank very little or no social alcohol, and kept a meticulous lifestyle.
The only point I could see was excessive use of mobile phone or the presence of several telephone masts near their homes. That led to the suspicion that this could be what caused their deaths.
A Pew Internet and American Life Project survey reported that 91 per cent of American adults and 60 per cent of teens own cell phones, the devices that have revolutionised communication in the 21st century. Whether you own an Android, an iPhone, a Blackberry or a basic flip phone, chances are you check your phone for messages, alerts or calls even when your mobile device isn’t ringing or vibrating.
In Nigeria, the figure is close because this is the only means of communication. Nigeria is currently home to about 190 million connected telephone lines, with 145 million having an active subscription. Internet users, according to the Nigerian Communications Commission, are about to 86 million.
report states that 85 per cent of Nigerians have access to the internet through mobile phones. The modern convenience that cell phones provide is responsible for everyone’s increased daily use. According to the Morningside Recovery Rehabilitation Centre, the average American spends 144 minutes a day using his or her phone for 16 hours.
With an estimated six billion subscriptions worldwide and counting, cell phones have become one of the fundamental means of communication in society. Everyone must agree with me that in Nigeria the above statistics must be more than double.
In most cases, we spend a considerable period of time exchanging unnecessary pleasantries, innuendos, and greetings ranging from 0ne to five minutes or more, before we get to the subject matter or the reason for the phone call. So our exposure is far more than the developed countries. Compare “Blake speaking. Can I help you?” to “Hello, hello, yes, hello ooo, how are you can you hear me, who is speaking?” on and for some minutes and then “It’s the wrong number!”
While cell phones provide an efficient and easy way to communicate with friends, family, and co-workers, excessive use can take a toll on your health.
To be continued.