Fun stuff is bad for us but life is short

Sunbaking used to be my one guilty pleasure. Spread me out on a towel by a sparkling shoreline, book in one hand and a cool drink in the other, and call it a day well spent. I knew it wasn’t great for me – I’ve had slip, slop, slap messaging drilled in since I was a kid – but I figured if I wore sunscreen and avoided other bad habits like smoking and drugs, I’d probably be OK.

But these days, it’s not only smoking and sunbathing that’s killing us. Almost everything we do to relax, unwind and celebrate is proving to be dangerous.

Enjoying time in the sun? Drinking? Generally having a good time? You’re probably doing yourself and the planet more harm than good.Credit: Panther Media GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

Take alcohol, for example. We used to think moderate drinking was fine – healthy, even. We’d cheer to the stories of centenarians in blue zones who sipped red wine every night, surrounded by friends. The late Queen Mother reportedly enjoyed a daily gin at lunch, and she lived to be 101. But the research is coming for your negronis, with a damning report that the healthy number of standard drinks is … zero. Yep, even your skinny marg is toxic.

And speaking of toxic, did you know most people consider gossip to be “bad for society”? It’s a US study, but still. I’d always thought of gossip as a pastime so central to the human experience that it has to be good for us. Just think about the last time your friend dropped “OK, I have some tea” in the group chat. If they could bottle that feeling, we wouldn’t need booze. But now we have to pretend we’re not delighted by the fact that our mate’s ex went to Turkey for a hair transplant? Ouch.

One of the best things in life – travel – is not immune to this phenomenon. Remember when travellers were considered quite earnest and eco, taking the consumerist high ground through their investment in “experiences, not things”? Now, unless I pay to offset all my carbon miles (and not really even then), every adventure is tainted with the knowledge that I’m single-handedly destroying the Amazon, which kinda kills the holiday mood.


My other favourite leisure activity, shopping, has had the same negative press. Did you know that for every tube top you purchase, a baby whale dies? I’m not certain of this exact fact, but it feels true.

But wait, there’s more. Hiking leads to soil erosion. Christmas is consumerist. Books cut down trees. Baths waste water. Shellac ruins your nails. Gluten stuffs your gut. Naps screw up your sleep.

If this list has made you feel stressed about your lifestyle choices, bad news! Because as it turns out, stress is also leading you to an early grave.

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