Health and medicine have come a long way from where they were 100 or even 50 years ago. That remarkable trajectory provides plenty of promise for the future of medical science.
The same can be said for the ways in which society sees certain health-related topics. The unfortunate truth is that many aspects of health and wellness were once considered highly controversial. The result was a world where those dealing with problems related to these issues were shunned and forced to conceal them as much as possible.
The good news is this trend is changing. To prove the point, let’s take a look at five mainstream aspects of health and wellness that were once considered taboo:
The stigma surrounding mental health goes back centuries. Even as recently as 20 years ago, speaking with a therapist was something most people concealed. Having a diagnosed mental health disorder was similarly hidden away as much as possible. People were genuinely afraid of what their friends and family would think if they found out they struggled with depression or were taking medication for schizophrenia. While there remains a segment of the population that still frowns on mental health topics, it’s a far cry from the intolerance of the past.
Anything involving sex used to be incredibly taboo. It was so bad that couples in movies and television couldn’t be shown sleeping in the same bed until the 1960s. The importance of sexual health and wellness between consenting adults is no longer considered off-limits for ordinary discussion. From using adult sex toys for achieving orgasm to taking medication for treating erectile dysfunction, sexual health topics can be addressed in an open and honest manner without sounding lewd or obscene.
Neurodivergence refers to variations in cognitive function. Examples include autism and attention deficit disorder. Like with disabilities, neurodivergence was once something people tried to pretend didn’t exist. Those diagnosed with a neurodivergent condition concealed it as much as possible. This stigma had an especially damaging impact on children who grew up feeling like they weren’t normal. Fortunately, modern society is more accepting and understanding of neurodivergence. It’s just one more way in which health topics considered taboo are no longer controversial.
There’s an argument to be made that the temperance movement responsible for alcohol prohibition was a result of a lack of medical attention paid to addiction. Because alcoholism was not taken seriously, those who saw the destructive power of alcohol addiction pushed for a total ban. It’s no coincidence that the modern approach to addiction took off soon after the repeal of prohibition. From that point on, addiction became something we took seriously.
The physical and mental decline that comes with aging was more than enough reason for people to go out of their way to conceal their true age as much as possible. Hair dye, makeup, cosmetic surgery, and several trademark components of the typical midlife crisis were harnessed as ways to appear more youthful and defy aging as much as possible. While we still want to evade the ravages of age as long as possible, the pure fear of growing old is not as potent as it once was due to a lessening of the stigma surrounding senescence.
Health and wellness have come a long way. While scientific advancement is the primary driver of these improvements, societal advancement can be credited for the way in which we no longer stigmatize certain topics and conditions.
Julie Steinbeck is a freelance writer from Florida. She enjoys writing about business, finance, health, and travel.