Coffee and Connections

Posted by Dr Henry Clover on 13/06/2018
Coffee and connections

In the last hour, I have ordered new sandals (current pair are all flop and no flip), booked my car in for a service, spoken to my daughter in Melbourne without any direct charges, replied to (probably too many) emails, updated my personal development plan (please take note, GDC), checked the weekend weather, briefly researched sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia (attempt open water swimming in water less than 100C and you will soon find out what that is) and re-arranged an appointment with my hygienist. All without moving from a comfortable armchair in a certain well known coffee shop, with most tasks completed without even the inconvenience of having to set down my cappuccino. None of this is in the slightest unusual today – indeed it is not uncommon for people to effectively run entire businesses from such establishments.

Technology here is, of course, the great enabler, yet a mere twenty years ago this would all have been well-nigh impossible.  Google had only just been launched and we would all have to wait another six years for the ‘wonders’ of Facebook to arrive. And that epitome of personal communicators (think original Star Trek) the iPhone didn’t arrive until 2007. It was as recently as 2014 that mobile phone and tablet usage exceeded the traditional PC.  The pace of change around us is truly astonishing and often hailed as the wonders of modern society.

However, I do wonder how healthy this all is. Can we possibly expect to adapt to these rapid societal and technological changes when, according to the Darwinian evolutionary model, adaptation is measured in millennia at best? Although we might be constantly connected electronically, is that often at the expense of social interaction? Put simply, can we cope with the world around us that we have indeed fashioned? I would suggest that the answer is yes, however just as technology has taken the effort out of so many tasks, we need to put more effort into ourselves, primarily to keep our brains healthy. We can protect our brains from ongoing challenges with a specific focus on sleep, exercise, food and meaningful relationships. For an elegant, insightful and practical understanding of our brains and how to get the best out of them, read ‘Why we do what we do’, by Dr Helena Boschi, a psychologist specialising in applied neuroscience (a very grand title for a truly lovely person).

The consequences of not adopting such effective strategies can be severe. Plans to maintain our physical health are, rightly so, common place: the gym membership; the ‘Couch to 5K’ programme; the five- a-day mantra. We are now more physically healthy than at any time in our evolutionary history. Conversely, our mental health is in decline, or perhaps more accurately, how we cope with such problems is getting worse. And there is a strong correlation between the two – people with a mental illness are around twice as likely to die from coronary heart disease as the general population and four times more likely to die from respiratory disease.1 

Society is opening up to the importance of mental health, however there is more to do. Our profession is not immune from these challenges, indeed, many would say that the myriad pressures of general dental practice increases the incidence of mental health problems and associated addictive problems. So I am truly delighted that Simplyhealth is supporting the Dentists’ Health Support Programme with a £56,000 charitable grant to raise awareness of this excellent service, which is seeing a significant rise in mental health issues amongst young graduates.

Now, turn off your phone, go and have a coffee with a good friend and just ‘be’.

The Dentists’ Health Support programme can be contacted on 0207 224 4671 or by email to More details of the service can be found on their website.

1 Phelan M, Stradins L, Morrison S (2001), Physical health of people with severe mental illness, British Medical Journal, 322, pp 443–444