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edmartin101's avatar

I heard it somewhere: we can live without food for a month, without water for a week, but we can't live without hope. Is this true? and if it is Why is it? What does it actually happen in our bodies?

Asked by edmartin101 (771 points ) May 3rd, 2008

Seems like once we reach the stage of hopelessness, we just give up and our brain just shuts down everything. I’m not considering suicidal thoughts. This proves our brain can either keep us alive or decide to shut down itself.

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15 Answers

wildflower's avatar

I’ve heard the same thing…..but not sure about the reality of it. I suppose if you have no hope, no will to live, you won’t do much to stay alive.

Will be interesting to see what others can add to this….

Randy's avatar

Ive heard it too, so I second what wildflower said.

jrpowell's avatar

I think there is something to it. My friend died from HIV in the early 90’s. His name was Jake (He was about thirteen years old when he got the bad blood) and got HIV from a transfusion while it was still a “gay” persons problem. He was very sick on a toilet and asked us to leave so he could die alone. His mom wouldn’t leave. But he died about 10 ten minutes later. He had given up. Obviously, he would have passed away eventually but it was clear that he knew it was time and he decided to stop fighting.

edit :: And I am not saying you can hope your way through not passing away. But you might be able to affect it by a few minutes under certain circumstances.

Lightlyseared's avatar

I dont kwon about hope but i think the figures on food and water are a bit out. A week with out water is a long time, I reckon 3 days is more like the max and you would be very ill by that time. As for food an average westerner probably has enough body fat to last 2 or 3 months.
Having said all that I think there is a lot of truth in the hope thing, however hope and first class medical care will get you further than hope alone.

janbb's avatar

I heard it as three weeks without food, three days without water, three minutes without air. I think “hope” is a much more nebulous quality that would be hard to quantify. This seems more like a thought to ponder than a statement that can be proven.

edmartin101's avatar

@janbb now the world record without air is 16 minutes

Sloane2024's avatar

David Blaine lasted 17 min 4.4 sec under water on the Oprah Show this past week. Amazing…

I truly believe we can’t live without hope, & why would one want to? It would be a life deprived of optimism, positivity, excitement, & therefore happiness. It would cause one’s purpose to be completely eradicated. Goals, aspirations, dreams wouldn’t exist. I can’t even imagine…

gailcalled's avatar

My personal experience has been with several older members of my family. One (who had end-stage ALS) stayed alive until one of her sons, who had been avoiding the visit, flew in to say good-bye.

Another, with Parkinson’s, was able to stand in front of hundreds of stockholders and hold the annual shareholders’ meeting. He shot himself, at home, in the ear six weeks later. His business persona was much more important to him than his family, sadly.

wildflower's avatar

Not sure if it was losing hope/will to live, but my grandparents passed away within a month of each other.
My grandfather was in a retirement home and grandmother was living with us. She injured her hip and after 2 operations, she passed away due to complications.
My grandfather wasn’t ill before this, but within two weeks was unable to get out of bed and shortly after he passed away.

They had had their 65th wedding anniversary.

nikipedia's avatar

If there’s something else thats about to kill you (cancer, heart disease, infection) then I can see how hope could come into play. But without some organic precipitant, there is no conceivable way to die from lack of hope. You can die from lack of oxygen, lack of water, lack of energy (food), lack of certain vitamins, but there is no possible way to die specifically from lack of hope. Death needs to be caused by some kind of biological agent.

xyzzy's avatar

This is a load of crap. There are people all around us that live without hope. It’s just that we have it so good that we don’t notice. Just go look into the eyes of a crack whore, abused child, actual slave, etc., to see someone without hope.

Lightlyseared's avatar

people lose hope then kill them self no ‘biological’ disease but still dead.

People may exist without hope but would you call it living?

Sloane2024's avatar

I completely agree with lightlyseared. Good answer! :)

BCarlyle's avatar

A great book that touches on this subject is “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. The author was a holocaust survivor that studied why some people survived and others perished in the concentration camps. The first half of the book is mainly autobiographical and talks about specific incidents the author observed during his time. The second half of the book is really an analysis of the psychology behind who keeps the will to live and who doesn’t. The author basically concludes that those that survived had a purpose to there suffering. They had hope for a future. It might be the opportunity to re-unite with a loved one or the opportunity to achieve a goal in honor of a loved one that had already passed away.

I think the statement that it is probably true, but I can’t give a physiological explanation for why this actually happens…

Jreemy's avatar

My mother has worked in the home healthcare industry for several years. Often times when something would happen to make these people lose hope, they would die soon after. They literally lose all hope of survival and any will to live and it is as if this change in their brain causes the rest of the body to stop fighting and struggling. So yes, I would say that humans cannot live without hope.

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