Julian Assange: What happens to your body when you are indoors for three years?

Mr Assange has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012

Kashmira Gander
Friday 05 February 2016 18:21 GMT

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A United Nations human rights panel has said that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should be able to walk free and been compensated for the three years he has spent inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

The UK and Sweden have sought Mr Assange for questioning since 2010, over rape allegations when he visited the latter country after WikiLeaks was in the headlines for releasing documents the war in Afghanistan to international newspapers, among other whistleblowing exercises.

Mr Assange denies the allegations and has taken refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, which he has not left since June 2012 and where he said he has no access to sunlight.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said that Mr Assange had been “arbitrarily detained” by Britain and Sweden.

Speaking of his indoor-existence in 2014, he said that his environment was a difficult one even for a healthy person to live in for so long.

So, how does spending such a long period of time indoors affect a person’s health?

Vitamin deficiency

The body gets up to 90 per cent of its vitamin D from sunlight. The condition means the body cannot properly absorb calcium and phosphate, leading to weak bones. Depression and heart disease have also been linked to the deficiency.

But as Mr Assange has fair skin, letting sunlight hit his skin by a window could be enough to maintain healthy levels. Eating oily fish, eggs, as well as fortified foods can help to top up vitamin D levels.

Dr Dr Stephen Parnis, the vice-president of the Australian Medical Association, said lack of vitamin D from sunlight can damage the body.

“You can de-condition relatively quickly, lose muscle bulk, lose bone-mineral density and some of your cardio respiratory fitness or aerobic fitness,” Dr Parnis told SBS.

“If you do lose bone-mineral density, it isn't easy necessarily to get that back.

”That may manifest itself in years to come with things like fractures. If you are confined indoors for a prolonged period of time, it does carry significant risk.

“People have this after prolonged hospital admissions. That’s why good rehabilitation is so important.”

Mental health

Simon Griffin, professor of general practice at Cambridge University previously told The Independent that being incarcerated can trigger depression, anxiety and stress.

He added that going outside and seeing green space has advantages for mental health.

Geoff Beattie, professor of psychology at Edge Hill University, told BBC News that he will likely have been affected by isolation

“He may have been able to talk to friends on the phone or via Skype, but that's not the same as person to person contact,” Beattie adds.

This would be exacerbated by the stress of an extradition.

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