Yes we are living longer but are we healthier now than 100 years ago?
A baby born today has a life expectancy in the eighties. In comparison, a baby born a century ago had a life expectancy in the fifties. Our medical and pharmaceutical establishments would have us believe that its their medical treatments that allow us to live so much longer and healthier today. In part this is true but lets check the facts.
Facts on the CDC, Center for Disease Control and the United States Census Bureau websites, show that in 2013 the average life expectancy of someone in the western world is 77.5 – 80 years, whereas in 1910 it was 47-51 years. Quite a difference, but lets look closer.
The primary reason we live so much longer today is because in previous centuries up to 50% of infants died before they were five years old, compared to today’s infant mortality rate of 6.1%. This high infant mortality rate still holds for parts of the developing world. The major progress in the industrial countries is in part because of mass vaccination from Malaria and such, but increased standards of public sanitation, better housing, better nutrition, etc,have played a major role.
A very enlightening fact is that 11.4% of the population of the US in 1910 were over the age 65, compared to 13.7% today. That’s only a gain of 2.3%. This indicates that if you survived birth, you lived nearly as long in 1914 as in 2014. Also the ratio of cause of death to population is roughly the same then as it is now. When you consider someone aged sixty today versus someone aged sixty back as far as 1813, the difference in remaining life expectancy is down to about seven years.
What’s killing us?
A hundred years later, we’re still dying of many of the same things such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, senilty and accidents. Pneumonia and TB were the number one killers in 1900 while heart disease and cancer are at the top now increasing by 2-3 times depending on which data base you check. Diabetes and Suicide have become modern epidemics and interesting infant Mortality is still on the list in 1960. It seems that modern medicine has been able to greatly reduce infectious diseases, at least temporarily as some are making a come back in some parts of the world, however it seems to be quite ineffective at preventing or reducing modern chronic diseases such as heart disease, cerebrovascular disease and cancer.
Are we healthier in 2014?
So yes, people live longer now, but do we live better? Modern medicine is able to keep people alive, but what kind of life is it? Obesity is at an all-time high and diabetes keeps creeping higher up the list. The growing suicide rate points to a serious lack of mental healthcare.
Less than a third of people are going to reach 65 in a healthy state, according to a discussion at the International Longevity Centre in London. Gains in life expectancy have outstripped gains in healthy life expectancy, meaning more than two thirds of the population will most likely spend their retirement years in ill-health.
What all this data tell us is that as we get older, the less the modern world can do to keep us alive. Modern living and medical care have removed a lot of the danger from early life, but they have not done the same to later life. Instead, what we find is that having failed to claim us in early life, debilitating and deadly illnesses have waited patiently and now claim us in later life instead. So we enter older age only to be confronted by arthritis, respiratory problems, cardiovascular illness, cancer, dementia and Parkinson, that greatly diminish our quality of life.
Considering all these variables there hasn’t really been a significant net gain in life expectancy or quality of life from 100 years ago.
What can be done?
The fast paced, high stress, high tech medical,quick fix society that we have created is obviously not serving us well. We need to depend much less on mainstream medicine and educate ourselves on how to care for our bodies. It is well known that most of the above mentioned ailments that are now killing us are lifestyle induced. We must clean up our toxic,life threatening environment. We must stop putting toxic chemicals and drugs in our air,water and foods. We must learn to respect and live closer to nature.