If you follow health news in the media it is almost a surprise that anyone is left alive. The dangers of smoking, drinking and overeating are somehow getting worse. The obesity crisis is overwhelming us and cancer is running rampant. This bad news is generally accompanied by a call for more government funding for the particular Cassandra’s pet cause or program.
Little surprise then that facts, which demolish the doom and gloom, do not get much of a run. There is no government funding when you announce that life expectancy is increasing – which is exactly what is happening.
Worldwide life expectancy has been steadily rising for over 100 years. The graph is not reaching a plateau. The rate of increase has been roughly three months per year. Figures released this month confirm a continuation of that trend.
In Australia the average life expectancy increased roughly four years between 1990 and 2010. There have been increases in many other countries too. The reasons are many and varied. Key ones though are better sanitation, better living conditions and (notwithstanding some of us eat too much) better diet and nutrition.
It also is worth adding that reduction in childhood deaths from infections and reductions in deaths from trauma in teenagers and young adults (males in particular) also helps the figures. However I suspect there is something else at play too.
Between 1990 and 2010 there have not been huge changes in trauma or childhood deaths. Suicide rates remain unchanged. There has not been the end of a war (which lowers life expectancy averages). In fact if we listen to the “experts” life expectancy should be reversing because of the obesity crisis and out of control drinking.
As I wrote earlier this year people with a body mass index of up to 30 do not have any reduction in life span. Hence the much-trotted out figure of 66% of the population having a weight problem overstates the problem by around 75%. Those whose weight will affect their health represent about 16% of the population. Smoking rates are in decline. Amongst teenagers it is as low as 4% and lower than rates of amphetamine use. Per capita alcohol consumption is dropping even though some people drink too much and cause trouble as a consequence.
Basically we as people of the world are doing a better job of looking after our health.
It has been shown that people at the age of 100 can still lay down new muscle by exercising in the gym. The world’s oldest man who died recently at age 117 observed the art of eating till 80% full. He started a new career at 90 so kept his mind and body active.
The basics of looking after the human body have changed little in thousands of years. Despite reports showing some seven in ten Americans are on one or more prescription tablets this is NOT why we are living longer.
We are doing this off our own backs and not due to finger wagging and hectoring by humorless academics and meddling bureaucrats. We are exercising, we are eating more real food, we are meditating, and we are drinking more water and less soft drink.
This happens despite councils trying to ban exercise classes and universities banning bottled water. It happens because deep down we know what is best for our health and in a variety of ways we are applying it.
It happens because we are taking charge of our health. Some four years after writing Do It Yourself Health, it is great to see so many people doing it.