"To be too certain of anything is the beginning of bigotry." -- Novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah

Saturday, March 5, 2022

What Doesn't Kill Us Makes Us Stronger

     It's a  dangerous world out there. The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) lists no fewer than 113 ways we can die. They range from the most common -- heart disease and cancer -- to other more obscure but still-lethal conditions such as whooping cough and meningococcal infection.

     Latest figures from the National Center for Health Statistics show that life expectancy in the United States currently stands at 77 years -- 74.2 for men, 79.9 for women -- which represents a decrease of 1.8 years from the pre-Covid era. That's the bad news.

     The good news is that this is the first time life expectancy in the U. S. has decreased in modern times. Over the years our life expectancy has gone up dramatically. For comparison, in our grandparents' day, life expectancy was roughly 62 years -- or 15 years less than it is now.

     Of course, how long we live depends on who we are. Most of us make it to our 70s, but not all of us. A dozen people from my high-school class of 105 students have already passed away from one cause or another. And averages don't say very much. On average my wife's parents lived to age 75 -- her father died in his late 40s, her mother lived to age 103. 

      Women live longer than men. Whites live longer than blacks. Hispanics live longest of all. A black male has a life expectancy at birth of just 72 years. A white female can expect to live to 83, and a female Hispanic has a life expectancy of 84. Meanwhile, those of us who have already made it to 65 can expect to live another 20 years or so -- a little more for women, a little less for men. And a few of us will make it to 103.

     Last year's decrease in life expectancy was largely due to Covid-19 which has killed almost a million Americans (953,000 at last count). For the past two years it has been the third leading cause of death in our country, after heart disease and cancer.

     (Death by vaccine, or vaccine-related problems, is possible, but extremely rare. Also, the idea that vaccines cause autism is fiction. The only study ever linking the two was shown to have faulty data, and the lead scientist fudged the results.)     

     Anyway, in addition to Covid, other causes of death have also increased in the past two years. The biggest killer, especially in our age group, is heart disease. Deaths from heart disease have increased by 4%. Why? No one knows for sure. But it's likely because people have been avoiding going to the doctor due to the restrictions of Covid.

     Deaths by "unintentional injuries" -- including suicides, car accidents and drug overdoses -- have also increased in the past two years. The stress, the boredom, the ennui and loneliness brought on by self-isolating have all contributed to more common and more severe mental-health problems.

     So for those of us who have survived Covid, I guess the message is: go to the doctor. We need to get our checkups and usual medical tests . . . and pay attention to our mental health, whether it involves meditation, yoga, long walks in the woods -- or consulting a mental-health professional if we're feeling that things are getting out of control.

     Let's all hope the worst of Covid is behind us -- and we can resume our normal lives and live out our expected lifespans, knowing that what doesn't kill us makes us stronger.


Terra said...

Good points and especially to see your health professionals. I did dare to go to the dentist for teeth cleaning during Covid, even when I was concerned. Interesting that Hispanics in the US have the longest life expectancy. It is always good to study long lived people and learn from that.

Arkansas Patti said...

Interesting facts.
Oops, according to this I am winding down my last year. Better make it a good one.
Hope your wife has mostly genes from her mother.

Olga said...

I'm prepared with an advanced directive, Revocable Living Trust and all kinds of important information on file, but I am not necessarily ready!

Red said...

Many of the causes of an earlier death are self inflicted. Thing could improve with better diet and exercise.

Kay said...

My mom will be 93 this year which she is stunned by since her younger sister died of a stroke about 5 years ago and another even younger sister is bedridden right now. Then again, mom takes her vitamins and eats mostly vegetables with a little chicken or fish. She also goes on the treadmill we bought her everyday and yardwork every morning.

Rian said...

"Latest figures from the National Center for Health Statistics show that life expectancy in the United States currently stands at 77 years..." When I read this, Tom, I thought 'oh dear, DH and I only have until this July'. But then I read, "74.2 for men, 79.9 for women"... and thought, 'oh good!'
Hopefully, we will have a few more years to enjoy, but my dad did die at 75. Mom lived until she was 94. She did take a lot of vitamins and supplements, but Alzheimer's took her in the end. They say that what doesn't kill us, makes us stronger. I hope that's true.

Miss Merry said...

Interesting statistics! I especially like that I get bonus points for making it to 65. I never felt my mortality until I took a bad fall two years ago. I think that the complications made me realize that I really am getting older. But my grandmother had two severe heart attacks in her 60's (back when you were hospitalized for weeks afterwards) and then survived to 92. So maybe I need to step back and get over it!

ApacheDug said...

The numbers that struck me the most was your wife's parents ages when they passed, 60 years apart! Also, like you Tom there was 105 in my graduating class. And we've lost around 10 (but two were from motorcycle and car accidents). Well, I will count any years past 63 as bonus years. Both of my parents died at the age of 63.

Tom said...

True, we're all "winding down," but probably none of us "is ready." May we all have at least "a few more years to enjoy" ... maybe to 93 if not 103. A votre sante!

Barbara said...

Both my mother and grandmother lived to their mid 80s. I am using that as my guideline but only so I can work on my bucket list.

Jeanette Lewis said...

Great post!
I'm surprised that the high number of opioid deaths was not a factor in the decrease in the average age at death. Too many young people die every year because of opioid addiction and/or the use of street drugs laced with other poisons.

Carol Ann Cassara said...

It's definitely been a learning curve, and not just about health.

Rebecca Olkowski said...

Interesting statistics. But, I wonder in the case of Hispanics if it was talking about Hispanics living in the US, or those who live in other countries. The reason is, the food in Mexico, for example, is much healthier than Mexican food in the U.S. Just wondering.

Ed said...

Not long ago I went to the doctor for my first checkup in nearly 4 decades. I always seemed to find an excuse not to go. Since then, I've done several follow up tests for this and that and am in the process of making some lifestyle changes to correct others. I have come to the conclusion that I am not young and forever healthy anymore and if I want to make the averages, I'm going to have to be more proactive in seeing the doctor. But the ice has been broken, parts of me touched that have never been probed before, and fortunately, older age has brought less shame. So I guess it won't be hard to make that next appointment when necessary.