Why are we living longer?

From the greater understanding of illnesses and their treatments, we are seeing an increase in our life expectancy.

Using an example of a first world country, there are several reasons why we are living longer:

Easier access to healthcare

Greater access to food

Better sanitation

Understanding of harmful pollutants

It is these factors that have meant that our average life expectancy has risen from 47 in 1900 to 73 years in 2021. However, at what cost to us as an individual?

Illness later in life

person holding medicine pills

While getting older inevitably means that we are more likely to suffer from different aliments due to our bodies processes slowing down; less production of collagen, a weaker immune system and slower rate of cell replacement, we are able to live with these issues due to the advances of modern medicine.

Issues that would have easily ended someone’s life 50 years ago can now be treated with a mix of medications and interventions. But is this always a good things?

The Longevity Trap

man in gold wedding band

In 2008, The New York Times published two letters to the Editor for a segment called the ‘Longevity Trap’ in which individuals discuss their view on the drugs helping to prolong life in the elderly.

“At 91, with substantially full vigour, I find that goal futile, particularly without an assurance of reasonably sound cognition. Countless aged people, their families and society at large are reeling from the discomforts and financial burdens of increasing dementia. The last thing anyone needs is more dependent demented people.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/29/science/29weblett-THELONGEVITY_LETTERS.html

Is this idea of prolonging life of the elderly for the sake of it more of negative than a positive? Or should we consider this on a case-by-case basis? That someone with a reversable or manageable condition should have the chance to live longer, but what happens when we consider someone who has already been robbed of their cognitive function?

There is the idea that is helping extend someone’s life by giving them medical interventions may not be worth it. Aside from the financial implications, what about quality of life?

Should health be intervened earlier?

With the elderly presenting with more than one health problem on average, is the solution greater intervention at an earlier age?

From understanding what we consume, to the preventative measures, should we be putting more pressure of educational sectors to highlight the importance of overall health to school children? Or does it start at home?

If we consider starting to promote health at home, while these ideas can be passed onto children, at times this isn’t always possible due to extenuating circumstances. From those on the breadline who can’t afford to feed their family healthy food due to the additional cost (a box of raspberries can cost up to 200% more than a packet of KitKat), limited access to the clubs and minimal free support to ensure well rounded mental and physical health, it can be hard.