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Saturday, 7 May 2005
Living Longer?
Topic: Health Issues
I heard a schoolgirl being interviewed on the BBC News last night. She said she expected to work until she was 65 years old and that she wanted to live to be one hundred! Apparently, more and more people are living longer in the 21st century and there are around 7,000 centenarians in Britain today. Of course, how long you are likely to live depends on your lifestyle, your diet and your weight. My BMI (body mass index) is way too high and, according to the BBC's Life Expectancy Calculator, I shall probably make it to 89.8 years old! If I lose some weight, I might even live a bit longer!

Advances in medicine, good food and less of the backbreaking physical drudgery our great-great-grandparents took for granted has improved the quality of our lives. We have more time to relax, to play and to go on holidays - so on average we have been living much longer than our ancestors did. However, in recent years, it appears that this upward trend is being reversed in certain areas with Glaswegians, for instance, having an average life expectancy of 72.9 years compared to Londoners with 82.4 years. This report, published in the British Medical Journal by the Universities of Bristol and Sheffield, blames discrepancies in health services and the gap between the poor and the wealthy.

I distrust statistics, they can be bent in any direction to prove whatever you think is the problem. Have the 'researchers' also analysed the differences in lifestyles before blaming the beleaguered Health Service? Have they compared the differences in life expectancy between Glasgow and the affluent south today from what existed a 100 years ago? Have they taken into account the much colder winters in Glasgow compared to those in Devon where the life expectancy is apparently 11 years longer? What about crowded and stressful living conditions? What about air quality and pollution? Being wealthy does not exonerate you from having health problems nor does it guarantee that you eat well-balanced fresh meals! Yes, if you are retired in Devon, you probably live in a roomy, beautiful cottage with a large peaceful garden, with no squabbling neighbours to add stress to your life. Nevertheless, whatever, our 'affluence', if we spend every evening stuck in an armchair watching television; if the only exercise we do is to extend an arm to pick up a can of beer or to press the remote; if we feed on 'takeaways' because we can no longer be bothered to cook fresh, healthy meals; then we will die younger.

Yes, I agree - poverty in Great Britain today is a problem, particularly if you cannot keep warm enough in the winter, but it is a far cry from the poverty of the 18th and 19th centuries when it was not uncommon for people to starve to death in the street and many children were forced to go barefoot. In fact, Britain was far more healthy during the years of rationing, during and after World War Two, when nearly everyone managed to grow some fresh fruit and vegetables in their gardens to supplement the food coupons that were so precious. So that says something about our modern lifestyles and the poor quality of the unhealthy processed foods most of us stuff into our mouths these days.

Whatever the gloom and doom, the statistics for the 1880's show that life expectancy a hundred and twenty-five years ago was shockingly low. I came across this short paragraph in "The Boy's Own Annual", a sadly tattered book my father passed on to me in my youth. It consists of issues of the "Boy's Own Paper" from October 1881 to September 1882 and this entry was originally printed in issue No. 144-Vol. IV for Saturday, October 15, 1881. It seems that, even then, a happy, healthy life was conducive to living longer!

Duration of Human Life

The average of human life is 33 years. One quarter die before the age of 7, one half before the age of 17. To every 1,000 persons, 1 only reaches 100 years. To every 100, only 6 reach 75 years; and not more than 1 in 500 will reach 80 years. There are on the earth 1,000,000,000 of inhabitants. Of these, 33,333,333 die every year; 91,824 die every day ; 7,780 every hour; and 60 per minute, or 1 every second. These losses are about balanced by an equal number of births. The married are longer lived than the single: and above all, those who observe a sober and industrious conduct.

Worldwide life expectancy continues to rise but the continent with the lowest life expectancy is Africa with some Sub-Saharan countries actually experiencing a decline. The data tables on the DEPweb (Development Education Program)show that in 1998 Sierra Leone had the lowest life expectancy of 37 years compared to 41 for Nigeria; 42 for Burundi, Malawi and Uganda; and 43 for Ethiopia. The highest life expectancy was 81 in Japan; 79 in Australia, Austria, Canada, Hong Kong, Sweden and Switzerland.
Updated Saturday, 7 May 2005 15:19 BST

Posted by Noviomagus at 12:11 BST Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink

Sunday, 8 May 2005 - 01:06 BST

Name: Dave
Home Page:

My life expectancy is apparantly 93.4 years on the BBC's life expectancy calculator. I am still recovering from the shock. (Only because I seriously expected to be dead by age 40). Especially with my answers to some of the questions.
But seriously, I don't think you can judge life expectancy via an online quiz (I think everything should be decided by online quizes) or by statistics.
Maybe I'll make 93.4 years or more.
Or, I could be run over on the A27 tomorrow.
There's no knowing...

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