With most major markets trading in choppy fashion, today King World News wanted to take a look at the tremendous increase in life expectancy over the last century and a half as well as the implications for the future. This piece also takes a look at the biggest lifesaver in history.
Here is just a portion of Laura Helmuth's piece from Slate.com: The most important difference between the world today and 150 years ago isn’t airplane flight or nuclear weapons or the Internet. It’s lifespan. We used to live 35 or 40 years on average in the United States, but now we live almost 80. We used to get one life. Now we get two.
A Look At The Past
To understand why people live so long today, it helps to start with how people died in the past. … People died young, and they died painfully of consumption (tuberculosis), quinsy (tonsillitis), fever, childbirth, and worms. There’s nothing like looking back at the history of death and dying in the United States to dispel any romantic notions you may have that people used to live in harmony with the land or be more in touch with their bodies. Life was miserable—full of contagious disease, spoiled food, malnutrition, exposure, and injuries.
The first European settlers to North America mostly died of starvation, with (according to some historians) a side order of stupidity. They picked unnecessary fights with Native Americans, sought gold and silver rather than planting food or fishing, and drank foul water. As Charles Mann points out in his fascinating book 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, one-third of the first three waves of colonists were gentlemen, meaning their status was defined by not having to perform manual labor. During the winter of 1609–10, aka “the starving time,” almost everyone died; those who survived engaged in cannibalism.
Global Trade And Deadly Diseases
Deadly diseases infiltrated North America faster than Europeans did. Native Americans had no exposure and thus no resistance to the common European diseases of childhood, and unimaginable pandemics of smallpox, measles, typhus, and other diseases swept throughout the continent and ultimately reduced the population by as much as 95 percent.
Global trade introduced new diseases around the world and caused horrific epidemics until the 1700s or so, when pretty much every germ had made landfall on every continent. Within the United States, better transportation in the 1800s brought wave after wave of disease outbreaks to new cities and the interior. Urbanization brought people into ideal proximity from a germ’s point of view, as did factory work. Sadly, so did public schools: Children who might have toiled in relative epidemiological isolation on farms were suddenly coughing all over one another in enclosed schoolrooms.
Biggest Lifesaver In History
… Clean water may be the biggest lifesaver in history. Some historians attribute one-half of the overall reduction in mortality, two-thirds of the reduction in child mortality, and three-fourths of the reduction in infant mortality to clean water. In 1854, John Snow traced a cholera outbreak in London to a water pump next to a leaky sewer, and some of the big public works projects of the late 1900s involved separating clean water from dirty. Cities ran water through sand and gravel to physically trap filth, and when that didn’t work (germs are awfully small) they started chlorinating water.
King World News note: A very worrying statistic: Currently 9 Percent of households ages 55 and older have debt payments exceeding 40 percent of income. This is a big concern with the age curve pushing higher. The good news is people are living longer, the bad news is people are, as a whole, woefully unprepared financially to retire.
At least the quote above from Mike Todd gives an optimistic take on the situation, but Chris Powell had the funniest observation when he told KWN, “I hope I don't need a doubled life expectancy in order to be around to see the revaluation of gold.”
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