We have explored the themes of alienation, isolation and desperation in several blogs, but I think I should go on the record as also being a huge exponent of happiness in modern day America, in the year 2015…Most of the people I know are basically happy, and satisfied with their lives and family, and especially happy if they are blessed with children and a loving, extended family unit…But I would say that the #1 component for happiness is good health; without we are all doomed to live miserable lives and money cannot cure everything…
It is true that richer people receive better medical care, but if you are of strong sturdy peasant stock like myself, health is the #1 priority….I try to take care of myself, I don’t drink, smoke, or take drugs, and I try to eat sensibly, never snacking between meals and exercising daily simply by taking a 16 block walk around my neighborhood….In truth, I could not say this 20 years ago, but after turning 50 I took a long look at my lifestyle and implemented what to me then were radical changes, but are just good common sense now…I get a regular physical once a year, and at the age of 69 am in almost perfect health….My goal is to live to be a 100, and if I don’t, I’ll never know!
Most people in America are happy, it is the exceptions that stick out that cause the statistics to get skewed, especially illness and crime in the community…In fact, while researching this article, I found a very alarming trend..I found that on the average young Americans are getting sicker than any generation before them!...Why is that? According to my Google sources, “My friends may be sick because they grew up eating Spaghetti-O’s and Kraft macaroni and cheese like every other kid in the 1980s? Are they victims of an era driven by convenience foods and sugary drinks? Chronic illness is the new first-world problem. … “For many years, Americans have been dying at younger ages than people in almost all other countries….
Scary stuff to think about, but the statistics don’t lie: Dr. Enrique Jacoby, regional advisor for healthy eating and active living for the World Health Organization (WHO), says many younger Americans might just be victims of the American lifestyle.“We’re sicker for a number of reasons. Not one single factor is to be blamed for the problem,” Jacoby says. “One of the reasons is we are eating bad. We are being excessively exposed to junk food… We have more pollution because of bio fuels that are really, really bad for you.”
So, according to this theory, our genes aren’t really changing, but they’re confused. “It’s not going to be an immediate genetic change in society, but what we’re experiencing is that our genes’ expression is being, in a way, modified,” Jacoby says. It might be that our lifestyle is why Americans are so sick.
Another theory, according to Dr. Frederick Miller of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, might be that humans are being weeded out in different ways than in the past, as more communicable diseases have been eliminated. “If you do away with the infectious disease risks that perhaps killed off a number of individuals early in life [in the past], people who may have altered immune systems, who perhaps couldn’t have handled [those infections, then] go on in adulthood to develop these diseases,” he says.
When young people are dealing with chronic conditions, it can have a huge impact on the economy, health care system, and the formation of future generations “One of the unique things about autoimmune diseases, as opposed to cancer, is that these are more likely to be long-term,” he says. “You’re not just dealing with the immediate problems, but the entire lifelong implications of that.
It’s a fact that the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation noted in its report: “Diseases of poverty, such as communicable, maternal, nutritional and newborn causes, have decreased universally while non-communicable conditions traditionally associated with wealthier countries have risen,” it reads. “As people live longer and die at lower rates, the number of years spent living with disability… has increased.” Woolf says there is still much research to be done into what’s causing Americans to be so sick.
But he says this future we’re headed toward is preventable. He points to the “hygiene hypothesis”: As humans have eliminated infections and led cleaner early lives, allergies and autoimmune disease incidences have increased because of our underdeveloped immune systems. “It’s not completely proven, it’s a hypothesis,” Miller says, “But it is consistent with some of the data out there.”“There may not be too many free rides in this world,” he says. “As we move away from one disease, we may be moving toward other diseases.”
“We’ve known for many years what needs to be done about this,” he says. “The problem is not a lack of knowledge about what to do, but a lack of resolve and resources for how to do it… For each [issue], there are major blue ribbon reports that have outlined precisely what needs to be done about it.
So why hasn’t it happened? Steven Woolf, director of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University, helped prepare the NAC/IOM report and bought the findings before the U.S. Senate last month during a discussion on what is ailing Americans. In particular, Woolf points at how data is painting a bleak future for American women.
“Women are less likely to live to age 50 if they’re born in the United States than other high income countries,” he says. “I have a chart where we show this pattern going back to 1980. Back then if you looked at the survival of women to age 50, the U.S. was in the middle of the pack. Over time, not only has the U.S. fallen down in the ranking, they’ve fallen off the chart. That’s something we’re trying to understand.”
And don’t be mistaken, Woolf says: The United States’ outlook isn’t skewed from other countries’ because of its diverse people and massive disparities in socioeconomic status. “We analyzed the data by a variety of social classes and have found that the problem is pervasive. Rich Americans die earlier than rich people in other countries. College-educated people die earlier than college-educated people in other countries,” he says.
“It’s misguided for people who are better off and doing well to think that this is someone else’s problem.”“It’s very concerning,” Woolf says. “We are living shorter lives than people in other countries. We’re sicker than people in other countries.”
Woolf says that legislation to create a healthier America—from improved nutritional quality of food to taxes on soda—is seen as an affront to personal liberty. “A willingness to implement public policies … often involves higher taxes that American taxpayers don’t want to spend, or a willingness to change personal freedoms.”
“We can still have a free society but accept some limits on what we do to try to promote good health,” he continues. “There’s such a visceral reaction to what is perceived as a nanny state … or what people think of socialized welfare states, that any semblance of that tends to get rejected.”
Wow! I personally had no idea there was such a near epidemic of illness in the younger generation…I am sure that all of the pesticides and genetic alteration of the foods by the giant agricultural combines and chemical companies that rule the modern agricultural world and produce the food that we all eat, also must have a very large responsibility in this overall pattern of younger people, in their 30’s, becoming so sick at such an early age!…
I guess I was lucky and that just by being older I ate more naturally healthy, less bio engineered, less genetically altered, less pesticide sprayed foods than the younger people today, but it is obvious that this is a clear and present danger that must be addressed immediately…Maybe the trend toward more home grown and organic foods can also help reverse this awful trend….
I never thought I would be lucky just because I was older, but I can only wish the best for this new generation of young Americans being struck down in the prime of their lives by diseases apparently caused by the government and the giant agriculture combines…
For more information on Living Sick and Dying Young in Rich America-The Atlantic see: www.theatlantic.com/health/…sick-and…america/282495/The Atlantic
For more blogs by John Whye, see http://www.johnwhye.com