The Longevity Myth

We all proudly claim that our life span has increased and also believe that we are having a better quality of life nowadays compared to say what people had 100 hundred years ago. Is that really true? As a child, I knew many people who lived beyond 100 years.  But I have hardly come across a centenarian in my last 20 years of medical practice. And that has intrigued me a lot. If our life span has really increased, we must be seeing more and more people living beyond 100 years. But that is not the case. Then, how come the health statistics show that human longevity has improved?

Before I elaborate on that, I would like to pose one question: imagine that one woman gets conceived in the month of January and another women in February of the same year. Now the second women delivers her baby (say baby ‘A’) prematurely in September and the first women delivers her baby (say baby ‘B’) in October. Now which baby is younger and which baby is older? According to our current thinking and calculations, baby A is older than baby B. But truly speaking baby B is older than baby A, and his organs and tissues are more mature. It’s just that baby A came out of the womb before baby B.

While calculating the life span, we take it for granted that human life starts when the baby comes out of the womb. But we know that life exists even before that. The journey through the birth canal merely represents an event in one’s life. It just represents a change in the habitat for the baby. It’s not the starting point of life. The baby was very much alive before and also had played inside the womb. So, ideally one should also include the intrauterine life while calculating the life span.

One may argue that the baby can’t be considered as an independent being whilst inside the womb as he is totally dependent upon and is still connected to his mother. But the baby would still be dependent upon the mother even after the birth and would still remain very much in touch with her mother for most of the time. Dependency and physical connection are rather relative things just like the ‘viability’ thing that our doctors often talk about.

If the ability to lead an independent life is to be taken into consideration in calculating life span, then the people of modern era fare much worse compared to those in the past. In modern society, many children remain dependent upon their parents even up to 40 years or even 50 years. Up to about 20-30 years or so, they do nothing except get ‘educated’ and live wholly upon their parents. And after that they take parental support to take care of their own kids (if they are lucky enough to have them!). Of course they do become independent and keep themselves away from parents when the parents become old and frail and are in need of support! (The scenario is not exactly the same in the ‘developed’ societies but is definitely worse).

In contrast, the ‘uneducated’ and ‘unemployed’ children of the olden days became independent and helped their parents as early as 10-15 years, Also they took care of their own kids and looked after their parents when they got old. If we have to consider the number of years that people lead a meaning life as their life span, which isn’t actually a bad thing, the average life span of modern generation hardly crosses 10 years or may even be zero!

If one wants to ignore the life inside the womb because that makes the calculations easy, one may do so. But one should be cautious of the erroneous conclusions that it can lead to. We know that in olden days, more lives were lost in early childhood due to various environmental challenges and infections. But what is not realized is that nowadays more lives are lost even before they could make their way out of the womb. While we have included the infantile and childhood deaths in calculating the average life span; out of our ignorance and insensitiveness, we have chosen to ignore the lives lost inside the womb. And that has lead to the false impression that our average life span has increased in recent times.

In olden days, most Down’s babies would come out of the womb and live for at least some years (on an average 20-30 years). But nowadays most Down’s babies would get killed inside the womb and thus remain hidden from the mortality statistics. That obviously would lead to a spurious increase in average life span. (People may justify the in-utero medical murders by arguing that those handicapped babies will only suffer more if allowed to come to this outside world. But the truth is Down’s babies of olden days lived much more happily and stress freely than the intelligent people of the modern world) And not only Down’s babies, many other fetuses are getting murdered inside the womb in the name of health care and many more lives are prevented from coming into this world for fear of them competing with us for resources. 

So the apparent increase in human life span is only a result of our statistical malpractices and not a real increase. We can’t be proud off and keep praising ourselves for things that we must be ashamed off. If the human life span has really increased, then we would be seeing more and more people living beyond 100 years. It doesn’t require a qualified statistician or public health specialist to realize that. Truth is as simple as that. And not only the human life span has come down, but also their potential to produce children has come down in modern days. And even worse is “what used to be a consequence of joyful living, has become a hard task for the modern couples” as one Mystic put it down.

Okay, for a moment, let’s ignore the life inside the womb.

So our life span has increased. But at what expense? How much life we are investing for that? Imagine that you live for 80 years but you spend 40 years of your life taking pills, undergoing tests, going around hospitals and worrying about death. What’s your net life span? That’s just 40 years. And you also need to take into account of the life years that different people (your carers, doctors, nurses, scientists, pharmacists etc) put in to make you live long. Obviously we need to subtract the life years invested from the life years gained to know the net gain in life years. If we critically analyze the data, we will realize that the number of life years sacrificed far outweighs the number of life years gained i.e. we are actually loosing much of our life in our attempt to live long. In other words, we are incurring a net loss. Imagine that there exist two versions of a car. The newer version serves for 15 years but spends half of its life in shed for one or the other problem and consumes lot of our resources and time. The older version serves only for 10 years but it hardly ever requires us to take it to shed. Now which version is more efficient or superior?

And what is the quality of life that we are investing or sacrificing and what is the quality of life that we are gaining in return? We sacrifice the young energetic childhood, youth and adulthood (for education, career, jobs etc) and what we gain is redundant old age. The quality of life indicators that we use nowadays are also highly questionable. The quality of life of someone living in a five star building but much of the time stressed, depressed, isolated is obviously much worse than someone leading a relaxed life in a small hut with all the family members around.

Nowadays we have the concept of brain death to facilitate organ donation. ‘Brain dead’ is a state where in a person’s body is alive but he/she doesn’t feel anything. That is, the individual is alive but feels no sensations, no happiness, no suffering, no stress, no fear. Now what shall we call the state wherein a person is alive but is always depressed, stressed, exhausted, agitated, fearful etc. Isn’t this ‘mind fucked’ state worse than the ‘brain dead’ state?

If we don’t consider a brain dead person as alive, then how can we count a person who is in a worse state as alive? Compared to olden days wherein people continued their family professions; modern generation are definitely more stressed, depressed and fearful at each phase of life: Small kids for want of parental care (most parents as we know are busy with their jobs nowadays and child care is often relegated to paid workers or unpaid workers i.e. grand parents!); older children and youth due to school phobia, exam phobia, career phobia; grown ups from family stress, job stress; elderly from separation, lack of affection, ill-health, death phobia etc. So it is obvious that the effective lifespan of modern generation is much lower compared to that in the olden days.

And then, how much harm we are doing to the environment or the ecosystem as we ‘live’? What is happening to the life span of other animals on this planet? Apparently Earth has lost half of its wild life in the past few decades due to human intrusion and their uncivilized behavior (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/sep/29/earth-lost-50-wildlife-in-40-years-wwf). Any intelligent species would know that destroying the ecosystem would also endanger its own survival. And that poses some really fundamental question. Is Homo sapiens still the intelligent species on Earth? Or intelligent Homo sapiens became extinct long ago?

We must see life on this planet as a pleasure trip. When it becomes a struggle, we must be ready to pack up everything and board the ‘flight’ to our ‘home land’ rather than continue with the struggle some journey here. We must evolve to see death as just returning back to our mother land. When we reach that stage, we remain highly relaxed without unduly worrying about death and do not crave to live long at the expense of others lives and ecosystem.

 

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Comments

  • pat00donnelly  On October 21, 2017 at 11:18 am

    One reason for a loss of longevity, now actually known to afflict male “whites” in the USA, is the stress of all institutions in modern society.

    Transactions of all kinds are many multiples of what existed previously as people live alone in large houses. Families are cast adrift on a sea of eceonomic changes, forced to move home to take on more work. Dowries for education, to enable offspring to mature at age 30 proliferate!

    I and you, (1 again) are immortal. We discard our meat pyjamas when they no longer work well, but we seem to defer to others as to what treatment they “require”! Experts and those dedicated to “managing” other peoples’ money further cause concern.

    Simple sol\utions to many diseases are actually banned, to further make money for expensive treatments, that never cure. Cyanide kills cancer cells. Enzymes clean out plumbing in the body, freeing us from clots. Enzymes are not a poison and therefore! not a medicine! Bizarre! Apricot kernels deliver small doses of cyanide, but are banned for sale as therapeutic or even outright!

    This is not a “bug” of modern times, but a “feature” of the banker governed society. Older people are not as proftable for bankers!

    Liked by 1 person

  • drgsrinivas  On November 28, 2018 at 8:47 pm

    Imagine that there is a ‘life school’ where all children are allowed to come and study without any restriction. The students play, study and do various activities at their own wish and will. Teachers only supervise and give some guidance but no rigorous formal teaching. Obviously there will be a mix of students like in our government schools with some very intelligent, some very poor and some in between. So some students score 90-100 percent despite no rigorous teaching or serious preparation as they are naturally talented while poor students just score 0-10 precent. Imagine that overall the students get an average score of 50 percent.

    Now the authorities decide to bring some ‘reforms’ to improve the school performance. They ‘realize’ that they have limited faculty, resources etc and so decide to restrict the admissions to just 10 students per batch (on first come first served basis) instead of the 50 to 100 plus students previously. Thus they achieve a teacher to student ratio of 1:2. And each student gets loads of study material and lab time to prepare. The faculty works hard and the students are made to study day and night like our corporate school students. The students manage to score 60 to 90 percent with no failures. They achieve an average score of 75 percent. The school authorities celebrate as the average percent of marks improves from 50 to 75. They don’t realize that there exist umpteen number of children in the community who are denied admission to the school and not allowed to appear for the exam.

    Same is the case with our improved longevity. In olden days, children are n’t deliberately stopped from being born. They played, they worked, they lived freely as long as they could. They were n’t unduly preoccupied by the desire to live long, neither unduly worried about death. Rather they just lived. Some succumbed very early while some lived beyond 100 years without any great effort or sacrifice. Nowadays, many lives are stopped from coming to this world in the name of birth control. And those who mange to come to this world literally sacrifice their lives to live long.

    Like

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