Celebrating someone’s 80th birthday has become normal. Progress in medicine has made it possible to prevent man from dying from diseases, but not from freeing man from diseases. On the contrary the incidence of certain diseases has increased. Our longer life does not necessarilly mean healthy life. A new study at the University of Southern California shows that although life expectancy continues to increase in the last 30 years in the United States, the actual number of healthy years has decreased since 1998.
“A 20-year-old male in 1998 could expect to live another 45 years without at least one of the leading causes of death: cardiovascular disease, cancer or diabetes. That number fell to 43.8 years in 2006, the loss of more than a year. For young women, expected years of life without serious disease fell from 49.2 years to 48 years over the last decade “, said one expert. The study also says that from 1998 to 2006, the prevalence of cardiovascular disease increased in older men, of cancer in both older men and women and of diabetes among all adult groups above 30 years old.
Aside from this, the lack of functional mobility, defined as „the ability to walk up to ten steps, walk a quarter mile, stand or sit for 2 hours, and stand, bend or kneel without using special equipment“ has decreased among young adults. For example, a 20- year old male today „can expect to spend 5.8 years over the rest of his life without basic mobility, compared to 3.8 years a decade ago“. That’s an additional two years of disability (not being able to walk up ten steps or sit for two hours) while a 20 year-old-female today can expect 9.8 years without mobility, compared to 7.3 years a decade ago.
It seems whatever prevents people from dying, for example, medical advancement and lifestyle may not be the same forces that make them lead a healthy life, according to the researchers. They also say that although these findings may be a reflection of improved diagnostics, what is alarming is that we are an increasing survival of people with diseases. This is then more costly for the society considering as well the growing problem of lifelong obesity, hypertension and cholesterol.
Looking at the balance, it’s hard to say whether long life is better than healthy life. If you were to choose, which one would it be?