Suzypwr of I Don't Recall Having a Memory Problem [see Other Journals] left a comment in a recent entry I wrote, "Is 49 the new 31?"
That entry was based on the notion that attractive women [i.e., movie
stars] look younger than ever as they age, for no other reason than
In response to what I said, she wrote:
I didn't read the article, but I think women today of 49 have just
about the energy our grandmas did at 31, if nothing else. Lifespans are
much longer, medicine has come lightyears, and we just don't want to
sit down and be old at 30 any more. We can't help it if we don't look
like teenagers, but attitude counts!
That got me thinking about the average lifespan of Americans these
days. My grandparents on my mother's side both lived to a butt-kicking
95. [The organic fruits and vegetables they grew themselves probably
But nobody since then has come any closer than their late eighties on
either side of my family, with some notable deaths at fifty, so I
wondered if we were on a downward slope.
Apparently we are. I found an article from September, 2004 in The Observer in London which said,
"Twenty years ago, the US, the richest nation on the planet, led the
world's longevity league. Today, American women rank only 19th, while
males can only manage 28th place alongside men from Brunei."
So, basically, we are dropping like flies.
But the folks who did the research are blaming our early demise on obesity and inequality in our healthcare delivery system.
We don't drink or smoke like the rest of the world, but boy do we eat.
These folks are also claiming that better access to healthcare can make
a forty year difference between the lifespan of a rich white woman and
a poor minority in the same city.
I'm not in a position to disagree, since I don't have "studies" to back up what I say -- but I do have an opinion. Who knew?
My opinion starts with this observation: We may be fat, but we are also
the gun-toting-est, car driving-est, hardest working-est country in the
Nothing shortens the lifespan of African American men, particularly in certain
socioeconomic sectors, like the power of bullets entering their bodies
and producing a fatal result. In fact, gunfire is the number one killer
of young urban minority men in this country. But the study would have
us believe that eating fast food and blimping out is a bigger killer,
especially among the urban poor.
When it comes to booze, we may not consume as much alcohol as the rest
of the world, so the effects of long term abuse won't be doing us in as
often as, say, the Russians, who consume frightening amounts of vodka.
But young people in this country sure like to get behind the wheel of a
chrome-plated battering ram when they're drunk. Their need for speed is
encouraged by their easy access to the family car, along with the fine
quality of our extensive highway system, which is one of the best, if not
the best in the world.
So I would like to offer up drunk driving as another way Americans
shorten their lifespans. Either as victims or perpetrators. Insurance
rates for people under 25 seem to reflect this problem, too.
I think stress -- working too hard -- is going to shorten the lifespan
of the Baby Boomers who are reaching 65. As a country we work longer
and harder than our counterparts in Europe. Even when we vacation we
take our work with us. Compared with the rest of the world, we also
take very short vacations. More than a week and we're on a guilt trip.
As a divorced woman who raised her children alone, while juggling the
pressures of a high maintenance, long hour job, I know that my lifespan
shortened. The good news of liberation is that women could start
closing the salary gap with men. The bad news is that married or
divorced working women carry the heaviest load of responsibility for
I, personally, could feel the toll which that kind of stress took. Worrying
about my children's safety, health, and happiness on top of everything
else was something I carried with me every day.
I think the lifespan of uneducated minority women has been shorter
than upper middle class white women for a long time. The study can
claim it's because of a difference in healthcare, but I think we're
going to see that the real difference is between women who have to work
as many as three jobs while raising their kids, versus women who can
stay home with their children.
The stress is exponentially greater. So I would put gunfire, car
driving, and work/family stress ahead of fat on my list of reasons why our
lifespans are plummeting in this country.
That's my thought for the morning. My other thought is whether
I should have a Yoplait fat free cherry yogurt. Or stop at the Mickey
D's driveby for a pancake breakfast.