Saturday, January 7, 2006

Better to Look Good or Feel Good?

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 plastic surgery.

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 helped.]

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 world.

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 has been 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 the family.

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.


elleme2 said...

Amen to everything you have said, Mrs. L.  And a double Amen to the stress of being a single working mother.  Your observations about guns, alcohol and poverty as killers are all right on target

P. S. I vote for the cherry yogurt--sits lighter in the tummy.

ksquester said...

I love this post. Now, I would love for you to interview or find the studies of the people who have lived to be in their 80's, 90,s and 100's and find out their thoughts on how they lived to be their age. From what I have read, it is the ability to accept lifes struggles. Acceptance.  I know that yesterday I consumped a fried fish dinner. What was I thinking?????   Dear God, NEVER again. Gun toting is really prevalent out here in Arizona. The holidays always brings out the "firing of the guns in the air" crowd. What goes up must come down and there are always deaths. Anne

sdoscher458 said...

I went the same route...raised two kids, kept my house, head barely above water..loaded with stress. I know it took a toll, life should not be that hard. It will be interesting to see, longevity runs in my family too.  My Grandparents lived into their 90's and one made 103! My Dad is turning 90 this year, still does his own yardwork..God forbid you should offer to help.  So I have to wait & watch to see what happens to my generation too.....Sandi

psychfun said...

Stalking & Abuse....adults or abusing children that end in deaths...still thinking!

psychfun said...

I was also thinking that avgs are going to be scewed by other factors as well. Like think about the difference with cars & driving traffic & road rage from our grandparents to know. Accident deaths would be in there..drinking & driving. What was suicide & homicide like during our grandparent's generation vs today. I'm sure that makes a difference in longevity stats. Then increases of diseases that yes, like you said due to how our food industry is (I won't single one out & get in trouble like Oprah!) & the drugs which cure one things & cause 50 others! I do agree obesity is an issue but I think many more reasons also!

labdancer51 said...

Hi, I think here in England we are not far behind you.  We eat too much, drive too fast etc.  We still have a way to go with guns but have time to catch up.  In my family there a lot of long-lived people, as far as I know I don`t think anyone has died under 60 in recent generations...that gives me 7 yrs...hmmm, perhaps I`ve shouldn`t have spoken too! :o)

Sandra xxxx

suzypwr said...

100 years ago, you would already have been statistically dead more than 10 years ago. Now, you are a hot chick. That was my point, lol. I have read that our generation might be the first to lower the average lifespan of Americans.

Go for the pancakes, but have one for the road first.


sunnyside46 said...

I'll be 50 this year, I am much younger than my mom was at this age...or so I like to think!

onemoretina said...

    I'm with you on the stress thing.  I can see the toll it's taken in my own life.  And it's also true that we don't get nearly the vacation benefits that the Europeans do ... and we feel guilty if we take the paltry few days that we do get.  Sad .... we don't know how to do anything but work anymore.  And the corporations are more than thrilled about that.  Don't they realize the toll it takes as far as their health care costs?  And with that .... I say, " Life is short.  Eat Pancakes."  =)  Tina

screaminremo303 said...

If my recent trip to Disney is any example, Americans are the fattest bunch of pigs on the planet. I think they should start charging by the pound.

Here's my $1.50.

jevanslink said...

That wasn't fat people; that was the Dumbo ride.  Mrs. L

shaz19743 said...

The diet over in the UK is just as appaling and its not only people who appear fat who have the worst diets either , theres a terrible culture of starving yourself to look thin over here but eating a load of crap to do it not a healthy balanced diet , even bigger than that problem is the lack of excersise we do over here .
We smoke and drink way way more as you rightly said here but i think the biggest problem is stress here too .
Its a different kind of stress , we may have better holiday entitlement here but i think where we differ is many here are directionless and hopeless in furthering their careers , no matter how hard they try there appears to be nowhere to move up or aspire to leaving many on a constant treadmill they cant see any result to .
Theres a really bad culture of dont aspire to anything just get on with the 9 to 5 in the uk which is fed by really bad management skills and leaves most feeling unmotivated to better anything about thier lives .

bosoxblue6993w said...

a pancake dinner at Mickey Ds!    Good God!    That makes I-Hop look like Delmonico's.