July 29, 2006

PEOPLE ARE MUCH HEALTHIER NOW than just a few generations ago:

The difference does not involve changes in genes, as far as is known, but changes in the human form. It shows up in several ways, from those that are well known and almost taken for granted, like greater heights and longer lives, to ones that are emerging only from comparisons of health records.

The biggest surprise emerging from the new studies is that many chronic ailments like heart disease, lung disease and arthritis are occurring an average of 10 to 25 years later than they used to. There is also less disability among older people today, according to a federal study that directly measures it. And that is not just because medical treatments like cataract surgery keep people functioning. Human bodies are simply not breaking down the way they did before.

Even the human mind seems improved. The average I.Q. has been increasing for decades, and at least one study found that a person’s chances of having dementia in old age appeared to have fallen in recent years.

If it seems otherwise, it’s probably because people now have more energy to complain . . . .

UPDATE: Related medical thoughts here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader suggests that it’s not just physical:

If it seems otherwise, it’s probably because people now have more energy to complain . . . .

I worked for 15 years as an operation manager for a large trucking company – UPS. The full time path for advancement is first delivering packages (120 stops a day with constant public interaction) and on to tractor trailer driving for a much easier (one stop a day) existence.

The personality change of people was astonishing. Great, hard working, productive, optimistic package car drivers became lazy, complaining, pessimistic tractor trailer drivers that made much more money with a lot less effort. This happened almost overnight.

Has this happened in our county as a whole? Could we be so “fat and happy” that the only thing left to pursue is whining? I wonder sometimes if this “UPS syndrome” is part of what motivates so much political turmoil.

Times have never been better for most people.

It seems that way sometimes.