We're healthier and living longer than our ancestors Archives
We're healthier and living longer than our ancestors
New research from around the world has begun to reveal a picture of humans today that is so different from what it was in the past that scientists say they are startled. Over the past 100 years, says one researcher, Robert W. Fogel of the University of Chicago, humans in the industrialized world have undergone “a form of evolution that is unique not only to humankind, but unique among the 7,000 or so generations of humans who have ever inhabited the earth.”
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.
"So Big and Healthy Grandpa Wouldn’t Even Know You," by Gina Kolata, The New York Times, July 30, 2006
- "Birthweight, Growth Patterns Into Childhood Reveal Risk of Coronary Heart Disease Later in Life," Oregon Health & Science University, October 27, 2005
- "The State of Humanity: Good and Getting Better," by Julian L. Simon and Sheldon Richman, CATO, November 11, 1996
July 30, 2006 02:57 PM Caught Our Eye