Junkfood Science: The sky is not falling … again

August 20, 2009

The sky is not falling … again

Once again, the biggest health story of the year has found that we are healthier and living longer than in the history of our country.

The latest vital statistics data from the CDC National Center for Health Statistics was just released. It is based on statistics representing 91 percent of the demographic file and 87 percent of medical records for all deaths in the United States in 2007. This data is compiled each year to guide public health resources.

Just like last year, life expectancy hit another record high. “Life expectancy at birth for the total population in 2007 reached a record high of 77.9 years,” the CDC report stated.

Despite those continuing to make that doomsday prediction that “today’s children are destined to be the first generation to have shorter lifespans than their parents — unless drastic action is taken to slim them down” — the facts continue to show the opposite. Every year, in fact, the government’s actual health data has shown that our children are living longer and healthier lives than ever. There’s not even a hint to indicate that that could change. Babies born in 2007 can expect to live to 75.3 years for boys and 80.4 years for girls.

Life expectancy has been increasing for more than a century. By comparison, babyboomers born in 1950 had a life expectancy of 65.5 and 71 years, men and women respectively. And our grandparents born in 1900 had a life expectancy of a mere 48 and 51 years, respectively.

The 2007 mortality rate was 8.03 per 1,000 people — half of what it was just 60 years ago (15.32 per 1,000 in 1947).

For the first time, life expectancy for black males reached 70 years.

Nearly 3 out of 4 deaths (72%) occur in the elderly. Yet, even the oldest among us are fairing better. Mortality dropped 2.7 percent among those 65-74 years of age and dropped 2 percent for both those 75-84 years of age and those 85 years of age and over. [And the CDC reports that about two-thirds of seniors age 75+ report being in good to excellent health, see below.]

The highest rates of deaths among those 15 to 44 years of age were due to accidents (largely motor vehicle). And among those under 24 years, the second largest cause of death is homicide. These are clearly largely unrelated to healthcare or today’s pop wellness movement. In fact, when Dr. Robert L. Ohsfeldt, professor of Health Management and Policy at the University of Iowa and Dr. John E. Schneider, with the VA Medical Center in Iowa City, IA, compared health statistics of the United States with other countries, they found that when they controlled for homicides and traffic accidents, the United States ranked #1 in the world for life expectancy.

The new CDC report also found that death rates from the major causes of death among Americans continue to fall: Heart disease is down 4.7 percent from the previous year; cancer deaths have fallen 1.8 percent; deaths from strokes have fallen 4.6 percent; diabetes is down 3.9 percent; influenza and pneumonia down 8.4 percent; hypertension and hypertensive renal disease down 2.7 percent. In fact, 12 out of the 15 main causes of death have gone down or remained stable.

The exceptions are from diseases associated with the most advanced aging, such as Alzheimer’s, lower respiratory disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Once again, no matter how much the actual data about the state of our health continues to getter better every year, “preventive wellness” and government bureaucrats continue to try to paint the facts as doom and gloom — perhaps, hoping that we won’t put the incongruent pieces together. Dr. David Katz, M.D., MPH, director of the Yale University School of Medicine Prevention Research Center and the Integrative Medicine Center, for example, told media “I suspect we may be living longer not because of improvements in health, but thanks to the ability of high-tech, high-cost medicine to forestall death despite a growing burden of chronic disease. That means we may be adding years to life while reducing the life and vitality in those years, a very dubious bargain.”

We’ll set aside all of the public hype about how awful our healthcare system is supposed to be, and point out that this negativity ignores the other government health report that just came out: The Vital and Health Statistics, 2008. This is the National Health Interview Survey data conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics to give an ongoing picture of the health of U.S. adults.

Over 90 percent of Americans (90.2%) reported being in good to excellent health! This is even higher than last year’s report, when the figure was 88%.

That is pretty remarkable, especially given the nonstop drumbeat trying to convince us that we’re all fat, diseased and doomed by unhealthy foods, air and water.

The sky is still not falling.

© 2009 Sandy Szwarc

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