We have become accustomed to imagining life as an almost 100-year journey. Five for Fighting recently based a hit song that I liked on that concept. What most of us don't realize, however, is what a recent phenomenon that mark of longevity is. Throughout almost all of recorded history, humans did not live long lives. Living long enough to procreate was a success. Life expectancy in ancient Greece was 28 years. In classical Rome, also 28. In medieval England, it was 33 years.
The NYT had an interesting article running these concepts down in Sunday's paper. They note,
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.Humans have exhibited multiple changes, most only occurring in the last 100 years. As aforementioned, not only are humans getting bigger and taller and smarter (literally), but,
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.Recent research shows that, often beginning in people's 20's,
...almost everyone of the Civil War generation was plagued by life-sapping illnesses, suffering for decades.The real intriguing part of the article begins to look at what has caused this remarkable change in human development. As it turns out, some scientists now suspect that your longevity and health are largely determined by what occurs while you're in the womb and before age two. Dr. David J. P. Barker, who formulated the theory, says
...data that he and others have been gathering have convinced him that health in middle age can be determined in fetal life and in the first two years after birth.Truly interesting, I think.