Monday, July 31, 2006

Bigger (and better?)

Men living in the Civil War era had an average height of 5-foot-7 and weighed an average of 147 pounds. Today, men average 5-foot-9 ½ and weigh an average of 191 pounds. No surprise to most that we're growing bigger. Not only that, however, but we're also living much healthier and longer lives than then. In 1900, 13 percent of people who were 65 could expect to see 85. Now, nearly half of 65-year-olds can expect to live that long. Today's life expectancy has moved past 77 years. Life expectancy in the United States in 1901 was 49 years.

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.

2 comments:

Chairman said...

Well, I loved your article. I'm surpirsed that you didn't mention this already, but the only conclusion that I can draw is that from a broad perspective, that Americans must be winning the war on sin. After all, during the eras closer to the fall of man, people lived for like 700 years. And then for a few thousand years, the sins of man kept bringing the average age down, all the way to 30-35 years. Yep. So since medieval England, we've doubled in life expectancy, since sin/life expectancy is a linear relationship, then we sin only half as much. But, at this rate, in another 600 years, the average American male will be 6'7" and 367 pounds and live to be 245 years old. Which means that offensive lines will be bigger than ever. Unless we keep letting in the Mexicans. Then we'll only average 5'7", but everything else will stay the same.

-Chairman, (soon to be) PhD

Oneway said...

Thank Jesus for Western Civilization.