Broken Systems, Not People
Something is killing a lot of Americans, and, surprisingly, it may have nothing to do with obesity, diabetes, heart disease, or cancer.
After about a century of near-Universal gains in American mortality rates, the tables have turned for one demographic: middle-aged white Americans. This is unheard of in the first-world, where despite all of the problems listed above, death rates have been steadily declining.
We may be in more physical and mental pain, getting more sick, overweight, and immobile…but we’ve also been getting better at staying alive. Apparently, except for middle-aged Whites since about 1999.
The increased mortality rate for this group is being blamed on alcohol, prescription and illegal drugs, liver disease, and suicide.
Like any other data, there’s a lot of nuance involved, and to gain a clearer picture we’ll have to dive a little deeper into the available information and check out some of the leading opinions. For example, in this case, it’s useful to know that the middle-aged Americans are in the 45 to 54 year-old age range, and those who are being affected most by the increased mortality are are those who have a High School diploma or less education.
This leads some to suspect the economy may be a major contributor. But doesn’t the economy also affect other age groups and ethnicities?
For Americans in general, we’ve been learning over the years that:
- 75% are overweight
- 35% are obese
- About 10% have diabetes (projected to grow to 1 in 3 by 2050)
- About 70% of American are on prescription drugs and many are therefore also dealing with side effects
- 13% are on antidepressants (including nearly 1 in 4 women aged 50-64)
- 70% of Americans are not engaged with their jobs
- Millennials would rather rewrite the American dream
- About 70% of the modern diet consists of processed food
This list represents an overwhelming amount of human pain.
To make things worse, we’ve slowly watched our children become more obese and less healthy, too. When I was a kid, there were only one or two overweight kids in a typical classroom (I was always one of them). Type 2 Diabetes was called Adult Onset Diabetes. Now, it’s affecting people at younger ages, including about a quarter million kids.
A couple of points come to mind:
- It’s not the people who are broken, it’s the systems we’ve been squeezing ourselves into that deprive us from the natural world, natural food, natural movement, and the natural rhythms of life. I’m saying this without an iota of hippy nature worship, too (even if I do enjoy a good tree-hug from time to time!). Clearly, our synthetic, bought-and-paid-for solutions appear to be inadequate—and that we thrive in our natural world should be uncontroversial at this point.
- Even if these systemic problems aren’t our fault, so to speak, our health is still the responsibility of each of us. Sure, building better systems that will someday result effortlessly in healthy people is the ultimate goal (or, at least, it should be), but don’t let yourself die waiting for someone else to fix those things that affect you. First and foremost, take a good look at your life and make sure you’re providing yourself with the basics.
Just some food for thought.