The elixir of youth is a goal for some in terms of health and beauty standards. Given newer data on declining life expectancy in the USA, it might seem at odds with where the data and we are going as a society. Due to medical advances, it is not inconceivable that children born today will live past 100 years of age. If this is to become a reality, are we to live life differently than today? What areas do we need to be more aware of and build into our daily lives to ensure health with longevity?
A new viewpoint by Dr. Philip Pizzo from Stanford University published in the Journal of the American Medical Association provides some guidance. Data shows that by 2030, 20% of the US population will be over the age of 65, this number trends higher in countries like Japan. These considerable shifts in communities will require new ways to think about supporting those younger and older people in their lives- do the services that exist today meet current needs? Many would argue they do not. Post World War II boom has left its mark on daily life- most people need a car to commute to work as cities have become too expensive for low or middle-income residents to inhabit. The fabric of our sense of community has shifted to include online lives, and often a gap persists between our real and online selves. Rates of depression and anxiety of soared. Is there a way back?
Dr. Pizzo calls for a renewed focus on having a sense of purpose – what gets you out of bed and excited to be in the world every day? and more profoundly, what matters to you? Doubling down on positive lifestyle choices will also be vital if we are to have a quality of life in longevity- how we live, work, play, pray, learn will all influence our health. Medical advances in preventing and treating chronic diseases will only take us so far – if we don’t change HOW we live our lives; our later years are more likely to be marked by long illnesses and reduced quality of life.
Lastly, Pizzo writes about social engagement; loneliness has seen spikes in younger and older populations and has clear implications for health and wellbeing. Health and social policy need to engineer social engagement back into our daily lives, data from meta-analyses shows that those of us who have healthy social engagement have a 50% increase in survival rates. In contrast, the poorer connections show a 29% increase in cardiovascular-related diseases.
It is never too late to foster these habits as gains are seen across the lifespan. Don’t be surprised when you next visit your doctor if the quality of your social connections is also assessed in addition to your exercise and nutrition levels. A more holistic approach to health and wellbeing is a welcome one if we are to move towards health care and away from sick care. Significant societal issues will hinder progress unless income inequality and climate change are also addressed to foster healthier lives and livelihoods.
Thanks for reading – Trina
(Opinions are my own)
A prescription for longevity in the 21st century.