Sickness is bad for your health

by Russ Roberts on April 28, 2008

in Data, Fooled by Randomness, Health

Evidently, smoking, obesity and diabetes are bad for your health. So is sickness. Death is bad for your life expectancy. So discovers the New York Times:

THROUGHOUT the 20th century, it was an American birthright that each
generation would live longer than the last. Year after year, almost
without exception, the anticipated life span of the average American
rose inexorably, to 78 years in 2005 from 61 years in 1933, when
comprehensive data first became available.

But new research shows that those reassuring nationwide gains mask a
darker and more complex reality. A pair of reports out this month
affirm that the rising tide of American health is not lifting all

I’m going to stop the quote there for a moment.

Is the reality really "darker and more complex?" Does anyone really think that "the rising tide of American health" lifts all boats?

Does anyone think that rising life expectancy is really a birthright?

If you go sky-diving every week without a parachute or even with one, you don’t live as long as the average. If you smoke a lot and eat too much, you might not live as long as the average:

The most startling evidence came last week in a government-sponsored
study by Harvard researchers who found that life expectancy actually
declined in a substantial number of counties from 1983 to 1999,
particularly for women. Most of the counties with declines are in the
Deep South, along the Mississippi River, and in Appalachia, as well as
in the southern Plains and Texas.

The study, published in the
journal PLoS Medicine, concluded that the progress made in reducing
deaths from cardiovascular disease, thanks to new drugs, procedures and
prevention, began to level off in those years. Those gains, as they
shrank, were outpaced by rising mortality from lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes. Smoking, which peaked for women later than for men, is thought to be a major contributor, along with obesity and hypertension.

Read the rest of the story if you really want to know why this unsurprising absolutely unstartling finding confirms the world view of John Edwards.


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