"Medical care must be doing something right, we're living longer!"
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- "Medical care must be doing something right, we're living longer!"
Written By South Centre Chiropractic Clinic & Summerside Chiropractic on December 19, 2016
That was the assertion from a person in another conversation at a recent gathering. Of course, I had to interject.
Even though the timing is not quite right it is a great example of correlation vs cause. Medical care as we know it did not cause us to live longer but is loosely correlated with it in terms of timing. Average life expectancy started to rise before the advent of widespread antibiotic, vaccine and other drug interventions.
A great example of this come from 19th century Austria. Dr. Semmelweis came up with an unheard of idea, "lets wash our hands before we deliver infants." At the time infant mortality rates were 3 x's higher in hospitals than those performed by midwives. Semmelweis did a study and found that hand washing dramatically reduced the incidence of infections infant mortality. Doctors found this hand washing idea appalling. They ostracized Dr. Semmelweis for the suggesting they should do something so demeaning as wash their hands before attending to a delivery. He was eventually admitted to an insane asylum where he died in his early 40's from a blood INFECTION!! After his death the idea of hand washing caught on and infant mortality plummeted. When infant mortality goes down average age of death goes up dramatically simply because your not factoring in all those who died at age zero.
Aside from soap and water we owe much of our longevity to engineers. Dealing with sewage properly and keeping it away from our drinking water also decreased early mortality. Preserving food better and avoiding rancid food was another major cause of increased longevity.
Dr. Eaton, in his publication in Preventative Medicine 2002 he found that "Life expectancy increases track more closely with economic prosperity and sanitary engineering than with strictly medical advances."
The truth of the matter is that medicine (other than washing hands!) has little to do with our current life expectancy of almost 80 years. According to Eaton, "...medical treatments have had little impact on mortality reduction." Ominously our life expectancy, for the first time, has dropped slightly in the most recent calculation. Our clean hands, food and water may have maximized out our aging. Medication use and obesity may be catching up to us in limiting our ability to age longer. So keep your food clean and exercise. We can't lean on a system that does little for us other than in emergency situations and very little in the area of chronic disease.
(March 5, 2012)