How we are dying


Since I’m married, I die a little bit on the inside each day.


One often misunderstood facts that I like to point out whenever this sort of thing is discussed is that the potential human biological lifespan has remained static throughout history. We haven’t increased the human lifespan length at all. Some percentage of people always lived as long as they do today.

People often misunderstand Average Lifespan statistics and think that people only lived until their 30s not that long ago which is a complete misunderstanding of what those statistics mean. That was never the case. The average was 30’s due primarily to high infant mortality, that does not equal most people dying in their 30s as that statistic is often misconstrued to mean.

Humans have always been able to potentially live up to their early 100s if fortunate and in good health, that is the ceiling of the biological lifespan limit for homo sapiens. What we have changed is we vastly decreased infant mortality, which really brings up the average, and via things like sanitation (indoor plumbing) and modern medicine reduced the number of diseases and illnesses that historically wiped out percentages of the population. Those two things account for over 80% of the bump in average lifespan increase. They didn’t change how long people lived for, they increased the number of people that made it to older ages, hence bumping up the average.

The next largest bump was gender specific, we reduced the number of women dying in childbirth, and the number of men dying from heart related conditions (at least we allowed them to live through multiple events that would have previously been fatal). We have also extended the length people with other diseases such as cancers can live.

Hopefully I’ve been able to explain that important distinction and difference. I’m sick of otherwise intelligent people saying that we used to live into our 30s, that just isn’t correct.

All this leads to huge increases in the average lifespan, I’m glad more people are making it further, but I’m really looking forward to the day that we can push the final marker/goal post back and increase the length of the potential lifespan of humans. That will truly be an monumentious advancement.

(of course all those sentiments don’t factor in things like global population and other serious concerns, but those make for a much larger discussion less on topic to this one.)


I think the chart showing the dramatic decrease in mortality for men might have coincided with the period of time after the Vietnam and Russian/Afghanistan conflicts and the decrease in war would generally benefit men over women, since women have only relatively recently gone into combat.

Kudos to the visualization people who put that together, though - I really like how it was done!


Figure out ways to cure or prevent Alzheimer’s, and prevent or better treat Type II Diabetes, and health care spending goes flat.

Not to mention better quality of life for tens of millions.


That which doesn’t kill ya makes ya stronger…

Married men were found to live, on average, 10 years longer than non-married men.
(some say that it just seems like you live longer...)

Am I the only one who is tired of these sorts of cliche, sexist jokes? Ha ha! You’re married to a woman and it’s killing you inside each day because she’s a woman! Whom you’re married to! Ha ha.

And @crenquis’s insinuation that, while married men live on average 10 years longer than non-married men, it sure feels like forever, because most of them are married to WOMEN! Terrible, terrible women.

Uuuugh. This isn’t Mad Men.

Can’t you men come up with a better shtick? Or better yet, divorce those wives you “ha ha ha hate” so much?


How provincial.


Now for the (slightly) more serious answer…
I don’t hate my wife – I love her very much.
The seems comment comes up from people (of both sexes) every time that I mention that statistic.
However, it is exactly the things that will lead to me living an extra 10 years that sometimes does makes time seem drawn out: wear something nicer; go to bed; see a doctor; go to the emergency room; – those bloody civilizing things alter my time perception.


In fairness, @MikeKStar never actually specified that he was married to a woman. Wouldn’t that old joke work equally well (or poorly) regardless of the subject’s gender and/or orientation?

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Safe assumption to make within the context.

Also, I was correct. Imagine that.

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Mod note: Stay on topic. This ain’t vaudeville.


Honestly, this shift to me spells out exactly what is wrong with our healthcare system. Who among us would choose to die of Alzheimer’s and not a swift heart attack? and yet our care will prolong our lives no matter what the quality.

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This is absolutely true.

I live near an old cemetery (civil war and before) and I often take walks in it. Lot’s of people died in infancy, but a lot of people made it to their 80’s (don’t know that I’ve come across any in their 90’s there).

Another thing that is also often lost in discussion: I once spent an evening going over average life expectancies as the result of a discussion I got in with a utilitarian doctor; I wanted to see what was really happening with average life span and to find out if we were still making good progress.

I looked at data ranging from the mid 1800’s to today, focusing on white women (not perfect, but as the time period covered slavery and a few wars, I figured this was the most accurate marker). Sure enough, I saw good gains in average life expectancy…

Until about 1950.

At about 1950 there was an unambiguous knee in the curve where the slope of the curve dropped precipitously. Yes, we’re still making very small gains, but we’re spending more and more to try to make those small gains.

We hit the point of diminishing returns (spending vs. life expectancy gains) over 60 years ago.


My family has good longevity. In the local library’s history room, I found one of my frontier ancestors listed as the “oldest man in the county” at age 89. This was in the 1830s.

If one could perfectly time their heart attack, I would agree with you. But I’ve worked with too many people who have had heart attacks in their thirties and forties (and are still alive, but wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for our healthcare system…)

Heart attacks. Always happening at just the wrong time!

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Same with life extension. Seems like whenever they add a few years it’s always at the end, not at the prime!

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Yes, I think we all wish we could “die before I get old,” instead of living long years in a foggy mental state. Both of my maternal grandparents died of Alzheimer’s and my paternal grandmother died of multi-farct syndrome, so I’m fairly certain that craziness is in my end game - and I’m not too excited about that. Neither is my mom who knows its in her genes to live forever practically and then be out of it; already she is starting to sip a little down that slope and I can sense the fear there. Guess everyone would like a device that senses when the timing is just right, zaps you painlessly, you go and no one has to suffer.

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Don’t forget the massive confounder here: our changing consumption patterns. Around 60 years ago we (in the Western world at least) started consuming sugar and smoking like never before. That’ll put a bend in the statistical knee.

Now, imagine if you don’t smoke and get too overweight, how your life could play out, assuming you are lucky enough to avoid MRSA or DRSP or a bunch of other nasties. Forget statistics, and concentrate on your health.

Summary: Health care costs are out of control and will only get worse because we’re too damn old and too damn fat.
The highest cost individuals, though, are those on life support for lengthy periods due to relatives wanting to “hang on” instead of letting go. We are spending billions every year “just for doctor and hospital bills during the last two months of patients’ lives.”