We are living longer, thanks to medical advances. However, we are getting sicker earlier and staying sick longer. Read on to find out why.
Research by the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals that since the late 1980’s life expectancy has increased by 6 years for men and 4 years for women, with men living until 79 while women until 83.7 years. This is good news indeed! Unfortunately this does not mean we are healthier than previous generations! Quite on the contrary, we are actually just sick for longer. That was the message during the Australian Lifestyle Medicine Association Conference held in Sydney last month.
They say Australia is the lucky country. However, the fact remains that despite a decade of unprecedented wealth, limitless choices, advanced healthcare, we are not as “well” as we should be. We are staring down the barrel of a chronic disease crisis of unprecedented proportion. Obesity, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer are leading causes of preventable death.
To date, the health impact of overweight and obesity are yet to be experienced in this country. Our current health infrastructure is ill-equipped to handle the fast rising “tsunami”. So what should we do about this burgeoning problem? The answer is not to have more doctors to meet the needs of a rapidly ailing population. Instead, we have to take responsibility for our health. The onus is on each of us to make sure we keep as healthy as possible by making life-enhancing lifestyle changes.
Did you know that during World War II, health improved in the general population in England? This was because the English were forced to a basic daily diet of wholemeal bread, potatoes and home-grown vegetables. Eggs, milk, butter, salt, sugar and meat were strictly rationed. Food restrictions actually brought on unexpected health improvement!
During the Australian Lifestyle Medicine Conference, Professor Garry Egger echoed the same view when he spoke about the inverse relationship between the state of the economy and population health. He showed a graph depicting predictable improved state of health with each economic crisis over the last century. It is ironic that improved economic conditions is consistent with bad health outcomes. This is a clear sign that we are victims of excesses or “the good life”.
What do you think? What active steps are you taking to improve your state of health?
NB: Professor Egger is also the Director, Centre for Health Promotion and Research, Sydney, and author of ‘Health, ‘ill-th’ and economic growth: Medicine, environment and economics at the cross-roads’, a soon-to-be published paper in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.