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Thread: Getting better and better

  1. #1 Getting better and better 
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
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    This thread is inspired by the 11 January New Scientist, and an article on page 32 about Alzheimers. It appears that the incidence of dementia on a per capita basis is falling. This is due to better living. Dementia is held at bay by good diet, good exercise, and more intellectual stimulation. It looks as though dementia over the past 20 years has dropped at least 15% on a per capita basis.

    This is alongside other health gains. Since the 1970's, heart disease has fallen on that per capita basis, due to better diet and exercise. Cancers keep rising, but that is due to the fact that cancer is a disease of old age. When there are more 80 year olds, there is more cancer. But if you look at the percentage of (say) 70 year olds with cancer, we see that it is dropping also.

    Life span itself continues to rise. Despite the 'obesity epidemic', people are living longer and longer. There are, of course, a few diseases, like Type II diabetes, which are more prevalent, but this backwards trend is overwhelmed by the good news.

    There is more good news. Violent behaviour is falling, and has been doing so for a long time. For example, in the USA, the most violent rapes have dropped 80% in 40 years. Murder rates are dropping. Even the number of dead in battle is dropping, with an average now of 35,000 per year, compared to over 100,000 per year half way through the 20th Century.

    Technology continues to grow, and gives people more capabilities. The internet, tablet computers, smart phones, safer cars, more economical aircraft and so on. Energy efficiency is greater than ever before. Associated with this is a global rise in economic output. The world as a whole has economic growth of over 3% per year. Even poor nations are becoming less poor. Famines still happen, but not to the degree that they did 50 years ago.

    There will be people who point to global warming and to the oncoming peak oil as indications that things are not getting better. But these are potentials only. They are problems which humanity as not yet had to confront completely. Whether they become disasters or not is debatable, and none of us are prophets. But I strongly suspect that they will be managed without anything as serious as the collapse of civilisation.

    Human health is an indicator of human welfare, and it has not stopped growing. If you go by the media ("if it bleeds, it leads."), the world is full of bad news. My opinion is that the good news outweighs the bad by a substantial margin.


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  3. #2  
    Forum Masters Degree mat5592's Avatar
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    Very good points, skeptic. The world seems to be a better place now than it was 50 years ago, despite what people try to say and what the media conveys. However, I will add one comment to one of your points. In the U.S., cancer rates are actually on the decline despite the better diagnostic techniques available today and the increasing age. This is probably mostly due to the large cessation of smoking that has occurred over the years. I don't think this trend applies worldwide though, which is unfortunate.

    I thought I had seen some more recent numbers not too long ago, but I can't seem to find them. Here is a report from 2008.


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