By Lesley | January 28, 2011
Sadly, the United States is losing the international race to produce an immortal population. A new report from the US National Research Council has revealed that life expectancy in the US is rising more slowly than anticipated, and more slowly than other nations of similar circumstance around the world. Rising more slowly is basically the same thing as declining, as we all know. This is very important, mostly because it’s been a couple days since we had a reason to put the word “obesity” on the front page of a major news site.
Naturellement, the favored reason for our lagging behind the pack, appropriately like a fat asthmatic kid running laps in gym class, is our obesity. Also, to a lesser extent, our penchant for smoking. Although widespread acceptance of smoking has since been replaced by a totally reasonable rejection of smokers as evil cancer-spouting chimneys, annoyingly, Americans continue to die from smoking-related diseases, and are thereby dragging our proud nation down in the battle to defeat the inevitability of death. On the up side, now that smoking is only done by misanthropes, miscreants, and kickers of innocent puppies, the US life expectancy should go up a lot faster in the future. Which is good! Except no, there is no up side, because of the obesity epidemic, and that may or may not make us die sooner, possibly, if such things can be predicted, which they mostly can’t. Which is bad.*
But let me throw it to an expert:
While smoking is the key factor, the report also said obesity may account for a fifth to a third of the U.S. shortfall in life expectancy.
It’s hard to predict if that impact will continue, Crimmins said. Treatments may allow people to survive obesity’s damage for longer, although specialists are particularly concerned about the lifespan of children who live all their lives obese rather than getting fat after they’re grown. (Source)
Smoking is deadlier than obesity? Well, I’m a little dubious there, given that I sure hear more about obesity being a big deadly thing, and everyone I know agrees with me, therefore it must be true. And so far as obese kids go? Let’s be honest, none of those children will live to be adults. Their fat will crush them long before then. Because that’s what fat does, as we all know. It crushes children to death.
Finally, it almost seems as though the person in the above quote is arguing that receiving adequate treatment for obesity-related health issues may help folks live longer. Next we’ll be hearing that reliable access to high-quality healthcare actually improves both the length and quality of life for individual patients across race, class, weight, and lots of other factors. And that’s crazy talk.
While poor access to healthcare sends some Americans to an early grave, its effects pale beside the damage caused by unhealthy lifestyles, says Samuel Preston of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, co-chair of the NRC panel. “The basic message is that personal behaviours are primarily responsible,” he says. (Source)
See what I mean? Crazy talk. Fat folks need to be constantly and unrelentingly shamed for their obesemaking lifestyles; it worked for the smokers!
Of course, none of what we see above is new. However, in looking over the numbers associated with this report so I could write this totally-educated bloggery, I spotted a disturbing trend that seems to have gone completely unnoticed by the report’s authors, as well as the media coverage. Now I’m not a scientist, but this pattern fairly leaps off the page. Let’s look at it together, won’t we?
Life expectancy by country (source):
Do you see it? Do you see the disturbing trend? It sure seems to me that a major drag on life expectancy in all countries is the continued existence of men. Look how much lower their dying-ages are, no matter where they live. How has this not been identified as a serious risk to our public health? Having uncovered this heretofore-unknown but clearly very dangerous threat, I don’t think we have any choice but to mount an aggressive three-pronged campaign to deal with the male threat to our national survival. Because I care about your health, you guys. All of you.
First: we must identify, through extensive research, why men are such a persistent drag on both our statistical health as well as our healthcare resources, as it stands to reason that men die sooner because they are sicker, and therefore cost more to support. Is it the fault of the tissue that makes up the penis and testicles? Maybe. Is it because men are all morally corrupt? Probably, but we should check it out to be sure.
Second: we must investigate all options to make men into not-men, and, in concert with a targeted public campaign to raise awareness of the looming specter of maleness, we must subsidize companies to produce and sell these de-maleing options. Methods for de-manification may include irresponsibly prescribed off-label drugs, specially-designed underpants that inhibit blood supply to the genitalia, and finally, surgery. We should not let petty concerns about safety stem our enthusiasm, especially considering these guys are going to die early anyway, so who cares.
Third, and possibly most important: we will need to devise a program for preventing the addition of any further men to the population, by which effort we may stamp out the male stain on our national life expectancy rates forever. The most direct means of accomplishing this task is obviously selective abortion, but as that would prove difficult to implement owing to religious and other moral objections, we must also seek out a means of ensuring that we catch maleness before it takes hold even in the womb. Possibly this can be accomplished with a proper diet, or by conceiving in a certain position.
Again, I don’t know all the details, as I’m not a scientist. But something has to be done. I think we can all agree on that.
It’s possible that this effort may pathologize the male body a little. It will most certainly result in the development of a powerful bias against men as inherently unhealthy beings, no matter their individual circumstances. But I think it will be worth these small drawbacks if we are able to improve the rate at which our life expectancy is increasing relative to other similar countries. Because that’s what public health is about, right? It’s about improving statistics, not the lives of everyday citizens. It’s about blaming individual behavior, not a convoluted matrix of environmental, social, cultural, biological, and behavioral factors.
And what of the men themselves? Though they will likely rebel against the idea at first, once we’ve thoroughly educated them on how their insistence on being male is negatively impacting their health, of course they will understand. I’ve no doubt that men will readily make this sacrifice in the interest of both their individual and our national health. Men, we have faith in you! You can do it! You can get rid of your maleness in the interest of being a healthier, longer-lived person! Not doing so is basically like tacitly accepting that you’ll die someday, which is pure laziness. You just need to try harder.
Why on earth would I lie to you about this?
*And the frogurt is also cursed.