Life expectancy is steadily rising. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that a baby born in Australia in 2015 can expect to live to 80 years if a boy and 84 if it’s a girl. A boy born in 1962 had a life expectancy of 68 years and a girl born in the same year could expect to reach 74.
This year an 117-year old Italian woman died, the last surviving person in the world to be born during the 1800’s. We might not all live to this ripe old age, but there are some reasons why we are living longer.
Many diseases and illnesses that would have killed us 30 years ago can be treated and cured all thanks to incredible advances in medicine. Better research, knowledge, treatments and equipment have lead to the medical world improving survival rates.
Drugs and vaccines are responsible for saving millions of lives. The mortality rate in babies and children under the age of five years was far higher 50 years ago. Before antibiotics were available, people died from minor injuries becoming infected or respiratory illnesses that are now easily treated. Vaccinations have virtually wiped out some diseases in the western world. By vaccinating a large percentage of the population, diseases couldn’t continue to spread and disappeared. In 1922, infectious disease accounted for 15% of all deaths in Australia compared to 2% now. The average age of people succumbing to infection disease has risen from 27 years in 1922 to 76 years now.
Social awareness has saved lives over time. Through government funded campaigns and media reports, the population has become more informed of potential life-threatening behaviours. We’re told not to smoke, wear a seatbelt, eat healthy, not to shake a baby – all things that caused many premature deaths in the past.
Some will argue that the modern world has been detrimental to our diet with the introduction of fast and convenience foods high in fat, salt and sugar. While that’s true at we do have now is a much wider variety of natural foods that our grandparents didn’t have. There are so many fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices grown here and overseas that weren’t available to Australians 50 years ago. The variety has added important vitamins and minerals to our diet. The increase in migration has lead to our diet consisting of ingredients and dishes that weren’t available years ago.
We know the importance of keeping our bodies fit and healthy by exercising. While our lives are far more sedentary now than they used to be, we use exercise rather than labour to keep fit. We have access to fitness classes, swimming pools, cycle paths, even YouTube videos to help us keep fit.
Safety has improved, so we are less likely to be killed or injured at work or around the home. Tools and appliances are rigorously tested before making them available to the public. Improvements in technology have led to new devices being developed to reduce the rate of death and serious injury. Think of how many safety features have been added to the motor vehicle in your lifetime.
Modern advancement has given us appliances designed to give us more leisure time and take the hard labour out of everyday living. Look back at photos of a 50-year-old Australian living in the 1940s and they looked much older than today’s 50-year-old. They may have spent their working lives doing hard manual labour six days a week. Work around the house wasn’t easy either without a washing machine, dishwasher or vacuum cleaner. Everything took longer and with a lot more effort.
With improved life expectancy, more Australians every year can expect a telegram from the Queen marking their centennial birthday.
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