Life is Short

Sophie & Mailys
It's Dave writing about science. I had a brief but interesting conversation yesterday about life expectancy with one of our friends, Pascaline, who is a doctor. Pascaline's daughter Mailys (pronounced “my-LEASE”) is one of Sophie’s favorite people here, and Pascaline and her husband Nicolas are very fun people to be around.

Our conversation was basically about why women live longer than men in literally every culture on earth. Pascaline’s belief is that this is the case because of the differences in hormones between the two genders. I said I thought it was because men are generally larger than women and - among mammals - the larger specimens within a species almost always have shorter lifespans than smaller ones (except when malnutrition makes them smaller). I naturally deferred to Pascaline’s view, since she's certainly studied it more than I have, but then I had to look up the details later just to make sure I wasn’t crazy. Turns out I’m not. Read this.

In the course of looking at this subject I found out some really interesting things, all from Wikipedia and my Excel spreadsheet wizardry. The below has almost nothing to do with
France but you might learn something and today’s Friday so what are you getting all huffy about?
  • It's believed that average lifespan changed little from the dawn of man until 1900, but in all ages, people that survived into adulthood have always lived to 70 years old or so. It seems that, barring outside intervention, that's just how long our hearts generally hold up.
  • Lifespan actually fell with the advent of farming because it made people more sedentary so they gathered in larger groups and were exposed to more diseases, due to the fact that they had neighbors.
  • Since 1900 the average human lifespan has nearly doubled.
  • The increase in life expectancy is expected to continue unabated for the foreseeable future
  • Japan and Hong Kong have the world's longest living people, at an average of 82.6 and 82.2 years, respectively. Once, while living in Hong Kong, I met and talked with a man on the street that I later confirmed was 105 years old. He looked like a walking corpse.
  • The life expectancy of a Japanese woman is 86.1 years, the longest span of any human group in the world. A Japanese woman will live eight years longer than an American man. I'd still rather be an American man. And I wish I was 6'2".
  • Out of 195 countries for which lifespan data is available, four countries had a higher life span for men than for women. Naturally those four are in Africa where maternal mortality during birth is enormous. Women outlive men in every society on earth.
  • Among the 35 countries in the world with the lowest average lifespan, 34 of them are in Africa.
  • In Swaziland the average lifespan for both men and women is less than 40 years. It's the only country in the world with such a distinction.
  • The US ranks 38th in the world for average life span.
  • That is seven spots below Puerto Rico and one spot below Cuba. Sicko indeed.
  • Canadians live a full two years longer than an American. So do French people. I'm not sure what that means except that we aren't going to get the last laugh.
  • Russia has the largest discrepancy in life span between men and women, at 13.6 years. Russia is also the only industrialized nation in the world in which average lifespan has fallen at any time in the last hundred years (excepting populations decimated by war).
  • There are seven countries in which the average lifespan for men is more than ten years below that of women. All of them are in Europe.
  • The European country with the longest lifespan is Iceland. And since Iceland has like 8 people in it and they're basically cryogenically frozen from birth, the next two countries with longest lifespan are Switzerland and Spain.
  • The longest recorded human life is 122.5 years, by Jeanne Calment. She died in 1997. On her 120th birthday she was asked by the media what kind of future she expected to have. "A very short one," she responded.



Anonymous littlest sister said...

science friday - just like on NPR


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