Horizontal History on Wait But Why

If you’ve never seen a post by Tim Urban, you’re in for a treat. Pour a cuppa and enjoy. Then come back and read my ramblings on the subject and add yours in the comments.

The one thing I noticed, while looking at his lifespan chart, was that the older lifespans average about the same as the modern ones. We always think that everyone died really young back in the day. We think that because we’re always told that by everyone – sort of an urban myth expounded with pride in all that we’ve accomplished. But here’s the thing: back in the day, people who survived childhood tended to live what we’d consider a normal lifespan. At least into their sixties or so.

Then, as now, it made a big difference whether you were rich or poor, although even that is kind of tricky. For instance, throughout history, the rich folks get all the yummy food, while the poor were stuck with brown bread and beans. So the rich folks tended to be overweight and hounded by goiters, hemorrhoids, heart attacks and things like that, complicated by inactivity because they had servants do everything for them. The poor were much healthier with their diet of nutrition-dense, fiber-filled food. Assuming, of course, that they had enough food. Frequently they didn’t have enough, so they tended to die of malnutrition.

And everyone suffered a lack of modern science and healthcare, especially dental care. But people weren’t dropping dead at 25 or 30, as long as they had access to enough healthful calories and didn’t race chariots for a living.

Our modern science brought us better hygiene, knowledge of what actually causes disease, and sterile surgery, and this helps us survive accidents and illness that killed back in the day. But the biggest change is due to the fact that most of our children survive past age 1, and then past age 5. Now, as back then, living to age 5 pretty much meant you could live to 60. Our advantage is that most of us live past age 5 these days.

So anyway, that’s one of my take-aways from Tim Urban’s post. What’s yours?

 

 

 

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