When historians of the future look back to the hundred years or so between the beginning of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, one of the salient features of this period of time that they're likely to marvel at is just how much the quality of people's health changed over this time. And how it all happened despite a worldwide population boom.
To illustrate this more clearly, let's look at some figures, courtesy of the UK Parliament's "Trends in statistics since 1900" paper. Some of this stuff really is fascinating:
In 1901 baby boys were expected to live until the age of 45, while baby girls fared slightly better with an average life expectancy of 49.
In 2012? Well, let's just say things have improved dramatically - it's now 78 for boys at birth and 82 for girls.
Let's bear in mind, though, that life expectancy is just a statistic, and that there were people born in 1901 who were still alive in 2001. But the averages do tell a story - while nobody can predict individual futures, as a society we started living longer and continue to increase our longevity. So my chances of living longer are better, although how long I actually do live is down partly to luck, environment, lifestyle, and other factors.
Things like individual health insurance, technological advance, enlightened attitudes towards nutrition - and also mental health - plus the availability of health and wellbeing information on the internet - all have their part to play as well.
Another thing to think about when looking at longevity statistics is that, again, they're really just a number interms of what they say about the quality of life that people have. So, the 1901 figure of 45 for men may seem very low now - but on top of that even those who did outlive that number for some years may well have had one of the diseases that were widespread at the time.
Recently it was found that the 'healthy life expectancy' of people in England has increased. This is the period of our older years where we expect to be free of ailments. The figure for Scotland is down slightly, however -believed to be in part due to higher rates of smoking and other lifestyle factors.