Why do we all age differently?
Let’s start with the good news: we are all living longer and longer! The average life expectancy in the US today is about 79 years. Barely a century ago, that was only about 50 years.
As a general rule, every person ages differently because life expectancy is influenced by factors such as location, gender, environment, and health literacy. Behaviors can also significantly impact life expectancy for good or bad. Obesity is the leading cause of decreasing life expectancy in the US.
And that’s not the only good news: we’re living longer, but we’re also living better.
For those who live today, the possibilities are enormous, in terms of technology, working conditions, relationships, relaxation, and certainly in terms of medicine.
Read on to understand why we all age differently.
Table of Contents
- 1 Why do we all age differently? Introduction
- 2 Life expectancy
- 3 Obesity is the biggest cause of declining life expectancy in the US
- 4 Why do we all age differently? Conclusion
Why do we all age differently? Introduction
The tremendous progress in medicine makes it possible to live longer and, therefore, more comfortably. After all, we have come a long way.
For example, a good century ago, giving birth was a particularly risky business (it still is, unfortunately, in many regions of the world).
At the end of the 19th century, nearly 10% of women still died due to childbirth.
The means to intervene in difficult or complicated deliveries were then very limited. Just flip through a 19th-century textbook on obstetrics. 📖
You’ll find various gruesome technical guidelines for midwives when a standard vaginal delivery proved impossible.
Today, such scenarios are brought to a successful conclusion with a cesarean section and/ or epidural anesthesia which is painless and safe for both mother and child. So that was different in the past.
A rotten tooth was actually pulled with a string and swinging open the door in the old days. Nowadays we only laugh at it thanks to memes and cartoons.
No wonder dentists were often the terror of the village.
From barber surgeon to family doctor
Not to mention the itinerant barber surgeons of the Middle Ages in Europe.
These went out to cure people with obscure techniques when the ordinary home remedies no longer brought relief.
So, let us be especially grateful for the period we live in today and the gigantic possibilities that modern medicine offers today.
It really wasn’t better in the past.
“And they lived happily ever after”
is a phrase we all know from fairy tales. Still, those who live long don’t necessarily live happily ever after because of that.
Several different indicators are used to get a good picture of health and quality of life.
Life expectancy indicates (the word says it all) how long a person can expect to live. Of course, these are estimates and averages.
Life expectancy at birth is longevity. The estimated life expectancy is often also given at a certain age, such as 65.
If you consider characteristics such as your gender, education, and lifestyle, you can make an even better estimate.
There are even websites that calculate your (obviously estimated!) date of death. ☠
Still, of course, that is with a very wide margin, and you can influence it to a large extent by your lifestyle.
These websites are based on so-called actuarial tables that are also used by insurance companies to help determine their risk when underwriting a life insurance, for example.
In addition, mortality rates often pop up in studies. This measure indicates the percentage of a given population that will die within a certain period.
This figure can be useful, for example, to check the impact of an intervention (a particular lifestyle, a drug…) and does not take into consideration why do we all age differently.
Women live slightly longer on average than men
There are significant differences in terms of gender.
In the US, men live an average of five years less than women:
- the average life expectancy for women is 81 years,
- the average life expectancy for men is only 77 years.
There are several biological explanations for this, but it also has to do with behavior.
By the way, the gap between men and women in terms of life expectancy is getting smaller.
This is good news, but the underlying explanation is not: women are wiping out their advantage by imitating men’s unhealthy lifestyles.
Life expectancy also depends on where you live
The region you live in also has a big impact on life expectancy. So in that respect, we can’t complain.
Especially when compared to the situation in Africa, where the average life expectancy in 1990 was only 53 years.
But even within the US and Europe, there are significant differences between different countries and even within different states or regions of a country.
For example, people in Hawaii, with an average life expectancy of 81.5 years, live (on average) a whopping 7 years longer than people in Mississippi, where the average life expectancy is only 74.6 years. An unusual answer to why do we all age differently.
Socio-economic impact on life expectancy
There are also socio-economic differences. The more educated you are and the higher you are on the social ladder, the higher your life expectancy as well.
For example, people with a higher education degree have a life expectancy of several years more than those without a higher education degree.
So studying is important to find a good job and earn a good income and live longer and healthier!
Not that being sedentary in school is not that healthy, but educated people, on average, have better lifestyles and live in better conditions.
Two factors play an essential role in why do we all age differently: the environment and health literacy.
After all, the environment in which people grow up plays a role that should not be underestimated and which you have a lot less control over.
This is also why we should not immediately point an admonishing finger at everyone who exhibits unhealthy behavior. 👮
For example, if you grew up in a culture where it is customary to eat cats and dogs (like in Taiwan, for example), then there is a very good chance that you will too.
Or, a less extreme example: if all your friends at school are drinking alcohol, and laugh at you because you don’t touch a drop, then as an adolescent, you have to be very strong to resist alcohol.
This effect is especially strong for habits instilled at a very young age.
A toddler comforted by tucking into sweets is unconsciously conditioned to quickly reach for sweets later in life.
This is one of the reasons why some people eat sugar, especially in emotionally difficult situations when someone could use some comfort.
This can lead to a vicious cycle where people’s socio-economic background is associated with unhealthy behavior generation after generation.
Yet even here, you can take control of your own health and well-being. Only it’s a lot easier if your environment pushes you in the right direction rather than the other way around.
Health literacy is about knowing and understanding what is good for your health, an important but not all-determining factor.
In fact, for many forms of unhealthy behavior, people know all too well that something is unhealthy. Yet, they often have difficulty leaving those bad habits, such as changing eating habits.
In fact, our behavior is also very much determined by other factors, some of which lie outside of our direct freedom of choice.
Smoking and women’s emancipation reduces life expectancy
The most obvious and defining factor is smoking. Lung cancer is the second leading cause of premature death.
In this area, emancipation has had fewer positive effects: girls tend to smoke more than boys among young people.
Furthermore, women’s emancipation has also brought social developments that most see as positive.
This allows women to vouch for their own income and go to work.
However, a side effect is that they also experience work-related stress that can lead to burnout and other stress-related conditions.
Obesity is the biggest cause of declining life expectancy in the US
Obesity is strongly related to the most common causes of death, making obesity the leading origin of declining life expectancy in the US.
Some statistics on this:
- Being overweight by 40 pounds results in an average of 3 years less longevity.
- Being overweight by 100 pounds reduces life expectancy by as much as 10 years.
- 40% of Americans over the age of 20 are obese.
- More than 50% of calories eaten by Americans come from ultra-processed foods.
- Only 30% of calories come from fresh food.
The health risks of obesity are thus not to be underestimated. Among other complications, obesity is a risk factor for chronic diseases.
Related: Check our other article to learn about the Things That Make You Fat or Thin and Determine Our Weight and Health
Why do we all age differently? Conclusion
Ultimately, of course, it is a combination of factors that leads to an average life expectancy that is shorter or longer than other groups of the population.
Indeed, if we include other factors, the difference becomes almost hallucinatory: a woman in Hawaii is estimated to live an average of 10 years longer than a man in Mississippi.
Add in factors such as education, income, obesity, and smoking, and this disparity may become even more significant.
These differences cannot be explained by biological factors alone. So much has to do with our behavior, and lifestyle plays a crucial role in that.
Related: Can a Healthy Lifestyle Prevent Diseases? And Possibly Cure Them?