Life Expectancy and the Industrial Revolution

I recently had the opportunity to talk with a reporter from Esquire magazine about the growth of the Christian agrarian and homesteading movement. One thing I mentioned was that people were looking for answers, that they realized something was dreadfully wrong with modern life and wanted something better. I mentioned that as America has become more centralized and more technologically advanced, people are unhappier than they have ever been and sicker than they have ever been. The reporter said, “But we live a lot longer now.” My answer was “Not necessarily.”

Living longer is one of industrialism’s favorite lies. It is taught to every child, this idea that modern man lives longer than his predecessors. This supposed “fact” trumps any agrarian argument, so some believe. By the way, I’m not saying this gentlemen thought that it would trump anything I said, but many do think so. He was just throwing out what he thought was a fact to consider. If it were true, I would still advocate an agrarian life and economy, but the thing is….it just isn’t true. One area that modern medicine has actually improved life is in the area of treating trauma cases and saving sick or premature babies. This is a fine thing! The problem is the way they calculate life expectancy. They average the age of people when they die, so that as they remove the children who used to die young and the mid-aged folks who survive accidents, they create a slight of hand. All of the sudden it looks like modern man lives longer. They don’t, just less young people die. An example of a more truthful way to judge this question comes from Eric Sloane in his book Season’s of America Past

The elderly man of today has less chance of living than did his counterpart of the past! In 1832 a special census was taken of all people in the United States over one hundred years old. The possibility of inaccuracies was taken into consideration and hearsay, such as reports of Negro slaves, was ruled out. It was found that at least one person in ever forty five hundred Americans was one hundred years old or more. Today the figure is only one in thirty four thousand.

Sloane continues to explain how industrial food, chemicals and lack of physical work contribute to the fact that modern man lives many less years than the old agrarian farmer. This book was written in 1958! Statistics are a funny thing. Sadly, most people will refuse to believe the facts. If they were wrong, they would not be able to say “at least we live longer” when they thought of the wretched artificial, industrial life they live. That’s a bit too much to ask.


 

Save

Save

4 thoughts on “Life Expectancy and the Industrial Revolution

  • November 19, 2013 at 12:20 am
    Permalink

    What a great topic and one I hadn’t thought much about! I’m glad you dug up that quote from Eric Sloan…I have that book, by the way. Even the people today who do live to an old age are often wasting away in nursing homes with Alzheimer’s disease or other debilitating conditions and largely forgotten by their families. Where’s the “progress” in that? I’m sure that most of the elderly in time’s past would have spent their old age on the farm, supported by their families, until they died there.

    Brenda (formerly from A Separate Path blog)

    Reply
  • November 19, 2013 at 1:57 pm
    Permalink

    Scott, you get it! I’ve been trying to tell people this for years. As a nurse I have watched such horrible suffering resulting from well-intended attempts to keep our elders alive as long as possible. I remember my mother telling me that when she was a girl, in the 1920’s, the elderly didn’t have to endure this. They simply got sick and died. She said generally no one was bedfast for more than a week or so. That’s so much more humane than what I’ve been party to.

    Reply
  • November 23, 2013 at 1:32 am
    Permalink

    You can add that our so called progress has allowed abortion to be almost common place and early, and late. I read an article that if you add in a 0 years life span for an aborted child the average life span is almost the same, they may have even shown it to be less but not sure. Regardless it is not this astounding number that is so often put up to laud our progress.

    I agree, we do not have people living, I mean living not surviving, longer but simply through the use of many methods prolong life in a manner that would not have in the past been called living.

    Reply
  • November 24, 2013 at 3:12 am
    Permalink

    Thanks for posting this. It was actually something that had been on my mind a lot lately.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Password Reset
Please enter your e-mail address. You will receive a new password via e-mail.