Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Longevity In the U.S.

So I see the headline and my interest is piqued. Longevity is tied not only to where you live but your poverty level. And then I looked at this and read this.

The best place to live is......Hawaii. No kidding! Who wants to die when they live in paradise? Now you might think, if you're a progressive inclined to look for evidence to support your view, that social services and oppressive taxation are the key to health and wealth.

The worst place to live is....Washington D.C. But the cause of the high mortality rate isn't so much poverty but crime. It's hard to live to 80 with a bullet in your head. That might seem to be stating the obvious.

Consider these statistics. Does $3,000 explain a huge difference in health care and quality of life? Does it explain eight more years of life?

  • Northland low-income rural whites, $17,758, 79 years.
  • High-risk urban blacks, $14,800, 71.1 years.
What is amazing to me is that even where young men are being offed by one another at alarming rates, a person can still expect to live to 70.

The writers of the study quote third-world life expectancies and say that there are "Eight Americas" within America. They of course want to drive public policy and universal healthcare is always a desire, but then they say this:
Moreover, the longevity gaps have stayed about the same for 20 years despite increasing national efforts to eliminate obvious racial and ethnic health disparities, he found.

Murray was surprised to find that lack of health insurance explained only a small portion of those gaps. Instead, differences in alcohol and tobacco use, blood pressure, cholesterol and obesity seemed to drive death rates.

Most important, he said, will be pinpointing geographically defined factors -- such as shared ancestry, dietary customs, local industry, what regions are more or less prone to physical activity -- that, in turn, influence those health risks.

For example, scientists have long thought that the Asian longevity advantage would disappear once immigrant families adopted higher-fat Western diets. Murray's study is the first to closely examine second-generation Asian-Americans, and found their advantage persists.

Wait a minute. If longevity isn't tied to income level (the Northeasterns prove that), isn't associated with America's Big Mac diet (Asians prove that), isn't tied to air pollution (all of Southern California proves that), what's most important?

Intelligence. Or, lack thereof.

This study shows pretty clearly the correlation between mortality, mobidity and longevity. I don't think this is rocket science, actually. It makes sense.

People with higher I.Q.s will tend to make more money (this is a worldwide trend). But even higher I.Q. people in lower economic levels live longer.

People with higher I.Q.s tend to not smoke. Economically and health-wise smoking is a costly habit. Another downside of smoking is that it makes you dumber. So you might start out with a decent I.Q. but dull your mental abilities up to 3% by smoking. It might cost you a year or two of life. Well duh! Death risks from every single disease move skyward with smoking.

If you're born first, you're likely to be a little smarter. (I'm adding this because, well, I'm a firstborn and it's fun to bug younger siblings.)

Babies with higher birth weights have higher I.Q.s. The presumption (except in children whose mother had gestational diabetes) is that the baby is better nourished and enjoys better brain development. A mom who cares for her self will likely care for her baby. When you look closer at the study, the results really matter for the low-weight premature babies. They pull the I.Q. down. So I'm not sure this makes all that much difference, but it's here for information sake.

Breastfed babies have higher I.Q.s but as this study shows, it is probably the social factors involved that create the higher I.Q.

All together, I think that the decision-making process in individuals is a self-feeding cycle. Smarts equals better decisions which result in better pay, higher socioeconomic class and access to more help. For example, at the higher economic levels, "networking" becomes a bigger factor for success. That is a social benefit.

Likewise, lower I.Q. might result in poor decisions which also accumulate. An abusive mate or smoking (eating up disposable income) or lack of education have devastating long-term consequences. The results of these decisions is often social isolation. People feeling bad for themselves shun church, shun connectedness. The human associations tend to be with and through the government--not an esteem-building association.

Longevity will indeed to be found to have hereditary correlations, familial weaknesses, etc. The key, to me, is to encourage the social situations that foster I.Q. development. The higher I.Q. will relate to better decisions. The better decisions build a future.

A high school educated person who is married and attends church will create a nice environment for children to grow (no matter the economic level) and thrive and then the cycle becomes self-reinforcing. The opposite is also true. A drop out, single mother where the dad is doped, dead or in jail, will have a hard time creating a nurturing environment, when survival is the top priority.

This stress-filled environment does not lead to longevity. How can it?

1 comment:

Kman said...

So smart people have the audacity to be healthier, wealthier, and live longer than everyone else.

When can we expect the Democrats to reveal their Examination Day platform for 2008?