Huff Post Business (The Motley Fool): 50 Reasons We're Living Through the Greatest Period in World History
I recently talked to a doctor who retired after a 30-year career. I asked him how much medicine had changed during the three decades he practiced. "Oh, tremendously," he said. He listed off a dozen examples. Deaths from heart disease and stroke are way down. Cancer survival rates are way up. We're better at diagnosing, treating, preventing and curing disease than ever before.
Consider this: In 1900, one percent of American women giving birth died in labor. Today, the five-year mortality rate for localized breast cancer is 1.2 percent. Being pregnant 100 years ago was almost as dangerous as having breast cancer is today.
The problem, the doctor said, is that these advances happen slowly over time, so you probably don't hear about them. If cancer survival rates improve, say, one percent per year, any given year's progress looks low, but over three decades, extraordinary progress is made.
Compare health-care improvements with the stuff that gets talked about in the news -- NBC anchor Andrea Mitchell interrupted a Congresswoman last week to announce Justin Bieber's arrest -- and you can understand why Americans aren't optimistic about the country's direction. We ignore the really important news because it happens slowly, but we obsess over trivial news because it happens all day long.
Expanding on my belief that everything is amazing and nobody is happy, here are 50 facts that show we're actually living through the greatest period in world history.
1. U.S. life expectancy at birth was 39 years in 1800, 49 years in 1900, 68 years in 1950 and 79 years today. The average newborn today can expect to live an entire generation longer than his great-grandparents could.
2. A flu pandemic in 1918 infected 500 million people and killed as many as 100 million. In his book The Great Influenza, John Barry describes the illness as if "someone were hammering a wedge into your skull just behind the eyes, and body aches so intense they felt like bones breaking." Today, you can go to Safeway and get a flu shot. It costs 15 bucks. You might feel a little poke.
3. In 1950, 23 people per 100,000 Americans died each year in traffic accidents, according to the Census Bureau. That fell to 11 per 100,000 by 2009. If the traffic mortality rate had not declined, 37,800 more Americans would have died last year than actually did. In the time it will take you to read this article, one American is alive who would have died in a car accident 60 years ago. ...