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Oct 31, 2005


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will spotts

I'd be curious how the life expectancy at birth statistic is calculated. Among other things, if this is what it appears at face value, the two statistics would be interrelated. I suspect in the US decreased infant mortality, better nutrition, better water and sewerage would account for most of the increase in longevity -- but that's a gut reaction. I may be way off on how much these factors affect the overall population.

I would suggest that at least two quality of life issues cannot be measured because they are intangible -- and perhaps as people talk about "decreasing" quality of life they are referring to such intangibles.

One is a sense of personal morality. (I caution at this point that I'm not inviting a comparison between burning issues of the early 20th Century versus today -- just the perception that there has been a change in such a sense of morality.) In some ways communities seemed to be stronger then -- both religious and neighborhood. Also extended families remained entact. (Some of this perception change may be attributable to tv/hollywood/internet. For many people the image of ourselves we see projected back at us is unrecognizable. It is not our world, and very few people we know behave in that way.)

Another quality of life issue is a sense of purpose. When survival was a larger component of life, people didn't worry so much about "purpose". They were consumed with the day by day work that had to be done. Beginning especially with the post WWII generation, parents have strived with some success to make sure that their children don't have those worries. (Yes, I know many on the margins have not experienced this change. But, for the majority it seems to have been true.) Now, rather than survival, issues of fulfillment and self-actualization take a larger prominence. A side effect of this is that life often seems to lack a sense of urgency or investment that it would have had in earlier times.

Michael Kruse

Will, life expectancy is the average (mean) number of years a person can expect to live starting from a given age, in this case birth. You are exactly right about the infant mortality rates being linked. In nations with high infant mortality the life expectancy sores for one year olds compared to those at birth. You hear that life expectancy was 30-40 in Jesus day but at least 1 in 4 deaths happened in the first year of life. Life expectancy for people who made it to their first birthday would be several years more.

Morality and Purpose. I think you anticipate where I am headed with some of this. I hardly have definitive answers for the trends I see. It does strike me that even something intangible like purposelessness would result in higher rates of suicide and addictions. I would be very interested in reading more about what you see as I get this stuff posted.

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