It's amazing how much, and how little, things change over time.
Take a look at America a shade over a century ago (1904) based on a series of one-line statistics shared during a history lecture at the University of California, Berkeley:
The most eye-catching statistic I noticed from the above article was that the life expectancy 100 years ago is nearly half of what it is today. The average age of death in the United States is currently at an all-time high of 77.6 years. You might be tempted to believe that our health care system is largely responsible for this. You might even be naïve enough to believe that vaccines are responsible for this increased longevity.
Well, if you believe that you have been fooled.
The system has you right where they want you. The increase in longevity is not due to vaccines; it is due to the massive improvements in our hygiene that have been made possible by modern technology.
We are now able to remove human waste and prevent the spread of illness. We also have central heating and air conditioning that radically improves our ability to resist infections. These are far more responsible for increasing our lifespan than any vaccine ever was or will be.
The incidence of all of these infectious diseases was dropping very rapidly, starting in the 1930s. After World War II, the incidence continued to drop as living conditions improved. Clean water, central heating, the ability to bring oranges from Florida to the north in February so the children could get vitamin C--these are the factors that really affected people's tendencies to come down with infectious diseases much more than vaccines.
Most of us are clueless about the benefits of central heating. For Y2K preparation in 1999, I lived in my home for a few weeks with a wood-burning stove. What a lesson. The wood would only last a few hours before burning out and needing to be replaced. Having a reliable, relatively inexpensive and consistent source of heat is a profound health benefit that few of us truly appreciate.
I am also very grateful to have access to the best trauma care ever known in the world. This certainly helps increase our lifespan, but it is a relatively minor, even nearly insignificant, contribution to life expectancy. Of course, it is a major increase for the few who are affected, but that is just it--most of us do not die from acute trauma. We die long, slow deaths from chronic degenerative illnesses.
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