Why do people get old

7 reasons why we are getting older

Germans are living longer and longer. Medical progress and better living and working conditions are just a few of the many reasons.

1. Growing prosperity

An international comparison shows that people live the oldest in developed and affluent countries. As a rule, the richer a country is, the better the health system is. More money is available for the medical infrastructure, for the treatment and research of diseases, but also for health education and prevention. A high level of prosperity is evidence of political and social stability at the same time: civil wars, epidemics or famines, which reduce average life expectancy in developing countries, are rare. And of course, with increasing prosperity, the living conditions of each individual also improve. This in turn increases the joy of life - an important factor for a long life.

2. Medical progress

A longer life would be unthinkable without medical improvements. This can be seen, for example, in the successes in combating infant mortality, which led to a significant increase in life expectancy at the beginning of the 20th century. Today, almost 80 percent of the increase in life is due to a drop in mortality among those over 65. Advances in the prevention and treatment of typical age-related ailments such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases are particularly decisive. The chance of surviving a heart attack has increased fivefold within 40 years. There is no end in sight to medical progress in view of the unimagined possibilities offered by genome and stem cell research, for example. For example, researchers are working on reprogramming stem cells into any cell type. This means that every person would have their own spare parts store for their body.

3. More humane working conditions

At the beginning of industrialization, workers still had to suffer great hardships. The distances to the factories were long, and the work was long and hard. There were no weekends, working hours often extended over seven days and in 1870 was up to 78 hours a week. The physical wear and tear that resulted in an early death was correspondingly great. Health and safety at work did not play a major role either, so that many workers had fatal accidents. Today the situation is completely different: With the transition to the service society, many dangerous and physically demanding jobs have disappeared. At the same time, occupational safety is a top priority: Hundreds of standards regulate the construction of workplaces and the handling of dangerous substances. In addition, people work significantly less than before and are given more and more opportunities to briefly suspend or shorten their work.

4. Healthier lifestyle

For the most part, it is in their own hands how old they get. A balanced diet, plenty of exercise and avoiding alcohol and cigarettes promote a long life. And Germans are increasingly health-conscious. For example, the consumption of vegetables per capita has almost doubled from 1935 to 97.1 kilograms today. At the same time, meat and alcohol consumption has fallen significantly since the early 1990s. Further evidence of healthier lifestyles is the decline in smokers, especially among men. While in 1978 43 percent of them still resorted to the smoldering stick, in 2013 it was less than 30 percent. At the same time, people today do more sport - even into old age. Of the approximately 210,000 people who took off a sports badge in 2014, almost one in five was 65 or older.

5. Better social care

The fact that Germans are getting older is also thanks to the comprehensive welfare system. It guarantees a decent subsistence level and protects those in need from poverty and misery. The most important providers of welfare are the statutory social insurances, the establishment of which began in 1883 under Bismarck. Until then, relief for the poor was mainly in the hands of the congregations, churches and private welfare organizations, which were overwhelmed by the increasing impoverishment of many people. The scope of benefits and insurance cover have continuously improved since Bismarck. While the expenditures of the statutory health insurance amounted to 1.7 percent of the gross domestic product in 1925, the share rose from 3.2 percent in 1960 to around 6.5 percent today. With the long-term care insurance, which was the last to be introduced in 1995, those in need of long-term care also receive benefits in kind or in cash, which enable them to lead a largely independent and self-determined life into old age.

6. Improved hygiene

The increase in life expectancy in developed countries is also due to improved hygienic conditions. Clean drinking water, extensive sanitary facilities and regulated sewage and garbage disposal have all contributed to almost wiping out dangerous infectious diseases. In the 19th century, many people in Germany still succumbed to cholera; Tuberculosis and typhus claimed numerous lives - also as a result of the Second World War - until the early 1950s. While these diseases have become almost insignificant in the western world, many people in poor countries still fall victim to them. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that water, sanitation and sanitation deficiencies are responsible for eight percent of deaths in developing countries.

7. Higher level of education

Life expectancy also increases with the level of education. Many studies show that the educated pay more attention to their health than the low-skilled. The so-called pioneers eat better, do more sport, go to preventive examinations more often, are more committed to the general public and thus have a more fulfilling life - all factors that have a positive effect on their life expectancy. Traffic accidents, murders and suicides are also much rarer among the pioneers than in the other population groups. And of course the different economic framework conditions also have an impact: A higher level of education usually means a better income, and the qualified can therefore afford better medical care. In addition, high earners have fewer livelihoods and work in less physically demanding occupations, so they are exposed to lower health risks than low-skilled workers.