There’s usually a lot of naysaying when it comes to the state of the world, but, in fact, it’s in much better shape than most people believe. There are, of course, problems, and it’d be wronger than wrong to suggest that everything is perfect. But when it comes to overall safety, education, and health — three pretty big areas that humanity should be getting right — we’re getting quite a lot of it right. You would much rather be treated in today’s world than at any other point in history. So what is it about the world that’s pushing us towards improved physical and mental health? Below, we take a look at some of the advancements we’ve made in recent years.
Part of the reason why simply surviving was such a challenge in the past was that there was little to no sanitation services available. When you drank water, you’d also be consuming any number of diseases, one of which might be enough to cause serious harm. As humanity has progressed, so has the quality of our water. Access to clean water has improved significantly in recent years, though it’s not perfect — there are still more than 800 million people who don’t have access to safe drinking water.
We are standing on the shoulders of giants. Everything that people before us have learned, we now understand. Thus, one simple reason why people are generally moving to a healthier life is that they have a greater awareness of the things that can do them harm. We understand, for example, that smoking will cause significant damage to your body, as will eating too much junk food. These are things that people had to learn through trial and error — it took some time before people make the link between the two (and even then, it was sometimes concealed, as in the case of smoking). This is worth keeping in mind when it comes to how we live now — what aspect of modern life will turn out to be damaging to our health?
Illnesses and disease don’t just materialize. While some are genetic factors, many are a result of lifestyle factors, or, at least, they’re influenced by them. Because many of us understand this, we take steps to make sure we have a lifestyle that’s beneficial to our health. We don’t do those things that we know are bad for us, such as smoking or drinking, to excess. We make sure that we get a dose of exercise and sunlight each day. Individually, these things won’t necessarily do all that much, but once you group them together, you’ll be on your way to improved overall health. All these little micro-improvements, once spread over the world, have made humanity healthier. Similarly, if a person is walking down a bad health path, a doctor can offer lifestyle advice that’ll keep the problem at bay.
There’s another reason why people are healthier than in the past: professionals and citizens alike have begun to take certain conditions more seriously than they did in the past. This is especially the case when it comes mental health issues, which in the past were treated as if they were phantom illnesses, or all in the patient’s head (which they are, but that doesn’t make them less real). It’s not just the attitude towards these illnesses that have changed, either — we’re beginning to recognize that different communities have different problems. There cannot be a “one size fits all” approach, since these issues differ depending on background, location, and so on. One example of the advancements made in this area can be seen in the work of Cynthia Telles, who has worked to improve access to mental health services specifically for the Latino community, a demographic that has historically been underrepresented in this field. Essentially, experts are adopting a broader thinking approach, which leads to better, more individualized care for the patient.
Higher Cleanliness Standards
It wasn’t just the methods of treatment that were an issue in the past; it was the general standards, especially when it comes to things like cleanliness. Even now, there are many people who end up in worse health after a visit to the hospital, purely because the conditions weren’t as clean as they needed to be, and they picked something else while they were there. This is beginning to change, however, with better practices now implemented in hospitals to prevent this type of issue.
Advancements in Technology
We can debate well into the night about whether smartphones, video games, and other technologies that contribute to “waste time” are a good or bad thing. But there’s one area where technology has made — and will continue to make — a positive impact, and that’s healthcare. Technology has allowed us to make faster diagnoses, more specific surgical operations, and even manage illnesses that were once considered unmanageable. With the rise of gene editing, we may see many debilitating illnesses consigned to history in the near future, too.
Containment of Disease
People can lead generally healthy lives, but then run into a difficulty very quickly — they catch a disease. And then they pass it onto someone else, who then spreads it elsewhere, and on and on. Before we know it, the whole community is sick! Or at least, that’s how it used to be. Now, we have a better understanding of how we can keep diseases at bay. The act of washing your hands after visiting the bathroom and before handling food may sound obvious to you now, but that hasn’t always been the case.
Humans used to be much stronger than they are now. If you had an arm wrestle with someone from caveman times, you’d lose, it wouldn’t be close. But they were using their bodies every day, as a means of survival. We don’t. But we do have the option of staying active, and many of us make the most of it. In the old days, the only method of staying fit was work — but look now. There is any number of sports you can try your hand at! A byproduct of, say, playing soccer or squash is that you get fit and healthy. And once people feel themselves getting stronger, they usually keep it going. We have the time, resources, and incentive to stay active: this wasn’t always the case!
Some people have a bleak view of the future. They think the world is moving in a troubling direction. However, if you were offered the chance to transport to a random point into the future, or a random point into the past, you should always select the future. Aside from the fact that the world is becoming more tolerant than it was in the past, we’re about to see a great leap forward in the world of healthcare. The rise of artificial intelligence, for example, will have a hugely positive impact on the world. Even forgetting AI and other tech, there’s still much to look forward to — those scientists are doing great work. Did you know that sometime in the next couple of decades, nearly all cancers will be curable? This — and other advancements — will be an astonishing achievement!
There are some aspects of the modern world that, OK, aren’t all that great. But if you only focus on the bad sides of life, you’ll forget to see all the positive aspects. When we’re talking about health, there’s no doubt about it: we’re definitely living in a fortunate age.