I would like to apologize on behalf of men everywhere for not dying sooner. You see, according to USA Today, men are at fault again for having the temerity to live longer than they should.
Let me explain. Yesterday I saw the headline in USA Today: WOMEN LAG IN LIFE-SPAN GAINS. The article went on to point out that over the twenty years from 1989 to 2009 men’s life expectancy increased by 4.6 years on average, while women’s went up only by 2.7 years. Open and shut case, surely – yet again our male-dominated society discriminates against women by depriving them of extra life.
Well, not really. You see, even after this increase in male life expectancy, men were reported in this same article to die on average at 76.2 years, versus 81.3 for women. In other words, men die on average FIVE YEARS earlier than women. Back in 1989 it was SEVEN YEARS.
The USA Today article went on to point out the areas where women were at a disadvantage to men, and where presumably we needed to make more investments to “redress the balance”. Women, for instance “aren’t as encouraged by their doctors to get medication to ward off heart disease”. So the conclusion of this article could be summed up as follows:
Men now die on average five years earlier than women rather than seven years earlier, so we need to work harder on women’s health so that men can die seven years earlier again.
I despair of our society if this is the standard of journalism today. My only question is whether this ridiculous article is the result of an inbuilt liberal bias that anything that appears to benefit men more than women must inherently be unfair, and must therefore be criticized, or whether journalists are so poorly educated and incapable of simple critical reasoning and questioning that they don’t know how to draw pertinent conclusions from basic data.
If the situation were reversed you can bet the headline would have been something like “POOR PROGRESS IN WOMEN’S HEALTH”, with the article lambasting the health industry for not making more progress to equalize life expectancy between the sexes. If you’re male these days you really are damned either way.
Still, had the (unsurprisingly female) writer of this pathetic piece wanted to dig a little deeper, beyond the knee-jerk “unfair to women” thesis, she might have asked some more interesting questions:
Why do men die so much earlier than women? Are men destined to die earlier, or have we just become accustomed to this norm, so that we no longer question it? Is the difference connected to the difference in typical lifestyle? Did fifty years of hard manual labor, or serving in military combat, or the high stress of management, underlie men’s earlier demise?
You might hypothesize that there had to be a reason that men died so much earlier, and that it could very well be related to what they did. Men used to do most of the hard manual work. They fought and died in wars. They dealt with most of the heart attack inducing work stress. They wore themselves out and died sooner. But times are changing – for a start there is much less manual work, and women make up a far greater proportion of the workforce. As women do more of what men used to do you might expect that they would start to have a similar life expectancy. Of course these women are not the majority, so the seven year life expectancy gap hasn’t been erased overnight.
Another pertinent point is that you can only measure life expectancy after people die. So people who died in 2009 were (on average) born in the 1930s. They grew up in the war years, and worked during the 1950s, 60s and 70s. During this period the shifts in employment patterns above hadn’t really taken hold. We still built cars by hand, and fat businessmen smoked in the workplace. If there really is an influence of work on death you won’t see the real impact on the relative life expectancies until the generation of men and women who worked during these more enlightened times start to die off in numbers.
So had USA Today wanted to peel even the first layer of this data and ask some questions they might have titled their article “CHANGING WORK NARROWS GENDER LIFE GAP”.
But don’t hold your breath waiting for that article. I don’t blame USA Today – their audience has the attention span of a mayfly, has been brought up on a diet of simplicity and pre-digested facts, and doesn’t want to be bothered with inconvenient uncertainty. Much better to serve them a simple fact-conclusion combination with no side of debate. It’s just worrying that this is the level of thinking which is drip-fed to a population which we then expect to go out and vote, based on painting-by-numbers conclusions, hand-fed to them by a liberal press.
In the meantime I intend to go out and have a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs. I might die sooner, but that will be good for the statistics. USA Today will, I am sure, applaud my selfless efforts on behalf of women everywhere.
Copyright © 2012 Edward Bison