Friday, April 04, 2008

U.S. male life expectancy depressed... us too?

Robert Roy Britt's cheery April 3 story for offers this advice for men looking to live longer: Be born in Iceland.

Iceland, it seems, has taken over from Japan as the country where men live longest. The biblical threescore and ten is extended to 79.4 years in Iceland these days, compared to 78.6 years for men in Japan. (Japanese women live longest of all, Britt says -- fourscore and six years, or nearly a full Gettysburg.)

American men, however, have a life expectancy of 75.2 years. (The average for American men and women together, Britt reports, quoting an earlier column by Christopher Wanjek, is "about 78 years, which is lower than Cuba’s and marginally [above] Slovenia, according to United Nations figures.")

I'm in the middle now of Arlen Specter's account of his recent battle with Hodgkin's disease, Never Give In. Specter, a Republican senator from Pennsylvania, believes that the cumulative stress of a hotly contested primary and difficult general election, closely followed by an unusual struggle to ascend to the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, contributed to the onset of his disease.

I believe him.

Not so many months ago, as I was struggling to rebuild my business following last year's cancer surgery, my physician noted that my blood pressure was alarmingly high. He wanted to write a prescription for pills to bring it down. "I don't need pills," I told him, "I need about $50,000 to catch up. If you can write me a prescription for that, my blood pressure will normalize immediately."

He wouldn't do it. A few months went by, my blood pressure was still high, and I had to start taking pills. Now... well... there may be a whole new round of issues on the horizon, the consequence of either blood pressure too high for too long or of unhappy consequences of taking the new medication. But the root cause -- debt -- is still present. I can chip away at it, and am doing so, but only if I remain healthy enough to work. It is a vicious cycle.

And work was Senator Specter's prescription, too: I'm just getting into the part of the book where he discusses continuing with his Senate duties even while doing necessary chemotherapy.

But there is a distinction that must be made between healthy work and debilitating stressful work. Work can -- though it too often does not -- result in feelings of satisfaction and self-worth that help a person focus on things besides medical problems. That's what Specter is talking about in his book. As a member of the Senate, Specter can accomplish, and find satisfaction in, all sorts of things.

Stress, on the other hand, is caused by things you can't control. For me, work and stress have too often been synonymous -- the client who won't pay, the opponent who is unreasonable.... (My heart is going 240 just thinking about it.)

I hate to say it, but I suspect I'm more the norm than Senator Specter: Too many people find no satisfaction in their work, but only stress. We're depressed, and our life expectancy is depressed as well.

I'll try and come back before the end of the day with something cheerier. But I make no promises.


landgirl said...

I wish I could wave a magic wand and take away the stress. I recently had a friend with whom I do tai chi tell me that she put herslf into her meditative state in the doctor's office and he watched her blood pressure go down. I know all kinds of folks offer all kinds of chan itng and meditation and yoga and such like and the answer is they all or any of them work to help you break that vicious cycle if only for a little while to give your body a break.
And don't tell me you don't have the time--you could do a little meditation quite discreetly while you wait for a client to show up or a judge to come back from recess or wherever they go. I hope I don't mean to sound naggy (Shouldn't that word really be nag-ous?) If I can't sell meditation, perhaps I'll at least get a little smile out of you?

Cristina said...

Yes, I think we all have that happen to us. Work=stress Instead of living to work most of us work to live. I love Landgirl's suggestion of meditaion & yoga altough I don't know how to do either one. But here's another one. That mountain of debt...put it in perspective. I learned this when my mother passed away...Her debt is hers and no one elses. When she passed away so did the debt. In other words, don't kill yourself to get out of debt (yes, be responsible and make the payments but just don't worry about the mountain) it will disappear with you and you don't want to hurry that along so just don't sweat it. I mean it's a mountain so you don't consider it small stuff but it really is because there is little more than what you are already doing that you can actually do about it. SO, be happy with your efforts and let the worry about the rest go - THAT will bring the blood pressure and everything else down with it and you can get back to enjoying life.
Does that make any sense?

Shelby said...

This must be the week to write about stress. In my sphere of influence this week, my teenage son overdrew his bank account to the tune of 800 bucks. Then, because his account was tied to my account - guess whose money the bank took to cover the fees. Mine.

I'm gonna give you time now to blink for a second.

Remember that gutteral scream you had a while back when your daughter had a wreck on the way to school--'cept not exactly on the correct route to school? I screamed kinda like that.

I'm now a few days later into it, and have finally caught my breath enough to breathe regularly.


Specter's book sounds very intriguing. Thanks for the tip. And here's wishing you get your fifty K soon.

I think your doctor might write a prescription for the money about the same time my son pays me back.

Ellee Seymour said...

Hey Curmudgeon, how extraordinary. I've just written about how men ar more likely to die within 12 monts after a spouse dies rather than women who lose their partner. They do seem to get a rough deal.

Patti said...

Us girls do seem to last longer, sorry Mr. Curm.
Have you been to a senior center lately?

98 percent of the membership is female.

rdl said...

I can relate. maybe we should buy some lottery tickets.