The increase in life expectancy over time in industrialized countries can mainly be attributed to improvements in hygiene, housing, nutrition and medicine, which have reduced early childhood deaths as well as the significant achievements of modern health care in disease treatment.
However, when we say that people are now living longer than ever before, what this means is that people born in the early part of the 20th century (that is, today’s pensioners) are living longer (on average) than their parents. We do not yet know whether this will be the same for those children who were born later in the 20th century. There is concern that with increasing chronic diseases, today’s children may have a reduced life expectancy compared to their parents (see also the answer to this question).
Moreover, even if people born in the early part of the 20th century are living longer on average, some people are undoubtedly falling ill with hormone-related cancers, diabetes, metabolic problems, thus experiencing a reduced quality of life. As it has become more and more likely that EDCs are a contributing factor in the origin of chronic diseases [i-v], society should do everything possible to eliminate the preventable causes of disease, to reduce suffering.
Even if many of these diseases can be “managed” the societal costs of health care due to increased disease burden will continue to increase. Therefore, rather than becoming complacent about increasing life expectancy, modern environment and health policy in the 21 century should aim for the elimination of preventable diseases.
This page is part of CHEM Trust’s Hormone Disrupting Chemicals FAQ – Full list of questions here.
The next question is “Aren’t the increased trends in chronic diseases all down to our lifestyle or do EDCs play a role?“.
[i]. UNEP and WHO: “State of the Science of Endocrine Disruptors 2012” http://www.who.int/ceh/publications/endocrine/en/index.html
[ii]. A. Kortenkamp et al, “State of the Art Assessment of Endocrine Disrupters, Final report, Annex 1 – Summary of the State of the Science, 2012”
[iii]. Diamanti-Kandarakis et al., Endocrine disrupting Chemicals, An Endocrine Society Scientific Statement 2009. http://www.endo-society.org/journals/scientificstatements/upload/edc_scientific_statement.pdf
[iv]. CHEM Trust report by M. Porta and D.-H. Lee, 2012: Review of the science linking chemical exposures to the human risk of obesity and diabetes
[v]. EEA Technical report 02/2012: The impacts of endocrine disrupters on wildlife, people, and their environments, The Weybridge +15 (1996-2011) report, 2012, ISSN 1725-2237