Other Free Encyclopedias » Medicine Encyclopedia » Aging Healthy - Part 3 » Longevity: Social Aspects - Survival Curves, Rectangularization Of Mortality, Mortality By Cause, Longer Lives And Better Health, Factors Related To Mortality

Longevity: Social Aspects - Factors Related To Mortality

genetic health risk increases diseases

A large range of factors exert strong impacts on the prospects of longevity, including social, economic, cultural, psychological, biological, public health, and medical characteristics. The public health and medical communities have reduced or prevented many infectious diseases: diphtheria, measles, and typhoid fever have declined substantially, and smallpox has been eradicated (Link and Phelan). Biomedical interventions have prolonged life through such developments as pharmaceuticals, surgery, transplants, and other technological developments.

Biological research has also taught us more about genetically linked diseases. The methods of recombinant DNA have led to the familial tracking of cancer genes, including breast cancer; to the tracking from person to person of infections, including HIV and tuberculosis; and to the detection of both viral and genetic components in insulin-dependent diabetes (Susser and Susser). New developments uncovered by the human genome project promise future increases in life expectancy.

Health behaviors also influence longevity. Cigarette smoking is considered the single most important preventable determinant of mortality in developed nations. Cigarette smokers experience a mortality gradient: as the number of cigarettes smoked increases, the risk of death increases. The immense mortal effects of cigarette smoking in U.S. society will continue through much of this century, with literally millions of lives prematurely lost due to cigarette smoking (Nam et al.).

Heavy alcohol use also increases the risk of death via accidents and violence and through certain organic diseases. However, moderate drinking has been shown to have a beneficial effect on health and survival from circulatory diseases (Rogers et al., 2000). Some studies have shown other health behaviors, particularly exercise frequency, to be related to mortality risk. Even as we identify behavioral risk factors, individual habits are often so deeply entrenched that knowledge of this increased risk does not always motivate change. For example, even though obesity is known to increase the risk of death, the prevalence of obesity in the general population has been increasing.

Socioeconomic status can increase longevity by providing both knowledge about health risks and ways to avoid them, and the means with which to manage risks and undergo treatment (Link and Phelan). High socioeconomic status is often coupled with beneficial health behaviors. Other important factors that increase longevity include favorable social ties—to family, friends, and the community; stable mental health; and religious involvement.

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