Healthcare Technology Featured Article

July 10, 2017

4 Ways Technology Is Improving Life Expectancy



It’s common knowledge that our life expectancies have increased dramatically over the past few hundred years, but not many people realize exactly how this development came to be. According to the National Institute on Aging, most babies born in 1900 never made it past 50, while today’s leading country (Japan) boasts an average life expectancy of 83, with expectancies of 81 and above for many developed countries.

Much of this life expectancy increase is due to improved technology, but what types of technologies have been most important, and how could they develop in the future?

Main Areas of Technological Development

These are the main reasons life expectancy is so high (and continues to climb every year):

  1. Information. First, the rapid spread and availability of information has been pivotal—and it’s affected all three of the other dimensions we’re going to cover. The internet is the obvious example of faster communication and higher informational availability, but don’t discount the value of phones, or the public library system. Today, it’s easy to perform a basic online search and get instant information on an affliction or injury, potentially allowing you to provide early response efforts. You can also read information on health and fitness, and find tips on how to live a healthier lifestyle. You can even use the web to find a reliable health insurance provider, and get the medical coverage you need for a lower potential price. Without that readily available information, doctors and hospitals wouldn’t be able to exchange data with each other as quickly, and the general public would be in the dark about concepts of health and longevity we forget weren’t always common knowledge.
  2. Food production and distribution. It’s also amazing how far we’ve been able to improve food availability in the world. Though we’re still struggling with poverty and world hunger continues to be a problem, the amount of total food available per capita is astonishing. In the past few generations, we’ve been able to get more nutritious, bountiful crops out of the same patches of soil, and keep that food fresher, longer, as we distribute it across the world faster than ever before. If you’re reading this, you’ll likely never have to worry about going hungry or being undernourished—and that’s something past generations could only dream about.
  3. Public health. In the developed world, it’s easy to take clean water for granted. Poor sanitation standards in developing countries leave populations vulnerable to a host of different diseases, and just a hundred years ago, it was a leading cause of illness and death. Thankfully, we’ve been able to develop fully functional, safe ways to provide water to the masses and dispose of waste properly; the challenge now is making that technology available all over the world.
  4. Medicine. Last but certainly not least, we’ve seen a massive improvement in medical technologies, from vaccines that entirely eradicate diseases to medical equipment that can ease the burden of almost any chronic condition. Medical knowledge increases with every generation, and thanks to the compounding effects of that knowledge, we have access to medicines and treatments that no single person could discover in a thousand lifetimes.

Future Developments

Across all four dimensions, engineers and researchers are constantly striving for improvement. For example, our internet speeds keep getting faster and more available to pockets of the world that previously went without. Vertical farms are pushing the limits of how much food can be produced in a given physical space. Scientists are even finding ways to fight superbugs, which are typically unfazed by modern antibiotics.

Chances are, if you’re in reasonable health, you’ll be able to live well past 50—and it’s four main realms of technology that have helped make that a possibility. Try not to take them for granted. 




Edited by Maurice Nagle




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