I read the other day that Canada’s prosperity ranking has slipped to its lowest level in 11 years. Prosperity to me is a proxy for happiness and I’m not surprised by the findings at all. You can sense something is wrong whenever you venture outside, read or watch the news. Today a lot of people are stressed, unhappy and according to the index feel less convinced that working hard will get them ahead. They are beginning to lose hope and that is not a good thing. If that isn’t bad enough, the article goes on to say that Canadians over the last decade are struggling more with health concerns and the problem is only getting worst.
This latest news reminded me of another article that caught my attention about how life expectancy in the USA was declining, this was surprising to me as all the talk today is about increased longevity. How can people be dying earlier with all the medical breakthroughs, improved health care and new wonder drugs? Only humans could find a way to screw up a good thing! If we are not careful about how we live, we are going to be faced with the prospect of shorter, and less active retirements. That is no Victory Lap.
Here are the stats: The USA age-adjusted mortality rate—a measure of the number of deaths per year—rose 1.2 percent from 2014 to 2015, according to the Society of Actuaries. That’s the first year-over-year increase since 2005, and maybe more significant only the second time the increase was greater than 1 percent since 1980. But there’s more. Americans in their late 50s already have more serious health problems than people at the same ages did 10 to 15 years ago. University of Michigan economists HwaJung Choi and Robert Schoeni used survey data to compare middle-age Americans’ health. A key measure is whether people have trouble with an “activity of daily living,” or ADL, such as walking across a room, dressing and bathing themselves, eating, or getting in or out of bed. The study showed the number of middle-age Americans with ADL limitations has jumped: 12.5 percent of Americans at the current retirement age of 66 had an ADL limitation in their late 50s, up from 8.8 percent for people with a retirement age of 65.
At the current retirement age of 66, a quarter of Americans age 58 to 60 rated themselves in “poor” or “fair” health. That’s up 2.6 points from the group who could retire with full benefits at 65. There is a lot more research showing the health of Americans is deteriorating but I’m too depressed to report on it knowing that the same thing is happening here back home in Canada.
So what’s going on, one word Stress! Prolonged exposure to stress can lead to the development of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression as well as a multitude of health issues like chronic inflammation and heart disease. Just thinking and writing this article on stress got me stressed! It is hard to insulate ourselves because it’s all around us. Every time I hear about a politician getting caught in a lie (seems like almost a daily occurrence) and acting like it’s no big deal causes me a lot of stress. Every morning I look in the mirror and see how out of shape I am causes me stress. Just so you know I’m busy working on that. Worrying about my kids and what the world holds for them gives me stress. To be honest I’m scared for them. I caught myself thinking the other day, thank God I don’t have to go through what they are living through, thinking that way really bothered me, as parents we want to leave the world a better place for our children. What is going on with the world?
Visiting my mother in the nursing home gets me stressed and to top it off this weekend we had my sister in laws kids stay with us. On Sunday morning we were having a great time watching the Christmas movie Elf until they went to commercial break and started showing the previews for a new tv series. People were getting killed, there was blood everywhere, sex and drugs and everything else you could imagine. I thought to myself how stupid can people be showing commercials like that during a Christmas show. Thinking about what the kids were being exposed to really got me stressed. Sorry for going on a bit of a tear but it gets to me sometimes.
Prolonged exposure to stress is dangerous. It can physically change your brain and body and make it difficult for you to live life like you want to. People suffering from high levels of stress can’t sleep properly. They feel trapped and helpless, overwhelmed by what is going on around them. When we are stressed our brain signals the body to release hormones including cortisol and adrenalin. Both have been shown to negatively impact our physical and mental health if we expose our body to stress for long periods of time. Today with everything going on in the world many people may feel little control over their lives resulting in you guessed it stress causing our bodies to be fired up far too often, leading to failing health and maybe early death.
People try to find ways to cope. After dinner some just pop some popcorn, have a few drinks or whatever, find something on TV and float into la-la land in order to escape from the pain for awhile. But don’t worry help is on the way because our government is going to legalize marijuana soon. Sometimes I think they are doing that just so we don’t realize how bad things are getting. Call me cynical I’m ok with that. It’s exhausting and unhealthy to be in a constant state of fear and anxiety and we shouldn’t have to live like that especially in a country like ours. We need to make some changes.
Choose To Live Differently
Some good news is that research has shown that our brain and body have the ability to heal given the chance. The key is to create a lifestyle that focuses on your total well-being, reduce your stress and find ways to cope. We believe that continuing to do work you enjoy is part of the answer. It may be part-time work, project, or even volunteer work. The beauty of part-time work is it gives you more flexibility to do the things that really matter like being able to spend more time with a parent at the nursing home without feeling guilty. The additional active income you earn will reduce worry over possibly running out of money in retirement and better yet your work will give you a good reason to get out of bed in the morning.
There are a lot of good people out there in the world doing good things the problem is we never hear about them because the newspapers and cable stations know that bad news sells. During Victory Lap boomers have time to contribute and help out in their communities. Based on numerous conversations I’ve had with the boomer crowd most are willing to get involved and play a part. We just need to find ways to connect so we can get on the same page and use boomer power to change the world, do an acts of kindness and put a smile on someone’s face. I know it’s so simple when you think about it. Reduce the stress and help some one out.
We can all live happier and healthier lives. The choice is ours.