Tag Archives: Health

America’s Miserable 21st Century

In Commentary, Nicholas Eberstadt recounts how low employment, deteriorating health, and declining social mobility in the United States foreshadow a “Miserable 21st Century.”

  • Between 2000 and 2016, the work rate for Americans aged 20 or older fell by almost 5 percentage points, to 60 percent.
  • In the “prime working age” group, it fell by almost 4 percentage points.
  • While work rates for men had been falling for much longer, a similar decline for prime age women set in in 2000.
  • Death rates for white men and women aged 45–54 rose slightly since 2000; they increased sharply for the subset with high school or lower education.
  • In 2016, life expectancy at birth in the US fell for the first time in decades.
  • By 2013, more Americans died from drug overdoses than from either traffic fatalities or guns.
  • Alan Krueger’s research suggests that about 50% of prime working-age male labor-force dropouts take pain medication on a daily basis.
  • This group spends its time watching TV, movies, or playing video games, and many take drugs.
  • The “welfare state” (Medicaid) helps the unemployed pay for their drugs.
  • In 2013, roughly 20% of civilian men aged 25–55, and roughly 50% of non-working prime-age people were Medicaid beneficiaries.
  • Roughly 60% of the non-working prime-age male non-Hispanic population collected disability benefits.
  • While the U.S. has a higher incarceration rate than almost any other country, only few of the Americans ever convicted are incarcerated. “Maybe 90 percent of all sentenced felons today are out of confinement,” due to release, probation, or parole, adding to a stock of roughly 20 million people.
  • Geographical mobility and job churning are in decline.
  • Chances of surpassing one’s parents’ real income are lower than ever before in postwar America.

Global Disability is Rising

A study published in The Lancet argues that

[t]he transition to non-fatal outcomes as the dominant source of burden of disease is occurring rapidly outside of sub-Saharan Africa.

The Economist summarizes the findings as follows:

… back pain causes the greatest burden in rich countries with ageing populations. Depression often tops the list in poorer, younger ones. Anaemia heads it in some destitute or war-torn states, where food shortages are common. Conversely, in some sedentary and prosperous parts of the Middle East diabetes is of most concern.

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Simplify Your Life

Self-help manuals are for the rest of us what the airport bookstore bestseller on the latest management fad is for businessmen. They promise novel perspectives on fundamental questions but typically leave the reader disappointed. Past the enticing introductory chapter with interesting examples, the novel perspectives all too often reduce to new semantics without substantive value added. But then, there might be exceptions.

To “simplify one’s life” is a prominent search term on the web and the topic of many websites, blog posts and books. If popular search engines identify the most relevant contributions then a handful of top ranked sites should contain most of the pertinent information. So here is a selection of top ranked sites and their suggestions for simplifying one’s life.

becomingminimalist lists 10 most important things to simplify, namely

  • possessions; time commitments; goals; negative thoughts; debt; words; artificial ingredients; screen time; connections to the world; and multi-tasking

while Slow Your Home offers 21 mostly rather down to earth suggestions:

  • Perform a clutter bust; practice gratitude; rearrange your living room; add some life with indoor plants; keep your dining table surface clear; use the “good” tableware and glasses; create white space; prepare yourself for the morning; find storage for your kitchen appliances; create secondary storage for pantry items; meal plan!; make your bed each and every day; start an exit drawer; start a donate box; check your mindset; get your finances in order; be accountable by recording your simplifying efforts; declutter your wardrobe; daily meditation; start with acceptance; and unplug.

Zen habits suggests 72 steps but helpfully boils the list down to 2 points:

  • Identify what’s most important to you; and eliminate everything else.

The blog also recommends Elaine St. James and her book Simplify Your Life.

Other sites proceed more systematically and for that very reason, strike me as more convincing. wikiHow devotes a chapter to simplifying one’s life and lists four “methods” and corresponding actions:

  1. Eliminating clutter: Decide what stuff is unnecessary; do quick cleans; do big cleans every season; shrink your wardrobe; stop buying new things you don’t need; downsize (have a small but comfortable home and learn to live with less); create white space; and make your bed every day.
  2. Getting organized: Plan what you can, or embrace your inner chaos; split household chores evenly; streamline your finances; find a place for each thing; prepare quick meals; and simplify your parenting.
  3. Simplifying Your Relationships: Identify bad relationships and end them; make the effort to spend time with people you like; learn to tell people “no;” spend more time alone; and spend less time on social networking.
  4. Slowing Down: Put your phone away; stop reading self-improvement manuals, books, and blogs; work from a manageable to-do list; declutter your digital packrattery; do one thing at a time; leave your work at work; and meditate for 15 minutes each day.

mindbodygreen offers the most concise advice suggesting five simplifying steps:

  • Evaluate your relationships and those that are draining you; disconnect—fully—for one hour a day (at least); sweep every corner of your home; get really, really quiet; and shred your “To Do” list, and make an “I Want” list.

The international bestseller How to Simplify Your Life: Seven Practical Steps to Letting Go of Your Burdens and Living a Happier Life thoroughly covers the topic—from clearing off one’s desk to cleaning up one’s life. It proceeds in seven steps:

  1. Simplifying stuff: Desk; office; apartment; remembering things.
  2. Personal finance: Relax, be optimistic; fewer things, more money; no debt; courage; wealth is in the eye of the beholder.
  3. Time: Focus; less than perfect; say “no”; slow down; hide.
  4. Health: Happiness; flow; fitness; food; sleep.
  5. People: Networking; parents; death; no envy; don’t judge.
  6. Relationship: Talk; no drama; work-life; sex; plan for old age.
  7. Self: Your objective; strengths; no bad conscience; enneagram.
  8. The book’s new edition also features spirituality: Spiritual place; pray; empower routine work; engage your soul.

Now go and simplify or stay messy at your own peril.

More sites: Think simple now. The Art of Simple. Simple Chic. (See also minimalism, DAISY.)