Hunter gatherers lived long without modern healthcare.
Hunter-gatherers live nearly as long as we do but with limited access to healthcare
Modern life has many benefits. Transport, comfy furniture, smartphones, TV, the internet, dentistry and advanced medicine would be at the top of most people’s lists. Our bodies also show signs of responding positively to modern life. In almost every part of the world, we are much taller than we used to be. We also live much longer, with life expectancy inching towards 80 in many wealthy countries, while everyone “knows” ancient humans usually died in their twenties. But what I discovered while researching my book, is that things are more complex than that.
Being taller may be linked to higher social status and statistically linked with higher earnings (meaning easier access to healthcare), but a variety of papers show that being shorter has advantages when it comes to longevity. As urban populations grow quickly in height (Europeans have grown about five inches in the last two centuries), the effect on lifespan is unlikely to be wholly positive.
The other claim is that we live much longer than we used to. If life expectancy in ancient Greece and Rome was anything to go by, then early city life was brutal, killing off its inhabitants by about the age of 30. All the diseases that occur in environments with poor sanitation or where large numbers of people live in close proximity, thrived in those cities. If we are to compare ourselves to those early city dwellers, then our life expectancy is undeniably much greater.
As a species, though, we have not been living in cities for very long at all. If you were to compress the lifespan of hominid species (2.3m years) into a nine-to-five working day, then cities don’t arrive until after 4:59 pm. Except for the few thousand years of agriculture that preceded those big cities, the rest of our time on Earth has been spent hunting and gathering.
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