5 Ways We Are Destroying Ourselves

7 min read
Destroying Ourselves

If your idea of taking care of yourself is only adding two candy toppings to your ice cream sundae, then you are reasonably representative of the modern American. Our awful lifestyles are causing our bodies to fall apart in all sorts of bizarre ways. Sit up (if you can) and take note of how …

5. Modern Men Have Significantly Weaker Grip Strength Than Previous Generations

Grip Strength

The Journal Of Hand Therapy, which is a real scientific publication and not a sophisticated pornographic magazine, found a significant decline in the grip strength of healthy men aged 20-34 compared to data on men from 1985. Grip strength is a measure of how much force you can apply to an object — say, something firm and cylindrical — and there’s been a drop from 117 to 98 pounds.

The sample sizes weren’t ideal in terms of representation, but they align with the results of other recent inquiries, like the fact that children are less physically fit than they were 30 years ago. While that gives your email-forwarding grandma plenty of ammunition about kids these days, the real takeaway is that our weaker hands and wimpier children seem to correspond with today’s more sedentary lifestyles. There are a lot more men whose jobs involve sitting in front of a computer all day than there were in 1985, when manual labor was more common. Grip strength is accordingly weaker (and asses are accordingly fatter).

This doesn’t mean that America is experiencing a crisis of masculinity that can be solved by weekend lumberjack getaways, but the country’s army of office drones could definitely benefit from hitting the gym more. Grip strength is a strong predictor of later life mortality (as in, whether you make it to a stately 85 or drop dead of a heart attack at 60), and weaker grip strengths imply an overall trend of less physical activity. So now you don’t need your doctor to tell you that you need more exercise — anyone you meet can tell you after you offer them a handshake and they’re left unconvinced that you even made contact.

4. Contemporary Life Is Bad For Our Hearing

Hearing Aid

We associate hearing loss with the elderly. The only time the rest of us give it any thought is when we’re considering faking it in order to get out of having to make small talk with a grocery store clerk. But one in four Americans show signs of hearing loss. It’s the country’s third most chronic health problem (behind long-running titleholder cancer and its perpetual challenger, diabetes).

85 decibels is generally considered a threshold for noise that can do permanent damage, although some health advocates argue that an environment where noise levels are as low as 70 decibels is optimal for daily life. But the problem is that you probably have no idea what the hell constitutes 70 or 85 decibels, and you’d be far from alone.

We generally assume that you can only damage your hearing in places like concerts or construction sites, but gyms, restaurants, traffic, and other daily environments can easily crack that 85-decibel mark. Even phones, when cranked to their maximum volume, can blast out 100 ear-annihilating decibels (a typical nightclub hits 110), so watch your bedtime YouTube consumption.

Hearing naturally declines with age, although that decline is, well, declining. It’s likely because of a drop in those grip-strengthening manufacturing jobs, as well as healthier habits like less smoking and more use of ear protection. But there is a concern that modern urban design is failing to factor in the hubbub of daily life, and that the average person, unaware of the seriousness of the problem, isn’t taking steps to protect their ears.

The World Health Organization even considers hearing loss an “underestimated threat,” as if our long-neglected Matchbox 20 albums are going to sneak up and deafen us in our sleep. So be the nerd who wears earplugs at a concert. You’ll thank us when you’re 65 and can still understand what people are saying to you. Or can at least still hear them, anyway.