Sunday 23 September 2018

Dan O'Brien: Ignore the doom and gloom and look on the bright side

It is easy to be a pessimist, but the world is getting better. A new book makes the case for progress, writes Dan O'Brien

POSITIVE: Author Steven Pinker’s new book deserves to be widely read.
POSITIVE: Author Steven Pinker’s new book deserves to be widely read.
Dan O'Brien

Dan O'Brien

Newspapers are published on a daily or weekly basis. Imagine if they were published only once every 50 years and that today's paper contained the most significant news since 1968. What stories would be included?

Health issues would feature prominently. But rather than the coverage referring to crises of various kinds, as is usual in the media, the story would be very different. The incredible improvement in health over the past half-century would surely be one of the news items vying for the front page, given how everyone's life has been transformed by it.

Here in Ireland we have gained 10 years of life, with average lifespans expanding from 71 in 1968 to 81 today. And not only do they continue to lengthen, but most of these extra years are spent in good health. This has been brought about in large part by new and improved medicines and treatments. A growing number of illnesses which were a death sentence 50 years ago are now treatable. In many cases they are treated easily, painlessly and quickly.

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