Happy Fathers’ Day, 2016 , World Peace, and the Need to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
by J. Wesson Ashford, MD, PhD on 20 June 2016
On this Fathers’ Day, June 19, 2016, I would like to share a revelation that I had in college, at the University of California, Berkeley, in the anti-war days of the late 1960s. I can’t say exactly where the thought came from, but a reaction to Paul and Anne Ehrlich’s 1968 Population Bomb concept was probably in there somewhere. My youthful perspective was that World Peace could be achieved only through population stabilization. The issue to me was not how many people are in the World, but the stability of the population. When a system is stable, even growing at a sustainable rate, the problems in a system are resolved over time. The problem with the World is not so much that the population is increasing, but that the population is increasing in an unbalanced manner and at an unsustainable rate. This concept of Population Stability suggests that the reproductivity (or fertility rate per woman of child-bearing age) of all peoples of the World should be equalized. A quick examination of the wide variation of fertility rates across different countries of the World shows the validity of my sophomoric concern: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_states_and_dependent_ter...
In 2015, World fertility rate varied from 1.2 for South Korea to 7.6 for Niger. An average rate of 2.1 children would maintain a constant population. The average for the World was 2.5. Spreading the burden of having children across the families of all countries might reduce World conflicts, and balancing reproductivity at an appropriate rate around the World might lead to sustainable growth of the World population. An worthy goal might be for every country and every group of people to have a fertility rate of 2.2, though very serious study of this issue would be needed, including accounting for childhood mortality rates. How to achieve a stable, sustainable rate mathematically is challenging, but if each family attempted to have 3 children and no more, then that number might adjust for the many cases of infertility, be it biological or social. And men (fathers) could share in this responsibility with women (mothers).
In 2015, the top 20 countries, led by Japan, had life-expectancies over 80 years of age, while the bottom 25 countries had life-expectancies under 60 years of age (the US was number 34 of 194 listed countries).
There are many health issues of the World to be addressed, but the top issues are infectious disease (related to sanitation and water quality) and tobacco/nicotine dependence (heart disease and cancer). Other important issues are accidents related to intoxication (mostly alcohol), illnesses related to poor diet and lack of exercise, and psycho-social problems leading to homicides and suicides.
If the World population stabilizes and life-expectancy maximizes for all, then, the biggest residual, currently unsolved problem is dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. While mortality rates double with age somewhere between every 7.5 years for women and 8.2 years for men in the US, dementia rate doubles every 5 years. So, addressing the problem of dementia and Alzheimer’s diseases needs to be done now before the burden of elderly individuals on the World cripples every society.
As we dream of World Peace today, we must plan for the consequences and problems of the future.