It seems like you can't turn on the TV without getting exposed to teenage girls with babies on their hips living their everyday lives for our entertainment and scathing critiques. If you believe Teen Mom, 16 and Pregnant or Teen Trailer Trash and the Sticky Faced Babies Who Live With Them, juvenile moms have taken the nation by storm. The lucky ones like Bristol and Whale Rider girl seem to be making out all right. The rest are usually all right, too, on account of the fact that having a baby before you hit 20 isn't exactly bone cancer.
A young mother (blue bathing suit) gives birth to a healthy girl.
The Good News
Just like traffic fatalities and Amelia Earhart sightings, teen motherhood is at the lowest it's been in over 70 years.
So, the last time the number of knocked up adolescents was this low, Joseph Stalin was Time magazine's Man of the Year and Bugs Bunny had finally found his legs. In other words, if you're a teen today, you just earned some major bragging rights over your great-great grandmother (who was probably dishing it out back in the day).
You don't show some shoulder without whipping out some ass.
So to what do we owe this good fortune? Abstinence education? All those rainbow parties Oprah said everyone kept having but no one invited us to? Literally no one knows. Some experts credit the stress of living in a recession -- as if teens are suddenly hyperaware of how hard it sucks to try to make a living with a baby. In California, they're thanking the reality shows themselves, because apparently kids had NO IDEA how hard motherhood sucked until they saw it on television.
Personally, we think generations raised on No Glove No Love finally got it through their thick skulls (and private parts) that unprotected sex has consequences.
Horrifying, toothless consequences.
For those of us raised on never-ending loops of Grumpy Old Men, Cocoon, Grumpy Old Men 2 and Bob Hope U.S.O. specials, we know that old people are the worst. They're mean, they're snippy and in the end you just end up feeling sorry for them. Their bodies are breaking down, their friends are dropping like flies and their skin looks like a coat made of Shar-Pei. What on earth is there in this scenario to be not-depressed about?
Just look at it. LOOK AT IT!
The Good News
What is there to be happy about? Lots, apparently.
At least according to a nationwide survey involving over 340,000 people between the ages of 18 and 85. Participants were asked a range of questions covering everything from their sex lives to health and finance, but the interesting part came when asked six simple yes-or-no questions: "Did you experience the following feelings during a large part of the day yesterday: enjoyment, happiness, stress, worry, anger, sadness?"
"We experienced all of that just 10 minutes ago during sex!"
Notice the survey is only covering your emotional state yesterday, not last year, not as a child or during the college years, because they didn't want respondents to look back with gin-colored glasses. Now, think about the answer for yourself. What if you answer might depend as much on your age as it does on your circumstances? Each emotion, it turned out, had its own trend. And every single trend pointed toward happier 85-year-olds than 50-year-olds. For example:
- Enjoyment and Happiness: Decreased every year until about age 50, then rose steadily until age 75.
- Stress: Declined every year from age 22 and reached its absolute lowest at age 85.
- Worry: Held steady between 18 and 50, then sharply dropped off.
- Anger: Decreases every year from 18 on.
- Sadness: Peaked at 50, hit its low point at 73.
But the sexiness never ends.
Either the Greatest Generation should be redubbed the Fakest Generation (of Liars), or life seems to get better and better for everyone.
The fact that we can even have a discussion about the quality of life for the elderly is in itself a triumph of spectacular proportions. Because through most of human history, making it to age 40 without dying of the runs was once a feat reserved for witches and Bible heroes.
"And all the days of Methuselah numbered nine hundred and sixty-nine years, with nary a case of the poops."
The fact that people with access to medicine, food and a lot more food are living longer is about as surprising as a wheezing jack-in-the-box. But that's not the good news. The good news is that, on average, everyone is better off than they were 200 years ago. And here's what's crazy: All those things that we've come to see as the villains of the last century -- globalization, corporate farming, consumerism, the rise of multinational corporations, the shift of tech jobs and the decline of American manufacturing jobs -- have been exactly what has made life better for those of us alive today.
The Good News
The numbers don't lie, according to statistician Hans Rosling. In 1810, for example, the average lifespan was below 40 in every country on the planet, and if you lived in Asia or Africa you were lucky to make it to 25. The wealth gap was a little wider, but not by much. It's like everyone was pretty much in the same boat, and that boat was called the S.S. Suck.
"You won't be needing your bags."
Then the Industrial Revolution happened and the Western nations surged ahead, in both life expectancy and income, while most of Africa, the Middle East and Asia were stuck in the suck boat. By 1915, the poorest countries in the world were exactly where they were a hundred years before, and the inhabitants of the richest countries were making thousands of dollars a year and squeaking into their mid-'50s. Thirty years later, the gap between the rich and healthy and the poor and sick was so wide you could launch a planet through it.
For what happens next, watch this:
Over the last 60 years, something extraordinary happened. Advances in agricultural output, medicine and emerging economies all converged to give the poorest countries in the world a huge boost. So, by the time we get to the last year that data was available, 2009, the gap was still pretty wide, but most countries were living in the middle, not the on the poor end. And people on the poor end (sub-Saharan Africa) were living significantly longer than they were 100 years ago, despite battling the AIDS epidemic, civil wars, drought and unannounced visits from Bono.
"RELEASE THE ACID!"
Obviously, we're not suggesting that life in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is super duper right now. Or, maybe it is, who are we to judge? What we are saying is that the trend, according to Rosling, is upward and onward, and there's no reason to think that we can't all be fabulously rich and pathetically ancient some day.
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For more reasons to punch media personalities in the face, check out 6 Subtle Ways The News Media Disguises Bullshit As Fact and 5 Things The Media Loves Pretending Are News.
And stop by LinkSTORM to see two monkeys doing it.
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