The World Is A Safer Place Now Than It Was 25 Years Ago, Research Shows, Which Is Definitely Positive News
Taking one look at any news-related publication is usually enough to send your blood pressure through the roof: doom and gloom is everywhere. But when you look at things from a more careful and broad perspective, the world is a safer place now than it has ever been before, so try not to feel too down about things.
Recent evidence for widespread increased safety comes to us from the Global Burden of Diseases and Injuries (GBD) database, as analyzed by researchers at the University of Washington's Institute for Healthcare Metrics and Evaluation. This analysis, led by Dr. Juanita Haagsma, looked at almost 50 types of injury (and resulting deaths) occurring in 188 countries. It measured the state of human lifespans in "disability adjusted life years," which take into account how healthy people are during their lifetimes (instead of just how many years they manage to stay alive, in whatever shape).
Between 1990 and 2013, deaths from injuries dropped by a staggering 31 percent (which is really quite remarkable, because it's not like 1990 was the dark ages to begin with). Road injuries caused the most deaths (29 percent of the total number of deaths), but this may be attributable to increased availability of transportation because cars themselves are getting safer.
The next most common causes of injury were self-harm (including suicide) and then falls. Interpersonal violence came in fifth, accounting for less than nine percent of the injuries recorded. Though such violence remains at a higher level in Sub-Saharan Africa than in Europe, for example, the levels are still declining (if slowly) in the former.
Of course, none of this is to deny that certain places and people continue to be affected by seriously unsafe conditions.
These figures didn't include the human toll of disease, which is complicated because first-world life has cured some diseases but created other ones. But this new evidence is actually just one study amongst many showing that the world is generally less dangerous than it used to be. The proximate causes of danger change from era to era, and different societies experience progress in fits and starts, but things are improving overall.
Of course, none of this is to deny that certain places and people continue to be affected by seriously unsafe conditions. It would hardly be any consolation to the victims of the recent Paris attacks to point out that the odds of that having happened were slim, for instance. And unsafe conditions aren't always dramatic: America's white middle class has been dying prematurely for a while now, and it took academics quite some time to notice.
But the doomsayers, who argue that modern life (including urbanization, alienation, and the like) is getting worse by the minute, are wrong. When you look at the situation from an empirical perspective, it is very difficult to find any objective measure upon which life is consistently getting worse across the board for humankind. The world is getting richer, and though wealth and technology bring new challenges, they also bring the means to solve many of the old ones.
Images: Mr Korn Flakes/Fotolia, Giphy