According to new studies using data from the World Health Organization from the last thirty years, more and more people are dying from brain disease, and that these disorders may be striking people earlier in life than we thought. Researchers from the Bournemouth University found that neurological deaths are up (in people over 75) since 1979, and that different forms of dementia are affecting people about ten years earlier than expected, when they are in their 40s and 50s.
In a piece written for the Guardian, Colin Pritchard, one of the head researchers, called the studies controversial. One interpretation of the results is that the new-fangled world we live in is killing us. One newspaper ran the researchers' story under the headline "Modern living leads to brain disease," which Pritchard calls "somewhat simplistic."
But if our environment is what's making us sick in the 21st century, what are the new suspects? Pritchard ticked them off: air travel may be exposing us to more air pollution; our phones and devices give off more background radiation; there's pesticides in our food. That all may be true, but it's important to remember that Pritchard's study is an exercise is statistics. Yes, it may be true that neurological deaths have doubled in over 20 countries—but it is not clear that we have any idea what's caused the spike.
Still, Pritchard's overall message is worth repeating: as we continue to make changes to our physical world, those changes can also have real-life consequences for our health. "We are beginning to acknowledge the human impact on the natural world, but forget that we are part of the natural world, too," wrote Pritchard. We heard that.
[via the Guardian]