In starting to prepare for writing Stories of Then, I thought I might write a story on Lucy, the hominid Australopithecus afarensis discovered in Ethiopia in 1974. Among a lot of really information, I came across an really good article discussing the possibility that, rather than only living to about 35 if they were lucky, some of our prehistoric ancestors may well have lived into their 70s.
All this comes about with the way that statistics are structured. When looking at life expectancy, we are looking at how long someone can expect to live from the day they are born. But what a bland statistic does not take into account is that infant mortality rates can distort an ‘average’ figure. The beginning of life is the most precarious period in a person’s life – but if they get through the first year, their chances improve greatly. And it increases every year – until, of course, they are getting into old age, where it starts to go in reverse.
Of course, even this is too simple an explanation. But it does point out that statistics need to be looked at carefully. And that they are merely a tool in the analysis of past human lives.
I don’t think there can be any doubt that more people live to an old age now due to medical advances and improved nutrition. But that doesn’t mean that no-one in prehistoric times lived to a what we consider old age.
Anyway, have a read of: The life expectancy myth and why many ancient humans lived long healthy lives by April Holloway.