Sunday, March 24, 2013

Why Asian Parents Live Longer Than Today's Generation

Asian family at the turn of the century.  (source: wikimedia commons)

Over the past few years, I have been attending the funerals of many Asian parents, the first generation of immigrants (born before World War II), who came to the U.S.for a better life, and questioned why they live longer than most of their children.  Was it because of their hard-work ethic, style of living, and less problems to deal with than today's generation?  Much of the medical studies of the Baby Boomers (the generation born 1946-1964) and after seem to support this theory.

1st Generation Asian Parents Live Longer than Their Children 

In a Journal of American Medical Association article "Baby Boomers Less Fit Than Last Generation" (March 21, 2013), their study found that the Baby Boomers are less healthy and fit than their parents.  The study found them to be more likely obese, have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and less physically active than the last generation.

The off-spring of the Baby Boomers are not faring any better now that the invention of the automobile, computers, and the deterioration of manufacturing jobs to office jobs, where sitting behind a desk for 8 hours is common for most individuals. It only gets worse when physical fitness programs for the off-spring's children are cut and the invention of the computer and video games makes this generation even more sedentary and physically unfit.

Filipino Immigrants at the turn of the century.  (photo by

Asian Parents Worked Harder, Off-Spring Work Smarter But At a Cost!  

While the parents and most of the Baby Boomers worked harder, today's generation born after 1964 is working smarter, but at a cost for a lack of physical fitness and a myriad of mental problems.  Asian parents before the Baby Boomer generation worked the land, walked more, did more jobs in-and-out of the house, and had fewer problems to think about when compared to their off-spring.

Today's Asian Americans are eating more calories and processed foods than the last generation.  In a January 2013 report by the National Institute of Healthy and conducted by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine, they found that Americans have a lesser life expectancy when compared to other high-income countries around the world.  Americans ranked dead last in a report that included 17 countries with Switzerland, Japan, Italy, Germany, and Canada among them.

The report revealed that Americans have a higher rate of:

  • Eating more calories per person
  • Obesity and diabetes
  • Drug use
  • Teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases
  • Heart disease and Lung disease
  • Arthritis and other physical limitations
  • Accidents on the nation's highways compared to their global counterparts
Most important, the majority of U.S. residents are uninsured and have less access to primary care, which greatly affects the country's life expectancy.  The study did not find a huge difference between the poor and wealthy population.  The upper-class and above groups still fell behind in life expectancy compared to their international neighbors.

Today's Asian Parents Must Change the Mindset At Home

There is a big outcry from the medical community concerning the government making widespread changes regarding the public health systems, social and economic conditions, and national health reform.  However, that change must start with individual families, who must change their mindset on being active and eating healthy.

Back then, the first generation of Asian parents, who came to America, had one goal and it was to make a better life for their children.  They saved more despite making less income than we did.  The Baby Boomers and Generation Xers (born after 1964) made life easier with technology but are less disciplined and lazier when compared to their parents, who didn't have many options to begin with.

Our first generation Asian parents never "exercised" during their time.  Their version of daily exercise was "moving" and being productive by cleaning, fixing things, garden work, and other chores.

We can't go back and undo the technology but we can learn how to manage it without "taking over our lives."   We can learn to take the stairs more.  We can learn to walk down the street to the local store or to a nearby mall instead of taking the car.  We can stop eating processed foods and go back to consuming "organic meats" with more fruits and vegetables.  We can stop emailing our co-worker in the next cubicle and go over and talk to them.  We can start leaving our phones, tablets, and computers for entertainment behind and start going on hikes or camping or other fun activities that don't involve any type of device.

For some 2nd and 3rd generation Asian parents, the change may be too much but keep in mind that its the difference between "living well" and "living healthy."

What do you think?  Did your parents live longer than expected?  Do you think with today's technology that you will outlive your parents?  Please leave your comments below.      



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