Happiness Poll: Healthy Life Expectancy

Happiness Poll: Healthy Life Expectancy
How is your physical and mental health, and how does it relate to your sense of happiness? (Submitted photo)

Sometimes I ask the imaginary genie for immortality but forget to add endless health and youth. The formerly bottle-bound spirit laughs and laughs as I’m eaten away by ceaseless time, reduced ever further to an undying decrepit husk.

Other times I remember to ask for healthy immortality — and together the playful djinn and I watch the rise and fall of countless wonders.

The final leg in our exploration of happiness in the Virgin Islands concerns the longevity of health. How long will you enjoy being alive?

Let’s put aside philosophical pessimism here and assume being alive offers the possibility, even probability, of authentic happiness. (Although, if you’d like to explore the opposite, bleak viewpoint in claustrophobic depth, I would get a snorkel and sink into Thomas Ligotti’s joy-negating “A Conspiracy Against The Human Race.” It’s not a classic beach read.)

The world happiness survey listed healthy life expectancy as one of six contributors to a people’s general satisfaction with life, along with financial health, perception of corruption, freedom to make choices in your life, generosity, and social support. We’re still taking responses to each so please write to [email protected] if you care to chime in. Your name will be kept anonymous. A zero ranking is negative. Ten is tops.

The 2020 Census says Virgin Islanders are living longer than ever, which is a good thing. In the USVI, you may very likely live to be 79.82 years or older. That’s better than Puerto Rico, at 78.2 years, and quite a bit better than the British Virgin Islands, at 75.85 years.

The USVI and BVI figures might be a little squishy because of the relatively low population, which is part of the reason the world happiness survey didn’t bother polling here.

But living a long time does not equal happiness. You need health as well, the survey devisers surmised:

“More than life expectancy, how is your physical and mental health? Mental health is a key component of subjective well-being and is also a risk factor for future physical health and longevity. Mental health influences and drives a number of individual choices, behaviors, and outcomes.”

The territory’s trouble with health services is no secret, especially mental health services. Post-traumatic stress from the 2017 hurricanes and other stressors is no joke.

I’ve quietly advocated for someone opening a dental school somewhere in the VI Well-trained students could provide much-needed services at a discount. Why not gynecological, optometry, psychological, and other schools that could bring both industry and medical services to our area? Where’s your alma mater? The USVI.

Expert medical services aren’t just good for the body, they’re great for peace of mind. The St. Thomas cancer center is a great idea.

I used to get my skin checked at the Bougainvillea Clinic in Road Town. Here’s what the doctor said to me in 2001: “Stay here for a couple of years then go back to the Pacific Northwest where your skin belongs.”

More than two decades later, smothered in sunscreen, I still live in fear of skin cancer — even though most of my time is in New York these days.

It’s much harder to measure your sense of health than it is how long you live for. Happiness doesn’t come up on a blood test.

So, I’ll put it to you bluntly: How do you feel? On a scale from zero (eager to escape the relentless pain of existence) to 10 (I’m 75 and feel 15! Every day is J’ouvert!), what’s your level of physical and mental health?

Send your answers to [email protected] along with your island of residence or if you are a Virgin Islander living abroad. Your name will not be printed.

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