Posts tagged with "OECD Better Life Index"

Dying for a better life: South Koreans fake their funerals for life lessons

November 11, 2019

A South Korean healing center is offering free funerals—complete with coffins—but only to the living. The practice is believed to increase participants’ desire to live—and to provide a more optimistic perspective on daily existence. And right at the start, there is good news: The mock-funeral experience is free.

According to a report by Reuters, more than 25,000 people have participated in mass “living funeral” services at the Hyowon Healing Center in Yeongdungpo-gu, Seoul for the past seven years. At the center, the process is described as “heal-dying.”

Dozens take part in each funeral—from teenagers to retirees—donning shrouds, shooting funeral portraits, penning their last testaments, and lying in a closed coffin for around ten minutes.

Hyowon began offering the living funerals to help people appreciate their lives, and seek forgiveness and reconciliation with family and friends, said Jeong Yong-mun, who heads the healing center.

Jeong told Reuters that he is heartened when people reconcile at a relative’s funeral, but is saddened they wait that long. “We don’t have forever,” he said. “That’s why I think this experience is so important – we can apologize and reconcile sooner and live the rest of our lives happily.”

“Once you become conscious of death, and experience it, you undertake a new approach to life,” 75-year-old Cho Jae-hee, who participated in a recent living funeral as part of a “dying well” program offered by her own senior welfare center, told the news outlet.

University student Choi Jin-kyu told Reuters that, during his time in the coffin, he realized that too often, he viewed others as competitors. “When I was in the coffin, I wondered what use that is,” said the 28-year-old, adding that he plans to start his own business after graduation rather than attempting to enter a highly competitive job market.

South Korea ranks 33 out of 40 countries surveyed in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Better Life Index. Many younger South Koreans have high hopes for education and employment, which have been dashed by a cooling economy and rising joblessness.

“It is important to learn and prepare for death even at a young age,” Professor Yu Eun-sil, a colorectal cancer specialist at Asan Medical Center’s Pathology Department, who has written a book about death, the news outlet said..

In 2016, South Korea’s suicide rate was 20.2 per 100,000 residents, almost double the global average of 10.53, according to the World Health Organization.

Occasionally, Jeong Yong-mun says,he has dissuaded those contemplating suicide.

 “I picked out those people who have asked themselves whether … they can actually commit suicide, and I reversed their decision,” Jeong told Reuters.

The message of personal value resounded with Choi.“I want to let people know that they matter, and that someone else would be so sad if they were gone,” he said, wiping away tears. “Happiness is in the present.”

Research contact: @Reuters

Growth prospects: Americans are no longer taller than everyone else

March 25, 2019

For the first time in more than 200 years, U.S. citizens are “falling short of” another nationality—the Dutch— when it comes to physical stature, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

During the Revolutionary War, U.S. soldiers were a full two inches taller than their British counterparts, the news outlet notes. In World War II, they were two inches taller than the Germans. But today, Americans, and everyone else on the planet, must look up to the Dutch.

“They overtook us,” Dr. John Komlos, a professor emeritus of economic history at the University of Munich, said in a recent interview with the Journal. He is interested in height because it reflects quality of life—or, as he put it: “We find the economy goes bone deep,”

Based on data that Dr. Komlos has reviewed on white and black U.S.-born adults, the average American woman is 5 feet 5 inches tall, and the average American man is 5 feet 10 inches tall. By comparison, the average Dutch woman is 5 feet 7 inches tall, and the average Dutch man is 6 feet 2 inches tall. (Asians and Hispanics—who are shorter on average—were excluded from the study in order to better illuminate how Americans compare to Western Europeans.)

However, when it comes to income, the trend is reversed. In the United States, the average household’s net-adjusted disposable income per capita is $44,049 a year, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Better Life Index. By comparison, in the Netherlands, the average is $28,783.

Despite that income gap, Dr. Komlos told the Journal, “U.S. children are consistently behind, practically from birth.”

This becomes especially apparent when the pubertal growth spurts begin:  Between ages 8.5 and 13.5, American girls grow 11 inches. Between ages 10.5 and 16.5, American boys grow 12 to 13 inches.

But they still don’t measure up: Growth spurts in the Netherlands start later and last longer.

As for why the height of Americans has plateaued, while the Dutch continue to grow like weeds, Dr. Komlos theorizes that it is because of differences in nutrition, healthcare, and spending—but further research may be needed to identify the specific reasons.

“Average income is a very misleading indicator,” Dr. Komlos told The Wall Street Journal. “It depends on who gets that income, and how it is used. If you’re healthier, if you go to the doctor regularly, you’re likely to live longer. And you’re also likely to become taller.”

Research contact: Jo.McGinty@wsj.com