Are you feeling sad about 2016? Are you dreading what 2017 might bring with an inexperienced, unpredictable president and several impending crises at home and around the world?
Well, cheer up! Unlike what you might have read in several media end-of-the-year roundups, 2016 was NOT the Worst Year Ever. Not even close. Here are six reasons why you should feel pretty good about 2016, as opposed to almost any other point in history. I have statistics to back me up:
- Worldwide Poverty. Despite what you might have read, the poverty rate has been in steep decline for decades. According to the World Bank, 42% of the world’s population lived on $1.90 a day (adjusted for inflation) in 1981. As of 2013, that percentage had plummeted to just 10.6%.
- Violent Crime. The amount of violence in the U.S. is unacceptable and has been on the rise over the past two years. Historically, however, the crime rate is much lower than it was a few decades ago. The FBI reports that the U.S. homicide rate in 2014 was 4.5 per 100,000 people, less than half of what it was in 1980, or even as recently as 1992.
- Road Fatalities. Seat belts, airbags and other safety measures have dramatically decreased the number of people who die each year in automobiles, even though there are more cars and trucks on the road today than ever before. In 2015 there were 35,092 motor vehicle deaths, 35% less than the number of traffic fatalities in 1972.
- Life Expectancy. Life expectancy in the U.S. is 78.8 years. That’s something worth celebrating when you consider that the average American was expected to live less than 70 years as recently as 1960.
- Medical Advances. Want a specific year that was definitely worse than 2016? Try 1918. Not only was World War I winding down, but American doughboys brought disease home after the Armistice. Somewhere between 20 and 40 million people died of a worldwide influenza pandemic in 1918, including 675,000 Americans. In 2016, by contrast, roughly 36,000 Americans died of flu-related illnesses. That’s just one example of how much medicine and our quality of life have improved in the past century.
- Technology. From smartphones to automated cars to drones that may soon deliver Amazon packages to your doorstep, this is a time of rapid innovation and technological change. As Louis C.K. hilariously points out in this routine, there are numerous advances we currently take for granted today that were not even available a few years ago. Sure, the growing presence of artificial intelligence is somewhat terrifying, but technology helped make 2016 an exciting time to be alive.
So there are your six reasons. Do you feel better? Probably not. We could be—and should be—doing a much better job of treating each other with kindness and addressing the world’s problems in practical ways. Still, barring an environmental or human-made worldwide disaster, 2017 will almost certainly not be the Worst Year Ever. Just like 2016 was not the Worst Year Ever—though it often seemed that way.