Compression of Morbidity: The Choice is Yours


“We have developed an attitude in this generation that disease is inevitable. We have forgotten what it is to die of old age. Science knows of no disease caused by the simple passing of time. Instead we mainly die prematurely of damage due to oxidative stress rather than old age. Our generation is living too short and dying too long in pain and suffering.”
– Dr Myron Wentz, Microbiologist, Immunologist, and founder of USANA Health Sciences.

“Live long and prosper.” – Spock

“Live long and drop dead.” – Grok

“Live Long, Die Short.” – Roger Landry

“It’s better to burn out than fade away.” – Neil Young

Have you heard of “Compression of Morbidity?”

Pay attention because the lifestyle you choose now will impact your quality of life later.

I recently encountered the term through a post on Facebook, with a friend referencing an article by Mark Stibich, PhD, called, “Compression of Morbidity: Reducing Age-Related Suffering.” Dr. Stibich says, “Compression of morbidity is a term that means reducing the length of time a person who is close to the end of life spends sick or disabled. The idea is to maximize a healthy life span and minimize the time spent less than well (morbidity literally means “being unhealthy”). The term was first coined by Stanford University professor Dr. James Fries in 1980.

For the rest of the article click here.


More and more of us are experiencing a period of morbidity during which we experience major illness and impairment. While most have had a good life, not many had what any of us would consider a “good death.” A period of morbidity is marked by living with a serious disease and debilitation, pain and suffering, immobility and weakness, in and out of hospital, often going home, bedridden, on hosts of medications with invasive procedures, doctors appointments, and stressed by the financial burden of the necessity of ongoing care in home or at a nursing home.

On the other hand, there are those who, up until the day they died, lived active, independent lives wholly on their own terms. It’s shocking for those left behind, but in the grief there is a realization that they pulled a class act by living life the way they wanted right up until the very last moment. For these blessed people, they had a short or next to none period of morbidity.

time concept, selective focus point, special toned photo f/x
We all want to slow down the passing of the sand through the hour glass, and maximize the quantity and quality of the times of our lives. But when our time is done, we want to be like that light bulb, after years of letting our light shine, to just go”Pfff,” and we’re done. Out with a bang. Out in a blaze of glory.

So it’s not just about increasing our lifespan, but increasing the time we are in robust health. While mortality -related statistics (e.g. life expectancy), are getting better, our morbidity- related statistics are getting worse. Statistics show that we’re living longer (78 years and 2 months according to the latest figures), the flip side is that other research shows we’re living fewer years disease free and more years with chronic and often debilitating disease.

As Eileen Crimmins, AARP Chair in Gerontology at the University of Southern California and co-author of the study examining morbidity and life span, observes, “There is substantial evidence that we have done little to date to eliminate or delay disease while we have prevented death from diseases…At the same time, there have been substantial increases in the incidences of certain chronic diseases, specifically, diabetes.”

Our Society has accepted the idea of aging and chronic illness with a blasé attitude. The terrible, immobile, obese shape most North Americans have degenerated to is accepted as normal. We all get old and somewhat disfunctional but decrepitation is the new norm. We shockingly accept the constraints people are routinely living with at the end of their lives. Many see middle age as a time of aging (when various ailments begin to manifest) as natural and inevitable.

Often we hear, ‘It’s my age’ (and often from people only in their 40s), or “Well you’re old, it’s to be expected.”

And we have to ask, do we accept the limitations, pain, and suffering of chronic disease more as a society because we have readily available a “fix” to treat it? You gotta know Big Pharma loves this idea. But I don’t think we can lay all the blame on doctors. Here is one doctors perspective.

“As a GP I can tell you that I would dearly love it if my patients were willing to tackle their issues with “exercise and better nutrition” but THEY DON’T LISTEN and if they listen, they still don’t comply. They want a pill. They don’t want to put forth the effort. I understand it’s hard work to stay in shape. I dedicate a fair amount of time and yes, money to it, but it’s absolutely worth it in my book. But try telling that to the average patient. They just don’t want any of it. Don’t blame the doctors!”


We have to stop blaming our age on health issues and be pro active with our health. We have to start seeing health issues as something to aggressively be addressed with exercise and better nutrition, rather than getting old. Illnesses that we think are age related are almost always preventable by effective and consistent lifestyle intervention.

I have chosen to wholeheartedly live all out in my senior years not just for longevity. If I’m blessed to enjoy a long life, so be it. But I live my life according to certain principles in order to push illness and markers of aging further and further down the road.

As Mark Sisson, author of “The Primal Blueprint” puts it, “I’m not going gently down that path of decrepitude. There’s no sense of surrender here. I’m not master of the universe, but I do have quite a bit to say about my own fate. I will embrace every particle of discipline and self-respect to live a life that I know will support my well-being and independence today and in my later years.

In the Book of Proverbs (9:11), Wisdom is speaking and says, “For by me, your days will be multiplied, and years of life will be added to you.” Perhaps Wisdom would also add that those years would be marked by a compression in morbidity.

Live in peace
Walk in love
Be Well,

Ken Waite

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