Why you should care
In 50 years, being in good health will depend upon your human connections and medicine made from your own immune system.
The first season of The Future of X, in partnership with Providence St. Joseph Health, delves into a subject that touches us all: health. Over four episodes, we explore how treating illness is becoming highly personalized, why hospitals could become obsolete, the technology that might rid us of depression and why dying is becoming more enjoyable. Subscribe now to follow The Future of X on Apple Podcasts or on OZY.com.
Can an emotion shorten your lifespan? Absolutely, says former U.S. surgeon general Dr. Vivek Murthy. Something that millions of us feel every single day has now become a pervasive medical condition, and it’s linked to arthritis, diabetes, dementia and heart disease. We’re talking about loneliness, a condition that makes you 50 percent more likely to die prematurely.
I think for the first time since surgery, immunotherapy has inserted the C-word, cure, into the dialogue of cancer.
James Heath, oncology researcher and president of the Institute for Systems Biology
Murthy warns that it can be as deadly as tobacco. “Smoking 15 cigarettes a day will reduce your lifespan to about the same extent that loneliness will,” he says. And if we don’t change the way we think about loneliness and treat it as a legitimate medical condition, Murthy warns, things could get a lot worse in the future.
So what’s the solution? Modern medical advances largely rely on technological solutions, but Murthy says the key to solving loneliness, today and in the future, is human connections. “I think we’ll see cities designed to promote interaction — cities designed, in fact, for people as opposed to just for cars, as they are largely designed now,” he predicts. Murthy envisions a future where more people understand and accept that human beings are meant to be interdependent and more connected to one another.
In the future, treating other pervasive diseases like cancer will also look a lot different than it does today. Immunotherapy is developing rapidly. It’s a form of personalized medicine in which doctors inject copies of your own immune cells, or those made in a lab, to fight against cancer cells in your body. It doesn’t work for every person or every type of cancer yet, but when it does work, it’s pretty remarkable. “I think for the first time since surgery, immunotherapy has inserted the C-word, cure, into the dialogue of cancer,” says James Heath, a longtime oncology researcher and the president of the Institute for Systems Biology.
Some experts, like Heath, believe that within 50 years, many forms of cancer will have effectively been turned into chronic diseases. They’ll still require treatment, but cancer will no longer be a death sentence. Plus, immunotherapy will also be used to treat anything that causes inflammation in the body. Clinical trials are now investigating the effects of immunotherapies on Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, stroke, heart attacks, Hepatitis C, Crohn’s disease and more.
Personalized medicine will become an increasingly powerful tool for diagnosing and treating illness in the future. But we can’t rely on new technology to stave off disease alone. Prioritizing human connection to prevent loneliness and isolation will play a huge role in the future of our health as well.
Be sure to check out OZY’s new podcast The Future of X: Health here.