...The research pages this week happen to have an emphasis on men. The best news is that men who increase their exercise in middle age increase their longevity (after a lag of 10 years) over those who continue to be inactive (doi:10.1136/bmj.b688). Less good news, however, comes from two research papers from China: China has too many men (doi:10.1136/bmj.b1211) and those who live to become old and frail die uncomfortably (doi:10.1136/bmj.b1175). Matthew Dupre and colleagues, the authors of the second paper— and our editorialist, Zhanlian Feng (doi:10.1136/bmj.b601)—talk of the challenges: "an unbalanced population structure and a rapidly aging population is straining the traditional family orientated system of care." But it is not only China that is facing those pressures.
According to Nicholas Christakis, the whole world faces them too (doi:10.1136/bmj.b1534). In his Observations column he lists shifts in the sex ratio, age structure, and kinship systems as three of four important changes in world society (the other is income distribution). He warns that in focusing on environmental threats, we should not overlook that we need to pay as much attention to "who, and not just what, surrounds us."
Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b1548