Is aging a disease? Well, it depends on how you look at it. It’s a natural process, so in that case, the answer is no. And yet The World Health Organization (WHO) added “aging” as a disease to the 11th edition of their International Classification of Diseases in June of 2018.
Is it fair to say aging is a disease?
In many ways, it may seem silly to call gaining a disease since it’s both universal and natural for all living creatures. However, some types of aging can be seen as pathological because they are sped up and therefore abnormal. (One example is the deterioration of the skin due to UV exposure, which can lead to rapid aging and cancer.)
Aging is also a risk factor for many diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.
But to call aging a disease would be to classify us all as constantly in a state of disease. But you can also argue that aging serves no purpose and then it seems less natural.
What’s in a disease?
Disease is seen as a deviation from the normal (at its most basic). In this sense, aging is completely normal. It may also be desirable since it tends to come with the accumulation of wisdom. However, it’s simply to argue that not every old person brings wisdom into old age.
Those who want to classify aging as a disease don’t necessarily want to valorize the youthful (after all, they have no control over their age) and will someday be old. However, calling aging a disease allows researchers to investigate its causes and, potentially, actions that might stop bodily and cognitive decline that are the hallmarks of aging.
When people die of old age, autopsies show a series of degradations in their bodies that could potentially be stopped. They are the body’s typical reaction to the passage of years, but they represent abnormal cellular functions that lead to the body growing more frail and senile. Those aren’t judgment calls but facts.
But should aging fall outside the scope of medicine? Should doctors stay away from treatments that can help reverse the effects of aging? If it’s not a disease, then technically they should not treat the symptoms.
Aging is harmful to the body no matter how you look at it. And the more we look into it, the more we see there are specific causes related to the body wearing down with age. Should we do nothing about them? If we were to reject age as a disease, then only a few researchers would be able to study it with age-related research funding. Later, only the rich would have access to aging treatments because insurance companies wouldn’t cover aging treatments. That might leave us with a civilization comprised only of the rich. — WTF fun facts
Source: “It is time to classify biological aging as a disease” — Frontiers in Genetics