Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 82.djvu/385

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381
THE LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY

THE LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY AS A DYNAMIC IN THE MOVEMENT FOR PHYSICAL WELFARE
By EUGENE LYMAN FISK, M.D.

MEDICAL DIRECTOR, POSTAL LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, NEW YORK

THE average careless liver, although he may be perfectly willing to swallow some "magic" elixir, exhibits uneasiness tinged with suspicion when approached on the subject of prolonging his life by means of adjusting him to his environment. He is more than likely to regard the span of life as fixed by some immutable, if not divine, law, and while comfortably optimistic about attaining the limit fixed by such law, cherishes but little hope of "beating the game." In other words, that convenient individual, the "man on the street," is sceptical about materially prolonging his life without surrendering some of the indulgences which he thinks make life worth living. It is this attitude of mind which leads him frequently to characterize the health-reformer as a "kill-joy," who is "against everything." Now it is unquestionably true that the health-conservation activities that have lately arisen in a few of the leading life-insurance companies have for their business object a mere mathematical increment to the years of life. Indeed, the only legal warrant for the expenditure of the policyholders' money in this work is the probability of attaining such a result, and thereby lowering the cost of insurance. But it is far from the minds of those directing this new force for human betterment, to advocate a mere niggardly or parsimonious hoarding of existence, without regard to its quality, color or meaning. The real warfare is against needless misery, preventable disease, mental and physical inefficiency, and the pitiable handicaps that not only shorten life, but take out of it the color and the satisfaction that make it worth living. Using the term in no sinister Nietzschean sense, the superman should not only live long, but live well, deriving his joy in life from the normal hormones circulating in his tissues, and not from the fleshpots or narcotic indulgences of our friend the careless liver. The prolongation of life is the end that justifies the financial expenditure, but the immediate work in hand is to make life more livable.

Let it be understood, then, that the health-conservationist who is not himself in need of mental hygiene is "against" many things, in favor of many things, and out to kill only the kind of "joy" that kills.

The belief that the death-rate, especially among selected insured lives, is a fixed quantity, is still held by many experienced insurance