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How Aging Became a "Disease"—and a Huge Business

Trying to look younger and prevent aging has become an $511 billion a year business [as of 2022]. According to a book by Arlene Weintraub titled Selling the Fountain of Youth: How the Anti-Aging Industry Made a Disease Out of Getting Old—And Made Millions.According to an article based on this book, "The anti-aging phenomenon started off with good intentions. Baby boomers were getting older and didn't like what they saw or how they felt." In 1990 the New England Journal of Medicine claimed that human growth hormone (HGH), which was previously used to treat growth disorders in children, could be used to reverse aging. Adults latched on to this news like "junkies." Then, in 1993 a number of doctors started injecting themselves with HGH. A little later these doctors started opening clinics where patients could learn to inject themselves with HGH (for thousands of dollars of course).

Today supermarkets and drugstore aisles teem with bottles adorned with the words "anti-aging." In 2023 Botox sales topped $18 billion. Anti-aging "institutes" have also continued to expand their client base. According to one anti-aging company president, these products comprise "the perfect example of a service you're not going to give up in a bad economy."

What's driving this quest to find, bottle, sell, and ingest a modern-day fountain of youth? The answer might be found in this book's subtitle—How the Anti-Aging Industry Made a Disease Out of Getting Old. Sadly, for many people in our culture, getting old isn't an opportunity to grow in wisdom and grace; it's a "disease."

Editor’s note: Statistics were updated as of March 2024

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