The uncertainty of “Brexit”, an ongoing refugee crisis and the loss of some beloved stars such as David Bowie and Alan Rickman are just a few of the reasons why people called 2016 “the worst year ever”. But were we overreacting? The year also bred innovation, improvement and success. From medical progress to space exploration there are plenty of reasons to keep calm and carry on. Take a look at these 16 positives from 2016…
1. Less Unemployment
According to the latest bulletin from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Britain’s unemployment rate fell to its lowest figure since September 2005 in December 2016, at 4.8%. This was 5.2% lower than a year before, while the average weekly earnings for employees in Great Britain increased by 2.5% in nominal terms, including bonuses.
2. More Cancer Survivors
In February Cancer Research UK reported that more people were beating cancer than ever, with death rates dropping by 10% over the last decade. Cancer mortality rates in children under 15 were also found to have dropped by 32% in the past 20 years. This good news is down to improvements in detection and diagnosis, as well as new treatments, two of which have shown revolutionary success: injecting “trojan-horse” style nanoparticles into tumours, to directly attack cancerous cells, and targeting cancer using bacteria found on the seafloor that can be activated with fibre optic lasers.
3. Earned Our Stripes
After a century of poaching, illegal trading and habitat loss, wild tiger numbers have been declining at an alarming rate. But after a great deal of hard work to protect the species, the trend was reversed in 2016, and their numbers increased for the first time since records began 100 years earlier. Tiger populations were most improved in India, Russia, Nepal and Bhutan. These locations lead the way in reaching the current 2017 total of 3890 tigers living in the wild, worldwide. This number is almost 700 more than a previous count in 2010. Last year also brought good news for manatees, whose population was shown to have increased by 500% in Florida since 1991. On top of this, giant pandas, amur leopards and one-horned rhinos were shown to be making a significant global comeback.
4. Girl Power at the Olympics
Back in 1904 there were only 6 female competitors at the Olympic Games, which made up a dismal 0.9% of the participants. Flash forward to Rio 2016 however, and there were more athletic female role models than ever before, according to data from the International Olympic Committee (IOC). 45% of the athletes were women, up 6.8% from 2000. This could be partly due to an increased opportunity for women to compete, as there are now 25 more Olympic events that women are eligible for than there were in the millennium, including women’s golf and rugby sevens that were added last year. Rapid feminist advancement suggests that this gender gap should be even smaller by the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics.
5. Healthier Brains
Research published last year in The Lancet Neurology journal found that dementia rates in the UK dropped by 22% in the past 20-30 years – the biggest improvement out of all the European countries studied. Increasing levels of education is thought to be helping, as well as investment in living conditions, and better prevention and treatment of vascular and chronic conditions.
6. Goodbye to Kids Junk Food Ads
Obesity is a serious and (literally) growing problem. One third of all British children between aged 2 and 15 are now overweight or obese, which doubles their risk of premature death, as well as increasing susceptibility to diabetes, heart disease and depression. Fortunately the Committee on Advertising Practice (CAP) announced in December 2016 that adverts encouraging the consumption of foods high in fat, sugar or salt will now be banned from medias where one quarter or more of the audience are under 16. Television restrictions have been in place since 2007 but now healthier standards will be seen on social media, websites, cinemas, billboards and YouTube- from the 1st of July 2017.
7. Eggcellent News
Three of the nation’s biggest supermarkets, Tesco, Asda and Morrisons, all announced plans to stop selling eggs from caged-hens in 2016. The stores committed to eliminating their caged-egg deals by 2025. According to the petition that sparked the change, which was started by 14-year old Lucy Gavaghan, “caged hens spend 72 weeks cramped in restrictive cages… marginally larger than an A4 sheet of paper”. Whilst eating animals and animal products is widely considered part of a “normal” diet, causing animals extended pain and suffering is never necessary. Thankfully we can now see the light at the end of this tunnel of animal cruelty.
8. Realise Real Lies
Fake news stories can cause a shocking amount of unwarranted damage to a person or company’s reputation, when picked up and spread online. For example, one fictional story last year, that reported false ballots were being counted as real votes for Hillary Clinton, got shared with over 6.1 million people online before it was proven untrue (though it is likely many angered users never found out about the falsehood). Fortunately, at the end of 2016 Facebook and Google announced plans to combat this problem by banning sites that post untrue or misleading information. What’s more, Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft all agreed to share the digital “fingerprints” of potentially threatening stories, that are deceptive, manipulative or propaganda-based, to tackle them faster. The internet is now getting cleaner and more reliable every day.
9. Revolutionary Printing
3D printing processes have been in the making since the 1980s, but research from 2016 truly revolutionised the future of this technology, as scientists discovered how to print using materials from the human body. With a technique called “integrated tissue and organ printing system (ITOP)” they showed how it is now possible to print bones, cartilage and muscle fibres as if they were naturally produced. These will soon be used as far superior replacements to the various metal and plastic solutions that currently exist.
10. Poké People
The release of Pokémon Go last year brought back many nostalgic memories for users who grew up in the nineties and noughties craze. On top of these established fans, Nintendo’s geographically interactive mobile game attracted many new players worldwide, all of whom were encouraged to exercise while visiting cultural sites chosen as “Pokéstops”. Compared to other highly popular games that arguably normalise violence and dissuade movement, this was certainly a positive outcome.
11. Seeing With New Eyes
One of the most common types of colour blindness is the inability to distinguish between red and green. This can prove troublesome in certain situations, such as dealing with a single traffic light stop/go signal or when strawberry picking. Fortunately EnChroma released glasses last year which can enhance the vision of individuals who suffer this problem, by distinguishing more strongly between the wavelengths of light for different colours. The one in 12 men and one in 200 women who will benefit from this technology can now view the Italian flag, enjoy red baubles on the Christmas tree, and locate Man Utd players on the pitch to their heart’s content!
12. Success Out Of This World
Last year was historic for the U.K. in space, after Tim Peake became the first Brit to fly out there since Helen Sharman in 1991. During his 6-month stay on the International Space Station, Peake made the first spacewalk by a British astronaut, remote-controlled a robot on Earth, inspired students with calls and videos, ran the London marathon from a treadmill, and conducted countless scientific experiments to benefit a range of areas including health and agriculture.
13. Young Viewers Invested in the Planet’s Future
According to a post by narrator David Attenborough, the television series Planet Earth II attracted more 16-35 year old viewers than the X Factor last year. The final episode of the show was the most popular, reaching 12.26 million views on the night, equivalent to 40.9% of the viewing public. Of course there was nothing wrong with enjoying the performances of X factor contestants such as Honey G and Matt Terry, however it is certainly good news that figures soared for a programme that emphasises the importance of our environmental legacy. As Sir David Attenborough put it, “it is surely our responsibility to do everything within our power to create a planet that provides a home not just for us, but for all life”.
14. Less Crime
Data from Numbeo shows that the crime rate for the United Kingdom in 2012 was 46.04 out of 100, with a corresponding safety rating of 53.96. This improved in the four years up to 2016, with the crime rate lowering to 42.37 out of 100 and a corresponding safety rating of 57.63.
15. Lifesaving New Test
A simple blood test costing no more than £20 could save countless lives, thanks to a method introduced last year, able to identify patients at high risk of heart disease. By identifying those who appear healthy, but are actually at risk, preventative measures can be taken to reduce serious consequences 10-15 years later. The method uses troponin levels to catch signs of heart muscle damage. Troponin is currently tested in patients who are suspected of already having heart damage, but this scientific progress showing that it can be used it to detect warning signs ahead of serious trauma will benefit doctors and individuals greatly.
16. A Titanic Wait
22 years after his first nomination Leonardo DiCaprio was finally awarded an Oscar at last year’s Academy Awards. The fact that he had been nominated five previous times and yet never won became a popular joke online, so the lead up to the ceremony was tense period for his fans. But their worry turned to relief and joy when it was revealed that his moment had arrived and he was named Best Actor for his role in The Revenant.