A turbulent presidential election, spreading zika virus and ongoing refugee crisis are just some of the reasons why people are calling 2016 “the worst year ever”. But has it really been that bad? The truth is that despite a stream of negative news on TV, last year also bred innovation, improvement and success. From giant pandas to space exploration there have been significant advancements, which are not to be overlooked. So before you write it off take a look at these 16 positive outcomes from 2016.
1. Less Unemployment
The number of people receiving unemployment benefits fell to its lowest total in over 16 years this November. On top of this, the amount of people seeking aid also dropped- to its lowest figure since 1973. Meanwhile, layoffs have remained low. These factors all suggest a healthy picture for the economy, as businesses are comfortable retaining and expanding their workforce.
2. More Cancer Survivors
The cancer death rate has dropped by 23% since 1991 according to a study published last year by the American Cancer Society. Although there is still a way to go, investments in research are paying off. A number of new methods have shown promising results last year, such as injecting “trojan-horse” style nanoparticles to deliver drugs directly to cancerous cells, and using immunotherapy to improve the body’s natural response.
3. A Giant Leap In Pandakind
The International Union for Conservation of Nature announced in September that Giant Pandas are no longer considered an endangered species. Conservationists working with the Chinese government have increased populations by 17% since 2003, meaning that they can now be reclassified under the less urgent category of “vulnerable”. The World Wildlife Foundation, who were the first international conservation organisation to work in China, pledged to continue using a “holistic approach... to secure the long term survival of China's giant pandas and their unique habitat”. Animal lovers can also rejoice for the sake of wild tigers whose numbers are increasing for the first time in 100 years. Amur leopards, manatees and one-horned rhinos are making comebacks too.
4. More Female Olympians
More women than ever before competed in this Summer’s Olympic Games, with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) reporting that 45% of participants were female. This is an increase of 0.8% from 2012 and 6.8% since the millennium, whilst the number of women’s events has increased by 25 since 2000. Gender equality in sports has come a long way since 1904 where there were only 6 female competitors at the Olympics, just 0.9% of that year’s participants. This upward trend suggests that women worldwide are living more actively and with less social stigma. Here’s to the trend’s continuation.
5. Healthier Brains
Research published in 2016 found that dementia rates in America have dropped by almost 2.5% since 2000. The authors noted that having more years of education was associated with a lower risk for dementia, and cited “better control of cardiovascular risk factors” as another potential reason for the welcome results.
6. Hope For The Planet
In a significant move towards a cleaner planet, both China and the U.S. joined the Paris climate change agreement last year. The deal commits world leaders to keeping global warming below a threshold of 35.6F and ultimately works towards the long term goal of a world with zero net emissions, relying on renewable energy instead of fossil fuels. This commitment did seem to be at risk of being undone by president-elect Donald Trump, who previously claimed climate change is a hoax, but he has now stated that he has an "open mind" about the agreement.
7. Survivors Rights
The Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights was signed into law this October, to help protect more the 25 million affected individuals in America. This important bill will ensure that survivors are able to understand their rights in clear language, be informed of medical information relating to their case, and have access to a copy of police reports, as well as many other improved measures.
8. More Truth, Less Lies
News stories spread quickly on social media platforms, but they’re not always factual. In a fight for less hysteria and more wisdom, both Facebook and Google announced plans last month, to tackle misleading and inaccurate information on their platforms. According to their new policies, sites perpetuating false claims from now on will be banned from their networks. Google-owned YouTube, Twitter and Microsoft also added this month that they are willing to share digital fingerprints with Facebook to help combat criminal manipulation through stories and propaganda online.
9. Revolutionary Printing
Researchers last year detailed a groundbreaking new process they have created dubbed the “integrated tissue and organ printing system (ITOP)”, where they can use 3D printing to create actual bones, cartilage and muscle. These bioprinted tissues will be able to be implanted into the body and nourished like the original body parts, giving a far superior alternative to plastic or metal replacements.
10. Poké Power
Nintendo enjoyed massive success with their launch of Pokémon Go last year, enticing children and adults alike to “catch ‘em all”. One of the benefits of the game’s popularity was its ability to lure users from their couches and out into the real world with their devices. This encouraged fitness as well as education, since “Pokéstops” tended to be located at historical and cultural sites.
11. A Whole New World For Some
Color blindness occurs in 1 in every 12 men, or 200 women. There are many different types but one of the most common kinds is the inability to distinguish between red and green. This can make some tasks very difficult, such as locating red objects in grassy areas. 2016 has provided a solution for these troubles, courtesy of EnChroma, who have released a pair of glasses that allows for better distinction between the light wavelengths of primary colors. This means the appearance of red and green are enhanced and color blind wearers are able to see a much brighter and more realistic picture, alleviating their struggles.
12. Success In The Stars
NASA have had an extraordinary year of discovery in 2016. They captured incredible photographs of Pluto’s surface, entered Jupiter’s orbit and even found evidence that there may be flowing water on Mars. Meanwhile Elon Musk’s company SpaceX successfully landed the Falcon 9 on a sea-going platform, after its delivery of cargo for the International Space Station. This completes the first major stage of their mission to create a reusable rocket program and cut the costs of launches by $20 million.
13. Ice Bucket Challenges Prove Worthwhile
After the viral “ice bucket challenge” swept the internet in 2014, a huge amount of funds were raised towards finding a cure for ALS. The disease kills half of all who are diagnosed within just 2 years and there is currently no cure. Although many dismissed the scream-inducing act as a foolish stunt those freezing moments have paid off last year when one lab, which received funds from the challenge, connected the NEK1 gene to the disease. This paves the way for scientists to develop a genetic treatment.
14. Lower Crime Rate
According to Numbeo the crime rate for the United States in 2012 was rated at a high 64.93 out of 100, with a corresponding safety rating of only 35.07. Fortunately this crime rate has lowered in each of the past 4 years making 2016 a far more comfortable 48.68 out of 100 for crime, with a corresponding safety rating of 51.32.
15. Food For The Hungry
Many companies last year, most notably Starbucks, have announced big plans to donate unsold food to those who need it, instead of throwing it away for landfill. Starbucks have been donating pastries through the Food Donation Connection (FDC) since 2010, but have now worked out a way to pass on more perishable food. The company aims to provide 50 million meals for the homeless and food-insecure by the year 2021, in partnership with Feeding America.
16. A Long Time Coming
Leonardo DiCaprio will never forget 2016, as his dream of winning an Oscar finally came true. DiCaprio was first nominated for an Academy Award in 1994. Five nominations and twenty years later it looked like he’d always be the bridesmaid, but never the bride. 2016 changed all that when he clinched Best Actor for his role in The Revenant.