How Long Will We Live?

This is Robert Fogel writing for Bloomberg:

The middle estimate of the U.S. Census Bureau … is that the increase in life expectancy between 2000 and 2050 will be only about seven years, and the estimated increase for the entire 21st century is just 13 years. This is less than half the increase that occurred during the 20th century. The same conservatism is evident in the projections of the United Nations, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and other national and international agencies.

Yet there are persuasive arguments for a more optimistic view of the course of changes in health and longevity during this century. One of these arguments is based on the projection not of past changes in average life expectancy but of record life expectancy since 1840.

Forever Young

Record life expectancy is defined as the highest life expectancy experienced by any country at each point in time. For example, the record life expectancy at birth in 1840 was found among Swedish women, who lived on average a bit over 45 years. In 2000, Japanese women achieved a record life expectancy of almost 85 years. Fitting a curve to such best practice observations over a period of 160 years yields a linear curve, which suggests that for the foreseeable future, female life expectancy will increase at 2.4 years per decade and male life expectancy will increase at 2.2 years per decade. These equations lead to the prediction that by 2070 female life expectancy in the U.S. will be between 92.5 and 101.5 years, which substantially exceeds the forecast of 83.9 years made by the Social Security Administration in 1999.

Comments (6)

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  1. Ken says:

    This is very bad news for the long term Social Security deficit.

  2. Devon Herrick says:

    Aubrey de Grey, one of the foremost aging researchers has said the first person who will live to 150 years old has already been born. The first person to reach 1000 years old will be born only about two decades after the aforementioned 150-year old. Here’s an article from Reuters.

  3. Joe S. says:

    How long? It could be a long, long time.

  4. Tom H. says:

    This means that the unfunded liability in Social Security and Medicare may be way underestimated.

  5. Virginia says:

    What about the role of obesity and heart disease? I’d bet that this century will be the first to witness a decline in life expectancy due to the excesses of modern living. At a minimum, it will slow the increase in life expectancy.

  6. Buster says:

    Check out this article in Slate. For some reason super old people almost never live past 114.