UK longevity increasing faster than national statistics forecasts

The rule-of-thumb is that average longevity in a developed country increases by about 1 year every 25 (4 years every century). So in the year 2500 an average longevity should be well over 100 years. It has been postulated that that this rate of longevity increase will decrease as we approach some kind of asymptotic “maximum possible” age – variously proposed to be 100, 150 or even 200 years. But it seems that the understanding of how telomeres affect cell aging and cancer is also fast increasing. If medical science develops to the extent that key cells can be encouraged to renew themselves in a controlled manner (by not reducing the telomere tail in a cell’s DNA with every replication) and yet not succumbing to the risk of uncontrolled growth (cancer), then a human longevity of even 500 years  does not seem impossible.

After 2100 the world will be faced with a fertility rate below replenishment levels and one way of mitigating the effects of a declining population will be an increasing longevity and a corresponding increase in the span of the “child-bearing” years (which in turn will correct the fertility decline). The challenge is going to be in arresting the decline of human faculties. If that is achieved it will automatically increase the “productive life span” and balance the critical and currently declining ratio of productive population to supported population.

A new paper in The Lancet suggests that official statistics in the UK are underestimating the rate at which longevity is increasing. 

J.E. Bennett et al. ‘The future of life expectancy and life expectancy inequalities in England and Wales: Bayesian spatial forecasting of population health.’ Lancet, 2015.

Imperial College has put out a press release:

A new study forecasting how life expectancy will change in England and Wales has predicted people will live longer than current estimates.

The researchers say official forecasts underestimate how long people will live in the future, and therefore don’t adequately anticipate the need for additional investments in health and social services and pensions for the elderly.

The new study, published in the Lancet, also predicts that regional inequality in life expectancy will increase, highlighting a need to help deprived districts catch up with affluent areas.

Researchers at Imperial College London developed statistical models using death records, including data on age, sex, and postcode, from 1981 to 2012 to forecast life expectancy at birth for 375 districts in England and Wales.

They predict that life expectancy nationally will increase for men from 79.5 years in 2012 to 85.7 in 2030, and for women from 83.3 in 2012 to 87.6 in 2030. The longevity gap between men and women has been closing for nearly half a century and will continue to get narrower.

The forecasts for 2030 are higher than those by the Office of National Statistics, by 2.4 years for men and 1.0 year for women. …

During my life-time, “middle age” has shifted from 40 years to be now around 50. For my children “middle age” will probably be at around 60.


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