Dwindling peers or The loneliness of the long-distance survivors

The global crude mortality rate is just under 1% (around 8/1,000 in developed countries with some countries up to about 15/1,000). As population ages the global rate will be around 9-10/1,000 by 2100.

Of those aged 50, the annual mortality rate is about 300/100,000. By the age of 60 this has increased to about 800/100,000 and then increases sharply to around 25,000/100,000 by 90 and encompasses virtually everybody by the age of 100. (There are currently about 300,000 people world-wide who are 100 years old and a handful who have reached 115 years old). On average women live around 4 -5 years longer than men.

Defining “peers” to be those of a similar age, I assume that most people probably reach a maximum number of peer-acquaintances at a little over the age of 50. In my own case I would guess that this was probably when I was around 55.

An increasing mortality then applies to a dwindling cohort of peer-acquaintances. The longer one survives the faster one’s peer-acquaintances shrivel.


Setting peer-acquaintances to be 100% at 50 (and ignoring accretion of new peer acquaintances), their number has dropped to around 80% at 70, and have halved by the time one has reached 80. At our 50th school graduation anniversary when we were all around 65, around 10% of our classmates had passed away. By the age of 90, peer-acquaintances have dwindled to less than 10% of those who were alive at 50. Those who live to 95 have virtually no acquaintances of their own age left alive.

For those who survive to 80, half their peers have died by then. Loneliness is I think governed, not by the number of people surrounding you, but the number of peers one can communicate with. It is a cliche of course, but the longer you survive the dwindling number of your peers ensures the increase of your loneliness. If loneliness is inversely proportional to the number of peer acquaintances, then between 70 and 90 loneliness increases by a factor of 8.


 

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