Life Expectancy Rate Increases

Researchers have determined that more than half of all babies that are born in the world's most affluent countries since the year 2000 will likely live to be at least 100 years old. In addition to living to such a ripe old age, these future centenarians will also experience fewer disabilities than other elderly people have experienced in previous generations.

These conclusions have been determined based on evidence that the life expectancy rate in wealthy nations since 1840 shows no sign of slowing down any time soon.

This month the online journal, The Lancet, published a study conducted by researchers at the Danish Aging Research Center at the University of Southern Denmark. One of the researchers, Kaare Christensen, wrote:

"The linear increase in record life expectancy for more than 165 years does not suggest a looming limit to human lifespan. If life expectancy were approaching a limit, some deceleration of progress would probably occur. Continued progress in the longest living populations suggests that we are not close to a limit, and further rise in life expectancy seems likely."

According to the researchers, vast increases in life expectancy occurred in the 20th century in well developed nations. These increases equaled 30 or more additional years. The researchers have concluded that 75% of all babies that are, and will be, born in wealthy countries throughout the world since 2000 can expect to live to at least 75 years of age, even if the current health conditions do not improve over time.

The Danish researchers collected data from more than 30 different developed countries before analyzing the data to reveal that the death rates amongst people who are older than 80 years were still on the decline. For example, only 15% - 16% of women and 12% of men in 1950 had a chance to live to 90 years old once they had turned 80; which is quite a contrast when you consider that only 37% of women and 25% of men had the same chance in 2002.

Although this all sounds great and gives most people who have a fear of getting old, a new look on aging, longer life expectancies can be a cause of concern. Living longer can become a burden on both the general public as well as on a person's personal life.

In an effort to offer a solution to the possible societal challenges that most nations could experience due to longer life expectancies of their population, the researchers suggested in their report that people should be allowed to work a shorter work week whilst, at the same time, allowing them to work until they are much older than the current retirement age. Not only will this scenario help to further extend increases in life expectance but it may also help countries deal with the economic implications of having an increased elderly population.

"If people in their 60s and early 70s worked much more than they do nowadays, then most people could work fewer hours per week than is currently common, if they worked correspondingly more years of their longer lives. Preliminary evidence suggests that shortened working weeks over extended working lives might further contribute to increases in life expectancy and health. Redistribution of work will, however, not be sufficient to meet the coming challenges. Even if the health of individuals at any particular age improves, there could be an increased total burden if the number of individuals at that age rises sufficiently," the researchers stated in their report.

In the USA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the latest mortality statistics that revealed that US life expectancy was at an all time high at 77.9 years of age up from 77.7 years in 2006, whilst the age-adjusted death rate had actually dropped to 760.3 deaths for every 100,000 people.

The CDC's report, entitled "Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2007," was issued in late August this year and is based on roughly 90% of all death certificates in the United States of America. When looking at a period of ten years, from 1997 to 2007, life expectancy in the US has increased from 76.5 years to 77.9 years. This is a total increase of 1.4 years.

The US mortality rate in 2007 was 2.1% lower than the mortality rate of 776.5 in 2006. This means that for eight years in a row, the mortality rate in America has been slowly declining. According to more comprehensive data, the mortality rate in 2007 was actually half of what it was almost 60 years ago. In 1947, the mortality rate was 1532 per 100,000 people.

Overall, the new Danish study, as well as the report issued by the CDC, proves that life expectancy rates are on the rise, whilst death rates are declining.

Photo Credit: Ethan Prater

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