– Ben Martens

Average Lifespan

happyoldpersonI wanted to do a post about how rapidly the average lifespan is increasing but it turns out it’s really difficult to find datasets that agree. There are also a lot of complexities around measuring this. Are you measuring life expectancy at birth or only after people reach 21? Do you live in a developing country? How wealthy is your family? Over time there have been different factors that increased or decreased death rates in different age groups so you probably really want to trend the probabilities of death by age X over time.

I’m too lazy (and probably unqualified) to do a bunch of research into all these studies to combined their findings, but here are some hand-wavy data points:

  • If you were born in 1900, you were probably going to die before you reached 50. Kids born today will exceed 80 years old on average. That’s a 30 year increase in average life expectancy in just one century. Compare that to the incredibly slow increase in the previous millennia.
  • For the first time in history, there are as many 65+ year olds alive as there are kids under 5.
  • 25-30% of people over 85 have dementia.
  • Average life expectacny is currently increasing by about 6 weeks per year. My son was born when I was 33 so that means his life expectancy his roughly 4 years longer than mine.
  • Average life expectancy is growing exponentially. Not only are babies expected to live longer with every year that passes, that rate of change is increasing.
  • More than 15% of the people alive today are expected to live past 100.
  • The number of people over 100 years old is expected to increase tenfold between 2010 and 2050.

There are even some really wild predictions out there saying things like the first person to live to 200 is already alive today, but I’ll avoid those for now.

It’s really interesting to think about how this dramatic increase is affecting many social norms and programs. For example, the average retirement age is going to have to increase and how will social security and medicare ever keep up with that many elderly people? What will the world be like when the average life expectancy is 100? We aren’t very far away from that…

If you want to pick one single resource to peruse, the best one that I found is from the US Department of Health and Human Services:

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