Sean King

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Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

Saturday, August 23, 2008

On Longevity

John Llewellyn: First, longevity has been increasing astonishingly fast. In 1914, when my father was born, people were living, on average, to age 52. When I was born, in 1944, that figure was 63, already some 11 years longer.

Second, rising longevity is nothing new. But for the wars, it has been going on steadily since the Industrial Revolution - and at an astonishing three months per year since 1950. Government actuaries keep predicting that the rise will level off: company actuaries assume this even more strongly. And many doctors and scientists support this by arguing that we have made all the easy medical advances, so that the ones that remain are the really hard ones.

Maybe: although that which is known always seems easy, while that which is not always seems difficult. The fact is, however, that the rise in longevity has not slowed these past 160 years.

Third, these 'extra' years seem, by and large, to be healthy ones. The onset of chronic diseases and disability occurs, on average, at an ever-later age, so that healthy life expectancy is increasing at much the same pace as life expectancy itself.

Read the whole thing.

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