The increase in our lifespans will provoke a revolutionby Bronwen Maddox / December 10, 2015 / Leave a comment
Published in January 2016 issue of Prospect Magazine
A third of babies born now in Britain will live to be 100. The average life span for baby girls born in 2013 will be 94 years, according to the Office for National Statistics. For baby boys, just under 91. By 2062, the life expectancy of women in the UK (apart from in Scotland) will be 100 years, if expressed on the “cohort” basis, which takes account of continuing improvements in health and other things that help longevity expected during those lifetimes.
This is an astounding change. In 1900, life expectancy at birth was about 45 years; in the middle of the 20th century, only about 20 years more. The past half century has brought an increase of about 10 years in men’s lifespans, and about 8 for women. There isn’t a single reason why; better attention to health and diet, better medicine for late-in-life illnesses, and the demise of smoking all play a part. For that reason, this astonishing achievement of the human race—and it is an achievement—is too little remarked upon.
But it will provoke a revolution in society, and we’re only just seeing the start of it.
Living longer will test many of these to breaking point. One large epidemiological study in Liverpool found that “only” 47 per cent of centenarians had dementia; a Canadian study put the rate at 86 per cent. Of the late-in-life illnesses, it is not, compared to cancer or heart disease, particularly life-shortening.
At least on the present level of medical understanding and treatment (very limited), this has huge implications for care, for family relations, for personal finances and for tax policy. Where loca…