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Life Expectancy on the Rise

LifeSpanmedium.jpgThe CDC is reporting a 3.6-month increase in life expectancy for children born in 2003 over children born just a year earlier.

Those born in 2003 can expect to live 77.6 years on average, up from 77.3 years in 2002 and a record high for U.S. life expectancy, according to preliminary figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Life expectancy is a misleading concept. It is not a good predictor of whether a child born in 2003 will die at age 77 because it doesn't predict the state of health care at that time (or in the intervening years). It is a picture of health care today. If health care were to remain static, no improvements (or new health challenges) for the next 75 years, then it would be a decent predictor.

Even Aubrey de Grey's most impassioned critics don't accept a static future. There are always new developments and new challenges. Historically, our advances have outpaced the challenges:

People of both sexes born in 1900 could expect to live 47.3 years on average...

That's a 30-year improvement in the twentieth century. Two data points don't equal a trend, but the 3.6-month improvement between 2002 and 2003 is consistent with the 30 year per century improvement. [3.6 * 100 = 360 ; 360 / 12 = 30]

Most of the improvement in life expectancy during the twentieth century came as a result of a decline in infant mortality.

Infant mortality [between 2002 and 2003] remained relatively steady at 6.9 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2003 compared with 7 deaths per 1,000 in 2002.

Since infant mortality remained steady between the 2002 and 2003, the 3.6-month improvement had to be made at other points in the life span. That's good news for we non-infants. But should we think of an annual improvement of 3.6 months good news? That's sooo twentieth century. I'm expecting better as we move further into the twenty-first century.

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