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« Off Line | Main | Lessons From "The Surge" »

Are You Better Off?

YearUS Life Expectancy at Birth
1905 47.8
1975 72.5
2005 77.9

Five and a half years extra life expectancy after 30 years. Not bad. An extra 30 after 100 years. Nice. I guess the combination of stress, pollution, moral decrepitude, corroded job protections, declining medical care and all the other crises of the day are actually coincident with increased lifespan. Don't be optimistic about it; it's not fashionable.

Posted by Sam Dinkin at December 28, 2007 12:58 PM
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Remember, these are life expectancies at birth. Pediatrics has improved considerably. However, if you got past twenty, people generally made it to the seventies. Most people had grandparents.

Failure to recognize that fact is part of why the Social Security "demographic surge" panic is a little overhyped.

Posted by Duncan Young at December 28, 2007 01:30 PM

you left out drowning from the polar ice cap melt. That will certainly shorten life expectancy way down.

Posted by Steve at December 28, 2007 03:01 PM

Ummmm - Sam posted this, Steve....

Posted by Barbara Skolaut at December 28, 2007 03:18 PM

I hear it will melt in less than the life of some truther dumbasses two cats!

Posted by Mike Puckett at December 28, 2007 03:26 PM

So if Duncan Young's life isn't better, can I still be happy that mine is?

Posted by Leland at December 28, 2007 03:28 PM

From what I've read, at the current rate living five (ten?) years gives you an additional year of life due to medical advances. And that rate may be accelerating.

Posted by Bryan Price at December 28, 2007 05:54 PM

Duncan, keep in mind also that many stillborns are now considered infant deaths. That has resulted in less of an improvement in infant mortality than one would expect. And it's well known that people at all ages are living longer than before.

Posted by Karl Hallowell at December 28, 2007 07:29 PM

I've also heard more people suffer from obesity and it's related problems than malnutrition now. I know definitions may vary, but it is still quite a feat to get close considering how many mouths need feeding nowadays.

Posted by Alfred Differ at December 28, 2007 08:20 PM

Are there any statistics on median, rather than mean, life expectancy? That seems more interesting.

Posted by Neil H. at December 28, 2007 11:14 PM

Kudos to Sam, my bad on addressing Rand.

Posted by Steve at December 29, 2007 10:24 AM

Re: actuarial escape velocity

If you live an extra year near middle age, you didn't die on purpose, on accident or of an infection. So you get a little extra life expectancy from better medical care expected and from living an extra year and avoiding becoming a death statistic. Morbidity increases as one gets older until it peaks around 10-13%. That is, once you get old enough (80 or so), every extra year of life gives you almost a full extra year of life expectancy. That suggests that systems degrade down to a net 8-10 year mean-time-to-fatal failure, then don't degrade further with age systematically without suffering fatal failure. So there are two ways to increase lifespan: delay onset of degradation of systems and increase reliability at the old-age plateau.

My intuition is that a lot of deaths are related to poor continuity of basic care: food, water, exercise, and sleep. If memory starts to go, meals can get missed. If pain ensues, sleep can get interrupted. This is especially true if a caregiver dies or gets very ill. If one is in hospice and is taking morphine, it's very easy to get dehydrated or malnourished. If mobility is compromised in a fall, again, crisis.

So it's possible the proximate cause of death can be delayed by reducing accidents, improving nutrition, improving elder care, improving elder mental health, improving family services, and improving elder safety especially when immobilized or when there is no supervision by third or first parties. That is, a broken hip may lead to a cardiac case, an infection or a suicide. (Is a DNR partially a suicide?)

I still think, though, that the biggest increase in concious life would be to research healthy living on less sleep. 4 hours fewer asleep a night could increase awake-time expectancy at birth by 13 years.

Posted by Sam Dinkin at December 29, 2007 02:14 PM

"My intuition is that a lot of deaths are related to poor continuity of basic care: food, water, exercise, and sleep.
Posted by Sam Dinkin at December 29, 2007 02:14 PM"

I agree, many geriatrics forgot to drink water in fact and tend to become dehydrated over long periods of time. Ever see an old person with thin delicate skin that becomes so dry that it cracks and bleeds if you knock it to hard. These provide for constant infection sites since the poor circulation due to dehydration weakens healing.

Posted by Josh Reiter at December 29, 2007 06:45 PM

Ever since I got my c-pap I've learned to jealously guard my sleep time. I got an education in brain activities, hormone levels, heart rates, and emergency procedures your body goes through during oxygen deprivation when I got it. Scary stuff.

I used to think there were three basic killers for otherwise healthy people in our society; Smoking, excessive drinking, and excessive eating. Since my recent education, I have added lack of proper sleep due to the way it kills us slowly through indirect damage.

Good luck with the 4 hours a night thing. I won't be on the list of volunteers for the experiments. 8)

Posted by Alfred Differ at December 30, 2007 12:17 AM

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