Retired men 'will live until 90'13 years, 11 months ago
Posted on Oct 03, 2005, 1 p.m.
By Bill Freeman
The life expectancy of men who are 65 may rise by another three years during the next decade to nearly 90. The possibility has been raised by the actuarial profession in its latest survey of mortality figures.
The possibility has been raised by the actuarial profession in its latest survey of mortality figures.
These confirm that there has been a big improvement in the death rates and life expectancy of 65 year olds during the last few years.
But the actuaries warn that it is uncertain whether this trend will continue in the coming years.
No firm prediction
For the first time, the authors of the actuaries' continuous mortality investigation (CMI) have refused to make an official projection of future life expectancy based on their new mortality research.
Brian Ridsdale of the CMI said: "Life expectancy has improved dramatically over recent decades but all estimates of future mortality carry considerable uncertainty. Issues of individual choice, such as diet, smoking or drugs have the potential to slow down or even reverse mortality improvements."
Even so, if recent trends are simply extrapolated over the next decade, dramatic increases in life expectancy are suggested.
In 1997, the CMI's research suggested that by 2005 a 65 year old man could expect to live, on average, until he was 83 years and one month.
In fact he can now look forward to living rather longer - a further three and half years until he is 86 years and seven months old.
And if things go on as they are, a man who is 65 in the year 2015 may well live until he is 89 years and 10 months.
If this improvement in mortality actually happens then it will have huge implications for pension funds, life insurance firms and the government.
They will all be faced with paying out to pensioners for many more years than they anticipated.
The increase in longevity that has already taken place has already contributed to the strain on the finances of both the state and occupational pension schemes.
This has provoked suggestions that we will all have to work longer, maybe even until the age of 70, to compensate for living longer.
One factor that is unsettling the actuaries is that the rapid increase in life expectancy is not evenly spread.
People of all ages are seeing their life expectancy improve.
But it is going up fastest among those born in the mid 1930s - a so called golden cohort.
It is precisely these men and women who were in their mid 60s when the latest research was conducted.
Among the factors that may contributed to longer lives are the decline in smoking, the virtual abolition of childhood illnesses such as scarlet fever, diphtheria, polio, measles and mumps that were once common. And a general improvement in diet and housing.
What the actuaries do not know - and neither does anyone else - is if these factors will continue to have the same effect as before.
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