Essential Facts about Life Expectancy

Recently, there has been much talk about a new life expectancy calculator that shows how long people are expected to live based on their lifestyle choices. Life expectancy and longevity are both similar; the only significant difference between them is how they are calculated. Unlike longevity which doesn't require statistics, life expectancy is calculated in a precise manner, utilising population analysis and existing data.

Some scientists argue that the life spans in Western population are increasing, probably in the range of 80 to 105 years. Some believe that the human life span can be extended even longer than 105 years, due to advances in medicine and dietary improvements. This claim has been backed up by extensive research in biological and medical breakthroughs that have successfully increased life span in the Western population.

Although life expectancy and death rates differ from person to person, it is mainly based on gender, ethnicity, place of residence, age, income, and lifestyle. Researchers calculate how long a particular population is likely to live using the innovative Social Security Calculator, which is created by a computer science professor at the University of Pennsylvania. This particular online calculator can generate your life expectancy figure based on certain risk factors that will have an effect on your predicted age at death.

While it is true that no one can change their birthday, they can still adopt lifestyle changes or behaviours that are linked to longer life. For instance, if you are a smoker, your life expectancy will be somewhat shorter than a non-smoker. But if you quit smoking, it could make a difference by a couple of years.

How exactly is life expectancy measured

A summary caclulation of mortality rate in a population determines life expectancy. The exact data is derived from mathematical equations known as a life table. This table creates a group of 100,000 people and subjects them to age-gender-specific death rates. When researchers study the number of deaths per 100,000 persons of a specific age and gender, they can trace how these people would shrink in numbers as they age. The results show the average age at which these people are likely to die. This is their life expectancy at birth as drawn up by researchers.

The life tables also reveal data for other ages; the most commonly used data on life expectancy at age of 65, which shows the remaining years of life that these people aged 65 can expect to live. These types of statistics are highly useful and accurate as summary measures of mortality. In fact, no other mortality rate calculator has been quite as accurate. But it is still important to interpret the data correctly.

For example, if the life expectancy of a population is 70 years in 2017, it doesn't mean that every member of the population can live to the age of 70. Rather, it means that every newborn baby in 2017 would have a life expectancy of 70 years, although this isn't likely as the rates of mortality will change as they age. What's more, the older people in the mentioned population would have lived up to the year 2017 under a different mortality rate category. It is therefore important to take these statistics in a hypothetical manner.

Life tables contain more accurate data on the population's mortality rates. However, if the mortality rates are age-specific, they tend to be somewhat predictable. Thus, if the overall mortality level is known, it's possible to estimate the population's life expectancy using model life tables.

Race or ethnicity is another factor that determines life expectancy. For example, in the US, white people are expected to live 6 years longer than African Americans. However, when it comes to comparing their life expectancy at age of 65, the difference is less than 2 years. This narrowing gap suggests that the mortality rates associated with younger age groups are highly influenced by the number of homicides among African Americans, especially males between the ages of 20 to 50.

Based on the above information, here are some more facts about life expectancy and longevity:

Life expectancy in the US has gradually increased over the last century

According to extensive research carried out by US data analysts, the typical lifespan for most people in the United States is much longer that it was a few decades ago. Back in 1900s, the average person in the US was only expected to live until 49, whereas today, it is almost 79 years; a big increase in a century.

Life spans will continue increasing at a slower pace

Researchers predict that life expectancy growth today is about ten additional weeks per year, which is a major increase after seeing the results from the first half of the 20th century.

Better sanitation and advances in medicine have increased US life expectancy

21st century has witnessed better sanitation measures as well as vaccinations that control the spread of infectious diseases. In the last few decades, particular attention has been paid to treating heart disease so more people's lives in the US are saved due to advances in medicine. Today, there are approximately half as many strokes and heart attacks compared to a few decades ago.

People in the Far East live the healthiest and longest lives

According to the recently published reports by the NIH (National Institutes of Health), people in the Far East i.e Japan and China are in better health than any other Asian country. Globally, the average life expectancy at birth is 62 years, however in Japan; this figure stands as 73 years.

The shortest life spans belong to Africans

Africans have the shortest life span and the lowest healthy life expectancy than any other country. At just 43 years, they were followed by Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. This is mainly due to the poor state of health that Africans suffer from as a result of malnourishment.

Income and social status play a major role in life expectancy

On average, better-educated and higher-paid people live longer than those with lower incomes in the US. According to the report from the National Academy of Sciences, the gap between the rich and the poor is widening. Men born in 1940 could expect to reach 89 if they are high earners, but those on average incomes could live to 76 years, which is a decline from 30 years ago.

To reach an advanced age, your genes will be the deciding factor

A 2015 study in Human Genetics revealed that up to 30 per cent of overall life expectancy in adults can be attributed to their genes; and once they reach the age of 60, their genetics will be even more significant.

You might not even reach your predicted life expectancy

As mentioned before, projected life expectancy should be taken in a hypothetical manner as it cannot precisely calculate how long people will live. The online calculators are helpful as a guideline but shouldn't be relied on. For instance, if you quit smoking, adopt a healthier lifestyle, or lose weight, you will increase your life expectancy by a couple of more years.

Females will generally live longer than males

Based on a 2015 National Vital Statistics, it was found that females on average live about 5 years longer than males. In the US, girls born in 2015 will live to 81 years, whereas boys will live to 76 years.

The main causes of global deaths

In 1991, the total global deaths were 52 million, out of this figure; 17 million were due to infectious diseases, 15 million due to respiratory disorders, 6 million due to cancer, and 3 million due to circulatory conditions. The respiratory infections included deaths from tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and pneumonia. The circulatory diseases that resulted in deaths were mainly due to heart disease and cerebrovascular disease. Finally, the leading causes of deaths from cancer were stomach, rectum, breast, and colon.

A brief look into infant mortality rates

The infant mortality rates are based on the number of newborn babies who die at birth. As more and more babies in the US are surviving birth, the mortality rates are going down significantly. Based on the national statistics, the infant mortality rates have decreased from 100 per 1000 in 1910 to only 10 per 1000 today. This is why US life expectancy has increased from 49 to 79 years.

When you take a look at the US national statistics rate, you will see that people seem to be living 2 decades longer now than in the past. But this is not entirely true as you could mistakenly think that in 1910 most people lived to approximately 49 and now they are living to 79 years. In 1910, a 60-year old adult could live 16 years longer, whereas today, a 60-year old adult can live 20 years longer, so all in all, there is only a 4-year difference in these figures. In 1910, there was no advanced medication that could be credited with life extension and the chances of surviving a disease were much less than today.

As technology progressed further in the last few decades, acute conditions that result in death have been virtually eliminated. Today, the biggest causes of death are due to chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, cirrhosis, and atherosclerosis. Scientists and medical researchers are still working on ways to extend life by eliminating chronic degenerative diseases. Since environment, diet, physical activities, and psychology play major roles in people's health, they offer the opportunity to live a longer and healthier life.

Some simple ways to increase your life expectancy

There are some simple changes you can make to your daily life in order to live longer and healthier. Scientists have carried out extensive research on omega-3 fatty acids and their results confirm that this powerful substance found in fish, nuts, and olive oil lowers the risk of heart attacks and reduces blood clotting. Even if you have already experienced a stroke or heart attack, it is less likely to be fatal if you consume just 50 grams of omega-3 a day. This also helps reduce triglyceride levels and lower LDL cholesterol. Omega-3 fatty acids minimise heart palpitations and prevent plaques from building up in the arteries. By consuming 3 portions of oily fish such as tuna or salmon a week, snacking on 5 walnuts a day, and loading up your salad with extra virgin olive oil, you can join the much-raved about Mediterranean diet that doctors highly recommend.

Another effective way to increase your life expectancy is to quit smoking and minimise your alcohol intake. If you give up smoking by the age of 40, your survival rate can be equal to a nonsmoker. But if you quit by 50, you are still at risk of dying from a smoke-related disease within the next 10 years.

To prevent dangerous belly fat that causes high blood pressure and stroke, a 30-minute exercise on a daily basis could work wonders. There is no need to resort to strenuous physical activities in order to live longer. Walking briskly for half an hour a day can help burn 700 calories a week and prevent weight gain. These simple and effective tips can make a lot of difference to your state of health, and perhaps extend your life expectancy.