V. Key Health Policy Issues >> A. Burden of Illness >> Avoidable Mortality >> Life Expectancy (last update 8.7.17)
- Learn more about life expectancy worldwide at the Human Mortality Database.
- E.M. Crimmins, S.H. Preston and B. Cohen. Explaining divergent levels of longevity in high-income countries. A report of the National Research Council of the National Academies, January 25, 2011.
- Hans Rosling. 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes (Video). Shows how life expectancy has changed with changes in income per person (GDP per capita) after adjustments for inflation and for differences in costs of living (purchasing power) across countries.
- Dan Buettner. The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. National Geographic, 2008. The average American could live an extra 12 years and be 40% happier by optimizing their lifestyle and environment.
- Best MHA Programs. Beyond 100: What We Can Learn from People Who Pass the Century Mark. Infographic summarizing lifestyle characteristics of centenarians.
- Political Calculations. Natural Life Expectancy in the U.S. – A comparison of how long Americans live with respect to Europeans, after adjusting for non-health related factors, like vehicle accidents.
Healthy Life Expectancy
- Joshua A. Salomon, et al. “Healthy life expectancy for 187 countries, 1990–2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden Disease Study 2010” by Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (December 2012). Researchers determined “healthy life expectancy” by estimating the frequency of 1,160 different health problems, weighting each by its relative severity, and subtracting people’s time spent with these conditions from overall life expectancy. For example, if a person spent his final year of life with a condition that left him half as healthy as a person with no health problems, six months were subtracted. More than 30,000 people were surveyed to determine the severity weights.
- Washington Post. How long will we live — and how well?. Data visualization of life expectancy plotted against percentage of healthy years using Salomon data cited above. Users can select whether to display data for males or females for the years 1990 and 2010.
- Social Security Administration. Period Life Expectancy, 1940-2090. Period life expectancy is calculated assuming that everyone alive today experiences the same probability of death as their counterparts at older ages, i.e., that when today’s infants reach age 70, for example, they will experience the same death rate as today’s 70-year olds. Because of constant gains in life expectancy over time, this produces a conservative estimate of actual life expectancy.
- Social Security Administration. Cohort Life Expectancy, 1940-2090. Cohort life expectancy is calculated based on the actual experience for a cohort. Cohort life expectancy for U.S. males born 1940 is about 9 years longer than period life expectancy for U.S. males born that year. SSA’s on-line life expectancy calculator provides cohort life expectancy estimates for males and females of any age and even pro-rates these based on the exact date of birth entered.
- Social Security’s Flawed Forecasting. The method used by Social Security underestimates life expectancy by amounts ranging from a little over one half year to more than 19 months. Using more accurate projections, the Social Security Trust Fund will be exhausted 2 years earlier than officially forecast. The statisticians have made their methods, calculations and software available online at j.mp/SSecurityso that others can replicate or improve such forecasts.
- Congressional Budget Office. Table 1 shows how how expectancy has increased in the U.S. (years per decade) for selected periods between 1870-2010.
- UC Berkeley. Life expectancy in the USA, 1900-98. Shows LE at birth for males and females for every year from 1900-1998. LE grew 60% for males, 65% for females over the period, with the gender gap growing from 2 years in 1900 to 4.6 years by 1998.
- Becker, Gary. Health Care-Becker (June 7, 2009). The author demonstrates that national differences in life expectancies are a highly imperfect indicator of the effectiveness of health delivery systems.
- Mankiw, Gregory. Beyond Those Health Care Numbers, New York Times (11.4.07). Author labels the misuse of U.S. life expectancy stats “schlocky.”
- O’Neill, June E. and Dave M. O’Neill. Health Status, Health Care and Inequality: Canada vs. the U.S. NBER (September 2007). The authors show that the efficacy of health care systems cannot be usefully evaluated by comparisons of infant mortality and life expectancy.
- Preston, Samuel and Jessica Ho. Low Life Expectancy in the United States: Is the
Health Care System at Fault? University of Pennsylvania (July 2009). This is a lengthy analysis of life expectancy statistics, concluding that “the low longevity ranking of the United States is not likely to be a result of a poorly functioning health care system.”
- Roy, Avik. The Myth of Americans’ Poor Life Expectancy. Forbes.com (11.23.11).
Life Expectancy Calculators
- DEALE. The declining exponential approximation of life expectancy (DEALE) can be used to approximate life expectancy for clinical decision-making. The calculation is made by taking the reciprocal of the age-, sex-, and race-adjusted life expectancy to obtain the baseline mortality rate: 1/LE. For example, the average annual mortality rate of a 67 year old white man with a life expectancy of 13.5 years is 1/13.5, or 0.074 per year.
- Life expectancy for selected chronic diseases. Includes links to literature on life expectancy for cerebral palsy (CP), Vegetative State (VS), Minimally Conscious State (MCS), and Locked-In Syndrome (LIS), traumatic brain injury (TBI), spinal cord injury (SCI), autism, Down Syndrome, developmentally disabled), and epilepsy.
On-line calculators are listed in order of how much information is used in estimating remaining life expectancy.
- Life Expectancy Calculator | Social Security Administration. This calculates life expectancy based only on 1) exact date of birth and 2) sex using the latest U.S. life tables.
- Actuaries Longevity Illustrator | Society of Actuaries and American Academy of Actuaries. This calculates life expectancy based only on 1) exact date of birth; 2) sex; 3) smoking status and 4) self-rated general health (poor, moderate, excellent). It shows probability of living to various ages through 100 in 5 year intervals; the joint probability of neither or both members of a couple living to the same ages; and the probability of living for a specified number of additional years.
- Vitality Compass | Blue Zones. Purportedly “the most accurate life estimator available,” this has been developed at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. It calculates biological age, overall life expectancy, and healthy life expectancy, based on 12 questions, along with user-specific recommendations for lifestyle changes (including projected gain in life expectancy associated with each).
- How Long Will I Live? | Wharton School. Asks 13 questions related to demographics, family history, and lifestyle and calculates life expectancy to closest year. This longevity calculator is based on a detailed statistical analysis of NIH-AARP data and conducted by Wharton professor Dean Foster.
- LifeSpan Calculator | Northwestern Mutual. Includes 13 questions and calculates life expectancy to closest year.
- Living to 100 Life Expectancy Calculator. This calculator, which is linked to the New England Centenarian Study, asks almost 50 questions in all, (more than most life-expectancy tools); it includes questions related to health and family history, and takes about 10 minutes to complete.
- RealAge | Mehmet Oz, MD. Calculates biological age based on 132 questions related to demographics, family history and lifestyle; takes 20 minutes to complete and requires specific medical metrics (cholesterol scores, blood pressure numbers and even vitamin contents). The most extreme ranges that result are about 19 years younger, thanks to super-healthy habits, and 37 years older, the result of smoking and poorly managing multiple health problems. Described as “biggest and best longevity calculator” at About.com.
Future Life Expectancy
- Ray Kurzweil predicts we will attain immortality within 30 years.
- Adam Leith Gollner. The Book of Immortality. Scribner, August 2013 402 pages. This book systematically examines the science behind various life-extension strategies, including cryonics, transhumanism and augmentation, concluding that scientific evidence of prospects for immortality is thin.
- CBO. Ben Page. The Uncertainty of Long-Term Budget Projections (11.20.15). CBO produces long-term (25-year) budget projections annually. These extended baseline projections depend on estimates of the future paths of mortality rates, productivity, interest rates, and health care costs, among many other variables. Chart on p. 3 shows that over the past 25 years:
- Male mortality rates declined annually by a rate of at least 0.5% but no higher than 1.6%.
- Female mortality rates declined annually by a rate of at least 0.6% but no higher than 1.6%.
- Determinants of Health (Health Affairs topics page).