Fourscore years and more: greater longevity is a false challenge | Robin McKie

In 10 years, a quarter of the British population will be over 65. Yet it’s not lifespan but healthspan we should be trying to improve

Over the past 180 years, lives in England have gone through a remarkable transformation. Men and women today are, on average, living twice as long as they did in 1841 with life expectancy increasing from 40.2 years to 78.6 years for males, and from 42.3 years to 82.6 years for females. The change is also reflected in many other parts of the world and has been achieved through vaccinations that protect against childhood illnesses, vastly improved sanitation, and a host of other factors.

But how long is that rise likely to continue? What will lifespans be like by the end of the century? More and more men and women are likely to live to ripe ages, say scientists. One prediction suggests the global population of centenarians will have reached almost 4 million by 2050 – from just 95,000 in 1990. Some scientists have even suggested that some lifespans could reach 150 years.

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