Sunday, January 15, 2006

death rates and later life expectancy

Because advances in public health, medical sciences, nutrition, and public awareness of good health practices have brought about increases in life expectancy in the last 100 years, the likelihood of death has been pushed forward to the later years of life. In 1900 the average person died before age 50; today half of the newborn population can expect to live beyond age 75.
About 18 percent of the population -- roughly 2.5 million persons -- dies before age 65, and 18 percent, therefore, represents the odds for dying by that age. By age 70 the estimate is that about 14.5 percent will die, bringing the odds of death by age 70 to about 32 percent. In the next five years, to age 75, another 16.6 percent die, bringing the odds of death by this age close to 49 percent. In five more years, to age 80, over 27 percent more persons will have died, bringing the odds of death by this age to about 76 percent. As the biological limit of human life is 120 years, the odds of dying by 120 are 100 percent.
In spite of the increasing likelihood of death as age advances, the foregoing figures do not show the surprising truth that later life expectancy remains considerable in the advanced years. Knowledge about later life expectancy is highly useful because it can serve individuals as the basis for a number of late-life decisions, such as: calculating payout plans from annuities and pension benefits; recognizing the time when it becomes essential to make a will; knowing when to think about making funeral arrangements and choosing a final resting place; and even deciding whether one is likely to gain a pay-off from a late life business venture or financial investment. Later life expectancy tables, of course, themselves represent averages (i.e., about half of the surviving population is likely to die before a year indicated and about half to die after it), but recently published figures are as follows:

Myers, G. C. "Aging and Worldwide Population Change," in Binstock, R. H., and Shanas, E., eds. Handbook of Aging and the Social Sciences, 2nd ed. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., 1985.
Russell, C. H. Good News About Aging. New York: John Wiley and Son, 1989.

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