If You have Made it this Far

People may have begun to rely too much on medical advances, rather than maintaining a healthy lifestyle and wellbeing out of their own drive and motivation.

A glance at Life Expectancy tables reveals an interesting set of facts: the longer you have made it, the better your chances for staying around. The idea of the “healthy survivor effect” proposes, that having successfully gotten through childhood injuries, freak accidents and deadly diseases, you are apt to continue on your lucky streak. In 1900 American men could expect to live to age 48, women usually reached 49 or 50. However, people who went on to a “wise old age” of 65 (17 years past the average of 48), could expect an additional 12 years of life! For those having crossed the threshold of 85, statistics were predicting yetanother 4 years to go.

Forty years later, by 1940, the expected lifespan at birth, for men and women, had increased by 14 years, to about 63. The sudden boost was mostly brought about by broad-scale sanitation improvements, as dysentery from unclean water and poor sewage systems had priorly been a frequent cause of death.

Though discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928, Penicillin did not get mass produced until 1945 and only became available for civilians after World War II. This might explain the 4.5 year jump – the largest in any single decade – in life expectancy for people born between 1940 and 1950, when introduction of Antibiotics started saving countless lives. According to a more recent statistic from 2009, a newborn could expect to live about 15 years longer than in 1940, to an age of about 78 years. The concept of the “tough old bird” advantage deserves consideration as well: By 2009, if you lived to 65 (which is 13 years less than the 78.5-year span expected at birth), you could expect to go on for another 19 years. Reaching the 85-year mark now added a potential of 6.7 years, bringing us into the realm of nonagenarians to almost age 92. Staying alive long enough apparently allows one to “earn” more years. However, the rate of increase did not change significantly over time – four years past 85 in 1900 ccompared to about seven in 2009.

Sanitary conditions and good genes seem to outweigh medical advances in terms of resulting longevity. While improvements in public health and modern medicine do enhance gereral life expectancy, they are not “silver bullets ”.

People may have begun to rely too much on medical advances, rather than maintaining a healthy life-style and wellbeing out of their own drive and motivation.

Notwithstanding the high level sophistication of US health-care, lifespans in the US are shorter than in many other countries. As of 2010, life expectancy in Japan was 82.6 years (about four years more than in the US), with Hong Kong, Switzerland and Israel following closely.

Iceland, Australia and Singapore were found in the 81-plus range, while Spain, Sweden, Macau, France, Canada, Italy, UK, New Zealand and Norway all came in over 80. With 21 more nations yet ahead, the US ranked 37th on a worldwide scale.

Current estimates suggest this may be somewhere near 125 years, but this is still debatable.

Is there a theoretical maximum for human life expectancy?

We know the highest age on record has been achieved by a French woman, who lived over 122 years. The oldest man, an American, reached a little over 115 years.

One of the possible arguments for a finite lifespan is the Hayflick Limit postulated in 1961 by American researchers. They found that human cells can only divide about 40–60 times in culture dishes, because the “telomeres” at the ends of the DNA strands are clipped off after each division. Once they disappear, divisions can no longer occur and the cells slowly dies.

Regardless of expected lifespans and scientific explanations, your personal actions are a force to be reckoned with. You can monitor the quality of your physical existence just as much, as you are the master of your own discipline and morality.