Life expectancy

Life expectancy

Overview
Life expectancy is the expected (in the statistical sense) number of years of life remaining at a given age. It is denoted by ex, which means the average
Average
In mathematics, an average, or central tendency of a data set is a measure of the "middle" value of the data set. Average is one form of central tendency. Not all central tendencies should be considered definitions of average....

 number of subsequent years of life for someone now aged x, according to a particular mortality experience. (In technical literature, this symbol means the average number of complete years of life remaining, excluding fractions of a year.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Life expectancy'
Start a new discussion about 'Life expectancy'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Unanswered Questions
Recent Discussions
Encyclopedia
Life expectancy is the expected (in the statistical sense) number of years of life remaining at a given age. It is denoted by ex, which means the average
Average
In mathematics, an average, or central tendency of a data set is a measure of the "middle" value of the data set. Average is one form of central tendency. Not all central tendencies should be considered definitions of average....

 number of subsequent years of life for someone now aged x, according to a particular mortality experience. (In technical literature, this symbol means the average number of complete years of life remaining, excluding fractions of a year. The corresponding statistic including fractions of a year, the normal meaning of life expectancy, has a symbol with a small circle over the e.) In modern times, life expectancy has substantially changed on a yearly basis and cannot be used accurately for long-term predictions.

The term that is known as life expectancy is most often used in the context of human populations, but is also used in plant or animal ecology
Ecology
Ecology is the scientific study of the relations that living organisms have with respect to each other and their natural environment. Variables of interest to ecologists include the composition, distribution, amount , number, and changing states of organisms within and among ecosystems...

; it is calculated by the analysis of life table
Life table
In actuarial science, a life table is a table which shows, for each age, what the probability is that a person of that age will die before his or her next birthday...

s (also known as actuarial tables
Actuary
An actuary is a business professional who deals with the financial impact of risk and uncertainty. Actuaries provide expert assessments of financial security systems, with a focus on their complexity, their mathematics, and their mechanisms ....

). The term life expectancy may also be used in the context of manufactured objects although the related term shelf life
Shelf life
Shelf life is the length of time that food, drink, medicine, chemicals, and many other perishable items are given before they are considered unsuitable for sale, use, or consumption...

 is used for consumer products and the terms "mean time to breakdown" (MTTB) and "mean time before failures" (MTBF) are used in engineering literature.

Interpretation of life expectancy


General explanation: It is important to note that life expectancy is an average. In many cultures, particularly before modern medicine was widely available, the combination of high infant mortality, deaths in young adults from accidents, wars, and childbirth, significantly lowers the overall life expectancy. But for someone who survived past these early hazards, living into their sixties or seventies would not be uncommon. For example, a society with a life expectancy of 40 may have very few people dying at age 40, most will die before 30 or after 55.

In countries with high infant mortality
Infant mortality
Infant mortality is defined as the number of infant deaths per 1000 live births. Traditionally, the most common cause worldwide was dehydration from diarrhea. However, the spreading information about Oral Re-hydration Solution to mothers around the world has decreased the rate of children dying...

 rates, the life expectancy at birth is highly sensitive to the rate of death in the first few years of life. Because of this sensitivity to infant mortality, simple life expectancy at age zero can be subject to gross misinterpretation, leading one to believe that a population with a low overall life expectancy will necessarily have a small proportion of older people. For example, in a hypothetical stationary population in which half the population dies before the age of five, but everybody else dies exactly at 70 years old, the life expectancy at age zero will be about 37 years, while about 25% of the population will be between the ages of 50 and 70. Another measure such as life expectancy at age 5 (e5) can be used to exclude the effect of infant mortality to provide a simple measure of overall mortality rates other than in early childhood—in the hypothetical population above, life expectancy at age 5 would be 65 years. Aggregate population measures such as the proportion of the population in various age classes should also be used alongside individual-based measures like formal life expectancy when analyzing population structure and dynamics.

Human life expectancy patterns


Humans live on average 31.88 years in Swaziland
Swaziland
Swaziland, officially the Kingdom of Swaziland , and sometimes called Ngwane or Swatini, is a landlocked country in Southern Africa, bordered to the north, south and west by South Africa, and to the east by Mozambique...

 and 82.6 years in Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, although Japan's recorded life expectancy may have been very slightly increased by counting many infant deaths as stillborn. An analysis published in 2011 in The Lancet
The Lancet
The Lancet is a weekly peer-reviewed general medical journal. It is one of the world's best known, oldest, and most respected general medical journals...

attributes Japanese life expectancy to equal opportunities and public health
Public health
Public health is "the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private, communities and individuals" . It is concerned with threats to health based on population health...

 as well as diet.

The oldest confirmed recorded age for any human is 122 years (see Jeanne Calment
Jeanne Calment
Jeanne Louise Calment was a French supercentenarian who had the longest confirmed human life span in history, living to the age of . She lived in Arles, France, for her entire life, and outlived both her daughter and grandson. She became especially well known from the age of 113, when the...

). This is referred to as the "maximum life span
Maximum life span
Maximum life span is a measure of the maximum amount of time one or more members of a population has been observed to survive between birth and death.Most living species have at least one upper limit on the number of times cells can divide...

", which is the upper boundary of life, the maximum number of years any human is known to have lived.

Life expectancy variation over time



The following information is derived from Encyclopædia Britannica
Encyclopædia Britannica
The Encyclopædia Britannica , published by Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., is a general knowledge English-language encyclopaedia that is available in print, as a DVD, and on the Internet. It is written and continuously updated by about 100 full-time editors and more than 4,000 expert...

, 1961 and other sources, and unless otherwise stated represents estimates of the life expectancies of the population
World population
The world population is the total number of living humans on the planet Earth. As of today, it is estimated to be  billion by the United States Census Bureau...

 as a whole. In many instances life expectancy varied considerably according to class and gender.

Life expectancy at birth takes account of infant mortality
Infant mortality
Infant mortality is defined as the number of infant deaths per 1000 live births. Traditionally, the most common cause worldwide was dehydration from diarrhea. However, the spreading information about Oral Re-hydration Solution to mothers around the world has decreased the rate of children dying...

 but not pre-natal mortality.
Era Life Expectancy at Birth
(years)
Comment
Upper Paleolithic
Paleolithic
The Paleolithic Age, Era or Period, is a prehistoric period of human history distinguished by the development of the most primitive stone tools discovered , and covers roughly 99% of human technological prehistory...

 
33 At age 15, life expectancy an additional 39 years (total age 54).
Neolithic
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 
20  
Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

 and Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

 
26  
Classical Greece
Classical Greece
Classical Greece was a 200 year period in Greek culture lasting from the 5th through 4th centuries BC. This classical period had a powerful influence on the Roman Empire and greatly influenced the foundation of Western civilizations. Much of modern Western politics, artistic thought, such as...

 
28  
Classical Rome  28 At age 15, life expectancy an additional 37 years (total age 52).
Pre-Columbian North America
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...

 
25-30  
Medieval Islamic Caliphate
Caliphate
The term caliphate, "dominion of a caliph " , refers to the first system of government established in Islam and represented the political unity of the Muslim Ummah...

 
35+
Medieval Britain
England in the Middle Ages
England in the Middle Ages concerns the history of England during the Medieval period — from the end of Roman rule in Britain through to the Early Modern period...

 
30 At age 21, life expectancy an additional 43 years (total age 64). 
Early Modern Britain
Early Modern Britain
Early modern Britain is the history of the island of Great Britain, roughly corresponding to the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. Major historical events in Early Modern British history include the English Renaissance, the English Reformation and Scottish Reformation, the English Civil War, the...

 
25-40
Early 20th Century  31  
Current world average 67.2 2010 est.


In some cases life expectancy may increase with age as the individual survives the higher mortality rates associated with childhood. For instance, the table above listed life expectancy at birth in Medieval Britain at 30. A male member of the English aristocracy at the same period could expect to live, having survived until the age of 21:
  • 1200-1300 A.D.: 43 years (to age 64)
  • 1300-1400 A.D.: 24 years (to age 45) (due to the impact of the Black Death
    Black Death
    The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350. Of several competing theories, the dominant explanation for the Black Death is the plague theory, which attributes the outbreak to the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Thought to have...

    )
  • 1400-1500 A.D.: 48 years (to age 69)
  • 1500-1550 A.D.: 50 years (to age 71).


In general, the available data indicate that longer lifespans became more common recently in human evolution. This increased longevity is attributed by some writers to cultural adaptations rather than genetic evolution, although some research indicates that during the Neolithic Revolution natural selection favored increased longevity. Nevertheless, all researchers acknowledge the effect of cultural adaptations upon life expectancy.

During the early 1600s in England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, life expectancy was only about 35 years, largely because two-thirds of all children died before the age of four. The average life expectancy in Colonial America
Colonial America
The colonial history of the United States covers the history from the start of European settlement and especially the history of the thirteen colonies of Britain until they declared independence in 1776. In the late 16th century, England, France, Spain and the Netherlands launched major...

 was under 25 years in the Virginia colony, and in New England about 40% of children failed to reach adulthood. During the Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

, the life expectancy of children increased dramatically. The percentage of children born in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 who died before the age of five decreased from 74.5% in 1730-1749 to 31.8% in 1810-1829.

Public health
Public health
Public health is "the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private, communities and individuals" . It is concerned with threats to health based on population health...

 measures are credited with much of the recent increase in life expectancy. During the 20th century, the average lifespan in the United States increased by more than 30 years, of which 25 years can be attributed to advances in public health.

In order to assess the quality of these additional years of life, 'healthy life expectancies' have been calculated for the last 30 years. Since 2001, the World Health Organization publishes statistics called Healthy life expectancy (HALE), defined as the average number of years that a person can expect to live in "full health", excluding the years lived in less than full health due to disease and/or injury. Since 2004, Eurostat
Eurostat
Eurostat is a Directorate-General of the European Commission located in Luxembourg. Its main responsibilities are to provide the European Union with statistical information at European level and to promote the integration of statistical methods across the Member States of the European Union,...

 publishes annual statistics called Healthy Life Years
Healthy Life Years
The Healthy Life Years indicator is a European structural indicator computed by . It is one of the summary measures of population health, known as health expectancies, composite measures of health that combine mortality and morbidity data to represent overall population health on a single indicator...

 (HLY) based on reported activity limitations. The United States of America uses similar indicators in the framework of their nationwide health promotion and disease prevention plan "Healthy People 2010
Healthy People 2010
Healthy People 2010 , started in January 2000 by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, is a nationwide health promotion and disease prevention plan to be achieved by the year 2010...

". An increasing number of countries are using health expectancy indicators to monitor the health of their population.

Regional variations


There are great variations in life expectancy between different parts of the world, mostly caused by differences in public health
Public health
Public health is "the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private, communities and individuals" . It is concerned with threats to health based on population health...

, medical care and diet. Much of the excess mortality (higher death rates) in poorer nations is due to war, starvation, and diseases (AIDS
AIDS
Acquired immune deficiency syndrome or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is a disease of the human immune system caused by the human immunodeficiency virus...

, Malaria
Malaria
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. The disease results from the multiplication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases...

, etc.). The impact of AIDS is particularly notable on life expectancy in many African countries; According to the UN the life expectancy at birth for 2010–2015 (if HIV/AIDS did not exist) would have been:
  • 70.7 years instead of 31.6 in Botswana
    Botswana
    Botswana, officially the Republic of Botswana , is a landlocked country located in Southern Africa. The citizens are referred to as "Batswana" . Formerly the British protectorate of Bechuanaland, Botswana adopted its new name after becoming independent within the Commonwealth on 30 September 1966...

  • 69.9 years instead of 41.5 in South Africa
    South Africa
    The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

  • 70.5 years instead of 31.8 in Zimbabwe
    Zimbabwe
    Zimbabwe is a landlocked country located in the southern part of the African continent, between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. It is bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the southwest, Zambia and a tip of Namibia to the northwest and Mozambique to the east. Zimbabwe has three...

    .


As a result, over the past 200 years, countries with African populations have generally not had the same improvements in mortality rates that have been enjoyed by populations of Asian, Latin American or European origin. Notably, even in countries with a majority of European people, such as the United States, Britain, or Ireland, African people still tend to have shorter life expectancies than their European counterparts. For example, in the United States, Euro-Americans are expected to live until age 78.2, but African Americans only until age 73.6.

In contrast, Asian-Americans live the longest of all ethnic groups in the United States, with a life expectancy of 87 years, almost ten years longer than Euro-Americans., which falls in line with the longer life expectancy among East Asian countries globally compared to European, Latin American or African countries. Surprisingly, Latino-Americans are second place among ethnic groups on life expectancy, living on average two years longer than Euro-Americans and seven years longer than African-Americans, with a life expectancy of 80.6 years., in contrast to the on average lower life expectancy of most Latin American countries. These variations among ethnic groups may be ascribed to differing economic circumstances of the groups, and in the United States, notably differing access to health care. It may also be ascribed to different cultural patterns of eating or diet that may cross international lines and explain the variation within ethnic groups in a multiethnic society such as the United States.

Climate may also have an effect, and the way data is collected may also influence the figures.

Economic circumstances may also affect life expectancy. For example, in the United Kingdom, life expectancy in the wealthiest areas is several years longer than in the poorest areas. This may reflect factors such as diet and lifestyle as well as access to medical care. It may also reflect a selective effect: people with chronic life-threatening illnesses are less likely to become wealthy or to reside in affluent areas. In Glasgow
Glasgow
Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and third most populous in the United Kingdom. The city is situated on the River Clyde in the country's west central lowlands...

 the disparity is among the highest in the world with life expectancy for males in the heavily deprived Calton
Calton, Glasgow
Calton is a district in the Scottish city of Glasgow. The name Calton is derived from the Gaelic "coillduin", which means "wood on the hill". It is situated north of the River Clyde, and just to the east of the city centre...

 standing at 54 – 28 years less than in the affluent area of Lenzie
Lenzie
Lenzie is a small town by the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway in the East Dunbartonshire council area of Scotland. It is about six miles north-east of Glasgow city centre and one mile south of Kirkintilloch. It has a population of about 10,000.-Name:...

, which is only eight kilometres away.

The relationship between economic circumstance and life expectancy is not clear-cut, however. A study by José A. Tapia Granados and Ana Diez Roux at the University of Michigan
University of Michigan
The University of Michigan is a public research university located in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the United States. It is the state's oldest university and the flagship campus of the University of Michigan...

 found that life expectancy actually increased during the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

, and during recessions and depressions in general. The authors suggest that when people are working extra hard during good economic times, they undergo more stress
Stress (biology)
Stress is a term in psychology and biology, borrowed from physics and engineering and first used in the biological context in the 1930s, which has in more recent decades become commonly used in popular parlance...

, exposure to pollution
Pollution
Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into a natural environment that causes instability, disorder, harm or discomfort to the ecosystem i.e. physical systems or living organisms. Pollution can take the form of chemical substances or energy, such as noise, heat or light...

, and likelihood of injury among other longevity-limiting factors.

Life expectancy is also likely to be affected by exposure to high levels of highway air pollution or industrial air pollution
Air pollution
Air pollution is the introduction of chemicals, particulate matter, or biological materials that cause harm or discomfort to humans or other living organisms, or cause damage to the natural environment or built environment, into the atmosphere....

. This is one way that occupation can have a major effect on life expectancy. Coal miners (and in prior generations, asbestos cutters) often have shorter than average life expectancies. Other factors affecting an individual's life expectancy are genetic disorders, obesity, access to health care, diet, exercise, tobacco smoking
Tobacco smoking
Tobacco smoking is the practice where tobacco is burned and the resulting smoke is inhaled. The practice may have begun as early as 5000–3000 BCE. Tobacco was introduced to Eurasia in the late 16th century where it followed common trade routes...

, drug use and excessive alcohol use.

Sex differences


Women tend to have a lower mortality rate at every age. In the womb, male fetuses have a higher mortality rate (babies are conceived in a ratio estimated to be from 107 to 170 males to 100 females, but the ratio at birth in the United States is only 105 males to 100 females). Among the smallest premature babies (those under 2 pounds or 900 g) females again have a higher survival rate. At the other extreme, about 90% of individuals aged 110 are female. The difference in life expectancy between men and women in the United States dropped from 7.8 years in 1979 to 5.3 years in 2005, with women expected to live to age 80.1 in 2005.

In the past, mortality rates for females in child-bearing age groups
Maternal death
Maternal death, or maternal mortality, also "obstetrical death" is the death of a woman during or shortly after a pregnancy. In 2010, researchers from the University of Washington and the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, estimated global maternal mortality in 2008 at 342,900 , of...

 were higher than for males at the same age. This is no longer the case, and female human life expectancy is considerably higher than that of men. The reasons for this are not entirely certain. Traditional arguments tend to favor socio-environmental factors: historically, men have generally consumed more tobacco
Tobacco
Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as a pesticide and, in the form of nicotine tartrate, used in some medicines...

, alcohol
Alcoholic beverage
An alcoholic beverage is a drink containing ethanol, commonly known as alcohol. Alcoholic beverages are divided into three general classes: beers, wines, and spirits. They are legally consumed in most countries, and over 100 countries have laws regulating their production, sale, and consumption...

 and drug
Drug
A drug, broadly speaking, is any substance that, when absorbed into the body of a living organism, alters normal bodily function. There is no single, precise definition, as there are different meanings in drug control law, government regulations, medicine, and colloquial usage.In pharmacology, a...

s than females in most societies, and are more likely to die from many associated diseases such as lung cancer
Lung cancer
Lung cancer is a disease characterized by uncontrolled cell growth in tissues of the lung. If left untreated, this growth can spread beyond the lung in a process called metastasis into nearby tissue and, eventually, into other parts of the body. Most cancers that start in lung, known as primary...

, tuberculosis
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

 and cirrhosis of the liver
Cirrhosis
Cirrhosis is a consequence of chronic liver disease characterized by replacement of liver tissue by fibrosis, scar tissue and regenerative nodules , leading to loss of liver function...

. Men are also more likely to die from injuries, whether unintentional (such as car accident
Car accident
A traffic collision, also known as a traffic accident, motor vehicle collision, motor vehicle accident, car accident, automobile accident, Road Traffic Collision or car crash, occurs when a vehicle collides with another vehicle, pedestrian, animal, road debris, or other stationary obstruction,...

s) or intentional (suicide
Suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...

, violence
Violence
Violence is the use of physical force to apply a state to others contrary to their wishes. violence, while often a stand-alone issue, is often the culmination of other kinds of conflict, e.g...

, war
War
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...

). A 2005 study found that the level of patriarchy
Patriarchy
Patriarchy is a social system in which the role of the male as the primary authority figure is central to social organization, and where fathers hold authority over women, children, and property. It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and entails female subordination...

 predicts men's mortality rates. High levels of patriarchy were associated with high levels of male mortality; low levels of patriarchy were correlated with low mortality levels. The researchers argue that while patriarchy grants men certain privileges over women, it also promotes gender stereotypes which harm men. Men are also more likely to die from most of the leading causes of death (some already stated above) than women. Some of these in the United States include: cancer of the respiratory system, motor vehicle accidents, suicide, cirrhosis of the liver, emphysema, and coronary heart disease. These far outweigh the female mortality rate from breast cancer and cervical cancer etc.

Some argue that shorter male life expectancy is merely another manifestation of the general rule, seen in all mammal species, that larger individuals tend on average to have shorter lives. This biological difference occurs because women have more resistance to infections and degenerative diseases.

In her extensive review of the existing literature, Kalben concluded that the fact that women live longer than men was observed at least as far back as 1750 and that, with relatively equal treatment, today males in all parts of the world experience greater mortality than females. Of 72 selected causes of death, only 6 yielded greater female than male age-adjusted death rates in 1998 in the United States. With the exception of birds, for almost all of the animal species studied, the males have higher mortality than the females. Evidence suggests that the sex mortality differential in humans is due to both biological/genetic and environmental/behavioral risk and protective factors.

Centenarians


In developed countries, the number of centenarian
Centenarian
A centenarian is a person who is or lives beyond the age of 100 years. Because current average life expectancies across the world are less than 100, the term is invariably associated with longevity. Much rarer, a supercentenarian is a person who has lived to the age of 110 or more, something only...

s is increasing at approximately 5.5% per year, which means doubling the centenarian population every 13 years, pushing it from some 455,000 in 2009 to 4.1 million in 2050. Japan is the country with the highest ratio of centenarians (347 for every 1 million inhabitants in September 2010). Shimane prefecture
Shimane Prefecture
is a prefecture of Japan located in the Chūgoku region on Honshū island. The capital is Matsue. It is the second least populous prefecture in Japan, after its eastern neighbor Tottori. The prefecture has an area elongated from east to west facing the Chūgoku Mountain Range on the south side and to...

 had an estimated 743 centenarians per million inhabitants.

In the United States, the number of centenarians grew from 32,194 in 1980 to 71,944 in November 2010 (232 centenarians per million inhabitants).

Mentally ill


Adults with serious mental illness
Mental illness
A mental disorder or mental illness is a psychological or behavioral pattern generally associated with subjective distress or disability that occurs in an individual, and which is not a part of normal development or culture. Such a disorder may consist of a combination of affective, behavioural,...

 (SMI) die about 25 years earlier, on average at age 51 versus 76 for Americans generally, primarily due to cardiovascular disease.

Evolution and aging rate


Various species of plants and animals, including humans, have different lifespans. There is an evolutionary theory of aging, and general consensus in the academic community of evolutionary theorists; however the theory doesn't work well in practice, and there are many unexplained exceptions. Evolutionary theory states that organisms that, by virtue of their defenses or lifestyle, live for long periods whilst avoiding accidents, disease, predation, etc., are likely to have genes that code for slow aging - which often translates to good cellular repair. This is theorized to be true because if predation or accidental deaths prevent most individuals from living to an old age, then there will be less natural selection to increase intrinsic life span. The finding was supported in a classic study of opossums by Austad, however the opposite relationship was found in an equally-prominent study of guppies by Reznick.

One prominent and very popular theory attributes aging to a tight budget for food energy called caloric restriction. Caloric restriction observed in many animals (most notably mice and rats), shows a near doubling of life span due to a very limited calorific intake. Support for this theory has been bolstered by several new studies linking lower basal metabolic rate
Basal metabolic rate
Basal Metabolic Rate , and the closely related resting metabolic rate , is the amount of daily energy expended by humans and other animals at rest. Rest is defined as existing in a neutrally temperate environment while in the post-absorptive state...

 to increased life expectancy. This is the key to why animals like Giant Tortoises can live so long. Studies of humans with 100+ year life spans have shown a link to decreased thyroid activity, resulting in their lowered metabolic rate.

In theory, reproduction is costly and takes energy away from the repair processes that extend life spans. However, in actuality females of many species invest much more energy in reproduction than do their male counterparts, and live longer nevertheless. In a broad survey of zoo animals, no relationship was found between the fertility of the animal and its life span.

Calculating life expectancies


The starting point for calculating life expectancies is the age-specific death rates of the population members. A very simple model of age-specific mortality uses the Gompertz function, although these days more sophisticated methods can be used.

In cases where the amount of data is relatively small, the most common methods are to fit the data to a mathematical formula, such as an extension of the Gompertz function, or to look at an established mortality table previously derived for a larger population and make a simple adjustment to it (e.g. multiply by a constant factor) to fit the data.

With a large amount of data, one looks at the mortality rates actually experienced at each age, and applies smoothing (e.g. by cubic splines) to iron out any apparently random statistical fluctuations from one year of age to the next.

While the data required are easily identified in the case of humans, the computation of life expectancy of industrial products and wild animals involves more indirect techniques. The life expectancy and demography of wild animals are often estimated by capturing, marking and recapturing them. The life of a product, more often termed shelf life
Shelf life
Shelf life is the length of time that food, drink, medicine, chemicals, and many other perishable items are given before they are considered unsuitable for sale, use, or consumption...

 is also computed using similar methods. In the case of long-lived components such as those used in critical applications, such as in aircraft methods such as accelerated aging
Accelerated aging
Accelerated aging is testing that uses aggravated conditions of heat, oxygen, sunlight, vibration, etc. to speed up the normal aging processes of items. It is used to help determine the long term effects of expected levels of stress within a shorter time, usually in a laboratory by controlled...

 are used to model the life expectancy of a component.

The age-specific death rates are calculated separately for separate groups of data which are believed to have different mortality rates (e.g. males and females, and perhaps smokers and non-smokers if data is available separately for those groups) and are then used to calculate a life table
Life table
In actuarial science, a life table is a table which shows, for each age, what the probability is that a person of that age will die before his or her next birthday...

, from which one can calculate the probability of surviving to each age. In actuarial notation
Actuarial notation
Actuarial notation is a shorthand method to allow actuaries to record mathematical formulas that deal with interest rates and life tables.Traditional notation uses a halo system where symbols are placed as superscript or subscript before or after the main letter...

 the probability of surviving from age x to age x+n is denoted and the probability of dying during age x (i.e. between ages x and x+1) is denoted . For example, if 10% of a group of people alive at their 90th birthday die before their 91st birthday, then the age-specific death probability at age 90 would be 10%. Note that this is a probability rather than a mortality rate.

The life expectancy at age x, denoted , is then calculated by adding up the probabilities to survive to every age. This is the expected number of complete years lived (one may think of it as the number of birthdays they celebrate).


Because age is rounded down to the last birthday, on average people live half a year beyond their final birthday, so half a year is added to the life expectancy to calculate the full life expectancy. (This is denoted by with a circle over the "e".)

Life expectancy is by definition an arithmetic mean
Arithmetic mean
In mathematics and statistics, the arithmetic mean, often referred to as simply the mean or average when the context is clear, is a method to derive the central tendency of a sample space...

. It can also be calculated by integrating the survival curve from ages 0 to positive infinity (or equivalently to the maximum lifespan, sometimes called 'omega'). For an extinct or completed cohort
Cohort (statistics)
In statistics and demography, a cohort is a group of subjects who have shared a particular time together during a particular time span . Cohorts may be tracked over extended periods in a cohort study. The cohort can be modified by censoring, i.e...

 (all people born in year 1850, for example), of course, it can simply be calculated by averaging the ages at death. For cohorts with some survivors, it is estimated by using mortality experience in recent years. These estimates are called period cohort life expectancies.

It is important to note that this statistic is usually based on past mortality experience, and assumes that the same age-specific mortality rates will continue into the future. Thus such life expectancy figures need to be adjusted for temporal trends before calculating how long a currently living individual of a particular age is expected to live. Period life expectancy remains a commonly used statistic to summarize the current health status of a population.

However for some purposes, such as pensions calculations, it is usual to adjust the life table used, thus assuming that age-specific death rates will continue to decrease over the years, as they have done in the past. This is often done by simply extrapolating past trends; however some models do exist to account for the evolution of mortality (e.g., the Lee-Carter model).

As discussed above, on an individual basis, there are a number of factors that have been shown to correlate with a longer life. Factors that are associated with variations in life expectancy include family history, marital status, economic status, physique, exercise, diet, drug use including smoking and alcohol consumption, disposition, education, environment, sleep, climate, and health care.

Life expectancy forecasting


Forecasting life expectancy and mortality forms an important subdivision of demography
Demography
Demography is the statistical study of human population. It can be a very general science that can be applied to any kind of dynamic human population, that is, one that changes over time or space...

. Future trends in life expectancy have huge implications for old-age support programs like U.S. Social Security and pension
Pension
In general, a pension is an arrangement to provide people with an income when they are no longer earning a regular income from employment. Pensions should not be confused with severance pay; the former is paid in regular installments, while the latter is paid in one lump sum.The terms retirement...

 systems, because the cash flow in these systems depends on the number of recipients still living (along with the rate of return on the investments or the tax rate in PAYGO
PAYGO
PAYGO is the practice in the United States of financing expenditures with funds that are currently available rather than borrowed.-Budgeting:The PAYGO compels new spending or tax changes not to add to the federal deficit. Not to be confused with pay-as-you-go financing, which is when a government...

 systems). With longer life expectancies, these systems see increased cash outflow; if these systems underestimate increases in life-expectancies, they won't be prepared for the large payments that will inevitably occur as humans live longer and longer.

Life expectancy forecasting usually is based on two different approaches:
  • Forecasting the life expectancy directly, generally using ARIMA
    Arima
    The Royal Borough of Arima is the fourth largest town in Trinidad and Tobago. Located east of the capital, Port of Spain, Arima supports the only organised indigenous community in the country, the Santa Rosa Carib Community and is the seat of the Carib Queen...

     or other time series extrapolation procedures: This approach has the advantage of simplicity, but it cannot account for changes in mortality at specific ages, and the forecasted number cannot be used to derive other life table
    Life table
    In actuarial science, a life table is a table which shows, for each age, what the probability is that a person of that age will die before his or her next birthday...

     results. Analyses and forecasts using this approach can be done with any common statistical/ mathematical software package, like R
    R (programming language)
    R is a programming language and software environment for statistical computing and graphics. The R language is widely used among statisticians for developing statistical software, and R is widely used for statistical software development and data analysis....

    , SAS, Matlab
    MATLAB
    MATLAB is a numerical computing environment and fourth-generation programming language. Developed by MathWorks, MATLAB allows matrix manipulations, plotting of functions and data, implementation of algorithms, creation of user interfaces, and interfacing with programs written in other languages,...

    , or SPSS
    SPSS
    SPSS is a computer program used for survey authoring and deployment , data mining , text analytics, statistical analysis, and collaboration and deployment ....

    .

  • Forecasting age specific death rates and computing the life expectancy from the results with life table methods: This approach is usually more complex than simply forecasting life expectancy because the analyst must deal with correlated age specific mortality rates, but it seems to be more robust than simple one dimensional time series approaches. This approach also yields a set of age specific rates that may be used to derive other measures, like survival curves or life expectancies at different ages. The most important approach within this group is the Lee-Carter model, which uses the singular value decomposition
    Singular value decomposition
    In linear algebra, the singular value decomposition is a factorization of a real or complex matrix, with many useful applications in signal processing and statistics....

     on a set of transformed age-specific mortality rates to reduce their dimensionality to a single time series, forecasts that time series, and then recovers a full set of age-specific mortality rates from that forecasted value. Software for this approach include Professor Rob J. Hyndman
    Rob J. Hyndman
    Rob J Hyndman is an Australian statistician known for his work on forecasting. He is Professor of Statistics at Monash University and Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Forecasting...

    's R package and UC Berkeley's LCFIT system.

Policy uses of life expectancy



Life expectancy is one of the factors in measuring the Human Development Index
Human Development Index
The Human Development Index is a composite statistic used to rank countries by level of "human development" and separate "very high human development", "high human development", "medium human development", and "low human development" countries...

 (HDI) of each nation, along with adult literacy, education, and standard of living.

Life expectancy is also used in describing the physical quality of life
Physical quality-of-life index
The Physical Quality of Life Index is an attempt to measure the quality of life or well-being of a country. The value is the average of three statistics: basic literacy rate, infant mortality, and life expectancy at age one, all equally weighted on a 0 to 100 scale.It was developed for the...

 of an area.

Life expectancy vs. life span


Life expectancy is often confused with life span to the point that they are nearly synonyms; when people hear 'life expectancy was 35 years' they often interpret this as meaning that people of that time or place had short life spans. One such example can be seen in the In Search of... episode "The Man Who Would Not Die" (About Count of St. Germain) where it is stated "Evidence recently discovered in the British Museum indicates that St. Germain may have well been the long lost third son of Rákóczi born in Transylvania in 1694. If he died in Germany in 1784, he lived 90 years. The average life expectancy in the 18th century was 35 years. Fifty was a ripe old age. Ninety... was forever."

This ignores the fact that the life expectancy generally quoted is the at birth number which is an average that includes all the babies that die before their first year of life as well as people that die from disease and war. The genetics of humans and rate of aging were no different in preindustrial societies than today, but people frequently died young because of untreatable diseases, accidents, and malnutrition. Many women did not survive childbirth, and when a person did reach old age they were likely to succumb quickly to health problems.

It can be argued that it is better to compare life expectancies of the period after adulthood to get a better handle on life span. Even during childhood life expectancy can take a huge jump as seen in the Roman Life Expectancy table at the University of Texas where at birth the life expectancy was 25 but at the age of 5 it jumped to 48. Studies like Plymouth Plantation; "Dead at Forty" and Life Expectancy by Age, 1850–2004 similarly show a dramatic increase in life expectancy once adulthood was reached.

See also



  • Biodemography
    Biodemography
    Biodemography is the science dealing with the integration of biology and demography.Biodemography is a new branch of human demography concerned with understanding the complementary biological and demographic determinants of and interactions between the birth and death processes that shape...

  • Calorie restriction
    Calorie restriction
    Caloric restriction , or calorie restriction, is a dietary regimen that restricts calorie intake, where the baseline for the restriction varies, usually being the previous, unrestricted, intake of the subjects...

  • Demography
    Demography
    Demography is the statistical study of human population. It can be a very general science that can be applied to any kind of dynamic human population, that is, one that changes over time or space...

  • Death test
    Death test
    A death test is a questionnaire which can be used to predict the age a person will die. Questions on such a test typically ask about date of birth, family genetic history, diet, exercise, smoking, drinking, risky behavior, and the age at death of the person's parents.The likelihood of these tests...

  • DNA damage theory of aging
    DNA damage theory of aging
    The DNA damage theory of aging proposes that aging is a consequence of unrepaired DNA damage accumulation. Damage in this context includes chemical reactions that mutate DNA and/or interfere with DNA replication. Although both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA damage can contribute to aging, nuclear...

  • Egalitarian mortality
  • Healthcare inequality
  • Indefinite lifespan
    Indefinite lifespan
    Indefinite lifespan or, indefinite life extension, is a term used in the life extension movement to refer to the longevity of humans, and other life-forms, under conditions in which aging can be effectively and completely prevented and treated. Such individuals would still be susceptible to...

  • Life table
    Life table
    In actuarial science, a life table is a table which shows, for each age, what the probability is that a person of that age will die before his or her next birthday...

  • Population Pyramid
    Population pyramid
    A population pyramid, also called an age structure diagram, is a graphical illustration that shows the distribution of various age groups in a population , which forms the shape of a pyramid when the population is growing...


  • List of countries by life expectancy
  • List of long-living organisms
  • Maximum life span
    Maximum life span
    Maximum life span is a measure of the maximum amount of time one or more members of a population has been observed to survive between birth and death.Most living species have at least one upper limit on the number of times cells can divide...

  • Medieval demography
    Medieval demography
    This article discusses human demography in Europe during the Middle Ages, including population trends and movements. Demographic changes helped to shape and define the Middle Ages...

  • Mitohormesis
  • Mortality rate
    Mortality rate
    Mortality rate is a measure of the number of deaths in a population, scaled to the size of that population, per unit time...

  • Senescence
    Senescence
    Senescence or biological aging is the change in the biology of an organism as it ages after its maturity. Such changes range from those affecting its cells and their function to those affecting the whole organism...



Increasing life expectancy

  • Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS)
  • John Sperling
    John Sperling
    John Glen Sperling is an American businessman who is credited with leading the contemporary for-profit education movement in the United States. His fortune is based on his founding of the for-profit University of Phoenix for working adults in 1976, which is now part of the publicly traded Apollo...

  • Life extension
    Life extension
    Life extension science, also known as anti-aging medicine, experimental gerontology, and biomedical gerontology, is the study of slowing down or reversing the processes of aging to extend both the maximum and average lifespan...

  • Longevity
    Longevity
    The word "longevity" is sometimes used as a synonym for "life expectancy" in demography or known as "long life", especially when it concerns someone or something lasting longer than expected ....

  • Rejuvenation
    Rejuvenation (aging)
    Rejuvenation is the hypothetical reversal of the aging process.Rejuvenation is distinct from life extension. Life extension strategies often study the causes of aging and try to oppose those causes in order to slow aging...

  • Public health
    Public health
    Public health is "the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private, communities and individuals" . It is concerned with threats to health based on population health...

  • Infant mortality
    Infant mortality
    Infant mortality is defined as the number of infant deaths per 1000 live births. Traditionally, the most common cause worldwide was dehydration from diarrhea. However, the spreading information about Oral Re-hydration Solution to mothers around the world has decreased the rate of children dying...


Further reading

  • Leonid A. Gavrilov & Natalia S. Gavrilova (1991), The Biology of Life Span: A Quantitative Approach. New York: Harwood Academic Publisher, ISBN 3-7186-4983-7

External links