GLOBAL - A new longevity study has predicted that most babies born today will live to celebrate their 100th birthdays in many industrialised countries.
Researchers at the University of Southern Denmark found babies born since 2000 in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK and the USA, among other countries with long life expectancies, will live to the age of at least 100 if the pace of increase in life expectancy in developed countries over the past two centuries continues through the 21st century.
Not only will people live longer, but they will remain healthy for longer, the study concluded.
“Research suggests that the ageing process is modifiable and that people are living longer without severe disability,” said authors of the study, Kaare Christensen, Gabriele Doblhammer, Roland Rau and James Vaupel of the Danish Ageing Research Centre at the university.
The forecasts assumed that the rate of increase in life expectancy seen in the last 165 years will continue. “Life expectancy is lengthening almost linearly in most developed countries, with no sign of deceleration,” the study said.
“This is a scenario which assumes progress will continue at the speed we have been seeing for a long time,” Christensen told IPE.
Past research has suggested there might be a limit to life expectancy, but subsequent studies have shown that it keeps rising.
“If life expectancy were approaching a limit, some deceleration of progress would probably occur,” the study said. “Continued progress in the longest living populations suggests that we are not close to a limit, and further rise in life expectancy seems likely.”
Christensen said the findings have major implications for pensions and government policy on retirement. “If most people who are 60 are expected to have another 40 years [of life], then that’s a long period to be retired,” he said.
Given that people are not only living longer but doing so in better health, current working patterns may have to be reconceived, he suggested: “I think we will have to come up with new ways of trying to combine old people who are healthy and who have experience with new younger people coming into the labour force.”
The new forecast goes beyond current general assumptions that one in four babies born now will reach the age of 100, according to Steven Dicker, senior consultant at Watson Wyatt.
He agreed that increasing longevity to this degree calls for a fundamentally different approach to pensions, as he said: “You can’t be working on the assumption that they would be in education until their 20s and then work 40 years; there have to be many more years of working.”
John Betts, worldwide partner at Mercer, said the data also confirmed some of the issues people would have expected and underlines that the progression of people living longer is set to continue.
“From a pensions point of view it doesn’t seem right to have a fixed pension age,” he said. “I think there’s a balance to be struck as we end up with an older workforce, because people may defer their retirement. There are a number of shifts [in strategy] that employers need to make to cope with that.”
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