How long do you think you will live?

Lifespan is an interesting way of looking at time. The average lifespan of a male during the Roman Empire was 28 years. During the course of the 20th century, average life expectancy in the US rose by 57 percent, from about 49 years of age in 1901 to 77 years by the year 2000. Males and females have different life spans and different countries today may vary considerably in the life spans of their citizens. Average life expectancy in Japan is 82.02 and in Angola it is 37.63 (The Worldfact book, http://www.cia.gov). All of these numbers though may be meaningless for us individually as they are simply averages. Teenagers today are involved in a high percentage of fatal car accidents and many will not live to be 21. If you smoke, drink heavily, eat poorly and never exercise, you may live to be 100 but I would not bet on it.

What are the factors that contribute to a long lifespan? These are certainly well known by actuaries who determine insurance rates based on them. Some would include: culture, heredity, health patterns, life style, job and even luck plays a factor. If you buy a life insurance policy, you are gambling that you will get more benefits out of it than you have paid in. Since insurance companies are well armed with facts and data, you are probably going to lose the bet. One of the most important contributions to increased longevity was not from any advances in medicine but was from public health education. According to the Dept of Public Health, twenty-five of the 30 years of increased life expectancy in the US during the last century can be attributed to public health initiatives rather than medical advances. Thus, we need to add hygiene to our list of factors that contribute to longevity. When we near our final hours, medical science will do all it can to stretch our last minutes on this earth. In fact, it has been stretching our life for some time now but there is definitely a cost attached to the effort.

Nevertheless, most of us would be willing to trade a few more dollars for a few more hours on earth. Some people however do think it foolish to try to extend their life beyond a reasonable point and opt to forego any last minute catastrophic life saving procedures. What is a reasonable time to live is a question that many of us will answer quite differently. What do you think is a reasonable time to live? What are the circumstances that would cause you to “throw in the towel?” Have you developed a living will to specify what procedures you will forego or are you leaving it to others to decide? This can be a difficult decision for anyone to make.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. bgalbreath
    Nov 29, 2011 @ 19:51:44

    My parents are both still alive, in the mid-80's, and I think I have a reasonable expectation of living longer than they do, probably into my 90's. And that estimate is based only on currernt technology. I rate the chance at over 25% that we shall see major breakthroughs in our understanding of the aging process in the next 20 years that will allow us to extend vigorous healthy life virtually indefinitely. My guess is that such life extension technology will have major social consequences, most of which we cannot foresee. Reproduction would have to virtually stop and retirement would also have to go, but what other changes would we see? How many people would reject the tehnology, preferring a natural life span? Should or could such technology be restricted to an elite few? Garrett Hardin explored some of these issues in his 1973 novel “Voyage of the Spaceship Beagle”.

    Reply

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