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Will life expectancy increase indefinitely by three months every year?

Listed author(s):
  • Jacques Vallin
  • France Meslé

In an article published in Science in 2002, James Oeppen and James Vaupel, observing a constant linear progression (at arate of 3 months per year) in maximum life expectancies since 1841, concluded that the trend was set to continue for manyyears to come. A critical re-assessment of the data and a more long-term historical perspective suggest, on the contrary, that the rates of increase in life expectancy have varied overtime, as the factors driving improvements in human health have themselves evolved. In particular, the pace of progressduring the most recent phase - that of the cardiovascular revolution - was slower than during the previous period, that of the fight against infectious diseases. As life expectancyincreases, future progress will become heavily dependent on a massive decrease in mortality at more advanced ages.What happens in years to come will depend on future innovations, the form and timing of which are unknown today. A life expectancy of 100 years is certainly not unachievable, but no-one knows if and when it will occur.

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Paper provided by Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED) in its series Population and Societies with number 473.

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Date of creation: Dec 2010
Handle: RePEc:idg:posoce:473
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  1. Jacques Vallin & France Meslé, 2009. "The Segmented Trend Line of Highest Life Expectancies," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 35(1), pages 159-187.
  2. France Meslé & Jacques Vallin, 2006. "Diverging Trends in Female Old-Age Mortality: The United States and the Netherlands versus France and Japan," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 32(1), pages 123-145.
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