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Will life expectancy increase indefinitely by three months every year?


  • 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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  • Jacques Vallin & France Meslé, 2010. "Will life expectancy increase indefinitely by three months every year?," Population and Societies 473, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED).
  • Handle: RePEc:idg:posoce:473

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    References listed on IDEAS

    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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    Cited by:

    1. Carlo Favero & Marco Giacoletti, 2011. "Progress in Medicine, Limits to Life and Forecasting Mortality," Working Papers 406, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
    2. Hughes, Barry B. & Kuhn, Randall & Margolese-Malin, Eli S. & Rothman, Dale S. & Solórzano, José R., 2015. "Opportunities and challenges of a world with negligible senescence," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 99(C), pages 77-91.
    3. Hyclak, Thomas J. & Skeels, Christopher L. & Taylor, Larry W., 2016. "The cardiovascular revolution and economic performance in the OECD countries," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 114-125.
    4. Kaan ÖĞÜT & Çağlar YURTSEVEN, 2016. "A utility based theoretical model for the income-life expectancy curve," Theoretical and Applied Economics, Asociatia Generala a Economistilor din Romania - AGER, vol. 0(1(606), S), pages 141-150, Spring.
    5. Christina Bohk & Roland Rau & Joel E. Cohen, 2015. "Taylor's power law in human mortality," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 33(21), pages 589-610, September.

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