Medical science continues to increase the quality and duration of life. Tremendous strides have been made to combat infectious diseases, correct structural defects and damage, recover chemical imbalance, and even repair genetic defects. But we nevertheless age and inexorably wear out.
Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that medical advances have eliminated all diseases and that aging has been brought to a standstill. That we would mature to vibrant adulthood and just hover at our prime. That the Fountain of Youth is realized for all. How long would we live? The answer is found with life insurance underwriters.
Term rates are lowest for people in their 30s with no preexisting health problems. Indeed, for younger adults, homicide, suicide, and accidental death are the major killers. For older adults the diseases of Father Time ramp up: cancer, heart attack, stroke. By our assumption, only intentional or accidental termination would remain as killers. So the distribution of ages would shift to the right, but the mean expectancy might not gain all that much. A few extremely cautious and lucky individuals would manage to evade death for many hundreds or even thousands of years. But average expectancy would, I believe, hover somewhere between one and two hundred years. To assure much more, you would have to obsessively avoid cars, poison, suspicious people and even depression. It might not be much of a life, despite its length.
The conclusion itself is depressing. If you do all the right things and are lucky, the Grim Reaper still hounds you. He has infinite endurance; you don’t. The moral may be to enjoy life at the risk of losing a few years. The quality may outweigh the quantity. Tom
© 2012 Thomas Dey - 3/27/12