Canadian males and females have one of the highest life expectancies at birth in the world as seen in the table below. In 2002, Canadian males were outperformed in this regard only by Icelandic, Japanese, Swedish and Swiss males; Canadian females, by Japanese, French, Icelandic, Spanish and Swiss females. Also, the rate of increase has varied.
|Life expectancy at birth for a selection of industrialized countries, 1970 to 2002:|
|Source: Various Statistical agencies, Sardon (2004) and Statistics Canada, Demography Division|
Another statistic which you may see is the life expectancy at differing ages. This statistic reflects the fact that if you have made it to, say 65, then you have reached another milestone such that your likelihood of living to an age that exceeds the above “life expectancies at birth” increases. Check out the web for Life Expectancy Calculators.
In fact, the scientific literature is divided concerning future gains in life expectancy. Some researchers, who expect that life expectancy at birth will continue to rise rapidly in the coming decades, set no limit on that rise in the short run (Oeppen and Vaupel, 2003) . Others, pointing out that average annual gains are slowing, argue that we are approaching the limits of the life expectancy of a population and that there will henceforth be little additional growth (Olshansky et al., 2001). Still some researchers have even recently suggested that a decrease in life expectancy at birth is not out of the question because of the growing prevalence of various health problems such as obesity (Olshansky et al., 2005).
Of particular interest is the general health of the “Boomer generation”, which is a significant factor in the coming “grey wave”. The following table, courtesy of the Heart and Stroke Foundation indicates that Olshansky may be right:
|Percent of Baby Boomers Who . . . . .|
|Are at a Healthy Weight||70.0%||65.0%||68.0%||C+|
|Have a Healthy Blood Pressure||72.0%||78.0%||75.0%||B|
|Have a Healthy Serum Cholesterol Level||42.0%||69.0%||55.0%||D|
|Source: Heart and Stroke Foundation, 1996|
For more about the Boomers see: Heart and Stroke Foundation - Is 60 the new 70?
In conclusion, many of these lifestyle factors may offset the historic trend of increasing life expectancies.
If current trends in obesity and unhealthy lifestyle choices (such as those outlined above) continue unabated, it is possible that the expected influx of seniors and therefore demand for retirement and care choices may not increase as expected.
As attitudes and market demands change towards healthier diets and increased exercise, these possible health problems may decrease, and there may indeed be a surge in the number of seniors, and in particular older seniors (over the age of 75), in Canada. Recent articles in the press suggest that modern technology and advances in medicine may extend our life to 1,000 years within the foreseeable future.
Enhanced: Broken Limits to Life Expectancy, Jim Oeppen and James W. Vaupel*
See "Commentary: Prescient visions of public health from Cornaro to Breslow"