The new future of old age

Policy Mag cover

I have a fea­ture arti­cle on recent remark­able changes in the out­look for longevi­ty in the cur­rent (Win­ter 2011) edi­tion of Pol­i­cy, the jour­nal of the Cen­tre for Inde­pen­dent Stud­ies.

The arti­cle sketch­es some recent advances in under­stand­ing and manip­u­lat­ing the epi-genet­ic roots of age­ing, and draws atten­tion to the poten­tial eco­nom­ic val­ue of com­ing changes in the age pro­file of emerg­ing economies:

The income-linked val­ue of sur­vival means that the most impres­sive gains [from greater longevi­ty] are occur­ring, not in high-income coun­tries such as the Unit­ed States or Aus­tralia but in emerg­ing economies such as Chi­na and India. Here, the added val­ue is world-chang­ing. The enor­mous size of their pop­u­la­tions and their much greater ‘head-room’ for healthy life span improve­ments (they start from a low­er base) lead to galac­tic gains. For exam­ple, the val­ue of a sta­tis­ti­cal life-year in India has been assessed (2003) as US$10,000 to US$20,000. Giv­en India’s gains in life expectan­cy of about 25 years since 1950, and a pop­u­la­tion in 2000 of about 1 bil­lion, the gains in life expectan­cy in India alone over the peri­od are worth about US$400 tril­lion (about four times the gains in the Unit­ed States in the last three decades of 20th cen­tu­ry).

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