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Thursday, May 14, 2015

More birthdays for everyone

Todd Whitcombe, Prince George Citizen summarizes, "There is only one thing that I know of for sure - we all die."

Photo: Wikipedia 

That may sound a bit more morbid than I am trying to be but it is a simple truth. We are born, we grow old, and eventually we pass on.

How long do we have on Earth? Who knows? Even the best actuarial tables and mathematical calculations get it wrong more often than they get it right. This is why life insurance is such a risky business at the level of an individual.

During the past 150 years, though, our life expectancy has changed. We are definitely living longer and healthier lives.

I should point out that life expectancy is a statistical measure of how long a person will live based upon expectations for a group of individuals. That is, if you have 10 people and five die at the age of five while the other five live to be 80, then the average life expectancy for the group is 42.5 years and yet no one actually only lived that long.

A better measure of the changes in our life expectancy might be "typical life span" or something like that. However, such measurements would be hard to define and calculate.

In any case, at the beginning of the 20th century, life expectancy at birth on a world-wide basis was 31 years of age. By 2010, that number had increased to 67.2 years. Yes, we have more people alive on this planet and they are living much longer. It is a large part of our population boom.

Why this has occurred is due to many factors, but public health measures are predominant in the list. Epidemiologists calculate that 85 per cent of the increase in our typical life span is a consequence of various public health measures.

Diseases such as diphtheria, measles, pneumonia, and influenza are not the deadly killers they were of old. Clean drinking water and proper sanitation has virtually wiped out cholera in the developed world. And childbirth is not usually a life threatening proposition due to sterilized equipment and medical professionals.

According to the Center for Disease Control in the United States, the number one public health measure in the 20th century was the introduction of immunization through vaccines. There is no doubt that vaccines save lives.

Related link 
Life table (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Source: Prince George Citizen

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