• Question: Is human life expextancy increasing as time goes on?

    Asked by 7krakatoa7 to Alex, Amy, Andy, Georgia, Ollie on 17 Jun 2011.
    • Photo: Amy Reeve

      Amy Reeve answered on 16 Jun 2011:

      This is a really interesting question. The average life expectancy is increasing as time goes on. But the trouble is that the average is brought down by the extremes. What I mean is in the 1600s life expectancy was about 40years, I believe, but this was because a lot of people died in childhood. Some people still lived into old age but many did not, this bought the average down. Nowadays many fewer people die in childhood and because lots of people live to be 80 the average goes up.

      So life expectancy is going up because more people live longer not because we are in general living longer as a species…… Does that make sense? 🙂

    • Photo: Andy MacLeod

      Andy MacLeod answered on 16 Jun 2011:

      On average: yes.

      Hello again 7krakatoa7. Advances in medicine and sanitation mean that people are living a lot longer than they used to. As Amy notes, people born in the 20th century in the UK have a much longer life expectancy than people born 100, 200 or more years earlier. This is due to many factors, prime among them being the development of modern sanitation, better nutrition and medical advances, all of which either stop people dying younger, or help them live longer.

      But there are still national (and even regional) differences. While the general trend is for increased life expectancy, the rate of increase varies between countries. I’ve found a neat little widget that helps visualise this. If you click on the link, you should see a graph that shows change in UK live expectancy compared to the global average over the last 50 years. Click on the boxes on the right to compare other countries.


    • Photo: Alex Munro

      Alex Munro answered on 17 Jun 2011:

      Hello; yes, it is…but it’s not all good news: the Office of National Statistics (www.statistics.gov.uk) tells us that although we are living longer, we are living more years of our lives with a ‘limiting persistent illness’ or disability.

      In 2007 males spent an average of 8.7 years of their life in poor general health, while women spent on average 11 years of their life in poor general health… The trick is to look after yourself throughout your life, so that you can live longer, in good health!