How long will people live in the future?

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: John Letzing, Digital Editor, Strategic Intelligence, World Economic Forum

  • The pandemic has caused setbacks in life expectancy in some places.
  • But a recent study suggests under ideal conditions a person can live to 150.
  • Efforts are underway to further extend and enhance longevity.

Benjamin Franklin had already turned 70 by the time he signed the US Declaration of Independence in 1776, when the average man wasn’t expected to live to see 34. The inventor and statesman’s remarkable longevity – he died at the age of 84 – has been attributed to avoiding alcohol and avidly swimming.

Global life expectancy at birth has now topped 70 years for men, and 75 years for women. And the population living to 100 and older is predicted to grow to nearly 3.7 million by 2050, from just 95,000 in 1990. According to a study published earlier this year, the biological “hard limit” on our longevity – barring disease and disaster – is as high as 150 years.

The progress made on extending lifespans thanks to vaccines and other breakthroughs has created complications, like difficulty funding retirement for growing elderly populations in some places. But it’s also inspired people to imagine a future where they pursue multiple careers and effectively combine several lives into one.

At certain points our prospects for longer lives haven’t looked great; US life expectancy saw its biggest decline last year since at least World War II, as COVID-19 was added to ongoing problems like drug overdoses. France, too, suffered a drop in life expectancy in 2020.

But there are clear indications more of us are headed the way of Jeanne Calment, the French woman who may have reached the age of 122 before dying in 1997.

Questions have been raised about Calment’s true longevity, but researchers from France and Switzerland say she was the oldest human being. Regardless, her official biography has captured the fancy of those who like the idea of being able to sip Port wine and eat more than two pounds of chocolate per week well past the century mark.

Image: World Economic Forum

Clearly, the attractiveness of a longer life hinges on its quality.

The researcher Aubrey de Grey argues that the cellular decay behind ageing will be defeated. He’s popularized the term “Methuselarity” to describe the point after which people with access to the right therapies will no longer suffer from age-related health problems, and human longevity will reach “escape velocity” (de Grey said recently that chances are decent this will occur by 2036).

Ray Kurzweil, an inventor and futurist, has likened the human genome to outdated software, and described ageing as a solvable engineering problem. Eventually we could extend our longevity “indefinitely,” Kurzweil has said, and relatively soon it may be possible to start adding one additional year to our lifespan every year.

There are potential economic benefits if people become able to live longer while staying healthier. A study published earlier this month used data from the US to suggest that effectively slowing the typical ageing process could create $38 trillion in value in a year of added life expectancy.

However, it’s unclear how evenly the tools needed for living longer and healthier lives would be distributed. Disparities in terms of healthcare and longevity, even within relatively wealthy countries, have become stark.

The OECD, a group of economically advanced countries, has reported that in 25 of its member states people with the highest level of education can expect to live about six years longer than those with the lowest level of education at age 30, for example.

The potential for effective anti-ageing innovation to worsen inequality in the future has stirred debate – some say the advantages the affluent already have in acquiring everything from youth-preserving serums to face cream provide a glimpse of the issues to come.

Image: World Economic Forum

For more context, here are links to further reading from the World Economic Forum’s Strategic Intelligence platform:

  • This study found a link between longer times required to conceive a child and shorter lifespans for women – a potential concern for the estimated 15% of couples in industrialized countries who now require more than a year. (The Conversation)
  • There may be a scientific basis for assuming the more stress you avoid, the longer you’ll live; according to this study, a gene that protects brain stem cells from harmful effects of stress is linked to unusually long lifespans. (Science Daily)
  • Can Africa help Europe avoid its looming ageing crisis? According to this analysis, bringing more women and older workers into the labour market won’t be sufficient, making migration the only workable solution. (Center for Global Development)
  • One potential way to slow the ageing process, according to this study: avoid exposure to pollutants like cigarette smoke, alcohol and pesticides. (Science Daily)
  • The life expectancy decline in the US last year was not evenly distributed, according to this report – it fell by a year and a half overall, but for Black and Hispanic Americans the decline was three years. (STAT)
  • There’s a difference between “chronological” and “biological” ageing, according to this piece. The latter seems to be poised to slow dramatically for many people, and that could create serious challenges. (New York Times)
  • According to the “Gompertz equation” our odds of death from something like cancer or heart disease roughly double every eight to nine years, but this analysis argues that traditional methods of calculating lifespan don’t account for new medical discoveries. (The Conversation)

On the Strategic Intelligence platform, you can find feeds of expert analysis related to Ageing and Longevity, Global Health, and hundreds of additional topics. You’ll need to register to view.

Image: World Economic Forum

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Australia urged to evacuate offshore detainees amid widespread, acute mental distress

Any doubt?

From funders to partners: elevating community expertise to help communities thrive

German opposition win in Lower Saxony felt all over Europe

London is becoming the world’s first National Park City

Yemen consultations have started, insists top UN negotiator

Commission approves emergency measures to protect eastern Baltic cod

How data can help mining companies tackle their trust deficit

From drought to floods in Somalia; displacement and hunger worsen, says UN

From raised fists at the 1968 Olympics to taking the knee: A history of racial justice protests in sport

Will the European Court of Justice change data privacy laws to tackle terrorism?

This is how travel hotspots are fighting back against overtourism

Do all you can to resolve climate change ‘sticking points’ UN chief urges South-East Asian leaders, in Bali

Four lessons from Africa on building effective business ecosystems

Australian homes are turning to solar power in record numbers

European research priorities for 2021-2027 agreed with member states

Meeting the basic needs of our healthcare workers

Mental health: a medical school’s demand

Embracing the diversity in a multicultural city of Romania

The EU Commission lets money market funds continue the unholy game of banks

How the power of sport can bring us together and drive social justice

EU Blue Card: Commission welcomes political agreement on new rules for highly skilled migrant workers

Why building consumer trust is the key to unlocking AI’s true potential

Ukraine’s new political order not accepted in Crimea

Protecting European consumers: toys and cars on top of the list of dangerous products

This is how New York plans to end its car culture

Progress against torture in Afghan detention centres, but Government needs to do more, says UN report

European Citizens’ Initiative: Commission registers ‘Mandatory food labelling Non-Vegetarian / Vegetarian / Vegan’ initiative’

Is South Korea set to lose from its FTA with the EU?

Anti-vaccers: does the empty can rattle the most?

The role of public affairs in student NGOs

Future Forces Forum: Prague will be hosting the most important project in the field of Defence and Security

Latin America’s cities are ready to take off. But their infrastructure is failing them

Political power of women suffering ‘serious regression’, General Assembly President warns

7 top things to know about coronavirus today

How global trade can save lives and livelihoods – and help protect the planet

EU job-search aid worth €9.9 million for 1,858 former Air France workers

European Semester 2018 Spring Package: Commission issues recommendations for Member States to achieve sustainable, inclusive and long-term growth

COVID-19: Save European culture and values, MEPs tell Commission

Children suffering ‘atrocities’ as number of countries in conflict hits new peak: UNICEF

We need to rethink ESG to ensure access to water and sanitation for all

International Court of Justice orders Pakistan to review death penalty for Indian accused of spying

Rise in violent conflict shows prevention ‘more necessary than ever’: UN chief

Top UN political official updates Security Council on Iran nuclear deal

It’s not summer holidays what lead to the bad August of the German economy

How can the world end viral hepatitis by 2030? 5 experts explain

How to talk about climate change: 5 tips from the front lines

Failure to open accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia is a mistake

Myanmar doing too little to ensure displaced Rohingya return: UN refugee agency chief

Further reforms in Sweden can drive growth, competitiveness and social cohesion

EU-UK relations: solutions found to help implementation of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland

Statistics show the ugly face of youth training schemes

Croatian Presidency outlines priorities to EP committees

Media and entertainment in flux: it’s time for the close-up

5 droughts that changed human history

Are the G20 leaders ready to curb corporate tax-avoidance?

European Youth, quo vadis?

China is the first non-EU country to invest in Europe’s €315 billion Plan

EU institutions agree on priorities for coming years: A common agenda for our recovery and renewed vitality

Coronavirus Global Response: EIB and Commission pledge additional €4.9 billion

More Stings?


  1. Sophia says:

    Thank you for this good information! “How long will people live in the future?”
    Immortality & Longevity forum:

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s