Sunday, June 24, 2012

Life goes on, and so does life expectancy

Life expectancy is a funny thing.  It's a pretty often quoted statistic that not many people realize is just that - a statistic.  It's also fairly misunderstood, in that many people presume it's static.

Truthfully, your life expectancy changes over the course of your life based on how long you've already lived. Most people accept this as making sense once it's pointed out, but it's not often the first thought people have when they here it (and journalist's are ABYSMAL at clarifying the "at birth" part of most life expectancy estimates).  Anyway, this week posted this chart, which I think illustrates the changes nicely.  I didn't check all the other data they put on there (though I was surprised to see how low the median age for first divorces is), but I thought the overall affect was quite informative.

In particular, I like the beginning of the chart, where it shows that if you make it beyond your first year, you actually get a bump up pretty quickly.  Infant mortality is not often thought of as affecting overall life expectancy in developed countries, but it does.


  1. Is that or ?

    Anyway, a couple of thoughts:

    Accidental events are the biggest killer up to age 25. (I assume the chart means all accidents, not transportation-related accidents...)

    Do the heights of the hashed-regions under the solid lines mean anything? The "46% of deaths in this age group" is shorter than the "17% of deaths in this age group" region.

    1. .org

      I fixed it....was relieved to see the .com version wasn't something really disturbing.

      I couldn't find a good explanation for the chart, but my guess is the hashed in regions only represent the interval mentioned, and then the above factoids are about that whole age group, as opposed to anything related to the factoid.

  2. Aubrey de Gray believes that the first person who will live to be 1000 has already be born. He's a very smart guy and mskes some fascinating points, but I have always wondered if he didn't originally get tricked by the improved health for children pushing up the average, and then working hard to justify what he had already believed.

    Life expectancy in the US was 46 in 1900. Infant mortality, epidemic, sanitation, and antibiotics have pushed the major changes in that.