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Four in 10 girls born today is expected to live to 100, according to a respected health economist writing in the online edition of the British Medical Journal.John Appleby, chief economist at the King’s Fund, said just 13 per cent of girls born in 1951 were expected to reach their centenary.
But among those born this year, just under 40 per cent are forecast to reach 100, according to the Office for National Statistics . If trends continue, the majority of girls born in 2060 – some 60 per cent – will live to see 2160.
Life expectancy is shorter for boys but is gaining ground, especially among wealthier parts of the population.
Professor Appleby warned that although life expectancy was increasing, one could not assume people would have healthier old ages – raising the prospect of a “scrabble for resources” to cope with ever increasing numbers of infirm elderly people.
He wrote : “Living longer is a good thing but not much fun if those extra years are lived in pain and discomfort.
“How healthy humans will be in the future is an open question, but historically at least … previous gains in health life expectancy have more to do with reductions in mortality than reductions in years lived in disability.”
Increasing longevity has taken many people by surprise. While demographers had expected the increase to plateau in recent years, that has not happened and lifespans seem to be soaring ahead.
Prof Appley also asked: “As more and more people live to older ages what will happen to the world’s population?
“Could we find our aged selves scrabbling for resources as the world’s population explodes?”
However, he concluded this was “very unlikely” as the increase in the world’s population rate was slowing.
Such a benign conclusion is not shared by others, who fear slowing population growth will exacerbate the problem. If fewer babies are born, that will mean less people of working age to support growing numbers in retirement, say many experts.
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