As the demographic transition enters a new stage of a longevity transition, focus needs to extend beyond an ageing society towards a longevity society. An ageing society focuses on changes in the age structure of the population, whereas a longevity society seeks to exploit the advantages of longer lives through changes in how we age. Achieving a longevity society requires substantial changes in the life course and social norms, and involves an epidemiological transition towards a focus on delaying the negative effects of ageing. The broad changes required to achieve healthy longevity include an increased focus on healthy life expectancy, a shift from intervention towards preventive health, a major public health agenda to avoid increases in health inequality, the establishment of longevity councils to ensure coordinated policy across government departments, and intergenerational assessment of policies, to ensure that in adapting to longer lives, policies are not skewed towards older people. A longevity society represents a new stage for humanity and requires deep-seated notions about age and ageing to be challenged if society is to make the best use of the additional time that longevity brings.
Developments in life expectancy and the growing emphasis on biological and ‘healthy’ aging raise a number of important questions for health scientists and economists alike. Is it preferable to make lives healthier by compressing morbidity, or longer by extending life? What are the gains from targeting aging itself compared to efforts to eradicate specific diseases? Here we analyze existing data to evaluate the economic value of increases in life expectancy, improvements in health and treatments that target aging. We show that a compression of morbidity that improves health is more valuable than further increases in life expectancy, and that targeting aging offers potentially larger economic gains than eradicating individual diseases. We show that a slowdown in aging that increases life expectancy by 1 year is worth US$38 trillion, and by 10 years, US$367 trillion. Ultimately, the more progress that is made in improving how we age, the greater the value of further improvements.
Author(s): Andrew J. Scott, Martin Ellison, David A. Sinclair
Human lifespans are increasing with advances in medicine, but the economic value of these gains are poorly understood. Based on U.S. data, we show a compression of morbidity that improves health is more valuable than further increases in life expectancy. However, economic gains to better health diminish unless longevity also improves. Treatments that target aging are hence particularly valuable, as they produce both healthier and longer lives. We calculate a slowdown in aging that increases life expectancy by one year is worth $38 trillion, and for ten years $367 trillion. Evaluating the impact of metformin shows targeting aging offers potentially larger economic gains than eradicating individual diseases. Complementarities between health, longevity and age lead to a virtuous circle that means improvements in aging increase the value of further gains. Aligned with trends in demographics and disease, this implies the gains from age targeting treatments will increase further in the decades ahead.
Author(s): Martin Ellison, Andrew J. Scott, David A. Sinclair