We’re all living longer

Melanie Tringham

Speaking to the the longevity gurus at L&G this week - Dame Karen Dunnell who chairs the Longevity Science Advisory Panel and Joseph Lu, L&G’s head of the longevity risk team - the longevity dilemma is pressing.

It is well known that we are all living longer, but perhaps surprisingly it is not all down to medical science - this factor comes far down the list.

The biggest factor is that many people have given up smoking, and this is actually narrowing the gap between men and women. While insurers have to grapple with the problem of a ban on gender pricing, despite the fact that women do currently live longer than men, the gap is nontheless shrinking.

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However, it is not all down to lifestyle; biological factors such as testosterone getting men into more scrapes when they are young and genetic factors, as in having only one X chromosome, mean that there is still a difference between men and women.

This must cause considerable headaches for the insurance industry, which cannot ask sly questions such as shoe size. The only way they can go about it now is to ask lifestyle questions when they come to price their products, even though there are more boys born every year than girls (last year the difference was 5 per cent).

But longevity is a nightmare for government too - as an ever increasing proportion of its spending budget goes on the elderly. The main way to plan, according to Mr Lu, is to think of a currently highly implausible event that would have a huge impact in longevity, and work back from that, as well as make predictions based on where health and life expectancy is now. As David Attenborough argued recently, medical knowledge has intervened to such an extent that we have stopped evolving. Let’s hope the money does not run out.