Policy ForumDemography

Prospects for Human Longevity

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Science  23 Feb 2001:
Vol. 291, Issue 5508, pp. 1491-1492
DOI: 10.1126/science.291.5508.1491

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From 1985 to 1995, death rates for the population aged 0 to 99 declined at an average annual rate of 1.5% in France, 1.2% in Japan, and 0.4% in the United States. These trends in mortality, if they continue, would yield a life expectancy at birth from 85 to 90 years in the 21st century. Given the presence of entropy in the life table, a life expectancy at birth of 100 years, if it ever occurs, is unlikely to arise until well past the time when everyone alive today has already died. Overly optimistic forecasts of life expectancy have already influenced important areas of public policy.