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03 Mar 2017

Scientists believe humans could eventually break through the landmark 90-year mark for life expectancy.

Medical advances combined with improved social programs are helping people live longer, but raising concerns about quality of old age, health costs, pension costs and retirement age.

New British research shows South Korea leads the world with men in that country now expected to live to 84.1 years, just edging out Australian males on 84 years.

According to a study just published in The Lancet, South Korean woman are on track to reach the 90-year mark for life expectancy by 2030.

If the study's projections prove accurate, Australian women at 87.5 years will be just behind South Koreans, French, Japanese, Spanish and Swiss women – but still well ahead of Australian men.

The study's authors developed 21 models to predict life expectancy in 35 developed nations.

“As recently as the turn of the century, many researchers believed that life expectancy would never surpass 90 years,” said lead author Professor Majid Ezzati, from Imperial College London.

“Our predictions of increasing lifespans highlight our public health and healthcare successes. 

“However, it is important that policies to support the growing older population are in place. In particular, we will need to both strengthen our health and social care systems and establish alternative models of care such as technology-assisted home care.”

According to Australian Institute of Health and Welfare figures a male born in 2016 is expected to live to 80.4 and a female to 84.5 – a huge advance since the 1880s when an Australian baby boy was only expected to live to 47.2 and a female to 50.8.

The British study also recorded just small increases in projected life expectancies in the United States to 79.5 for men and 83.3 for women.

A separate study published in the journal Nature last year calculated that 125 was likely to be the absolute limit of human lifespan because of genetic factors.

The lead researcher Professor Jan Vig predicted further progress against infectious and chronic diseases may continue boosting average life expectancy – but not maximum lifespan.

Odette Visser


Published: 03 Mar 2017