What is the average lifetime of a person

Increasing life expectancy - what are the reasons and consequences?

People in Germany are getting older - and don't even notice it. There are numerous reasons for increasing life expectancy. It is all the more astonishing that the Germans are clearly wrong when estimating their own life expectancy. On average, according to scientific studies, they live about seven years longer than they themselves suspect. But what are the consequences of increasing life expectancy? An initiative by the German insurers (GDV) would therefore like to raise awareness of the fact that people in Germany are getting older and older. The GDV campaign “7 years longer” is intended to encourage people to make the best possible use of the “time gained”.

If you are to enumerate the characteristics of a typical German, the term “optimistic” probably does not make it into the top 10 most frequently mentioned terms. This is reflected in a scientific study that shows that Germans significantly underestimate their life expectancy. And that affects both women and men. In the 2012 study by the Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA), the women surveyed estimated their life expectancy at an average of 80.3 years, while the men guessed an average of 75.8 years. According to the Federal Statistical Office, however, the average life expectancy for the people surveyed was 87.4 years (women) and 82.2 years (men). This meant that both sexes were off by about seven years.

Why do we misjudge our life expectancy?

However, this pessimism is not a German phenomenon. A study by the University of California in San Francisco from 2015 shows that people generally find it difficult to correctly estimate their (statistical) life expectancy. According to this, around one in three respondents has more years ahead of them than they believe. There are reasons for the supposedly surprising results of the studies.

On the one hand, the fact that people are getting older is a relatively new phenomenon. In Germany, life expectancy for newborn boys was only 45 years at the end of the 19th century, girls could expect around 50 years. A rapid increase in age could only be observed in the course of the 20th century. Your own perception is “felt” to lag behind the current development.

On the other hand, people often compare their calculated life expectancy to the age of death of their next of kin. "When you think about your own life expectancy, you probably often have the lifespan of people from the generation of your own parents and grandparents in the back of your mind," says Professor Jochen Russ, Managing Director of the Institute for Finance and Actuarial Sciences. The reference is misleading, however, since it is like a look into the past. In every generation one has different living conditions, so Ruß continues.

The later the birth, the higher the life expectancy

Life expectancy has now doubled since the end of the 19th century. According to the latest generation mortality table from the Federal Statistical Office, a newborn boy lives on average 86.4 years. Girls get even older. Their life expectancy is already 90.7 years.

An end to this trend is not yet in sight, as Professor Ruß explains: “We gain around 2.5 years of life per decade.” This means that each generation (= 30 years) lives around 7.5 years longer than the previous one. "Life expectancy is increasing faster than most people think," says Russ. If you take it very carefully, it can be stated:

The life expectancy of newborns increases by a good six hours every day.

With regard to the magical 100 mark, James W. Vaupel, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, is very optimistic. His thesis:

“Every second child born today has its 103rd birthday.” Hard to imagine, but why is it that we are getting older?

7 reasons for increasing life expectancy

There are several reasons for the fact that people are getting older. The seven main causes of increasing life expectancy are as follows:

The more developed the country - the greater the life expectancy. It is obvious that the more prosperous a nation is, the more money flows into the health system. The result: There is a better medical infrastructure - along with improved treatment and therapy measures - available. Another factor in increasing prosperity is the impact on individual living conditions. Increased zest for life can extend life.

  • Medical progress

Advancement in medicine is a major reason for extending human life. Research and development in the treatment and prevention of classic age-related ailments such as cancer or cardiovascular diseases are particularly responsible for this. Infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, which used to be one of the most common causes of death, are now almost non-existent in the western world. “We have succeeded in suppressing premature death. And this process has not yet been completed, ”says Wolfgang Lutz, Director of the Vienna Institute of Demography.

In the early days of industrialization, the working conditions were extremely difficult and hazardous to health. By 1870, 78-hour weeks were not uncommon. There weren't any free weekends anyway. No wonder that physical wear and tear often resulted in early death. With the change to a service society, a lot of strenuous work has disappeared. People work less and get more rest. In addition, the issue of occupational safety is playing an increasingly important role in companies.

When it comes to nutrition, there has been a noticeable change in the last few decades. The trend towards a conscious and balanced diet combined with plenty of exercise and avoiding toxins such as alcohol or tobacco leads to a healthier and thus longer life. For comparison: while in 1978 43 percent smoked in Germany, in 2013 it was already less than 30 percent. In addition, the consumption of fruit and vegetables in Germany has almost doubled since 1935 to 95.7 kilograms per capita.

Until the end of the 19th century, caring for the poor was mainly the responsibility of the church, but there is now a nationwide welfare system in Germany. State social insurances guarantee a decent subsistence level and protect those in need from misery. Long-term care insurance provides those in need of care with benefits that enable them to live well into old age.

Thanks to improved hygiene conditions, dangerous infectious diseases (cholera, typhus, tuberculosis) have almost disappeared in Germany. Here, clean drinking water as well as regulated sewage and waste disposal are decisive factors. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that water, sanitation and sanitation deficiencies are responsible for 8 percent of deaths in developing countries.

The higher the education - the higher the life expectancy. Studies show that educated people pay more attention to their health than the less qualified. More exercise, more conscious nutrition and more preventive medical check-ups are measures that have a positive effect on life expectancy. A higher level of education usually also leads to better earnings and less physically demanding occupational activities - another factor that leads to low health risks. In Germany, education is also a big issue in old age. In the past ten years, the proportion of people over 65 in all adult education courses has risen by 5.9 percentage points to 15.4 percent.

The GDV initiative "7 years longer"

“Live 7 years longer” is an initiative of the German Insurance Association (GDV). Hannoversche Lebensversicherung AG is one of its members. The initiative aims to raise awareness among the German population that people in this country are getting older and at the same time remain vital for longer.

In order to counteract the often false and negative image of old age, the initiative aims to help educate people. At the same time, it pursues the goal of conducting a social dialogue about what people can do with the “gained” seven years. More information on the initiative is available here: http://www.7jahrelaenger.de/.

There is a calculator there with which each user can guess for himself how old he is going to be. To do this, you simply have to estimate your life expectancy and then enter your year of birth and gender. With a click of the mouse, you can already find out how well or badly you typed your expected age. There is also interesting information on the subject of pensions on the site. Divided into occupational groups and federal states, everyone can see how much the pension will be worth in 2040.

Consequences of increasing life expectancy - pension provision for maintaining living standards should be increased

But what effects does increasing life expectancy have on each individual? After all, most Germans do not even expect that they will have to cope with seven more years of age than they previously thought. The fact is that the statutory German pension insurance alone cannot secure the standard of living for people in Germany. In order to close this supply gap, it makes sense to take out additional private or state-sponsored old-age provision. The latter include, for example, the Rürup pension and Riester pension, which are attractively funded by the state.

Strictly speaking, people nowadays not only stay alive longer after they retire, but are also fit longer for a number of reasons. According to a study, around 13 percent of gym members in Germany who regularly train in the weight room or on the treadmill are over 60 years old. More than three quarters of those over 65 say they feel fit in terms of health.

After all, the end of working life is not the end of life at the same time, but just a new phase in life. And for most people this will be bigger than they suspect. As nice as the increase in life expectancy is, you should consider the associated consequences. You should therefore make provisions in good time so that you can spend the extended retirement years as you wish!

Photo: © oneinchpunch / Fotolia
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