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Average life expectancy on the rise around the world

Posted January 19, 2017

Average life expectancy in high income countries such as the UK, Germany, the US, Australia and Canada is set to increase by 2030 while South Koreans are likely to live the longest, according to research published in the British medical journal Lancet.

The study, led by scientists from Imperial College London (ICL) in collaboration with the World Health Organisation, analysed long-term data on mortality and longevity trends to predict the changes likely in 35 industrialised countries, and it calculated life expectancy for those born in 2030.

The scientists found all the nations reviewed can expect to see an increase in life expectancy by 2030, though the US is likely to have the lowest life expectancy among high-income countries.

Europe experience

French women and Swiss men were predicted to have the highest life expectancies at birth in Europe by 2030, with an average life expectancy of 88.6 years for French women and nearly 84 years for Swiss men.

The UK’s average life expectancy at birth for women will be 85.3 years in 2030. This places them 21st in the table of 35 countries. The average life expectancy of a UK man meanwhile will be 82.5 years in 2030. This places them at 14th in the table of 35 countries.

The team also predicted a 65-year-old UK man in 2030 could expect to live an additional 20.9 years (12th in the table of countries), while a 65-year-old woman in the UK could expect to live an additional 22.7 years, up (22nd in the table of countries).

The team calculated life expectancy at birth of a baby girl born in South Korea in 2030 will expect to live 90.8 years. Life expectancy at birth for South Korean men will be 84.1 years.

Scientists once thought an average life expectancy of over 90 was impossible, according to Professor Majid Ezzati, lead researcher from the School of Public Health at ICL.

“We repeatedly hear that improvements in human longevity are about to come to an end. Many people used to believe that 90 years is the upper limit for life expectancy, but this research suggests we will break the 90-year-barrier. I don’t believe we’re anywhere near the upper limit of life expectancy –if there even is one,” he said.

Financial disrupter

Bryan Low, founder of Provisca and an expert with 26 years in the finance sector, has identified the longevity revolution as one of the most disruptive trends in wealth management industry over the coming years

He argues that much of Europe in particular is ill prepared to address the issues raised by ageing populations, and this presents significant challenges and opportunities for financial advisers whose clients have reached, or are approaching, retirement age.

“It also suggests that longevity concerns should be at the heart of most client-adviser conversations, even many years ahead of the client’s planned retirement age,” he said.

Steven Cameron, pensions director at Aegon UK said the rise in life expectancy brings into sharp focus the issue of financing these lengthening retirement years.

“There is no crystal ball to tell us individually how long we’re going to live, making planning a sustainable retirement income uniquely difficult, but what we do know is that increasingly, retirees are going to need to make their pension pots last 30, and in some cases 40 years.”

Cameron said this raised the issue of whether the current popularity of flexi-access drawdown schemes were really better than annuities, which had fallen out of favour snc ethe UK pension freedoms were introduced in 2015.

“With life expectancy continuing to grow, the drawdown route may seem too risky for many, and people may be looking for something ‘in between’ that offers some security as well as flexibility. This is why we’ve seen an increase in advisers considering, and recommending, drawdown with guarantees,” he said.

Gender gap closing

The latest ICL/WHO research also suggests the gap in life expectancy between women and men is also closing, which is another factor that financial advisers need to take into account.

The report found: “Men traditionally had unhealthier lifestyles, and so shorter life expectancies. They smoked and drank more, and had more road traffic accidents and homicides. However, as lifestyles become more similar between men and women, so does their longevity.”

Other findings from the research that financial advisers need to be aware of include:

  • The five countries with the highest life expectancy at birth for men in 2030 were: South Korea (84.1), Australia (84.0), Switzerland (84.0), Canada (83.9), Netherlands (83.7)
  • The five countries with the highest life expectancy at birth for women in 2030 were: South Korea (90.8), France (88.6), Japan (88.4), Spain (88.1), Switzerland (87.7)
  • The five countries with the highest life expectancy for 65-year-old men in 2030 were: Canada (22.6 additional life years), New Zealand (22.5), Australia (22.2), South Korea (22.0), Ireland (21.7)
  • The five countries with the highest life expectancy for 65-year-old women in 2030 were: South Korea (27.5 additional life years), France (26.1), Japan (25.9), Spain (24.8), Switzerland (24.6)
  • The five countries in Europe with the highest life expectancy at birth for men in 2030 were: Switzerland (84.0), Netherlands (83.7), Spain (83.5), Ireland (83.2) and Norway (83.2)
  • The five countries in Europe with the highest life expectancy at birth for women in 2030 were: France (88.6), Spain (88.1), and Switzerland (87.7), Portugal (87.5) and Slovenia (87.4)
  • The UK’s average life expectancy at birth for women will increase from 82.3 years in 2010 to 85.3 years in 2030. This places them 21st in the table of 35 countries (compared to 22nd in 2010)
  • The average life expectancy of a UK man at birth will increase from 78.3 years in 2010 to 82.5 years in 2030. This places them 14th in the table of 35 countries (compared to 11th in 2010).

This article was originally published by International Adviser

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