? regarding life expectancy(USA)

I was listening to a doctor on a local PBS station talking about health in the USA. He was given some stats which seemed off to me.
Basically his jist was that, life expectancy has only dramatically increased because the death rate for children under 5 has decreased so dramatically. In other words 200 years ago, if a person made it to five years old he could reasonably expect to live to about 66 years old. Today, if a person lives to be five he can expect to live to be 69. That is only a difference of 3 years.

He explained while deaths from infections, childbirth etc have fallen dramatically, the incidences of cancer and heart disease, now more common tend to equal it all out. PROVIDED you live to be five (at least).

That’s largely true. Lowered infant mortality is the primary reason for increased life expectancy in developed nations. While your chances of surviving a life threatening illness like cancer are now much higher, that affects a small part of the population. For example, 1/3 of us die from heart disease, and almost no gains have been made in that area. In fact, our sedentary lifestyles may have made that worse.

That’s starting to change now. Most of the medical advances we’ve seen in the last while are happening on the other end of the lifespan (Alzheimer’s treatments, vastly improved cancer survival rates, higher survival rates for organ transplants, etc).

There are a lot of credible doctors who are now saying that those of us in our 30’s and 40’s can reasonably expect to live to be 100, and there are a handful of doctors and researchers saying we are on the verge of breakthroughs that will see us living to 120-130 or even more.

Yes, the life expenctancy quotes are always averages that take infant mortality into account. It bugs me that when people hear that the average life expectancy in ancient Rome was only 30 years, they think it means that 30 year olds were dropping dead of old age.

Life-expectancy-at-birth is a mean, not a median; high infant mortality conceals the susbstantial number of people who will live well past this age.

[Note: This message has been edited by Nickrz]

I hate to introduce a discordant note into this lovefest of agreement, but basically that doctor is so full of it that his eyes must be brown (and, if they are blue, it can only be because he’s down a quart).
I confess to not having data on five-year-olds handy, but the 1992 NCSH statistics gives a median age of death at age 20 for males of 74.3 years, and for females of 80.6 years (note the significant difference here).
Unless that doctor has evidence that teenage drug abuse, automobile accidents, and gang shootings chop five to eleven years off the median lifespan between ages five and twenty, his theory that five-year-olds have a “reasonable” chance of living to age 69 is roughly equivalent to his saying that there is a “reasonable” chance that the sun will rise tomorrow morning.
Early mortality was certainly much more significant in the past than it is today. However, a study of recorded ages at death (literary and historical evidence for the “upper classes”, however defined at the time, and a survey of tombstones and parish records for others) should disabuse even a PBS employee of the notion that anyone who made it to five years old thereafter live to a ripe old age. Disease, malnutrition, and war can strike at any age.

“Kings die, and leave their crowns to their sons. Shmuel HaKatan took all the treasures in the world, and went away.”

Believe it or not, people are actually living as long today as they did hundreds of years back. That has not really changed. We talked about this before.