Here is a fascinating look at the mathematics of mortality. What are my odds of dying at age (enter age here)? This startling fact was first noticed by the British actuary Benjamin Gompertz in 1825 and is now called the “Gompertz Law of human mortality.” Your probability of dying during a given year doubles every 8 years. For me, a 25-year-old American, the probability of dying during the next year is a fairly miniscule 0.03% — about 1 in 3,000. When I’m 33 it will be about 1 in 1,500, when I’m 42 it will be about 1 in 750, and so on. By the time I reach age 100 (and I do plan on it) the probability of living to 101 will only be about 50%. This is seriously fast growth — my mortality rate is increasing exponentially with age.
If one can understand the mathematics of mortality, one can understand why healthy functional 92 year olds do not have the same prognosis as healthy functional 37 year olds when both are battling the same life threatening disease. Using treatment survival data on 37 year olds and extrapolating survival benefits to 92 year olds robs our elderly of death with dignity and tries to deny the existence of our biological clock.
I find this whole thing fascinating. This formula would suggest that to extend our lives we should be figuring out how to reduce the risk of death in 25 year olds from 1/3000 to 1/12,000 or more. That way, with the doubling risk of death at 8 year intervals, by the time you hit 100 years old, your risk of dying the next year would only be 12.5% instead of 50%.
You could make the old folks live longer, not by spending half a trillion dollars a year giving them chemo and putting stents in them or hooking them to dialysis, but rather we could accomplish our goals by doing nothing more than making the young folks die less often. Intuitively, one would expect that fewer young people dying of motor vehicle accidents wouldn't make them live longer in old age, but rather just allow more of them to get there.
This formula says they would live much longer as well. This formula would suggest that dying young is the gradual loss of the body's protective cops that begin immediately after birth. Perhaps our bodies come into this world with their maximum number of cops and we start losing them immediately and continuously our entire lives. It may also explain why doing bad things to your body in your young years, such as smoking, or living in a home where you smoke in front of your children, generates a loss of cops that accelerate the risk of death through out your entire life.
It seems to me that if our biological clock says our rate of death doubles every eight years we should be focusing our efforts on preventing the loss of cops in our young years and less on trying to stop the inevitable hands of time after the damage is done, and irreversible.
The more we spend in health care, the more we acknowledge our failures in public health initiatives. It's not about chemo and stents. It's about clean air, exercise, and healthy lifestyles, through your entire life.