Like Clockwork

Mainstream press articles on increasing life expectancy arrive on a schedule like clockwork: "U.S. life expectancy has risen to a new high, now standing at nearly 78 years ... The increase is due mainly to falling death rates in almost all the leading causes of death. The average life expectancy for babies born in 2007 is nearly three months greater than for children born in 2006. ... Life expectancy is the period a child born in 2007 is expected to live, assuming mortality trends stay constant. U.S. life expectancy has grown nearly one and a half years in the past decade, and is now at an all-time-high. ... Japan has the longest life expectancy - 83 years for children born in 2007, according to the World Health Organization. The CDC report found that the number of deaths and the overall death rate dropped from 2006 - to about 760 deaths per 100,000 people from about 776. The death rate has been falling for eight straight years, and is half of what it was 60 years ago. Heart disease and cancer together are the cause of nearly half of U.S. fatalities. The death rate from heart disease dropped nearly 5 percent in 2007, and the cancer death rate fell nearly 2 percent, according to the report." Life expectancy is a statistical construct that looks back into the past to measure trends; it doesn't actually have anything to say about how long people born today are likely to live. This, after all, is an era of great change and progress in biotechnology.



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