The Economic Promise of Delayed Aging

As a companion to the recently published book Aging: The Longevity Dividend, you might take a look at this paper on the economics of even marginal success in slowing aging. The gains examined are very small in the grand scheme of things, a few additional years of health via some form of drug-based therapy to adjust the operation of cellular metabolism, such as calorie restriction mimetics, or other approaches such as enhancing autophagy. Drugs based on recapturing the well-studied calorie restriction response have been promised for years, but have yet to arrive in any meaningful way, despite a large research investment in time and money.

Biomedicine has made enormous progress in the last half century in treating common diseases. However, we are becoming victims of our own success. Causes of death strongly associated with biological aging, such as heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and stroke, cluster within individuals as they grow older. These conditions increase frailty and limit the benefits of continued, disease-specific improvements.

Here, we show that a "delayed-aging" scenario, modeled on the biological benefits observed in the most promising animal models, could solve this problem of competing risks. The economic value of delayed aging is estimated to be $7.1 trillion over 50 years. Total government costs, including Social Security, rise substantially with delayed aging - mainly caused by longevity increases - but we show that these can be offset by modest policy changes. Expanded biomedical research to delay aging appears to be a highly efficient way to forestall disease and extend healthy life.

$7.1 trillion over 50 years is ~$140 billion a year, which is about half of the present yearly direct costs of chronic disease in the US. The opportunity costs of aging and disease, in the form of people unable to work and support themselves, are much higher. Delayed aging is not solved aging, of course. If we want an end to aging, and an end to the costs of age-related disease, then rejuvenation research should be the primary approach, meaning efforts to repair the causes of aging rather than only trying to slowing them down. It isn't any harder to achieve this goal, so why aim for the worse outcome?



I think they aim for the worst outcome because it's the least "radical" and controversial way in today's world where everyone is struggling for funding, on top of the strict regulations of what can and can't be treated.

Posted by: Ham at December 21st, 2015 6:32 AM

Yes, yes, but how do you get modern medicine which has been gaming populations for decades with misdirected dietary guidelines so as to produce more disease to treat? How do you take 4140 billion a year out of the pockets of doctors, drug companies, insurance plans? Those in the know placate any impetus for an anti-aging pill by offering up metformin which from existing human studies will likely only add another 3-8 years to life and end up depleting vitamin B1, B12 and magnesium, which is not even close to what calorie restriction achieves in the laboratory. I hope we are all not naive to believe stakeholders in the healthcare arena will embrace anti-aging strategies. I wouldn't hold my breath for the AMA to approve an anti-aging pill even though the Rand Corp. think-tank suggested an anti-aging pill be added to the Medicare budget over a decade ago. The existing model is detect and treat every age-related disease as they emanate rather than delay aging altogether. And the masses are not demanding to live longer or they would all be taking resveratrol pills. The masses want to look younger, not live longer. Wrinkle eradication, darker hair and Viagra is what the masses want. You probably have to sneak something in the water supply to achieve mass longevity.

Posted by: Bill Sardi at December 27th, 2015 8:45 AM

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