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# I have an odd question about life expectancy.

Discussion in 'The Okie Corral' started by jame, Apr 17, 2012.

1. ### jameI don't even know....what I'm doing here....

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The way I understand it, the average life expectancy today is around 75 or so. But as I've read a variety of history books and articles, many of the older authors, founding fathers, et al have passed on when they were well into their 70's, 80's, or older.

If we were able to kick out of the statistic all those that died under the age of say, 10 years old, between the years of 1700 to present, we the average life expectancy be any different than it is today?

We have made great strides in infant death and mortality, as it wasn't at all unusual for kids under the age of 5 to die from a wide range of maladies way back in the day. But do we really live that much longer today than we did way back when?

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If you start to set various level to a statistical sample that leaves out a number below a certain point, the overall average does goes up.

For example, you will find that people who make it to a certain fairly low age, such as 30, have a life expectancy of over 80. (I dont remember the exact numbers and I am not going on a google mission) one quick googling show the life expectancy in the 1700's was under 40. I dont know how they arrive at that number.

For an opinion, that has a lot of statistical validity, people with a purpose live longer. So the Founding Fathers may have had an anomalous life span. However, I bet you will find that their life expectancy was, as a whole, shorter than you think. There is also another problem with your statement....the biggest problem, you picked a group of grown men. That skews the math in a major way. I understand that you are using that exact thing to make a point but the math of that cuts both ways.

As for your question...no matter what age you set the bar at, life expectancy has risen...a fair amount.

3. ### Big BirdNRA Life Member

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The average age of mortality in this nation was shockingly ~38 when the country was founded. Certainly SOME people lived much longer back then but lot never made it. By the turn of the 19th Century our life expectancy still was not above 50.

When I was a kid in the 1960's and 1970's and a man died in his 60's the most common refrain was "he lived a good life." Today, when someone dies in their 60's you'll hear: "He died young!"

I was looking at a 1980 Commissioner's Standard Ordinary Mortality Table for work the other day and there were 11.6 deaths per thousand for Males, Age 55, Non-smokers. The same table updated in 2000 showed 6 deaths per thousand for that same class of risk--almost half what it was just 20 years before!

The best proof? Go to your daily newspaper obit page and count the number of dead folks in their 80's and 90's...on any given day half the croaked people will be REALLY old...

Last edited: Apr 17, 2012
4. ### cgwahlSheriffs a near

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It probably didn't hurt that they were able to live more opulent than the regular folk.

Rabbi's thought that them living with a purpose probably played a part as well.

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That as well. It is a statistical fact that the wealthy, as a whole, live longer.

Besides the obvious "access to better healthcare...." I am convinced that it has more to do with purpose, mission and activity. Again, as a whole, the wealthy have things to do.

The best thing money ever bought anyone was purpose and mission.

6. ### samurairabbiDungeon Schmuck

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As touched on earlier, most of the statistical INCREASE in life expectancy is due to getting YOUNG people past EARLY death. This includes two areas: 1) getting young children past childhood diseases by vaccination, and 2) getting women in their 20's past death in childbirth. Adding a few years of life to someone who was already at, say, 70 may seem dramatic, but statistically it has little effect on AVERAGE life expectancy.

A possibly imprecise historical observation: There have always been MANY oldsters in American society. Civil War veterans organization events and battle reunions were heavily attended in 1920; this would mean veterans in their early 70's were common. Somewhere around 1925, their numbers faded abruptly.

Last edited: Apr 17, 2012
7. ### treeline

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Even if you exclude child mortality, the average length of life would be much shorter largely because of poor hygiene, seasonal malnutrition and simple infections. Things that are now easily treated would often cause further complications and eventually death. For example, a cold would become a serious chest infection or pneumonia, or someone with a chest infection would catch dysentry and be overwhelmed by a combination of illnesses.

Deaths weren't spread across all ages because some of the common killers became more likely with age. Dental problems like absesses often led to blood poisoning and late childbirth was a common cause of death.

I like social history, the stuff about day-today liiving conditions, and I'm always amazed how dangerous life was. Don't even get me started on how smelly the world must have been. Gaaak!

Last edited: Apr 17, 2012
8. ### Emoore

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A large percentage of the population at the time were slaves and poor farmers. I'm sure they didn't live very long. These days even the poor live as well as the wealthy did in ages past.

9. ### BFN

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The child mortality rate was extremely high 200 years ago. Most families had some children that did not make it to adulthood. Yes, take out the deaths under 10 and the average goes way up. But it is still lower than today, as they had yellow fever, smallpox, and many drank themselves to death. However, 200 years ago there were still people who had good genes and seemingly immune to cancer, heart disease, and other ailments, and they would live to 90+ years. Just not as many.

10. ### ron59Bustin Caps

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Emoore hit on it.

You're looking at how long the Founding Fathers lived. They were aristocracy to an extent. They were the average everyday working man. THOSE were the ones who died early, that you don't read about.

11. ### ChuteTheMallWitless Protection Program

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12. ### eyesnorth

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Just to clarify, please define "people with a purpose."

13. ### Glock20 10mmUse Linux!

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We live longer due to several factors:

- Clean water
- Better health awareness
- Less dangerous living environment / conditions
- More abundant and wider variety of foods
- Better genetic diversity

All these are factors into longer life spans. Watch what happens when you interrupt any of these.

14. ### sputnik767

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I guess to answer your question, you would have to look at the percentage of people who lived to let's say 70 or more at a given point in history. I can tell you that right now, the fastest growing group are people either in their 70s or 80s (I don't remember the exact statistic and don't want to look it up right now, but I think it's actually the 80s). I would bet that 100 years ago, this was not the case. So I guess the point is that average is not so important to your question, compared to the actual age range population statistic that you are interested in.

But in reality, most people actually die from some specific, identifiable cause, rather than simply "old age." The older you get the higher your chances are of cancer, hypertension and associated morbidity, etc. Needless to say, cancer advancements didn't really come around until very recently, and until beta-blockers, diuretics, ACE-inhibitors, ARBs, etc came around, there was no real effective treatment for hypertension. This helps explain the current growth of the older population.

Last edited: Apr 18, 2012
15. ### samurairabbiDungeon Schmuck

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Permit me to supplement your comments. Any old person who dies from a condition heavily attibutable to "old age" has, of course, already ACHIEVED old age. Saving that person is a worthy cause, but statistically it adds only a few years to that person's lifespan. A shop-worn public health worker who hustles to prevents case of measles from killing a 4-year old will contibute as much to statistical life expectancy than 25 Medicare-financed heart transplants; getting that 4-year-old past a childhood death and onto the track to a full-term lifespan doesn't get the glamour of a transplant, but it is massive in its statistical effect.