Live Long & Prosper

Longevity study


U.S. life expectancy now averages 78.8 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even better, a June 2015 National Bureau of Economic Research report finds that since 1992, the number of years of healthful life expectancy that Americans over age 65 can expect to enjoy has increased by 1.8. The latter study also found that disabled life expectancy had declined by 0.5 years.

This achievement—longer and healthier lives for most people—is largely the result of improved medical care. Cataract surgery and prophylactic treatments that prevent heart disease, such as medications to lower blood pressure, have significantly reduced the incidence of disabilities at younger ages.

"We identify the medical conditions that contribute the most to changes in healthy life expectancy," the Harvard-based researchers write. "The largest improvements in healthy life expectancy come from reduced incidence and improved functioning for those with cardiovascular disease and vision problems. Together, these conditions account for 63 percent of the improvement in disability-free life expectancy."