Poll: Will You Live Longer and Better?

Life Spans
  Desired Actual
All   87 years   78 years
Men   87   75
Women   87   80


There's no difference in the average age men and women would like to attain -- 87 for both sexes (this excludes those who want to live forever). Women, though, are likely to come closer to the target: the Centers for Disease Control reports that life expectancy is 80 for American women, versus 75 for men. (Either is a bit better than the Psalms' "threescore and 10," but well short of Noah's 950.)

Desires for an extremely long life run in the other direction: Women are substantially less apt than men to say they'd like to live to 120 if medical breakthroughs made that possible --33 percent of women say so, compared with 49 percent of men.

Want to Live to 120?
  Yes No
All   41%   53
Men   49   45
Women   33   60

There also are differences between the sexes in concerns about aging: Women are four to 12 points more likely than men to be concerned about each item tested on this survey, peaking with women's greater concerns about running out of money. On average across these 10 items, 59 percent of women express concern, compared with 50 percent of men.

Concerns About Aging
  Women Men Difference
Losing health   78%   68   +10
Losing ability to care for yourself   75   66   +9
Losing mental abilities   73   65   +8
Running out of money   66   54   +12
Not being able to drive/travel on own   61   57   +4
Being a burden on your family   59   50   +9
Winding up in a nursing home   57   46   +11
Not being able to work or volunteer   52   47   +5
Being alone   42   35   +7
Losing looks   26   18   +8

Financial Resources

While most are concerned about running out of money, 69 percent of Americans express some confidence they'll have sufficient financial resources to live on in retirement. But -- as the level of concern suggests -- fewer, 30 percent, are "very confident" of it, with a 13-point gap between men and women, 37 versus 24 percent.

This confidence, naturally, is directly related to income: Nearly six in 10 people with household incomes above $100,000 are very confident they'll have enough money post-retirement, compared with only two in 10 of those in under-$35,000 households.

Other Groups

Among other factors in views on aging, good health helps. People who report that they're currently in excellent health (31 percent of adults) want to live longer (to an average age of 90), and are less concerned about getting older, than people whose health isn't good. The average level of concern about aging issues is 48 percent among people in excellent health, compared with 63 percent among those whose health is not good.

People with kids at home are no more likely than those without to be worried about being a burden on their families, being alone or ending up in a nursing home. But they are somewhat more concerned about running out of money as they get older.

Youth, on the other hand, is not a strong factor. Young adults (age 29 and younger) would like to live to an average age of 87 -- the same as their elders -- and define "elderly" as starting at age 67, compared with 73 among their elders.

A bigger difference is that young adults are 20 points more likely than their elders to think they can live to 100 and still have a good quality of life, 51 percent to 31 percent. It remains to be seen whether that represents greater faith in the medical technology of the future -- or just the folly of youth.


This ABC News/USA Today poll was conducted by telephone Oct. 12-16, 2005, among a random national sample of 1,000 adults. The results have a three-point error margin. Fieldwork by TNS of Horsham, PA.

Click here for PDF version with full questionnaire and results.

Click here for more ABC News polls in our Poll Vault.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...