Most Babies Born Today May Live Past 100

An increase in life spans may lead to major changes in society.

ByABC News
October 1, 2009, 1:22 PM

Oct. 1, 2009— -- Living to 100 may be seen as a long life now, but according to a new review, it may be the norm for babies born today.

The article, appearing in the medical journal The Lancet, shows that based on current trajectories, more than half of all babies born in industrialized nations since the year 2000 can expect to live into the triple digits. The trends included in the article show that many Western nations will have most people living past 100, with half of all babies born in 2007 in the U.S. likely to live to age 104.

"I guess it's good news for individuals and a challenge for societies," said Dr. Kaare Christensen, an epidemiologist with the Danish Aging Research Center at the University of Southern Denmark, the study's lead author.

"If this trajectory continues, half the babies will be 100 and I think that gives us a new perspective for how to plan your life, basically," he said. "If you're going to retire when you are 60 or 65, it looks quite different when your life expectancy is 75 or 80 than when it's 100."

Christensen said that while the progress in life span during the first part of the 20th century came by reducing infant mortality, increases in longevity since then have come from improving life at older ages, and that will need to persist for the projection to hold up.

"If we want to have a continuing increase in life expectancy, the progress has to occur at older ages," he said. "I don't hear any concerns among the elderly that they are living too long."

Christensen said that the aging population will also likely be a more vibrant population, with a higher quality of life than people of that age now.

"The good news is people will generally be functioning well -- it's more like they're postponing their aging process," he said.

Some researchers backed the new report's hypothesis.

"Based upon the best possible approximations, I believe they are correct in their assessment of age projections," said Dr. Stephen Helfand, a professor in the division of biology and medicine at Brown University in an e-mail. "Their evidence appears overwhelming in favor of their hypothesis.

At the same time, some question whether the full prediction -- that most babies born today will live past 100 -- is fully accurate.

"I think that's a very optimistic scenario; however, there may be chronic health problems that may not allow us to follow that best-case scenario, not yet," said Hector Gonzalez, an assistant professor of medicine and public health at Wayne State University.

"There's no reason to think more than half the population living today can't live until 100," said Dr. Harrison Bloom, senior associate at the International Longevity Center of New York. "But that would assume better eating habits, a healthier lifestyle and continuing improvements in the environment. That lifestyle would definitely mean less obesity. The diabetes and obesity epidemic today is very real. A lot of people are going to die earlier than their projected life span would have been."