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Will 10 year olds be popping pills to live longer?

Posted in Medicine on 19th Mar, 2012 12:34 AM by AlexMuller

Life expectancy has changed dramatically in a century.


In 1908, half the UK population was dead by 60 and in 1948, when the contributory state pension was introduced, half the population was dead by the age of 72.


Falling mortality rates, as a result of advances in science and medicine, mean the average UK man and woman can expect to live into their 80s, perhaps even to the age of 100, but what will the quality of our lives be like?


And will we have to resort to more and more drugs to keep us alive?


The longer we live, the more prone we are to chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer.


Drugs can help control and reduce the symptoms of these conditions and increase our longevity, but the danger is that we will come to rely on them too much.


Professor Sarah Harper, director of the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing at Oxford University, believes that keeping more people alive for longer and longer will come at a cost.


"We have to ask if we wish our future to be one where individuals, at increasingly younger ages, pop pills rather than eat healthily, stop smoking, reduce alcohol and take up exercise.


"Do we want 10-year-olds popping statins?"


Her evidence for this is the impact obesity has had on life expectancy in the United States.


There, about one in three adults is classified as obese, and life expectancy is not keeping pace with life expectancy in the UK and Australia, for example.


Recent research concluded that although obesity was on the rise in the 1990s and causing lost years of life, this trend had not continued during the last decade.


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