A new multi-university study shows that research to delay aging and the infirmities of old age would have better population health and economic returns than advances in individual fatal diseases such as cancer or heart disease. With even modest gains in our scientific understanding of how to slow the aging process, an additional 5 percent of adults over the age of 65 would be healthy rather than disabled every year from 2030 to 2060, revealed the study in the October issue of Health Affairs.
Put another way, an investment in delayed aging would mean 11.7 million more healthy adults over the age of 65 in 2060. The analysis, from top scientists at the University of Southern California (USC), Harvard University, Columbia University, the University of Illinois at Chicago and other institutions, assumes research investment leading to a 1.25 percent reduction in the likelihood of age-related diseases. In the U.S., the number of people aged 65 and over is expected to more than double in the next 50 years, from 43 million in 2010 to 106 million in 2060. About 28 percent of the current population over 65 is disabled. “In the last half-century, major life expectancy gains were driven by finding ways to reduce mortality from fatal diseases,” said lead author Dana Goldman, holder of the Leonard D. Schaeffer Director’s Chair at the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics. “But now disabled life expectancy is rising faster than total life expectancy, leaving the number of years that one can expect to live in good health unchanged or diminished. If we can age more slowly, we can delay the onset and progression of many disabling diseases simultaneously.”