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Oh great, now Millennials are going to die earlier too

UK life expectancy has stopped improving and young people are now less likely to live longer than their parents.

What it means: If a statistician knew nothing about you but your age and gender, your life expectancy is the age they’d guess you’ll die at. (Yep, we’re starting nice and cheerful today). The average British boy born in 2015 will live to 79 years and two-and-a-half months. A girl born at the same time should do a bit better and kick the bucket just a month shy of her 83rd birthday.

Brits already don’t live as long as people from other rich countries. Now we’ve made ONS (the Office for National Statistics, which does all the UK’s number-crunching) history by not improving our average life expectancy, which has been going up and up since ONS records began in the early 1980s. The Scots and the Welsh (and Northern Irish men) actually wound up with a lower life expectancy than they had a few years ago.

Obviously this is sad, but what has it got to do with the economy? Well. For a start, some people are blaming it on austerity, or the UK government’s sharp cuts to public spending since 2010. (The Financial Times says there’s no evidence for this, and the life expectancy freeze was probably caused by unhealthy lifestyle choices).

That raises questions about what we should value as a society, because austerity was introduced in the belief it would reduce our debts and grow our economy. (This didn’t happen, which lots of people blame on the Brexit vote). Economic growth, which means a country is producing increasingly more - or more valuable - things, is often held up as the holy grail of progress by economists and politicians.

But to see its limitations, consider that a way to improve our economic growth would be to decrease everyone's life expectancy even further. After all, OAPs are really unproductive - they usually don’t work or work less effectively than younger adults. They also take up a lot of resources and taxpayer money through pensions and increased use of our healthcare services.

But most of us wouldn’t bump off our grannies for higher economic growth, suggesting other things are more important to our idea of ‘doing well’.

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Reader Comments

  • RW

    Your right to a degree. You mentioned “the wandering Jew”.

    I elaborate that the Jewish people, historically have tended to migrate almost exclusively to locations that are economically and culturally vibrant already. I would speculate that Jews have thrived in these places and have often improved the bounds of their economies and knowledge base.

    You can also ask; how many massive entertainment conglomerates, Nobel winners or billionaires has Isreal developed? If Jews are so capable, why isn’t Tel Aviv the Rome of our time?

    Jews are successful because they value education, maintain a strong social cohesive, they actively monitor and have a good sense for Zeitgeist wherever they are and they carefully choose the places they settle and congregate themselves heavily in these choice locations.

    But most importantly (haulocaust increased the importance of this aspect), they actually designed their culture for success. They not only attend Harvard, they use what they learned to better the group as a whole. With as much, they studied intricate networking systems, adapted to it and in many cases improved upon them. (See how Japan acquired Aegis warships and made them better).

    Of course there is nothing wrong with any of this. It’s when you elaborately gain disproportionate power in any society where you would stand out, you must take care when attempting to make a society better (Civil Rights movement) and rewriting that society all together (mass immigration). Ask blacks in China, Mexico, Philippines or India how much opportunity they have? Go to businesses owned by their American diaspora and see how many blacks they hire. Go to Silicon Valley and see how many East or South Asian tech workers wish they could work with more black people. California might work as a state, but as a nation, I think your rolling the nuclear dice here. I hope we can succeed as a tolerant pluralistic superpower but at this stage in human societal development, it’s a pipe dream.

    And if Jews really are the icon for success, they would see that fundamental human successes happen over generations. Just look at the rest of the planet? Are we ready?