Earlier diagnosis of disease and better public health policies can drive further gains in future life expectancy, Swiss Re sigma says

05 December 2018 Swiss Re

• In recent years, gains in life expectancy slowed in a number of advanced countries

• Not yet clear whether recent slowdown in the rate of mortality improvement temporary or permanent

• Changing trends in circulatory disease underlie the slowdown; likely linked to rising obesity rates associated with poor diet and physical inactivity

• Future advances in longevity shaped by how effective public health policy and population screening can be in moving mortality experience of the general population closer to that of target healthy sub-groups

• Changes in mortality trends have important implications for insurers and pension schemes

Life expectancy has steadily improved internationally for well over a century. In recent years, however, there are signs that the rate of mortality improvement has slowed in a number of advanced countries. Statistically, it is difficult to determine if the recent slowdown is simply a short-term blip or more permanent. The latest sigma report from the Swiss Re Institute, "Mortality improvement: understanding the past and framing the future", suggests that future gains in health and longevity will depend on the success of public health policy. For governments and private financial institutions that are exposed to longevity risks, shifts in the underlying mortality trend are crucial as this risk cannot easily be diversified or perfectly hedged.


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