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Harvard Study Finds that Life Expectancy is Increasing and Years Disabled are Decreasing

Getting older doesn’t necessarily have to mean living with disability due to declining health. A recent study found that not only is life expectancy increasing, but the number of years lived without disability is also increasing. This is largely due to improvements in cardiovascular health and fewer vision problems.


The researchers used data from National Vital Statistics to determine the change in life expectancy. They found that the average life expectancy of a 65-year-old in 1992 was 17.5 years, whereas in 2008 it was 18.8 years. They also found that a 65-year-old in 1992 could expect 8.9 of those years to be disability-free, compared with 10.7 years in 2008.


The researchers credit these improvements to two things: a “dramatic decline” in death and disability from heart disease and heart failure and advancements in cataract surgery techniques, making the formerly complicated procedure an out-patient one. Despite the improvements in these two areas, however, the researchers warn that conditions such as dementia, Parkinson’s, and diabetes are still a serious concern for mature adults.


Researchers from Harvard Medical School and the NBER conducted the study. It was released on May 30, 2016, by the National Bureau of Economic Research.


Aging is a natural part of life. However, previous studies have found that a combination of regular exercise, socialization, and a healthy diet balanced by supplements may help reduce the number of years mature adults live with disability by improving their health.

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