Intended for healthcare professionals


New model of health promotion and disease prevention for the 21st century

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 08 July 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a399
  1. Robert N Butler, president 1,
  2. Richard A Miller, professor 2,
  3. Daniel Perry, executive director3,
  4. Bruce A Carnes, professor4,
  5. T Franklin Williams, professor emeritus5,
  6. Christine Cassel, president6,
  7. Jacob Brody, professor7,
  8. Marie A Bernard, professor4,
  9. Linda Partridge, director 8,
  10. Thomas Kirkwood, director9,
  11. George M Martin, scientific director10,
  12. S Jay Olshansky, professor 7
  1. 1 International Longevity Center, New York, USA
  2. 2University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
  3. 3Alliance for Aging Research, Washington, DC, USA
  4. 4University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City, OK, USA
  5. 5University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, NY, USA
  6. 6American Board of Internal Medicine, Philadelphia, PA, USA
  7. 7University of Illinois at Chicago, 1603 West Taylor Street, Chicago, IL 60612, USA
  8. 8Institute of Healthy Ageing, University College London, London
  9. 9Institute for Ageing and Health, Newcastle University, Newcastle
  10. 10American Federation for Aging Research, Seattle, WA, USA
  1. Correspondence to: S J Olshansky sjayo{at}
  • Accepted 19 May 2008

Our susceptibility to disease increases as we grow older. Robert Butler and colleagues argue that interventions to slow down ageing could therefore have much greater benefit than those targeted at individual disease

Many countries now have ageing populations and are facing an increased prevalence of age related diseases and escalating healthcare costs. However, if ageing is combined with extended years of healthy life, it could also produce unprecedented social, economic, and health dividends. In recent decades, scientists have shown that the underlying biological processes of ageing, which give rise to most diseases and other age related health problems, can be delayed. We argue that a concerted effort to slow ageing would provide a broad strategy for primary prevention that would greatly enhance and accelerate improvements in health at all ages.

Rise of human longevity

Life expectancy at birth rose by a remarkable 30 years in developed countries during the 20th century, initially because of reductions in infant, child, and maternal mortality and then because of declining mortality in middle and old age.1 2 In 1900, about 40% of babies born in countries for which reliable data existed were expected to live beyond age 65.3 Today in these same countries more than 88% of all newborns will live past age 65 and at least 44% will live beyond age 85. This dramatic extension of life has provided social and economic benefits.

The traditional medical approach to ameliorating modern chronic diseases has been to tackle them …

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