Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Data Briefing

How long can we expect to live?

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 22 January 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f331
  1. John Appleby, chief economist
  1. 1King’s Fund, London, UK
  1. j.appleby{at}

John Appleby examines whether there is any end in sight to the global increase in life expectancy

It is nearly a century since the British monarch started sending anniversary messages to “current citizens of [the monarch’s] realms or UK Overseas Territories” who reached the age of 100. In 1917, King George V sent a total of 24 celebratory messages to centenarians. By 1952 this had increased more than 10-fold to 255, and in 2011, it had increased nearly 40-fold to 9736.1 Where will it end?

According to the Office of National Statistics, the straight line increase in the numbers of UK citizens reaching 100 years old seems set to continue (figs 1 and 2).2 Around 13% of girls born in 1951 are expected to be alive in 2051 (fig 3). For girls born in 2013 the figure …

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