Life expectancy could rise by nearly 4 years if we adapt to climate change

25 July 2018

Life expectancy for someone in their 20s could increase by almost 4 years if we act to combat and adapt to climate change, according to analysis by longevity specialist, Club Vita.


In its report, Hot and Bothered?, Club Vita looked at the factors that are driving climate change, what we are doing to prevent it and the impact this could have on how long people are expected to live. The analysis highlighted some of the changes that could be implemented if there is a ‘green revolution’, where we are fully committed to preventing further damage to the planet, and found they could have spectacular consequences on life expectancy.

Those in their 20s could receive the biggest boost in life expectancy as they have the longest to benefit from any wholesale changes, but those in their 30s could also gain an extra 3 years, and those in their 50s and 60s could also enjoy an extra year or two.

If we choose to stick our heads in the sand and ignore these issues it could have a substantial negative impact on how long we can expect to live.  Someone in their 20s could see their life expectancy slashed by as much as 10 years, while an individual in their 50s would see it fall by almost 4 years.

Explaining the analysis, Erik Pickett, Longevity Consultant, Club Vita, says:    

“Climate change is one of the key systemic risks facing society. Existing analysis on UK longevity has focussed on the effects of rising temperatures, which are readily quantifiable. By contrast our research takes a broader perspective.

"Our ‘green revolution’ scenario looks at a world where we have embraced change to tackle the environmental risk to the planet. Fossil fuel usage has been reduced and replaced with greener alternatives. Air pollution has fallen leading to fewer respiratory disease deaths. Society has embraced environmentally friendly travel with health benefits from increased walking and cycling. We are aware of the greenhouse gas contribution of livestock farming as well as the environmental costs of global food transportation. Consumption of red meat and processed foods falls and heart disease, cancer incidence and diabetes are all reduced. In such scenarios life expectancy would materially outstrip that currently anticipated by most pension schemes."

Commenting on the dangers of doing nothing, Erik adds:

"In a scenario where we bury our heads in the sand and ignore environmental risks, there will be a massive impact on how long we can expect to live.  A man currently aged 20 with a life expectancy of around 90 could see that slashed by 10 years to around 80.  This is an extreme case where climate change leads to global crop failures and a rise in infectious disease to the levels of a century ago.”

Erik concludes:

“While in reality we cannot know exactly what climate change will bring in the coming years, it is clear that the impact on longevity alone is profound. Putting measures in place to help reduce the risks it brings has many benefits, including increasing the chances of us living longer. If this is at the top of the global agenda there could be widespread benefits for all."


Methodology

Impact on cohort life expectancy from age 65 relative to a typical projections used by pension schemes. We have quoted life expectancy at age 65 throughout as this is of most relevance to life expectancy in retirement.

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