Journal of Population Ageing

, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 185–201

How Long Do We Expect to Live? A Review of the Evidence


DOI: 10.1007/s12062-011-9049-1

Cite this article as:
O’Connell, A. Population Ageing (2011) 4: 185. doi:10.1007/s12062-011-9049-1


How long people expect to live sets an important context for longevity risk in retirement planning and may contribute to the acceptability of policies to raise pension age. However, there have been few studies representative of a national population on subjective longevity. This paper reviews the available evidence. It finds that despite some studies reporting that subjective longevity is close to average measures in population life tables the prevailing tendency is to underestimate lifespans. Men generally reflect that they have lower actual longevity than women on average, but men are more optimistic, so that women are more likely to underestimate their likely longevity. People may take account of some mortality risk factors in estimating their own longevity, but appear not to understand the true extent of risk. There is little data on how people think about longevity or why they choose a particular estimate of their own likely lifespan. Thus, international evidence suggests potential for longevity risk in individual retirement planning and raises significant questions about the policy implications which can only become more acute in ageing populations.


Subjective life expectancy Retirement Pensions Longevity 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Victoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand

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