Journal of Population Ageing

, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 185–201 | Cite as

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

Article

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Subjective life expectancy Retirement Pensions Longevity 

References

  1. Banks, J., Emmerson, C., & Oldfield, Z. (2004). Not so brief lives: longevity expectations and wellbeing in retirement. In I. Stewart & R. Vaitilingam (Eds.), Seven ages of man and woman (pp. 28–31). Swindon: Economic and Social Research Council.Google Scholar
  2. Brouwer, W. B. F., & van Exel, N. J. A. (2005). Expectations regarding length and health related quality of life: some empirical findings. Social Science & Medicine, 61, 1083–1094.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brown, J. R. (2001). Private pensions, mortality risk, and the decision to annuitize. Journal of Public Economics, 82(1), 29–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brown, J. R. (2003). Redistribution and insurance: Mandatory annuitizaton with mortality heterogeneity. The Journal of Risk and Insurance, 70, 17–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Carnes, B. A., & Olshansky, S. J. (2007). A realist view of aging, mortality, and future longevity. Population and Development Review, 33(2), 367–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Christensen, K., Doblhammer, G., Rau, R., & Vaupel, J. W. (2009). Ageing populations: the challenges ahead. Lancet, 374, 196–1208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Department for Work and Pensions. (2010). A sustainable State Pension: When the State Pension age will increase to 66. Cm 7956. London: The Stationery Office.Google Scholar
  8. Engen, E. M., Gale, W. G., & Uccello, C. (2001). Lifetime earnings, social security benefits, and the Adequacy of Retirement Wealth Accumulation Working Paper 2004–10. Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.Google Scholar
  9. Falba, T. A., & Busch, S. H. (2005). Survival expectations of the obese: is excess mortality reflected in perceptions? Obesity Research, 13(4), 754–761.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hamermesh, D. S. (1985). Life expectancy and economic behavior. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 100(2), 389–408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Harper, S., & Howse, K. (2008). An upper limit to human longevity? Population Ageing, 1, 99–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hurd, M. D., & McGarry, K. (1995). Evaluation of the subjective probabilities of survival in the health and retirement study. The Journal of Human Resources, 30, S268–S292 (Special Issue on the Health and Retirement Study: Data Quality and Early Results).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hurd, M. D., & McGarry, K. (2002). The predictive validity of subjective probabilities of survival. The Economic Journal, 112, 966–985.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hurd, M. D., Smith, J. P., & Zissimopoulos, J. M. (2003). The effects of subjective survival on retirement and social security claiming. Labor and Population Program Working Paper Series 03–11. RAND.Google Scholar
  15. Johns, S. E. (2004). Subjective life expectancy predicts offspring sex in a contemporary British population. Proceedings of the Royal Society London B, 271, S474–S476.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Khwaja, A., Sloan, F., & Chung, S. (2007). The relationship between individual expectations and behaviors: mortality expectations and smoking decisions. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 35, 179–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Leon, D. (2011). Trends in European life expectancy: a salutary view. International Journal of Epidemiology First published online March, 17, 2011.Google Scholar
  18. Manski, C. F. (2004). Measuring expectations. Econometrica, 72(5), 1329–1376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. McFadden, D. L., Bemmaor, A. C., Caro, F. G., Dominitz, J., Jun, B.-H., Lewbel, A., et al. (2005). Statistical analysis of choice experiments and surveys. Marketing Letters, 16(3–4).Google Scholar
  20. Mirowsky, J. (1999). Subjective life expectancy in the US: correspondence to actuarial estimates by age, sex and race. Social Science & Medicine, 49, 967–979.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Mirowsky, J., & Ross, C. E. (2000). Socioeconomic status and subjective life expectancy. Social Psychology Quarterly, 63(2), 133–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. O’Brien, C., Fenn, P., & Diacon, S. (2005). How long do people expect to live? Results and implications. Centre for risk and insurance studies research report 2005–1. Nottingham University Business School.Google Scholar
  23. O’Connell, A. (2011). International forecasts of future longevity. Longevity Bulletin 01. London: Institute and Faculty of Actuaries.Google Scholar
  24. OECD (2007). Pension reform: The unfinished agenda policy brief, September 2007. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.Google Scholar
  25. Pensions Commission. (2004). Pensions: Challenges and choices, the first report of the pensions commission. London: The Stationery Office.Google Scholar
  26. Pensions Commission. (2005). A new pension settlement for the twenty-first century, the second report of the pensions commission. London: The Stationery Office.Google Scholar
  27. Perozek, M. (2008). Using subjective expectations to forecast longevity: do survey respondents know something we don’t know? Demography, 45(1), 95–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Popham, F., & Mitchell, R. (2007). Self-rated life expectancy and lifetime socio-economic position: cross-sectional analysis of the British household survey. International Journal of Epidemiology, 36, 58–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. PPI. (2003). Raising state pension age: An update. London: Pensions Policy Institute.Google Scholar
  30. PPI. (2004). How long does a pension have to last? Briefing Note 13. London: Pensions Policy Institute.Google Scholar
  31. PPI. (2006). NPSS policy and design choices. London: Pensions Policy Institute.Google Scholar
  32. Preston, S. H. (1996). Population studies of mortality. Population Studies, 50, 525–536.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Rodway, P. (2010). New Zealand superannuation scenarios for the Retirement Commission. Wellington: Retirement Commission.Google Scholar
  34. Ross, C. E., & Mirowsky, J. (2002). Family Relationships, Social Support and Subjective Life Expectancy. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 42(December), 469–489.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Salm, M. (2006). Can subjective mortality expectations and stated preferences explain varying consumption and saving behaviors among the elderly? Bonn: Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) Discussion Paper No. 2467.Google Scholar
  36. Sanderson, W. C., & Scherbov, S. (2007). A near electoral majority of pensioners: prospects and policies. Population and Development Review, 33(3), 543–554.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Schoenbaum, M. (1997). Do smokers understand the mortality effects of smoking? Evidence from the health and retirement survey. American Journal of Public Health, 87(5), 755–759.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Scobie, G., Gibson, J., & Le, T. (2006). Household wealth in New Zealand. Wellington: Institute of Policy Studies.Google Scholar
  39. Smith, V. K. (2008). Risk perceptions, optimism, and natural hazards. Risk Analysis, 28(6), 1763–1767.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Smith, V. K., Taylor, D. H. Jr, & Sloan, F. A. (2001). Longevity expectations and death: Can people predict their own Demise? American Economic Review, Vol. 91 (pp. 1126). American Economic Association.Google Scholar
  41. Stallard, E. (2006). Demographic issues in longevity risk analysis. The Journal of Risk and Insurance, 73(4), 575–609.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. The Actuarial Profession (2006). The response of the actuarial profession to the second report of the pensions commission a new settlement for the twenty-first Century. Paper 1: Commentary on the use of life expectancy data in the Pensions Commission Report. London.Google Scholar
  43. Tokor, A., & Murphy, V. M. (1967). Some psychological correlates of subjective life expectancy. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 23, 21–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. van Solinge, H., & Henkens, K. (2010). Living longer, working longer? The impact of subjective life expectancy on retirement intentions and behaviour. European Journal of Public Health, 20(1), 47–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Wardle, J., & Steptoe, A. (2003). Socioeconomic differences in attitudes and beliefs about health lifestyles. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 57, 440–443.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Victoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations