How Can Aging Be Thought of as Anything Other Than a Disease?

  • Arthur CaplanEmail author
Living reference work entry


Unless one is so concerned about the social or economic consequences of doing so, it is hard to see why aging ought not be characterized as a disease. The changes associated with aging, unlike those associated with growth and sexual maturation, are manifestly dysfunctional. The causes of the dysfunctional changes that fuel senescence are clearly rooted in the loss, collapse, or deterioration of cellular functions. These in turn are caused by wear and tear over time on cells, genetic mutations, buildup of toxic substances, and programmed cell death. While these changes are universal and beset all humans, to not describe them as disease is simply to sugarcoat the many dysfunctions of aging as “natural.” The fact that they occur for almost all people at advanced ages does not make them any less dysfunctional relative to the experience of the individual in terms of “symptoms” or the overall ability of the person beset by these changes to flourish and survive. Aging is a disease. The only interesting question is whether we choose to do anything to treat it.


Longe Life Human Species Life Extension Fair Proportion Longe Life Span 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.NYU Langone Medical Center and School of MedicineNew YorkUSA

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