Tuesday 7 April 2015

Coffin dodgers

From The Telegraph...

Alarm over sudden drop in female life expectancy

Life expectancy for women has suffered a drop on a scale not seen for decades, as their lifestyles become more like those of men, official figures show. 

Surely that's good news for all those people who are worried about 'health inequalities'?

They are not talking about life expectancy at birth (which continues to rise), but life expectancy at a very advanced age.

It means the average woman aged 75 can expect to live 13.1 years; five weeks less than in 2011.
For a woman aged 85, average life expectancy is now 6.8 years - a fall of two and a half months, in two years.

So a 75 year woman can "only" expect to live until she's 88 and an 85 year old woman can "only" expect to live until she's 91. Am I alone in thinking that this is, if anything, too long?

Various people are claiming to be very concerned about this blip. The state-funded super-charity Age UK are blaming the "decline of state-funded social care" (ie. "give us more money") while the renowned Twitter troll John Ashton, still at the Faculty of Public Health after avoiding the sack, is blaming—you guessed it—"lifestyle factors".

Prof John Ashton, president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, said the fall in women’s life expectancy might reflect changes in the lifestyles of the baby boomer generation, which were taking their toll decades later.

“One of the issues we have seen is women living lifestyle’s [sic] becoming [sic] more like those of men over recent decades, with more smoking and drinking,” he said.

Because every single health issue is about smoking and drinking, isn't it? Even a FIVE WEEK decline in estimated life expectancy for people aged 85.

Where to begin? Firstly, someone who is 75 or 85 was born either before or during the Second World War and is therefore not a baby boomer.

Secondly, look at the graph that forms the basis of this mini-panic...

Ooh, look at the scary drop! Can you even see it? The graph is interactive on the Telegraph website and, as a result, you can see what the figures are. Taken together, they show that life expectancy for 65 year olds was 21 (2011), then 20.9 (2012), then 21 again (2013). For 75 year olds, it was 13.2, 13, 13.1 respectively. And for 85 year olds, it was 7, 6.8, 6.8.

In other words, there was no decline in the most recent year's data for any of the age groups, nor was the tiny decline seen between 2011 and 2013 for the 75 and 85 year age group "on a scale not seen for decades". The post-1980 trend shows many small ups and downs. Amongst the 85 year group, for example, life expectancy fell in 1982, 1985, 1988, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1999, 2003 and 2008.

It is, however, noticeable, that the trends in life expectancy get flatter as the cohort gets older. Life expectancy for 95 year olds, for example, has barely risen at all since 1980. This is because—whisper it!—they have reached the biological limits of human life. One day, we may see the trend for the other cohorts flatten out too, but it is far too early to say that this is already happening, even with the 85 year olds.

I have said before that the 'public health' movement is actually a longevity movement. It has cheerfully abandoned the concept of premature mortality in favour of a mindless body count. Longevity isn't a bad measure of utility if you're measuring it from birth, but it becomes preposterous when you start fretting about people who are already in their 80s and 90s.

The 'public health' lobby pile absurdity upon absurdity when they start blaming "lifestyle factors" on people living to be 91.6 when, if only they hadn't smoked or drank so much, they could have lived to be 91.8.

John Ashton wants us to believe that someone dying in their tenth decade of life is a preventable and premature death. Not only that, he wants us to believe that these great-great-grandmothers would have lived longer if they hadn't been heavy-smoking baby boomers [sic]. Even if this were true, what kind of warning is it supposed to be? Aren't these people supposed to have died decades earlier?

Perhaps I am giving Ashton too much credit for thinking his position through. More likely, he was phoned up over a bank holiday weekend about an issue of supposed public health and he gave the Pavlovian response of "smoking, drinking, blah, blah, blah" because that is all he, and his fellow nanny statists, knows how to do.

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