The age people can expect to die varies enormously around the world – from 83 in Japan to just 42 in Afghanistan and Zimbabwe. New Zealand average mortality too has shown consistent improvement. For males, in 1990 life expectancy was 72 years, in 2008 life expectancy is 78 years. For females in 1990 life expectancy was 78 years, in 2008 life expectancy is 83 (source).
Rising standards of living, health awareness and medical advances in most developed countries has resulted in life expectancy increasing steadily.
The trend for living longer lives looks set to continue and people living to 100 and beyond are likely to become more common. According to United Nations projections, the world’s centenarian population is expected to reach 2.2 million by 2050. There are around 450,000 centenarians in the world today, and it is anticipated that there will be approximately 1 million come 2030.
Japan has the world’s most elderly population – more than 20% of the population is over 65 and there were 44,449 centenarians in September 2010. It would be good to know exactly how many centenarians there are in NZ today.
And the news just gets better, The NZ Herald recently reported that a team of scientists at Boston University claimed to be able to predict – with 77 per cent accuracy – which of us will live to 100. The scientists did this by comparing the DNA of more than 1,000 centurions with that of the general population, finding a “genetic signature” that was linked to “exceptional longevity”.
What would happen if at some stage people are able to be “longevity tested”? What would happen if you knew that, failing an accident or a natural disaster, you’re likely to live to be 100?
Standard life insurance premiums are based on the expectation that your lifespan will be that of the average person… in New Zealand that’s 82.2years if you’re female and 78.0years if you’re male. When you apply for life insurance, the insurer will ask you a range of questions to assess if you’re likely to die earlier than an “average” person of your age and gender. If you are, you’ll be charged higher (loaded) premiums.
But Life Insurance companies typically don’t have processes to check if you’re likely to live longer than average, like having DNA tests, or assessing family longevity, with a view to reducing your premiums.
So if you turned up at an insurance company with a favourable DNA test, and your centenarian grandparents you’d still pay ‘standard’ rates.
Not fair, is it?
This article was written by Steven de Jong, who is a partner at Pinnacle Life and writes frequently on the topic of life insurance. Pinnacle Life offers consumers the opportunity to buy life insurance ‘instantly’ online without the need for a medical examination. Visit Pinnacle Life for more related information, and you can read Steven’s articles here at blog.pinnaclelife.co.nz