Do we live longer because of medical technology, or did our ancestors have a similar lifespan?
If we read the bible or if we read other historical books, there are many instances referring to elderly people who live into their 70’s, yet those who promote today’s medical technology would like us to believe they are responsible. Do we have a longer lifespan than the Ancient romans did?
It is probably that humans have always had a long lifespan according to an article that looks at the history of longevity. Currently, life expectancy is decreasing. Prior to that, it appeared to be increasing since the 1950s, and medical technology was assumed to be the reason.
There is a difference between life expectancy and lifespan according to Stanford University historian Walter Scheidel, a leading scholar of ancient Roman demography who is quoted in an interesting BBC article that challenges our beliefs on aging.
Romans may have lived into their 70’s. Of course, your social class may have had an effect on your overall lifespan but this article studies aging and lifespan through the ages and shows that the length of lives may not have changed much throughout the years.
Do We Really Live Longer Than Our Ancestors?
The wonders of modern medicine and nutrition make it easy to believe we enjoy longer lives than at any time in human history, but we may not be that special after all.
BBC FutureAmanda Ruggeri
Over the last few decades, life expectancy has increased dramatically around the globe. The average person born in 1960, the earliest year the United Nations began keeping global data, could expect to live to 52.5 years of age. Today, the average is 72. In the UK, where records have been kept longer, this trend is even greater. In 1841, a baby girl was expected to live to just 42 years of age, a boy to 40. In 2016, a baby girl could expect to reach 83; a boy, 79.
The natural conclusion is that both the miracles of modern medicine and public health initiatives have helped us live longer than ever before – so much so that we may, in fact, be running out of innovations to extend life further. In September 2018, the Office for National Statistics confirmed that in the UK at least, life expectancy has stopped increasing. Beyond the UK, these gains are slowing worldwide.
This belief that our species may have reached the peak of longevity is also reinforced by some myths about our ancestors: it’s a common belief that ancient Greeks or Romans would have been flabbergasted to see anyone above the age of 50 or 60, for example.