Life expectancy to break the 90-year barrier by 2030

New research has revealed that the average life expectancy is set to increase in many countries by 2030 and, in South Korea specifically, will improve so much as to exceed an average of 90 years. The study analysed long-term data on mortality and longevity trends to predict how life expectancy will change from now until 2030.

The study was led by scientists from Imperial College London in collaboration with the World Health Organization. Looking at 35 industrialised nations, the team highlighted South Korea as a peak for life expectancy; predicting expectancy from birth, they estimate that a baby girl born in South Korea in 2030 will expect to live 90.8 years, while men are expected to live to be 84.1 years.

Scientists once thought an average life expectancy of over 90 was impossible, according to Professor Majid Ezzati, lead researcher from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London:

“We repeatedly hear that improvements in human longevity are about to come to an end. Many people used to believe that 90 years is the upper limit for life expectancy, but this research suggests we will break the 90-year barrier,” he said.

“I don’t believe we’re anywhere near the upper limit of life expectancy -if there even is one.”

South Korea leads in life expectancy. Image courtesy of jedydjah. Featured image courtesy of Carey and Kacey Jordan

Ezzati explained that the high expectancy for South Korean lives was likely due to a number of factors including good nutrition in childhood, low blood pressure, low levels of smoking, good access to healthcare, and uptake of new medical knowledge and technologies. It is likely that, by 2030, South Korea will have the highest life expectancy in the world.

Elsewhere, French women and Swiss men are predicted to lead expectancies in Europe, with 88.6 years and nearly 84 years respectively. The UK is expected to average 85.3 years for women (21st in the table of countries studied) and 82.5 years for men (14th in the table).

The study included both high-income countries and emerging economies. Among the high-income countries, the US was found to have the lowest predicted life expectancy at birth. Averaging similar to Croatia and Mexico, the researchers suggested this was due to a number of factors including a lack of universal healthcare, as well as the highest child and maternal mortality rate, homicide rate and obesity among high-income countries.

A lack of universal healthcare is one of the reasons the US trails behind in life expectancy. Image courtesy of HSeverson

Notably, the research also suggests that the life expectancy gap between men and women is closing and that a large factor in increasing expectancy is due in no small part to older sections of the population living longer than before.

Such increased longevity is not without issue, however, as countries may not be prepared to support an ageing population.

“The fact that we will continue to live longer means we need to think about strengthening the health and social care systems to support an ageing population with multiple health needs,” added Ezzati.

“This is the opposite of what is being done in the era of austerity. We also need to think about whether current pension systems will support us, or if we need to consider working into later life.”

Off-Earth drug manufacturing a step closer with space launch

A research project into off-earth digital chemistry is set to begin shortly, following a successful space launch today. The DIDO2 nano-satellite contains materials that will allow the research team to remotely test the ability to use digital chemistry to create drugs and materials as required, rather than launch payloads requiring specific medications.

The experiment was designed by Professor Lee Cronin, the University of Glasgow’s Regius Chair of Chemistry, and will involve the team remotely activating a microfluidic device inside the satellite which will bring together chemical agents. The researchers will then be able to watch the agents react via an onboard microscope.

The experiment builds on previous work by the Cronin Group to digitise chemistry and allow for the on-demand ‘printing’ of a vast array of chemical compounds.

The DIDO2 nano-satellite being loaded before launch. Image courtesy of SpacePharma

“This is a fantastic opportunity to literally take the Cronin Group’s research to new heights. Low- and zero-gravity environments offer a wide range of new opportunities for science, and we’re excited to see how this experiment progresses,” said Cronin.

“Imagine you are on living on Mars and you need access to a drug that you have not taken with you, this approach might allow you to use a digital blueprint and make the drug on demand from a minimal set of chemicals.

“This collaboration is exciting since we are going to be able to do a digitally controlled chemical experiment in space that produces a complex organic molecule that is part of a class of anti-cancer drugs under study in my laboratory. We chose this molecule as it complex one-pot three step assembly and ends by producing the drug candidate in highly pure crystalline form.”

The launch of the satellite. Image courtesy of Indian Space Research Organisation

If successful, the experiment will take a big step closer to manufacturing drugs off-Earth. Not only would such a capability greatly enhance any future manned space exploration or colonisation, but the medical possibilities of development in microgravity are numerous. In terms of exploration specifically, however, launch payloads’ efficiency would be greatly increased by the ability to manufacture on demand rather than dragging up vast numbers of specific medicines.

The current mission will be looking to form crystals of a drug currently being developed for use as a possible anti-cancer treatment. In the future, however, the technology could allow astronauts to create essentially any kind of medication they may require. Given the push towards manned Mars exploration, the capability to craft on-demand medicine will be crucial in the coming years.

The mission was one of 103 launched into space this morning on an Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) rocket and is part of the ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle programme. The launch was developed in partnership with SpacePharma, a company which specialises in providing scientists with access to microgravity environments, and was successfully completed just before 4am GMT/ 9am local time at Sriharikota.