Common misconception about life expectancy

  • Letters
  • Wednesday, 13 Jul 2022

All of us ought to be happy that life expectancy in Malaysia has increased by 12 years from 63.6 years in 1970 to 75.6 years in 2021.

Does this mean that five decades ago, people in this country died a natural death at the average age of 63.6 years, and those alive now are expected to live up to around 75.6 years?

Far from it, life expectancy is always applicable at birth, meaning babies born today are expected to live for the next 76 years on average.

But not for those born in 1970, as they are expected to live an average life of 63.6 years and that will be in 2033, just 11 years from now.

Interestingly, life expectancy for babies born here in 1950 was 52.8 years. Those who will be born in 2050 will have a life expectancy of 80.46 years and that figure will reach 86.62 years by 2100.

As for myself, I have already surpassed my life expectancy by more than 20 years, thanks to the government’s free health care, eating a variety of food in moderation, exercising regularly and avoiding dangerous activities such as riding motorcycles.

Hence, life expectancy is just a projection based on data available, risks and likelihood.

As the figure is for an average age, about half will die before their life expectancy, and the other half will surpass.

For most of us, our lifestyle would give us a clue of our life expectancy. The same goes for Mat Rempits. They are aware that they can be seriously injured or even killed riding at breakneck speed but the thrill is too hard to resist for the daredevils, just like drug addicts.

YS Chan

Kuala Lumpur

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