Significant Implications for Canadian Social Programs and the Canadian Health Care System

One of the most comprehensive demographic analyses of life expectancy in the major industrial countries suggests that average life expectancy has been miscalculated. The study examined mortality over five decades and found that "median forecasts of life expectancy are substantially larger than in existing official forecasts".

The paper, which appeared in the June 15th edition of Nature, suggests that Canadians can expect to live four years longer than previously estimated. Canada's previously estimated average life expectancy was 81.67 for the year 2050, the new estimate suggests that Canadians will live to be 85.26.

Sponsored by the US National Institute of Aging, the study is certain to have a wide impact in pension planning and healthcare policy circles. This miscalculation of life expectancy could throw off official calculations of various pension and health care costs by as much as 20%. It is suggested that long-term planners may have to go back to the blackboard and revise their models.

The study suggests that each additional year of life expectancy will add approximately 5% to the cost of programs for the elderly, i.e. those over 65. This cost is ascertained using the so-called 'dependency ratio', which is a measure of the population over 65 relative to the population between the ages of 20-65. This measure allows social planners to determine the relative numbers of working people required to support the retirement age population.

For Canadian Physicians the study suggests that their practices will become much 'grayer' than predicted and that geriatric management and clinical issues will predominate.


  1. Shripad T, Nan L, Carol B. A universal pattern of mortality decline in the G7 countries. Nature 405, 789-792 (2000).