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Why Canadians are living longer – and what that means for retirement


(NC) Life expectancy in Canada is currently about 83 years. Fifty years ago, it was about 73 years. Can we expect that trend to continue? Can Canadians a half-century from now really expect to live another 10 extra years?

According to UN population data, mortality rates have steadily declined for the past century in Canada and across the developed world. This corresponds with improvements in our diet, public infrastructure such as sanitation and waste treatment, safety standards, and the availability and quality of public health institutions such as hospitals and childhood immunization programs.

Can the life expectancy boost from these changes be sustained, or will these gains naturally trail off? And what new factors do we have to consider?

Actuaries are risk assessment professionals who advise on things like government policy on pensions and insurance. Some of them spend a lot of time considering life expectancy and the factors that affect it.

In looking for answers, they find that many of these advancements are a double-edged sword. Destruction of natural habitat threatens the world’s biodiversity. Pollution impacts our access to clean air and water. And microplastics can be found everywhere in the food chain.

Abundance has also contributed to an overall more sedentary lifestyle that can lead to health risks like an increase in Type 2 diabetes. And there are other strains on the health-care system, too, ranging from a shortage of primary care physicians to overuse of antibiotics and the long-term impacts of COVID-19.

How will all of these things impact life expectancy? The answer is unclear, but so is the path to longer lives for Canadians in the future. For their part, the UN projects our life expectancy will reach 89 years in 2074. Stay tuned to find out.

You can learn more about Canada’s actuaries and the work they do at cia-ica.ca.

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