What About the Concept of Longevity Calibration in Populations?

Imagine this. You just turned 50 and are full of life. You eat healthily, exercise regularly, and try to reduce stress as much as possible. Yet, one day you fall sick to a mysterious and contagious illness that has no apparent cure. What now? If you are lucky enough to survive the illness, that is great news considering you have no other post-disease symptoms that may affect you for the rest of your life. If you are not that lucky, then unfortunately you may become a data point in the statistics that negatively affect the life expectancy rate of your country. Ironically, your longevity was robbed by life. Ugh!

The COVID-19 pandemic robbed 4.1 years of life for men and 2.9 years for women as expected for the year 2060 before the epidemic hit the United States, a country supposedly known for advanced healthcare initiatives and services.

Chart showing the life expectancy rates in the US for men and women. Years 2017, 2021, 2060, and 2060 adjusted for COVID-19

Note: Value figures in chart shown as life expectancy at birth. Then declines at 10, 20, 30, 40, 60, 80 and 100 years. Source: CDC Life Expectancy Statistics – United States

But what does this really mean?

While the life expectancy rates suffered a setback, the relatively good but sad news is that it affected mostly older adults who did not have many years of life left to begin with. This means that life expectancy should recover faster than if the population most affected had been younger. COVID-19 was a wake-up call to think about longevity.

Looking under a more controversial lens and whether some people like it or not, an epidemic may be a way for nature to ensure that a particular species strengthens its population by removing organisms that may seem weaker. The more resilient organisms tend to survive an epidemic and pass on this resilience to younger generations. With this commentary, we are not taking a position, but rather inviting thoughts related to the concept of calibration of longevity in populations.

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