General Article Living into the 22nd century

Topic Selected: Ageing Book Volume: 378

By Wolfgang Fengler

At the beginning of each new year, UNICEF organizes a global campaign to celebrate the birth of the year’s first babies. This time, we cheered the arrival of 2020 and of a little over 392,000 new babies. The average life expectancy of a girl born today is 79.6 years—for a boy it is 76.2 years—which means that she and her peers will live to shape the rest of this century. And one thing is clear: These newborns of the decade will live in a fundamentally different world than the one their parents knew.

In most parts of the world, these newborns will grow up to be healthier, wealthier, and better educated than their parents. They will also live longer. Over the last two decades, life expectancy has already increased from 71 to 78 years, with the greatest gains made in emerging economies. The well-informed reader may wonder why these estimates are substantially higher than the projections often quoted from official sources such as national statistical agencies or the ...

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