Survival Probabilities: Your body wasn’t built to last

What do you think are the odds that you will die during the next year? Try to put a number to it — 1 in 100? 1 in 10,000? Whatever it is, it will be twice as large 8 years from now.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jason Naquin, rig...
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This startling fact was first noticed by the British actuary Benjamin Gompertz in 1825 and is now called the “Gompertz Law of human mortality.” Your probability of dying during a given year doubles every 8 years. For me, a 25-year-old American, the probability of dying during the next year is a fairly miniscule 0.03% — about 1 in 3,000. When I’m 33 it will be about 1 in 1,500, when I’m 42 it will be about 1 in 750, and so on. By the time I reach age 100 (and I do plan on it) the probability of living to 101 will only be about 50%. This is seriously fast growth — my mortality rate is increasing exponentially with age.

And if my mortality rate (the probability of dying during the next year, or during the next second, however you want to phrase it) is rising exponentially, that means that the probability of me surviving to a particular age is falling super-exponentially. Below are some statistics for mortality rates in the United States in 2005, as reported by the US Census Bureau (and displayed by Wolfram Alpha):

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[via Gravity & Levity]

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3 Responses

  1. Guest

    Gompertz Law is not in use any more. It doesn't have *anything* to add to our understanding of our death probabilities. It doesn't consider our current realities (where young people fight wars and older ones don't, widespread healthcare, etc., reduced labor deaths). He created this law because census data was so expensive and unreliable 200 years ago. According to data used by the Social Security Administration, here are the probabilities of dying in the next 12 months for American Males at various ages as of 2005.

    11: 0.0101%
    18: 0.1077%
    25: 0.1439%
    33: 0.1521%
    42: 0.2918%
    49: 0.5245%
    56: 0.8531%
    63: 1.5226%
    70: 2.7295%
    77: 5.1737%
    84: 10.1194%
    91: 22.2243%
    98: 34.8039%
    105: 48.9726%

    100: 38.3713%

    You will see that Gompertz law is a poor fit (these numbers aren't doubling every 7 years), despite what the link says. They increase extremely rapidly during the teenage years, then mortality actually *decreases* during your 20s (as risk-taking 21 year olds calm down).

  2. don

    Hey, we all gotta leave this planet some time. Who cares. In trillions of years of time, what's 70-80 years anyway. The big flash in the pan. That's why being a survivalist is just dumb. Like survive what? death, lol. good luck on that one Chuck, lmao.



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