The trillion dollar upside to longevity

New economic model estimates that targeting aging has larger economic gains than eradicating individual diseases: time for a policy pivot?

Although life expectancy has increased over the last few years, there is an increment in the number of years spent in poor health [1]. Treatments targeting aging can lead to both healthier and longer lives. Therefore, there is a great emphasis on ‘healthy aging’ and a growing body of research focusing on its biological aspects [2].

Longevity.Technology: In a recent study, Andrew J Scott (London Business School), David Sinclair (Harvard Medical School) and Martin Ellison (University of Oxford) [3] evaluated the value of extending life expectancy, compressing morbidity and targeting aging. They took an economic perspective by using the value of statistical life (VSL) model, calibrated to current US economic, health, and demographic data.

Andrew J Scott (London Business School), David Sinclair (Harvard Medical School), Martin Ellison (University of Oxford)
L-R: Andrew J Scott (London Business School), David Sinclair (Harvard Medical School), Martin Ellison (University of Oxford)

This model allowed the researchers to place a monetary value on the financial gain from longer life, better health and changes in the rate at which we age [4,5]. VSL represents the sum of the value of each remaining year of life, discounted to the present day and weighted by the survival rate.

The study revealed that a compression of morbidity that improves health is more valuable than further increases in life expectancy. However, in order to raise economic gains, longevity has to improve too. Slowing down aging reduces the rate at which biological damage occurs and improves both health and mortality.
longevity $367tn
The authors calculated a slowdown in aging that increases life expectancy by one year is worth $38 trillion, and for ten years $367 trillion!
longevity explainer
How much can aging be realistically slowed? Is it more valuable to slow down aging or reduce specific diseases? A previous study [6] evaluated the impact of metformin – a drug used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes and that was found to protect against several age-related diseases [7] – on the incidence of various age-related comorbidities in diabetic men.

The results revealed a substantial reduction in the incidence of key age-related diseases, including dementia, cardiovascular disease, cancer and depression after five years of treatment. Due to the rising prevalence of age-related comorbidities, treatments targeting aging are valuable, as their impact will be felt across multiple diseases [8].

The study revealed that targeting aging has potentially larger economic gains than eradicating individual diseases.


… the US population is expected to see an increase in its average age of 4.0 years by 2050 and a decline of 1.6 million people … This effect is worth $256.7 billion for +1 year life …


Improvements in aging increase the average age of society, improve the quality of life in old age and increase the number of older people. Ellison, Scott and Sinclair [3] estimate that the US population is expected to see an increase in its average age of 4.0 years by 2050 and a decline of 1.6 million people.

The data suggest that more people will be alive at older ages and in better health in 2050. This effect is worth $256.7 billion for +1 year life expectancy and $8.8 trillion for +10 years life expectancy. Investing in treatments targeting aging would have a positive impact on longevity, ultimately leading to gains in health and economy.

[1] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33069325/
[2] https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250230867
[3] https://tinyurl.com/3p582rsa
[4] https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/379932
[5] https://www.nber.org/papers/w11405
[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5654524/
[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5943638/
[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3938188/

Image credit: mohamed_hassan / Pixabay

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