"For the insurance industry, it is vital that we understand these complex drivers so we can continue to protect customers when they need it most and encourage people to make lifestyle choices that support longer healthier lives."
- Natalie Kelly, head of global underwriting, claims & R&D at Swiss Re
The reinsurer has said that life expectancy improvements typically come in waves following major medical or large-scale social trends. However, since 2010, factors such as obesity-related diseases, Alzheimer's, and inequalities in healthcare has forced global life expectancies to lose momentum.
In the UK, between 1968 and 2010, approximately 70% of longevity improvements were attributed to substantial reductions in circulatory disease-related deaths. However, since then, reduced advancements in cancer treatments and the rising impact of dementia and respiratory diseases have snowballed life expectancy progress to less than twelve months in over a decade.
According to Swiss Re, advancements in cancer treatments and diagnoses have had the biggest impact on life expectancy. For example, liquid biopsies have assisted with earlier detection of certain types of cancer, while the shift from more general therapies to personalised, precision medicines, has also partially improved survival rates. Likewise, mRNA vaccines, which were successfully deployed during the COVID-19 Pandemic, have demonstrated the potential to improve life expectancy.
Swiss Re believes that addressing diseases which affect people later in life, especially Alzheimer’s and other causes of dementia, is the key to extending lifespans. In the UK alone, projections suggest that the number of those affected by Alzheimer’s will have doubled to over 1.6m by 2040.
Currently, there are several therapies that offer more than symptomatic relief and emerging technologies such as the arrival of artificial intelligence in medical research and wearable devices/apps can take monitoring an individual’s health and wellbeing to new heights.
Commenting on these findings, Paul Murray, CEO of L&H Reinsurance at Swiss Re, has said:
"While people continue to dream of life expectancy surpassing 100 years, the gains of the last century are under threat. Clearly, medical research has the power to drive the next big wave of improvements in longevity. However, individuals need to maintain and intensify their healthy lifestyle choices to ensure they live longer and healthier lives. As a society, we need to address barriers to healthcare access."
Natalie Kelly, head of global underwriting, claims & R&D at Swiss Re, added:
"Medical technology, lifestyle changes and access to healthcare will propel the next wave of longevity improvements. The public and private sectors both have roles to play. For the insurance industry, it is vital that we understand these complex drivers so we can continue to protect customers when they need it most and encourage people to make lifestyle choices that support longer healthier lives."