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Fat weighs heavily on life expectancy

The Government’s estimates of improving mortality could be wrong due to trends in obesity, says a leading academic.

Professor Olshanky told the Actuarial Profession’s Ageing Population Conference in Oxford last week that child obesity is a threat which will have a negative effect on life expectancy. The steady rise in life expectancy during the past two centuries may soon come to an end.

The overweight trend brings uncertainty over forecasts of future life expectancy which could hit policymakers, particularly in the life, pension and protection business.

Professor Olshanky said: “Increased death rates will mean lower pension costs but these will be more than swallowed up by lost productivity and the big increases in costs to the NHS from, for example, higher and earlier incidence of diabetes and related illness such as heart disease, strokes, limb amputation and blindness.”

Institute of Actuaries president Michael Pomery says: “After increases in life expectancy over the 20th Cen- tury which were particularly rapid in the last decade, it seemed that the only question for the future was, how fast will life expectancy rise.

“But new research from the US opens up the possibility of an entirely different scenario – one where life expectancy actually starts to fall.”

Reinsurer RGA head of business development Jason Hurley says: “Our chief medical officer believes that a child who is obese has a shorter life expectancy than one with childhood cancer because of the quality of treatment. The obvious insurance issue is that the number of people who get rated will have to go down.”

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