What’s Cheaper? Delaying Aging or Treating Disease?
Modern science already knows enough to slow the aging process. Yet, the focus of mainstream medicine is to treat individual disease killers like heart disease and cancer.
But, consider this. If the incidence of cancer decreases 25% over the next few decades (consistent with current trends) there would be very little improvement in population health compared to do nothing at all. In fact, and read this very carefully, despite major advances in treating cancer and heart disease, a 51 year-old can only expect to gain one year to his/her life expectancy. Completely curing cancer – completely – would only add three additional years to life expectancy.
However, even a modest improvement in delaying aging and a 51 year-old would expect to live an 2.2 additional years with most of those two extra years in good health.
These findings come from a study recently published in Health Affairs. The study used the Future Elderly Model, a tool designed to better understand future trends in health, health spending, medical technology, and longevity. The study used the model to compared the impact on longevity, disability, and major entitlements as a result of treating specific disease states (like heart disease and cancer) compared to a delaying aging approach. The study also shows lower and diminishing returns for continued treatment of specific disease states.
Economic Benefits of Delaying Aging
It is estimated that with today’s science aging could be delayed enough so that an additional 5% of adults over age 65 would be healthy rather than disabled. If that occurred there would be 11.7 million more healthy adults over age 65 by the year 2060. Currently 28% of the population over age 65 is disabled. Reducing that by 5% results in huge cost savings on healthcare. Though having more of the population living beyond age 65 would lead to higher outlays for Medicare and Medicaid, per person spending would decrease and the overall economic benefit of delaying aging and adding healthy years of life is estimated to be $7.1 trillion over the next five decades.
Future Benefits of Delayed Aging
Dana Goldman, lead author of the study, says “Shifting the focus of medical investment to delayed aging instead of targeting diseases individually would lead to significant gains in physical health and social engagement… We see extremely large population population health benefits, and the benefits will extend to future generations.”
Focus on living longer younger and you will improve your chances of avoiding disease.