Aging research better investment than cancer studies
A study published in Health Affairs by a group of top U.S. health scientists claims that research related to delaying aging is a smarter investment than focusing on a cure for cancer or heart disease. The number of people over 65 is expected to double within the U.S. over the next 50 years, from 43 million in 2010 to 106 million in 2060. An estimated 28 percent of this age group is currently disabled.
By slowing the aging process, five percent more of the adult population over 65 would be healthy instead of disabled each year from 2030 to 2060. That equates to 11.7 million more healthy adults. The scientists noted that slowing the aging process is more of a long-term benefit, with no health returns initially. But, figuring out how to keep people healthy longer will help delay the progression of disabling disease, while also lowering disabled life expectancy.
The study noted that targeting specific diseases has a lower return because it neglects aging, the underlying cause of most disability and frailty. One of the biggest claims in the study is that curing cancer would increase life expectancy by only around three years. Compare this to even slightly slowing aging, which would have a significant influence on overall quality of life and health. In one anecdote, the researchers said a 51-year-old adult will live one more year with heart disease or cancer improvements, or two more healthier years with improvements to aging.
From a financial standpoint, increasing the number of healthy years would boost the economy by around $7.1 trillion over the next five decades, according to the study. However, they also noted that health care spending would remain about the same.