How to Estimate Life Expectancy and Chance of Dying by Age

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The United States Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains actuarial life tables that project general population mortality at any given age and gender. Basically, an actuarial life table tells us two things according to our age: 1) what chance we have of dying during that age and 2) how long we have left to live. The SSA has these tables in order to estimate what the population will be in the coming years so they are better prepared to properly administer their social benefits programs. As a matter of public record, anyone can take a peek at the SSA tables. This article provides an easy to read SSA 2010 life table and how to extrapolate, by age and gender, what the SSA thinks our chances are for making it to our next birthday and our remaining life expectancy in order for all of us to plan accordingly.

Things You'll Need

  • 2010 actuarial life table, conveniently provided as the feature picture for this article.
  • Open up the feature picture at the top of this article labeled as the "2010 SSA Life Table". Picture resolution is lost when uploading to this site. Try zooming in on the table, or manually saving the table locally and opening up there. If all else fails, there is a link in the resources section to the life tables available to the public through the United States Social Security Administration website, however, it is not easy to read as it uses a key. This article uses the 2010 data while changing probabilities to percentages.

  • In order to fit into one tidy picture, the table is broken up into two age range columns, 0-46 years of age and 47-93 years of age. The SSA goes a little further out past 93 years old, so if you are older than 93 and you are reading this article, good on ya mate! Each age range is broken down into two gender categories, male and female that is self-explanatory. Then each gender category is broken down into two categories: "percent probability of death" and "years left" that will be explained in the next steps.

  • Determine the chances you have dying before your next birthday by finding your current age on the table and matching it with the corresponding gender and "percent probability of death" columns. For example, a female age 36 has a 0.104 percent chance of dying before her 37th birthday. In other words, according to the SSA estimates a 36 year old American female has a roughly 1 out of 1000 chance of dying. Conversely, a male age 71 has a 3.059 percent chance of dying before his 72nd birthday. In other words, according to SSA estimates a 71 year old American male has a 3 out of 100 chance of dying.

  • Determine how long you have left to live by finding your current age on the table and matching it with the corresponding gender and "years left" columns. For example, a male age 14 has 62.01 years left to live. In other words, according to the SSA an American male age 14 will live to be about 76 years old. Conversely, a female age 64 has 19.94 years left to live. In other words, according to the SSA an American female age 64 will live to be about 84.

  • Know that these are just estimates and projections. However, the overall trend true: the older you get the better chance you have of dying and the fewer years you have left to live. The lone exception: our first year of life (actually first few minutes) is very hazardous and the chances dying are disproportionate larger. In conclusion, use this table to plan ahead by making sure all of your affairs are in order to protect you and your loved one's interests.

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  • Photo Credit Self created from public information at http://www.ssa.gov
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