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EMBL/EMBO Joint Conference 2004

Jay Olshansky, School of Public Health, University of Illinois, USA


Jay Olshansky received his Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of Chicago in 1984. He is currently a professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Research Associate at the University of Chicagoës Center on Aging and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Dr. Olshansky was a faculty member of the Department of Medicine at the University of Chicago from 1989 to 2000. The focus of his research to date has been on estimates of the upper limits to human longevity, exploring the health consequences of individual and population aging, and global implications of the re-emergence of infectious and parasitic diseases. During the last ten years, Dr. Olshansky has been working with colleagues in the biological sciences to develop the modern 'biodemographic paradigm' of mortality â an effort to understand the biological nature of the dying out process of living organisms. Dr. Olshansky is the recipient of a Special Emphasis Research Career Award (SERCA) and an Independent Scientist Award (ISA) from the National Institute on Aging â awards that were designed to permit him to expand his formal training in the fields of evolutionary biology, molecular biology, genetics, epidemiology, population biology, anthropology, and statistics, as each field relates to aging. Dr. Olshansky is the current president of the Society for the Study of Social Biology, a Senior Fulbright specialist on biodemography, Associate Editor of the Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences and Biogerontology; on the editorial board of several other scientific journals, and is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the New York Academy of Sciences, the Gerontological Society of America, and the Population Association of America. Dr. Olshansky is also listed in Who's Who in Science and Engineering, Who's Who in Medicine and Healthcare, American Men and Women of Science, and Who's Who in the 21st Century. He has spoken before the President's Council on Bioethics and has testified several times before the trustees of the Social Security Administration where his research has influenced forecasts of life expectancy and the future solvency of the nationës age entitlement programs. Dr. Olshansky has been invited to lecture on aging throughout the world, and has participated in a number of international debates on the future of human health and longevity. He is the lead author of a book entitled The Quest for Immortality: Science at the Frontiers of Aging (Norton, 2001).


Will human life expectancy decline in the 21st century?

Forecasts of human life expectancy are an important component of public policy because they influence the funding for, and solvency of, age-entitlement programs. In the United States the Social Security Administration (SSA) recently decided to raise their estimates of how long Americans are going to live in the 21st century. However, current trends in childhood and adult obesity in the U.S. and other low mortality populations and the global re-emergence of communicable diseases, pose serious threats to the health and longevity of present and future generations. Furthermore, death rates and life expectancy at older ages in the U.S. have remained relatively constant for the past twenty years. In this talk empirical evidence is presented demonstrating the existence of these trends and their possible affect on life expectancy, as well as the public health measures required to mitigate them is discussed. We believe there is sufficient evidence to support the conclusion that unless broad scale public health measures are enacted to address the obesity epidemic and rise of communicable diseases, human life expectancy could decline in the 21st century.