Radical life extension: Americans divided over 120-year lifespan

Posted By Kristen Butler, UPI.com  |  Aug. 6, 2013 at 3:38 PM
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Americans are sharply divided over the effects of radically extended lifespans, as people living well beyond 100 years continue to grow in number.

The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2050, one-in-five Americans will be 65 or older, and at least 400,000 will be 100 or older.

Meanwhile, medical advances aim to keep people healthy and productive far longer, in an effort to delay average retirement ages.

A recent Pew Research poll shows that 56 percent of Americans would not want to use new medical treatments in order to live decades longer, versus 38 percent who would want to extend their lives.

A full 68 percent of respondents believe, however, that most other Americans would want to pursue life extension. Just over half of Americans, 51 percent, believe radical life extension would be bad for society, while 41 percent say it would be a good thing.

Fifty-four percent say today's medical treatments are worth the costs, while 41 percent say they create as many problems as they solve.

As to the economic effect of increased longevity, 44 percent agree the economy would be more productive, while 53 percent disagree.

According to 66 percent, longer life would strain natural resources, but only 10 percent agree that more elderly people in the population would be a bad thing. More elderly would be a good thing for 41 percent, while 47 percent believe it wouldn't make a difference.

Blacks and Hispanics are more inclined than whites to favor radical life extension for themselves as well as for society as a whole.

Majorities of all large U.S. religious groups consider medical advances that prolong life as generally good. About half or more of adults in all the major religious groups also say that medical treatments these days are worth the costs. White mainline Protestants are most likely to hold this view, at 62 percent, followed by white (non-Hispanic) Catholics at 59 percent.

When it comes to radical life extension by decades, however, only 34 percent of white evangelical Protestants and 31 percent of white Catholics say it would be a good thing for society, compared with 54 percent of black Protestants.

In general, those who had some expectation that scientific advances would lead to radical life extension in the next 40 years were more favorable to it. Those who had not heard of the possibility were less favorable.

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