Why are Six of the 10 Oldest People on the Planet Americans?

Posted by on October 14th, 2009

With the current debate over nationalized health care a lot of facts and figures are flying fast and loose. It seems like for every point of view there’s a data set to support it. In the discussion of what the ideal system should be two facts are often overlooked. The vast differences in life expectancy from state to state (Washington DC = 72 and Hawaii = 80) and the country with the most old folks in the top ten oldest people list: The United States with 6. All are women.

Of course the United States is the 3rd most populous country (300 million), but with a global population of well over 6 billion people, all things being equal, we should only account for 1 out 20 (or just half an old person in the top 10).

So what gives?

It could be that our geriatric care is actually pretty good. But perhaps there’s something else at work. In the Robert Heinlein novel Methuselah’s Children, he described a very clever low-tech longevity project: Pay people with really old grandparents to have children. In the novel, over time this lead to a race of people that lived hundreds of years.

Has the land of opportunity created a natural program for breeding some of the oldest people? We don’t know. But asking why Americans tend to cluster at the far end of the bell curve is probably a worthwhile question.

Oldest people – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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