The British may distribute mortality information to pensioners

by on April 18, 2014 at 1:03 pm in Data Source, Medicine, Uncategorized | Permalink

British retirees may soon receive a novel kind of financial advice, courtesy of the state: They could be told when they are likely to die.

“People are living a lot longer, so we have to make sure they have up-to-date information,” the pensions minister, Steve Webb, said Thursday in an interview with the BBC.

“There’s no point being all British and coy about it,” he said. Gender, age and “perhaps asking one or two basic questions, like whether you’ve smoked or not,” Mr. Webb said, should be enough to determine how long, on average, someone is likely to live. Having an idea of life expectancy would help retirees with private pensions manage their finances more efficiently, he said.

There is more here.

1 j r April 18, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Interesting idea, but unless you are doing something like genetic testing or one hell of an algorithim, wouldn’t this information be fairly worthless? I guess it depends on what the distribution looks like and how big the standard deviations are. How often does an approximation of mortality based on vague demographic characteristics predict an actual individual’s mortality?

2 Rahul April 18, 2014 at 2:17 pm

I wonder, is there a risk of a self fulfilling prophecy?

3 gwern April 18, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Even just learning the gross demographics is more than most people know. People know outdated infant mortality skewed life expectancies, they don’t have memorized how many years’ difference there is between men and women (actually, I don’t either – what is it, 5 years now?), how much longer than the national average various ethnic groups live (Asians and Caucasians will live several years longer than blacks or hispanics, I’d bet), and also importantly, what is one’s life expectancy *conditional on having lived to eg. age 40*? Between these factors, many people’s gut estimates might be off by decades, quite aside from the distribution and tail-risk issues.

4 dearieme April 18, 2014 at 3:50 pm

“Asians and Caucasians will live several years longer than blacks or hispanics, I’d bet”: but, but, but, race is just a social construct.

5 Ken Rhodes April 18, 2014 at 8:02 pm

Dearie, your “but, but, but …” is a weak attempt at being cute. It doesn’t MATTER if race is “just” a social construct. If that social construct has social consequences, like lower education levels, worse nutrition standards, worse medical attention, etc., then it will surely affect lifespan, irrespective of whether it also has genetic components.

6 prior_approval April 19, 2014 at 3:54 am

Especially when considering that ‘hispanic’ is not a race – and yet, so many people interested in racial classification will insist ‘hispanic’ fits a racial classification.

The internet even allows a decent opportunity to watch the social construction of a racial classification by some, involving a term that those who feel it applies to them do not consider a racial one at all.

7 Mo April 18, 2014 at 4:10 pm

“Asians and Caucasians will live several years longer than blacks or hispanics, I’d bet”
That may be true on a broad population basis, but does that hold true for retirees in the same economic class? Dying from violent means is a young man’s game and if you hold SES constant, how much of it washes away? The average 22 year old white kid may have a longer life expectancy than a 22 year old black kid, but that doesn’t mean the same is true if both those kids are replaced with two equivalent 65 year old former Ford employees living in Surprise, AZ off their pension.

8 DK April 18, 2014 at 9:59 pm

Asians and Caucasians will live several years longer than blacks or hispanics, I’d bet

You’d lose the bet. Hispanics live longer than Caucasians. In the USA, at least. And that’s even when not corrected for SES. When corrected, they live nearly as long as Asians!

9 DK April 18, 2014 at 9:59 pm

Look up “Hispanic paradox”

10 sandyjean412 April 18, 2014 at 1:39 pm

I would love to know how long I might live. I had a DNA test done to determine whether I might have the Alzheimers gene, but I don’t. Looks like cancer or heart disease will get me.

11 Slocum April 18, 2014 at 2:07 pm

I’ve decided that, for financial-planning purposes, it’s not that important. Judging by my various relatives, by my late 80’s if I’m still around, I’ll be old enough that I won’t be doing much beyond puttering around the house. So if all I have left by then is social security, that’ll be OK. To provide a little margin, I’ll probably use 90 as the target and adjust along the way based on health issues or anti-aging medical breakthroughs in the next several decades (which don’t appear all that likely).

12 dearieme April 18, 2014 at 1:55 pm

I often look at a financial website “forum”; it’s clear that many members of the public, even those who take an interest in finance, substantially underestimate mean life expectancy at (say) 65. I suppose the government is proposing to do no more than publicise the sort of broad-brush calculations that actuaries do all the time: you are 65, male, a smoker, diabetic, and you live in Grimethorpe, so we expect you to die a week next Thursday. That sort of thing. There are already websites that will estimate an annuity for you on that sort of input, so it would just be a question of outputting the life expectancy rather than the size of the annuity.

13 Finch April 18, 2014 at 3:18 pm

If you start smoking today, look how much more you can spend in retirement!

14 shivuintheshowers April 18, 2014 at 4:06 pm

If you start smoking today in the UK a pack of 20 fags (cigarettes) will set you back just shy of £8 ($13) of which over £6 ($10) is government tax & duty.

So an occasional puff (inhalation) will mitigate the current budget deficit.

Your country needs you.

15 Sturt April 18, 2014 at 2:01 pm

Knowing Britain’s penchant for intervention, along with the state of its monopoly health system’s finances, how long before the forecast becomes a deadline?

16 vm April 18, 2014 at 4:04 pm

DING DING DING! I was wondering how many comments until one arrived along these lines.

17 Andrew April 18, 2014 at 2:10 pm

The online and in person retirement planning tools/discussions offered by Fidelity and Schwab both begin with an estimate of life expectancy. It’s actuarially pretty easy to predict and it’s an important starting point to determine exactly how much income will be needed over the duration of retirement.

18 Willitts April 18, 2014 at 5:09 pm

That is exactly what I use for my clients’ retirement planning. I also explicitly plan for expected medical expenses and encourage them to set up trusts, wills, DNRs, reverse mortgages, etc.

Running out of retirement funds includes insufficient savings, superannuation, and unexpected events. In my view if you aren’t planning for all you arent planning at all.

19 Pshrnk April 19, 2014 at 5:53 am

You think you can plan for all?

20 T. Shaw April 18, 2014 at 2:34 pm

Dear Super-Annuated Limey:

Whatever you do, don’t get sick.

The UK hospitals run Obamacare-style death panels.

UK Professor Patrick Pullicino, quoted Daily Mail synopsis: “Top doctor’s chilling claim: The NHS kills off 130,000 elderly patients every year.”
• Professor says doctors use ‘death pathway’ to euthenasia of the elderly
• Treatment on average brings a patient to death in 33 hours
• Around 29 per cent of patients that die in hospital are on controversial ‘care pathway’
• Pensioner admitted to hospital given the “treatment” by doctor on weekend shift
Read more:

21 shivuintheshowers April 18, 2014 at 7:10 pm

don’t be that guy

22 Bill April 18, 2014 at 2:43 pm

Life expectancy per se is very difficult for most people to comprehend. They see a chart that looks like this:


They need to be shown the expected mortality by year or five year period and to see it graphically. Life expectancy should not be viewed as a point estimate.

23 Yancey Ward April 18, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way.

I don’t know about the Scots and the Welsh, though.

24 Ryan April 19, 2014 at 1:06 am

This is gonna lead to lawsuits and bad decisions.

25 Urso April 19, 2014 at 11:21 am

Maybe they could hire guys to follow the pensioners around whispering “memento mori, memento mori.” Would also provide some much needed gov’t stimulus for underemployed Cambridge blokes who took their degrees in Latin.

26 blog April 19, 2014 at 9:45 pm

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27 Marie April 19, 2014 at 10:38 pm

Sometimes I think some half-trained folks that vaguely work in public health could look out the 100th floor window and watch me falling from the 200th floor and note that I will probably die at the age of 68 after getting diabetes and heart disease.

Individuals/ populations. Different.

If they want people to save more money, they should just say so. That won’t work either, but at least it won’t be dumb.

28 nostradamus April 23, 2014 at 5:51 pm

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