Question on expectation of life

Extract from Statistical Questions in Evidence-based Medicine by Martin Bland and Janet Peacock.

We hope that the topic will be useful in own right, as well as giving a flavour of the book.


`They say life begins at 40. Not so long ago, that's about when it ended.' This was the heading of an advertisement produced by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry. The advertisement claimed that, had we lived in the 19th century, we would have attended many funerals of people who died aged about 40. This was because expectation of life was 40 years for men and 42 years for women (St George 1986).

1. Were they right?
Check answer 1

The advertisement went on to point out that in the late 20th century this did not happen, expectation of life having increased greatly. The conclusion was that this increase in life expectancy was because of advances in pharmaceuticals as a result of animal experimentation.

2. Was this a reasonable conclusion?
Check answer 2

Reference: St George, D. (1986) Life expectancy, truth, and the ABPI. Lancet 2, 346.

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