Your Probability of Dying Doubles Every Eight Years

It’s a brand new year, and the chances that this one will be your last might be higher than you suspect

Shane T. McCoy

It's a brand new year, and the chances that this one will be your last might be higher than you suspect. Not surprisingly, the older we get, the greater our odds of dying in any given year. The math shows, in fact, that the likelihood that we kick the bucket before our next birthday doubles every eight years until that chance becomes a reality.

The blog Gravity and Levity explained this unsettling fact few years back:

This startling fact was first noticed by the British actuary Benjamin Gompertz in 1825 and is now called the “Gompertz Law of human mortality.”  Your probability of dying during a given year doubles every 8 years.  For me, a 25-year-old American, the probability of dying during the next year is a fairly minuscule 0.03% — about 1 in 3,000.  When I’m 33 it will be about 1 in 1,500, when I’m 42 it will be about 1 in 750, and so on.  By the time I reach age 100 (and I do plan on it) the probability of living to 101 will only be about 50%.  This is seriously fast growth — my mortality rate is increasing exponentially with age.

Real-world data collected each year by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control follow the Gompertz Law almost perfectly, Gravity and Levity says. And it doesn't matter whether a country's average lifespan is on the longer or shorter side—the law still holds true. Assuming you live in the U.S. or a country with a similar average lifespan, you can use this simple calculator to estimate your chances of making it to your next birthday.

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