Jump directly to the Content
Jump directly to the Content

Sermon Illustrations

Home > Sermon Illustrations

How Life Expectancy Statistics Mislead Us

The dramatic increase in life expectancy confuses people. In the United States at the turn of the twentieth century, the average life span was about 45 years. Now people are expected to live up to 78.5 years. That has spurred an unwarranted optimism, when in truth, the overwhelming majority of the increase is the result of a decrease in infant mortality.

At the turn of the twentieth century, about 10 to 15 percent of all children died before their first birthdays, mostly from infectious diseases. But because of medical advances, today less than one percent of children die before their first birthdays. Thus, Olshansky and Carnes point out in their book The Quest for Immortality, “The rise in the life expectancy has slowed to a crawl.”

Another thing that confuses people is thinking that if we could cure cancer, most of us would live many more years. Not true. In fact, Harvard demographer Nathan Keyfitz calculated that if researchers cured all forms of cancer, people would live only a measly 2.2 years longer before they died of something else! Unless science cures the majority of all diseases, as author Stephen Cave writes, “Then the result is not a utopia of strong-bodied demigods but a plethora of care homes and hospitals filled with the depressed, the diseased and the incontinent old.” In that case “it is not about living longer but dying slower.”


Clay Jones, Immortality: How the Fear of Death Drives Us and What We Can Do About It, (Harvest House, 2020), pp. 30-31; Stephen Cave, Immortality The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilization, (Crown, 2012), p. 67

Related Sermon Illustrations

Paying $100k a Year to Fight Aging

Medical clinics are popping up across the country promising to help clients live longer and better—so long as they can pay. Longevity clinics aim to do everything from preventing ...

[Read More]

45-Year-Old Spends Millions to be 18-Years-Old

An article in Bloomberg Businessweek described the quest of multi-millionaire Bryan Johnson, a 45-year-old software entrepreneur, to turn back the clock. This year, he’s on track ...

[Read More]