Reaching the age of 90 is becoming more common, but it is still relatively rare. As life expectancies have increased over time, more people are living into their 80s and 90s. However, making it to the 90-year mark is an accomplishment that only a select few achieve. So what are the actual odds of celebrating your 90th birthday? Let’s take a look at the data and statistics around longevity.
Life expectancy trends
Life expectancy has been steadily rising over the past century due to improvements in health care, nutrition, sanitation, and living standards. In the United States, average life expectancy at birth was only 47 years in 1900. By 2020, it had risen to nearly 79 years. Here are some key stats on how US life expectancy has changed over time:
|Year||Life Expectancy at Birth in Years|
As you can see, life expectancy increased by over 30 years during the 20th century. And these gains are continuing, although at a slower pace recently.
Rising life expectancies reflect reductions in infant mortality and deaths from infectious diseases. But increased longevity also means more people surviving into old age. In 1935, only around 1.5 million Americans were aged 85 or older. By 2010, this number grew to over 5.5 million.
Current life expectancy
The latest data shows that the average life expectancy at birth in the US is about 79 years. But this average obscures big differences based on gender and race/ethnicity. Here are some key stats:
– Women – 81.2 years
– Men – 76.3 years
– White – 78.8 years
– Black – 74.7 years
– Hispanic – 81.8 years
– Asian – 85.6 years
So while the overall average is 79 years, your longevity prospects can vary significantly based on demographic factors. Women, Hispanics, and Asians tend to live the longest on average.
But living to 90 is still quite rare. For a 65-year-old woman today, average remaining life expectancy is around 86 years. And for a 65-year-old man, it’s about 84 years. So even for seniors who have already celebrated their 65th birthdays, averaging 90 years is not the norm.
Calculating the Odds of Living to 90
Now that we’ve reviewed the life expectancy data, let’s look at the actual probability of living to be a nonagenarian (fancy word for 90 years old).
Population mortality data
The most straightforward way to calculate the odds is to look at mortality data for the overall population. The Social Security Administration has detailed life tables that show the probability of someone at a given age living to each later age.
For example, their data shows that a male born today has the following chances of surviving to each later age milestone:
|Chance of reaching age:||60||70||80||90|
So a male born in 2022 has a 41.1% chance of celebrating his 90th birthday. For a female, the probability is higher – 57.1% of girls born today can expect to live to 90.
Overall, the latest population data shows that about 50% of babies born in 2022 will live to see age 90. So your odds are essentially 1 in 2 if you’re starting from birth.
By current age
But what if you’ve already made it to middle or old age? How do the odds shift as you progress through life?
Here are the probabilities of living to 90 based on current age:
Reaching 90 gets less and less likely as you enter your 80s. For men who have already celebrated their 85th birthday, only 4% will make it to 90. And for women, only 11% of 85-year-olds will become nonagenarians.
The odds are most favorable if you’ve already made it to your mid-60s. Roughly 1 in 3 men age 65 today can expect to reach 90. And nearly half of 65-year-old women will make it.
So while the overall probability from birth is around 50%, your chances decline rapidly as you age. Making it from 85 to 90 is very unlikely.
Factors That Increase Your Odds of Living to 90
Living an active, healthy lifestyle can significantly improve your chances of celebrating your 90th birthday. Here are some key factors that research has linked to increased longevity and reaching age 90:
Kicking the habit can add years to your life. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), people who smoke can expect to lose 10 years off their lifespan on average compared to non-smokers. Avoiding tobacco is one of the best things you can do to boost your odds of reaching your 90s.
Eating a nutritious, balanced diet focused on whole foods like fruits, veggies, lean proteins, and whole grains can increase longevity. Refined sugars, heavy red meat consumption, and processed foods should be limited. A Mediterranean style diet is associated with living longer and healthier lives according to multiple studies.
Staying physically active is key. Aim for 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. This could include brisk walking, swimming, cycling, aerobics classes, tennis, etc. Keeping your body moving has enormous health benefits and can add years to your lifespan.
Maintaining healthy weight
Carrying excess body fat puts you at higher risk for multiple diseases, especially heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Keeping your BMI between 18.5-24.9 is ideal for longevity. If you are currently overweight, gradually losing weight through diet and exercise can potentially extend your healthy lifespan.
Chronic stress takes a toll on your body and accelerates aging. Practicing stress management through yoga, meditation, therapy, art, or other activities is beneficial. Cultivating inner peace supports your overall health.
Close personal relationships and social connections are linked to longer, healthier lives according to decades of research. Nurturing high-quality relationships with family, friends, and community provide meaning, happiness, and support which all contribute to longevity.
Staying cognitively active
Keeping your brain engaged and challenged seems to deter cognitive decline. Read books, do crossword puzzles, learn new skills, take educational courses – anything that stimulates neural activity may help preserve your mental faculties into old age.
Routine health screenings
Undergoing appropriate health screenings (e.g. cancer, heart disease, diabetes) enables early detection and treatment of problems before they progress. Diagnosing conditions early on gives you the best shot at living a longer, fuller life.
Avoiding accidents and injuries
As we age, our bodies become more fragile. Be cautious to minimize falls and accidents at home. Use assistive devices if needed like canes, walkers, shower chairs, etc. Preventing serious injuries helps you stay active and independent, which supports longevity.
While we can’t change our genetics, DNA does play a role in lifespan. Some people simply have genes that predispose them to longer lives. If you have family members who lived into their 90s, you may carry longevity genes as well.
Living to the big 9-0 is an impressive feat that relatively few people accomplish. The probability of celebrating your 90th birthday is around 50% from birth overall. But your odds change dramatically based on gender and race. Women have about a 57% chance while for men it’s only 41%.
Once you make it to middle and old age, reaching 90 becomes increasingly unlikely. But adopting healthy lifestyle habits gives you the best shot possible at getting to live long and prosper into your 90s and beyond. While genetics are a factor, your lifestyle and environmental exposures play a very major role as well. With a sound diet, regular activity, stress reduction, and preventive healthcare, you can significantly boost your chances of seeing 90 candles on your birthday cake.