Something Unprecedented is About to Happen to the Human Race

Shortly before the year 2020, something will happen for the first time in human history.  There will be more senior citizens than there are children.  Around the world, adults aged 65 and older will outnumber children aged 5 and under.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, this demographic gap will keep widening in the years beyond.  Over the next several decades, the global population of senior citizens will continue to increase, while the global population of children will continue to decrease.

This demographic trend will have profound social and economic implications.  Many governments depend on working adults to help fund retired adults.  Currently, the ratio of working adults to retired adults is 8 to 1.  By 2050, this ratio will be 4 to 1.

Europe and Japan will see the oldest populations.  By 2050, 80 percent of the world’s seniors will live in developed countries.  Conversely, the Middle East and some parts of Asia will have the youngest populations.

China recently retired its one-child policy, but still has a large population.  Currently, the number of seniors in China is larger than the entire population of Japan.  By 2050, the number of seniors in China will be larger than the combined populations of Japan, Egypt, Germany and Australia.

There are several reasons for this phenomenon.  Fewer people are having babies.  The global fertility rate is currently half of what it was in 1950.

Meanwhile, people are living longer.  The average global life expectancy is predicted to reach 77.1 years in 2050.  By mid-century there will be 2.1 billion seniors, versus 900 million today.

Scientists researching human longevity use Agilent genomics solutions in their work.

The Leiden Longevity Study has followed a multi-generational family in the Netherlands that is genetically predisposed to longevity and disease resistance.  Researchers are looking for specific genetic markers that change with age and associate with longevity.

In one study, scientists found that the expression level of the mTOR gene may serve as a marker for both old age and familial longevity.

In another study, scientists found two genes (ASF1A an IL7R) involved in the maintenance of the protein/DNA structure and the immune system.  Reduced expression of these two genes as early as middle age provided an “aging signature” that marked familial longevity.

An Agilent Bioanalyzer system was used to evaluate RNA quality and integrity in these studies.

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