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RMS : rise in aspirin use likely to increase pensioner life expectancy

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Recent medical reports have confirmed the growing body of evidence that taking a daily low-dose of aspirin reduces cancer mortality, in addition to its known benefits for cardiovascular health. Experts believe around 15% of current cancer deaths could be prevented by daily aspirin use with benefits beginning as early as three years into treatment. Conventional cancer treatments are expensive and new treatments typically require a lengthy approval process. By contrast, aspirin is inexpensive and readily available and has the potential for rapid uptake.

Based on these new findings, RMS modeled several potential scenarios of daily aspirin uptake which revealed that a typical 65 year-old male could see a 12-month increase in life expectancy and a 40% increase in the chance of living to 100, depending on a variety of lifestyle factors.

Analyzing the impact of this life expectancy increase on the average pension scheme, RMS’ modeling shows that liabilities for U.K. males could rise by 0.7% within 20 years. This increase is equivalent to the rise that would occur from the complete eradication of smoking within a generation, and the impact is roughly equal to the average annual life expectancy increase from all drivers of mortality improvement over the past 50 years. Current liabilities for the public and private pensions industries across North America and Europe depend significantly on estimation techniques, but the effect across the more than $13 trillion liabilities could amount to more than $100 billion.

“There are many factors that currently drive high rates of mortality improvement,” said Dr. Andrew Coburn, senior vice president of RMS LifeRisks. “But a rapid increase in pensioners taking daily aspirin could trigger one of the most significant new expectancy changes that we have seen in years.”

The benefit of aspirin for an individual depends on a variety of factors such as smoking, family history, and the potential for negative side effects. The level of impact will also vary across different countries, with various degrees of cancer prevalence and different proportions of people already taking daily aspirin for heart risks.  However, this rise in life expectancy is likely to be a phenomenon across all the various Western pension markets and perhaps beyond. The increase in aspirin uptake could have an even more profound impact on deferred annuity portfolios, because younger people are more likely to benefit from aspirin treatment.

RMS has released a detailed whitepaper on ‘The Impact of Daily Aspirin Intake on Pension Liabilities’ which is available at rms.com/LifeRisks. Scenarios to help pension risk management professionals assess the potential impact of daily aspirin uptake on their own pension portfolios are being released on the RMS LifeRisks platform.