What percent of people are currently living to 100?


My dad is getting older and we have this fight a lot: just how likely is it that he’ll make it to 100. I say it’s very likely, and he says I’m an optimist. The other day he was trying to do the math and said “the percentage of people living to 100 out of the 7 billion people on Earth…” – Stop right there, I said. I’m young, and I’m one of those 7 billion people: you can’t count me against the percentage of peope who are 100! That’s inaccurate because I could very well live to 100 (and I plan on it) so the statistic wouldn’t reflect that.

The way to get an accurate answer to this question is to find out what percentage of people born in 1918 (100 years ago) have made it to 100. So here’s the math:

The number of people born in the U.S. in 1918 (sorry, couldn’t find accurate information for the whole world, so just focusing on the U.S.) was 1,353,792 according to the 1918 census.

The number of centarians in the US was estimated at 72,000 in 2015 – that was the closest number I could find to 2018 unfortunately, so we’ll round up to 75,000 to get a little closer to the real number.

The answer: about 5.5% of people born in 1918 have made it to 100 years old.

Granted, that’s a little over a 1 in 20 chance of making to to 100, but certainly higher than the 0.000whatever% number that my dad was depressed about. However, those people lived through WWII (1,076,245 U.S. lives lost), the Korean War (128,650), and the Vietnam War (211,454) – Source. If you add those casualties together, that’s 1,416,349 people, and if you use the same percentage (5.5%), to find out how many of them might have made it to 100 had it not been for war, that’s 77,899 people… more than the current estimated number of centarians, which would more than double the statistic, making it an approximate 12% of people born in 1918 who would have lived to 100 without those wars. 12%… That’s more than a 1/10 chance! And that figure is low too since those war deaths were counted against the original 5.5% number used! It’s lookin’ good folks. Can’t wait to go call my dad back and give him some statistics of hope. 🙂

Be sure to share this page with your aging family members. A study published in 2002 found that people with a more positive attitude about aging lived an average of 7.5 years longer than those with more pessimistic attitudes. That’s almost a whole extra decade!!

Update: My dad was pleased. He said I fudged the math a little bit, but my answer is reasonable. He also said that it made him feel more hopeful, so mission accomplished. 😁

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