Older white gentleman (on left side of photo), lifts smiling baby aloft. Inside a room with yellow walls and with a long vertical window on the left of the screen.
Photo by Johnny Cohen on Unsplash

Some Good News About Healthspan

Michael Hunter, MD
Published in
4 min readMar 31, 2022


OLDER ADULTS APPEAR NOT ONLY TO BE LIVING LONGER but better too. Those are the conclusions of a new study from the United Kingdom. So many of us fear old age but embrace age if we are healthy. I am after a long healthspan, not simply longevity.

We begin with a nod to healthspan before turning to the new British study. Then we’ll pivot to five key ways (and one bonus one) you may achieve both longevity and a long healthspan.

Are you similar to me, focusing on how long you will be healthy (instead of simply looking at how many full years you have)?

What is healthspan?

It seems everyone I know is interested in longevity. I know I am: It’s my 59th birthday today, and we often become more reflective at ages 29, 39, 49, etc.

Awareness about healthspan seems to lag significantly behind knowledge about longevity. What does healthspan mean to you?

To me, healthspan is a life free from severe disease. I like that definition better than a healthy life, as we all have different definitions of being healthy.

An older woman leans out of a window of a white house. She is percehed between two white shutters.
Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash

Among Gallup’s 2021 survey respondents, the average retirement age was 62. The average age at which working respondents planned to retire was 64.

That leaves approximately 14 years for us to enjoy retirement, no? Not exactly. First, older adults are working longer. Approximately one in three men and women begin claiming Social Security at 62.

Another one-third begin collecting Social Security at full retirement age (65 or 66 years when researchers collected the data, and 67 for those born after 1960).

So how many good years do we have? The average healthspan in the United States is only 63 years (2017 calculation).

Healthspan increasing

Life expectancy has increased by 30 years since the mid-twentieth century. Alas, healthspan expansion has not followed, in large part because of chronic diseases afflicting an enlarging older population.



Michael Hunter, MD

I have degrees from Harvard, Yale, and Penn. I am a radiation oncologist in the Seattle area. You may find me regularly posting at www.newcancerinfo.com