Deepak Jobanputra believes we all hold the key to defusing the time bomb of an ageing population
The world is faced with a number of choices and, in many cases, severe challenges in managing healthcare. In developed nations, there is frequent mention of the demographic time bomb of an ageing population allied with low birth rates and obesity and other lifestyle-based diseases. However, while these issues are well reported in the media, they are not entirely understood by the public.
Without understanding the impact on society, it is difficult to get people to take any real action. To be told when you are, say, 35, that you may have to work not until age 65 but instead to age 68 or 70 will not resonate as strongly as the short-term pressures that are likely to exist at earlier life stages.
With medical and socio-economic developments, we are living longer, but this is accompanied by more time spent in ill health at the later stages of life. However, there is a great opportunity to improve healthy life expectancy. We are regularly told to invest financially for a pension in later life. But if we take that one step further and invest in our health and wellbeing from a young age, it has been shown that this can delay the onset of serious illnesses. If we are required to work a few extra years, it is clearly more possible to achieve this in good health.
Smoking is an obvious lifestyle choice that has a damaging effect on health. But if we can influence society to also invest in other healthy behaviours, such as regular exercise and eating healthily, this can have a significant effect on individual lives while addressing global issues.
Actuaries can help develop preventative solutions by encouraging and rewarding healthy behaviours. Providing access to healthy activities can change risk outcomes for insurers and providers of healthcare and create a healthier society. My personal drive is to encourage my children to eat healthily and exercise beyond the virtual games they play on their consoles. I have a long way to go on this, but had better not be too harsh as one day they'll be choosing my care home!