February 19th, 2021


To dust you shall return

It's currently Lent, as obvious from my Ash Wednesday post.

"In these unprecedented times", (which, of course, has had plenty of precedents), many parishes/dioceses changed their Ash Wednesday practices. The one that sounded disgusting to me was shaking ashes over someone's head... and then I found out, that was the way they did it in medieval times -- so it's not really new. (Using Q-tips to spread ashes, though... that's new. D has been doing a distance special education prep for Confirmation, and his teacher told me yesterday that she got the Q-tip treatment.)

Okay, enough of that -- the point is that pretty much all the Ash Wednesday phrases/traditions emphasize the point YOU'RE GONNA DIE, and to contemplate your own mortality.

People have had that contemplation plenty this last year.

Yes, I have seen the most recent CDC release about life expectancy dropping over a year in the first half of 2020, and I will be writing something detailed about it at my "serious" blog this weekend. I had already estimated a 15% increase in deaths from 2019 to 2020, and yes, that is a serious increase. Yes, most of the increase came from the oldest people, who already make up the bulk of deaths in normal years, but that does not mean "they were going to die anyway."

We're all going to die anyway. Eventually.

The life expectancy of somebody age 80, using the most recent Social Security tables, was 8.3 years for men and 9.7 years for women. On that table, to get to a life expectancy under 1 year, you've got to get to 113 years old (though, to be fair, past age 95 or so the data are so sparse that a standard mortality law is usually used to project mortality rates for those ages.)

Yes, co-morbidities and all that, but most people over age 80 have one of those "co-morbidities".

In any case, in the modern world, people generally haven't taken death all that seriously, mainly because we haven't had a lot of it. A few years ago, I looked at how young is "so young to die"? -- for current people, dying before age 50 is super-young, dying before age 70 is still pretty young, but on average, people are dying in their mid-80s (yes, that's different from life expectancy -- I will explain in my post this weekend). More people probably worry about living too long (outliving one's savings, concern over living through severe medical conditions, etc.) than dying too soon.

But perhaps you should think about it.

(and no, I'm not trying to sell you life insurance. I'm not licensed for that.)

But I will send you here: Mortality category at Actuarial News