Molecular Medicine May Lead to More People Living Longer, Staying Healthier, Retiring Later

Examining the impact of molecular medicine on health care and society between 2000 and 2050

In early 2004, the Brookings Institution, Washington, published a book entitled Coping with Methuselah: The Impact of Molecular Biology on Medicine and Society.

Molecular biology is the study of the basic processes of life (proteins, nucleic acids, viruses and cell components, as well as how genes influence the production of proteins).

The Brookings Institution is an independent, nonpartisan organization devoted to research, analysis, education and publication focused on public policy issues in economics, foreign policy and governance.

Key Results

The project achieved results in the following areas:

  • The book discusses the problems, challenges and opportunities posed by a longer life span. According to one of the co-editors (Aaron), the book's general message is that increased longevity will produce a range of challenges, but these challenges will emerge slowly:

    • The sharp increase in the number of people who live to be 100 will not occur until the second half of the 21st century.
    • Public policies could offset the cost pressures of increased longevity by increasing the age of eligibility for pension and health benefits and encouraging later retirement.
    • How much medical expenses will increase is uncertain. Considerable evidence suggests that increases in medical spending resulting from increased longevity could be modest.