Improvements in health care, sanitation, and diet over last 100 years have significantly increased life expectancy . However, this increase in how long we can expect to live has not been accompanied by a similar increase in healthy life expectancy, defined as the time spent free of major illness or disease.
In a position paper recently published in The Lancet , Professor Lynne Cox from the Department of Biochemistry and Professor Richard Faragher from the University of Brighton argue that governments across the world should prioritise increasing populations' healthy life expectancy (also known as healthspan) as opposed to focusing uniquely on increasing life expectancy. The benefits of increasing people's healthspan are huge. Not only would this improve quality of life, but it would also have enormous positive economic effects . So far, however, efforts at improving people's quality of later life have, rather counterproductively, neglected the potential that research into biological ageing processes can have on improving later life health.
There are however grounds for optimism. A coordinated effort to develop an intersectional approach to improving later life health, that includes research into the biology of ageing, has been funded in the UK jointly by BBSRC and the MRC. This national effort - the UK Ageing Network (UKANet) - is coordinated by Professors Cox and Faragher, and launched in March 2022. UKANet, a collective of eleven research networks addressing different aspects of ageing biology and health, aims to sharpen the focus on ageing biology. The UK Ageing Network will facilitate knowledge exchange and collaboration between traditionally siloed academic disciplines by hosting seminars, workshops, training programmes and grassroots events to maximise the sharing of ideas, as well as funding pump-priming research, with the ultimate goal of turning scientific findings into policy and practice as quickly as possible.
You can read the position paper here .