SOA Study Says Social Security Financing Would Be Relatively Unaffected By Largest Expected Mortality Improvements, But Uncertainty Persists

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. -- Social security financing in the United States and Canada is relatively immune from even the largest increase in human life span predicted by experts, a recent study concluded. However, while experts believe life span will continue to lengthen and there will be larger populations of the elderly, there is much discrepancy about the predicted rate of mortality improvement. This wide discrepancy creates an uncertainty that can and should be accounted for in mortality projections on which social security financing is based, study organizers said.

"Developments in genetic technology and other areas could ease the impact of many diseases and extend human life," said Anna Rappaport, 1997-98 president of the Society of Actuaries, which conducted the study. "In addition, we know from our research that more attention must be directed to the support of larger populations of the elderly."

Results of the project were announced at the Society of Actuaries' (SOA) session, 8-11 a.m. Feb. 17, during the 1998 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Feb. 12-17, Philadelphia. The session, entitled "Social Security in NAFTA Countries: What if People Stop Dying?", presented the results and an overview of the SOA project "Impact of Mortality Improvement on Social Security: Canada, Mexico and the United States." The NAFTA countries' social security administrations cosponsored the project.

Phase 1 of the three-phase project was a literature review of existing knowledge of mortality forecasting. Phase 2 was the convening of an invitation-only seminar of experts and a survey of those attending. The survey included questions about expected mortality improvements, and the results served as a basis for Phase 3, a test of the impact of these mortality improvement rates on social security financing by each NAFTA country's social security administration. (Mexic

Contact: Jacqueline Bitowt
Society of Actuaries

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