Family Stories Lifespan: how long they lived

Lifespan vs Life Expectancy

The term life expectancy means the average lifespan of an entire population, taking into account all mortality figures for that specific group of people. Whereas, lifespan is a measure of the actual length of an individual’s life.

Here are the top-10 “lifespan champions” among the 2,500 or so people in our family database:

We have recorded Ola D. Swetnam of Kentucky as having lived 103 years, 312 days. And including her, seven of the people on our top-10 list were born between 1883 and 1894. That actually matches a historic trend. (See below.)

Life Expectancy from the 1800s to Today

From the 1500s onward, till around the year 1800, life expectancy throughout Europe hovered between 30 and 40 years of age. Since the early 1800s, life expectancy at birth has doubled in a period of only 10 or so generations. Improved health care, sanitation, immunizations, access to clean, running water and better nutrition are all credited with the massive increase.

In the meantime, rising life expectancy in the West brings both good and bad news: it’s nice to be living longer, but we are now more vulnerable to the types of illnesses that hit as you get older. These age-related diseases include coronary artery disease, certain cancers, diabetes, and dementia. Still, while they can affect quantity and quality of life, many of these conditions can be prevented or at least moderated through healthy lifestyle choices. And many people are able to remain active much longer.

So, what we see is that people born in the United States in 1850 might have expected to live to about age 38. People born in 2000 might expect to live to age 79.

However, Ola D. Swetnam born back in 1893 is still the clear "lifespan champion" among all of our identified family members.


Sources: www.news-medical.net and www.populationeducation.org.

Created By
William Koss


Photo: Brant and Book families ca. 1924

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