Only one in five UK adults would choose to live forever if they could | Artificial intelligence

New Scientist Asks the Public has revealed that only 21 per cent of people would be keen to become immortal, should it ever become scientifically possible

Older people dancing

Lifespans are increasing – but we won’t all get to enjoy an active old-age

Thomas Barwick/Getty

Who wants to forever? Only around 1 in 5 people, according to the 2018 New Scientist Asks the Public survey.

In the survey, carried out in August by Sapio Research on a representative sample of 2026 , 21 per cent of people said they would be very likely to accept an offer of immortality. A further 30 per cent said they would be somewhat likely to take up such an offer, but around half of people appear to be reconciled to their own demise.

The question posed in the survey was “if you were offered the chance to live forever, how likely are you to take it?”. While this is a hypothetical question, some gerontologists believe that radical life extension – if not actual immortality – may be available to people who are alive today.

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Even people who are already old may soon benefit from a range of interventions, from drugs to manipulation of their gut microbiota, that can extend their lifespan or at least improve their health in old age, according to a major review published this month in Nature.

Nursing home world

However, the survey found that more people are worried about radical life extension than are optimistic about it. The main concerns people have are overpopulation and a “nursing home world” full of geriatrics. Of those who expressed concern about radical life extension, 44 per cent agreed with the statement “I think we should just accept our natural lifespan”.

Nonetheless, in a separate question, 58 per cent of people agreed with the statement “longer life expectancies are a good thing”. The two are not necessarily incompatible. Over the past 200 years, average human life expectancy has doubled in most developed countries due to better diets, public health and education.

These gains are projected to continue, according to Linda Partridge of the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Cologne , Germany, lead author of the Nature review.

However, “healthspan” – the number of years lived in relatively good health – has not increased as much as lifespan, meaning concerns about radical life extension are probably well-founded.

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