Who Will Live Longer—Trump or Biden?

Quetzalli Nicte-Ha/Reuters
Quetzalli Nicte-Ha/Reuters

President Joe Biden’s catastrophic performance in Thursday night’s debate pushed concerns about his age into the national spotlight. The 81-year-old Democrat repeatedly faltered and spoke with a raspy voice (his campaign blamed a cold), sparking enough alarm that rumblings have already emerged about replacing him with another candidate before it’s too late.

His 78-year-old Republican rival, Donald Trump, is no spring chicken himself. But there’s good news for the two candidates: the chances of both men living into their 90s is better than most Americans.

Dems Panic About Biden’s Debate Disaster Against Donald Trump

As America prepares to choose between the two most superannuated presidential candidates in its history we asked an actuary to crunch the numbers.

Scott Witt, who provides expert insight on insurance risk from the crucial swing state of Wisconsin, said that neither man’s official medical reports yield much useful insight into their underlying health, besides the Republican’s high body mass index. He also highlighted public concern and speculation about both contenders’ cognitive function.

But he provided an array of estimates showing that white men who have reached the age of each stand an excellent chance of surviving another five years, purely because they’ve managed to keep a step ahead of death for this long. Both have already outstripped male life expectancies at the time of their birth (roughly 64 years) and today (just shy of 75).

“You live to that age, you’re probably not going to die of an opioid overdose, you’re probably not going to die in a drunk driving accident,” Witt said. “Once you survive all these risks, you’ve made it that long, you’ve got some longevity in you, it’s not crazy to think you could live longer.”

A number of personal factors are in Biden and Trump’s favor, including that they have longevity in their makeup: Biden’s father passed away at age 86 and his mother at 92; while Trump’s mom moved on at 88 and his dad died at 93.

While there is no formula per se that actuaries use to determine how old someone will live without subjecting them to medical exams, the fact that both men are nonsmokers and teetotalers does come into consideration.

Witt told The Daily Beast that the very healthiest category of men of Trump’s years can expect to survive a further 14 years, (which puts his life expectancy at 92) while those of Biden’s age could make it an additional dozen (making him 94).

But Witt warned either might be in far worse health than the public is aware, and that the presidency is a highly demanding job. Though many would wilt under the stress of the presidency, presidents in fact have a better life expectancy than the average American.

Witt pointed out that the most recent three presidents to depart for the great White House in the sky—Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, and George H.W. Bush—all made it past 90, and former President Jimmy Carter is in declining condition but also just months from cracking the century mark.

“That could be a coincidence, but it could be indicative of advances in medicine, especially among those who have access to the best of the best in terms of health care,” he said.

But none of this means that life insurance companies would cut a man of either Biden or Trump’s age a break. Witt said a 78-year-old male in the best of health can expect to pay $25,000 annually for a 10-year term policy, and quotes aren’t even available for past 80. This owes both to the narrow subset of companies that provide insurance for those in the most advanced age categories, the declining demand for such policies among retirees, and a statistical quirk: an elderly person’s odds of making it to a specific birthday are relatively high, but their chance of surviving a set period of years is much lower.

“The older person has a better chance of reaching an arbitrary age, the younger person has a better chance of living an arbitrary number of years,” Witt explained, noting that mortality risk rises with each year—topping out at 50 percent among the most geriatric end of the population—even as the odds of making it to a particular benchmark go up.

This kind of calculation is important for decisions besides picking the next leader of the free world, Witt noted. Many people see that American life expectancy has declined in recent years, but fail to realize those estimates are for newborns, and not people already approaching retirement age.

“They’re 65 and they’ll do their planning based around them living only 22 years,” he said. “All these other things that are causing the U.S. life expectancy to go down don’t have anything to do with a middle-aged, middle American person. Somebody who’s already 50, 60, 65 years old, their life expectancy is way higher.”

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