Every day we are bombarded by the waves of negative news. Most of the news are focused on current events covering mass shootings, wars, rogue states, financial markets, and celebrity troubles. Negative headlines produce a much stronger emotional response than the positive long-term projects. It is very easy to convince yourself and the others that a short-term threat is more important than some benefit in the future. It is also easy to ignore the fact that while the US, the world’s largest economy with the largest military, total and per-capita healthcare, and research budgets, ranks lowest among the comparable developed countries and regions in average life expectancy. In 2021, the average life expectancy in China and in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was 2 years higher than in the US, where it dropped to 76.1 years.
Boosting the average life expectancy in the country using traditional methods is very difficult. Some of the strongest determinants of longevity are individual wealth, equality, and access to healthcare. Additionally, keeping healthy for as long as possible requires substantial effort, including diet, exercise, sleep, and routine screening, which most people simply do not enjoy doing. This is one reason why, until now, longevity has not been on the agenda of any popular political leader. There have been a few offshoots here and there trying to campaign for longevity, but until now, most political leaders in both parties have chosen to focus on and disagree on popular issues such as abortion rights, same-sex marriage, gun control, and foreign policy instead of longevity.
Over 13% of Americans use illegal drugs, 50% have used drugs at least once, and alcohol is likely to be a bigger problem. The availability of tasty, cheap, ultra-calorie-rich food is one of the many reasons for the obesity epidemic. Of course, efforts are being made to research and address this problem. The 2023 budget of the National Institute on Drug Abuse exceeded $1.8 billion, and the budget of the National Institute on Aging exceeded $4 billion. Please mind that these are annual budgets and the institutes have been there for decades. However, the fact remains that despite these efforts, the average Hong Kong resident lived nine years longer than the average American in 2021. The right to life is the most fundamental human right, and this large difference in life expectancy is clearly not helping to make the case for promoting American values to regions where people live significantly longer. Getting the majority of the population to the optimal level of wealth and optimizing their lifestyle is extremely difficult. That is why no serious presidential candidate with a 4-8 year time horizon has elevated longevity to a level of national priority.
There are multiple scientific articles and books demonstrating that increasing productive longevity of the working population is one of the main ways to boost economic growth and prevent the possible economic collapse.
Fortunately, there are many advances in longevity science and other areas of technology that may help solve this problem without substantially changing the American way of life and fixing the inequality problems. Surely, these problems need to be fixed but longevity science presents another path to bridging that 9-year life expectancy gap faster.
Longevity to Become a Bipartisan National Priority
On February 21st, the offices of Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY) announced the formation of the Congressional Caucus for Longevity Science. The caucus aims to educate Members about the growing field of aging and longevity biotechnology, and promote initiatives aimed at increasing the healthy average lifespan of all Americans. It was also announced that Representatives Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), Michael Burgess (R-TX) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA) are founding members of the newly created caucus.
From the press release it is clear that the caucus is to be focused on longevity biotechnology and not on lifestyle optimization and prevention of falls – a very bold move.
The longevity leaders from all around the world cheered in celebration of this announcement and prompted a debate on Reddit. The biology of aging lab at the University of Copenhagen immediately congratulated the parties on this initiative and invited them to participate in the larges event in the longevity biotechnology industry, the 10th ARDD forum in Copenhagen.
The longevity physicians and scientists joined in the celebration. Dr. Evelyne Bischof tweeted:
The initiative will likely inspire other countries to start similar efforts. I asked Nicola Marino, a young politician in Italy about his thoughts on the Bilirakis-Tonko Longevity Science Caucus and he commented in an emailed response:
“The commitment of the newly founded Longevity Science Caucus represents the right direction for the future of longevity and aging policies. It is also an obligatory path for the countries of the Eurozone and, in particular, Italy”.
Congressman Bilirakis and Congressman Tonko provided the quotes in the official announcement.
“Increasing life expectancy and promoting positive health outcomes are important priorities, and the formation of this caucus is an important step toward achieving those goals. I believe in promoting individual responsibility and supporting innovation in the pursuit of scientific discoveries that will enable Americans to live happier and longer lives. I am honored to co-chair this bipartisan effort with my colleague, Congressman Tonko. We will work with our colleagues in an effort to make a significant impact on the future health and wellness for our constituents.”, said Congressman Bilirakis, a senior Member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
“With life expectancy in the United States at its lowest in decades, we in Congress need to come together to address this decline and support science and research that will enable people to live fuller and healthier lives. We’re doing just that with the Longevity Caucus. I am grateful for the partnership of Congressman Bilirakis in leading this Caucus and look forward to working in strong bipartisan fashion to help improve our quality and longevity of life, particularly in the fight against neurodegenerative diseases with aging as the greatest risk factor.”, said Congressman Tonko, who is also a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Let’s hope that Longevity Science finds its way into the voter priorities in 2023!
National Longevity Initiatives Around The World
This is not the first time a bipartisan initiative is formed at the national level. In 2019, the All Party Parliamentary Group for Longevity was formed at the UK parliament by a group of prominent politicians and public figures with a diverse board of advisors. It had a number of meetings and produced several reports but in January 2023 it was disbanded.
The first country to make longevity science the main national priority and commit enormous resources to a program is Saudi Arabia. Under the visionary leadership of HRH MBS, it created the Hevolution Foundation that is expected to spend $1B per year on longevity science. And while at this point, it looks like a diplomatic initiative designed to establish closer ties with the US, and their PR management could learn a thing or two about communicating with the scientists and influencers, it is likely to provide significant funding for this field in the years to come.
It is clear that extending productive longevity is one of the few issues republicans, democrats, and politicians in other countries can agree on. As the longevity hiphop artist from New York, Maitreya One famously said: “It is crazy to see us spending time arguing and fighting each other on mundane issues instead of uniting to fight our common enemy – aging”. Let’s hope that the Congressional Caucus for Longevity Science under the bipartisan leadership of Bilirakis, Tonko, and the other Congressmen and Congresswomen becomes a beacon for the other nations to unite to fight aging, age-related diseases and increase productive longevity.
To learn more about the science of aging and longevity and meet the key industry leaders, I recommend attending the 5-day non-profit volunteer-run 10th Aging Research and Drug Discovery meeting organized by the University of Copenhagen.