The French and their perception of longevity
In anticipation of the first Global Forum for Longevity, which will take place in Paris on 28 March 2011, AXA asked the CSA to conduct a survey* of how the French perceive longevity.
Rising longevity: an as-yet unquantified effect on society
It is important to place this issue in the light of recent events in Japan. We find, therefore, that 55% of the French currently see climate change as the thing that will have the greatest effect on society, with new means of communication coming in second (45%).
Compared to these phenomena, each of which will have very specific consequences for society, rising longevity was placed only in fourth position (28%). However, the people most directly affected by increased life expectancy, and those who feel its effects most readily, see it as a more important issue, namely the over 50 (38%), the over 75 (43%) and the retired (37%).
Rising longevity: a source of opportunity
At a time when other surveys all indicate dwindling morale amongst the French people and concerns about the future, a large majority (78%) nevertheless agreed on the fact that a greater life expectancy is on the whole a good thing. In general, the older a person gets, the more positive a take they have on longevity.
Rising longevity: a positive change for families, quality of life and growth
The family is seen as the biggest winner of this increase in longevity, with 85% viewing it as a good thing for the handing down of knowledge and experience, 76% for family cohesion, 68% for inter-generational relationships and 64% for the passing on of heritage from one generation to the next. This final point clearly contradicts some of the things being said in the media about access to such cultural heritage becoming lost to the younger generations.
Quality of life and society are also thought to benefit from greater life expectancy, and 71% believe it will also help develop leisure services and strengthen community life. On a more practical note and to a lesser extent, longevity is also considered to have a positive influence on town planning (55%).
* CSA conducted a telephone survey on 16 and 17 March 2011 from a sample of 1012 individuals representative of the French population, men and women aged 18 years and over using the quota method.
On a wider scale, rising longevity is also a good thing in the eyes of the French as regards to economic growth and development.
Although opinions are more split on this question (nearly half of those asked thought that longevity was good for the economy and consumption, whereas 21% believed otherwise and 27% had no opinion), the consequences are overall seen as positive.
The over 75, as well as the retired population, take a more positive view of the implications of increased longevity on the quality of life after retirement: 45% and 40% of these subgroups respectively feel that it is mostly a good thing, compared to only 32% of the French as a whole. The issue of town planning also seems to matter more to these populations: 78% of the over 75 age group and more than 62% of retired people think that a greater life expectancy will bring positive changes in this respect (compared to 55% of the French as a whole).
Many people still believe that longevity is bad for unemployment, whatever their age or social category.
The results of this survey suggest that an increase in longevity is no yet seen as one of the three major challenges of the 21st century, although it is still a cause for concern particularly among the elderly.
This is the reason behind the Global Forum for Longevity which, by taking an international and crossdisciplinary approach, hopes to assess the challenges and opportunities created by this demographic revolution so as to better be able to cope with this major issue as we embark further into a new century.