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7 Aug 2006

Reading further on the work of Robert Fogel (see dispatch on July 30) I have discovered the useful concept of technophysioevolution. As I explain in the comment in the latest issue of Fund Strategy (August 7):

“The trend of improving morbidity is clear from the work of Robert Fogel, a Nobel laureate and professor of economics at the University of Chicago, and a federally funded project on ‘Early indicators of later work levels, disease and death’.

“Fogel’s work shows that in an 80-year period – comparing those born in the mid-nineteenth century with those born in the early twentieth century – American life expectancy increased by 6.6 years. Over the same period the average age of the onset of common conditions such as arthritis, heart disease and respiratory problems increased by 10 years.

“Some researchers have even suggested a theory of “technophysioevolution” to explain these trends. As humans gain greater control over their environment there are rapid improvements in both mortality and morbidity.”

Also his March 2005 National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) paper on Changes in the physiology of aging during the twentieth century looks like a useful update of his previous work. A summary can be found in the NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health .