Peering into the future of the health and longevity of a population has been a subject of interest for centuries for actuaries and demographers who follow and forecast trends in these statistics. The method most often used to make such forecasts is to examine recent trends in observed health characteristics and mortality data in a selected population and then perform a linear extrapolation of past trends into the future under the premise that the future will be like the past. The predictive power of this method is limited when health and mortality conditions are in a state of flux, which is most often the case, but sometimes this is the only way to get a sense of what the future holds. However, every once in a while a novel source of data surfaces that makes it possible to peer into the future in a fundamentally different and far more revealing way. That is the case with the study by Nemetz et al1 in this issue of the Archives.
Olshansky SJ, Persky V. The Canary in the Coal Mine of Coronary Artery Disease. Arch Intern Med. 2008;168(3):261. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2007.58