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Wednesday: April 20, 2005

How Long Is This Pope Good For?

Filed under: — site admin @ 3:30 PM GMT-0500

Various sites have suggested that a 78-year-old pope is unlikely to be in office for more than 5-6 years, and one hostile comment somewhere gave an “over and under” of 4 years. This U.S. government life tables site (PDF) gives the average remaining life expectancy of a 78-year-old American male as 7.99 years, and the numbers for Germans can’t be much different. Since the data are from 1989-91 and life expectancies have increased in the intervening years, since the Pope has access to the very best medical care, and since this particular pope seems to be in better-than-average physical condition for his age, I would imagine his estimated remaining life-span would be around 10 years, perhaps even 11 or 12. (Even for 78-year-olds, life tables must include a certain percentage of chronic alcoholics, drug addicts, and heavy smokers who haven’t quite succeeded in killing themselves, as well as some already diagnosed with terminal illnesses. These will tend to lower the average.) Of course, nothing is certain, and Benedict XVI could — absit omen! — drop dead next week or still be in office in twenty years. But he is likely to last longer than some of the more pessimistic estimates. (More optimistic, I guess, when they come from Ratzingerphobes.)

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