Life Expectancy and Survival Probability


Life expectancy is a key factor in a number of decisions required when you approach retirement. For example, should you delay taking the Canada Pension Plan pension or the Old Age Security payment? You need to feel comfortable that you will be alive to take a delayed pension and, for example with the CPP if you will be alive at the break-even age.

Life Expectancy

Life expectancy is the average age to which one might be expected to live. That is, there is a probability for each age before the life expectancy age that a person will die as well as a probability for each age after that the person will still be alive.

Statistics Canada provides access to life expectancy and probability data (plus much more) on Table 053-0003, Elements of the life table, Canada, provinces and territories. Using the Add/Remove data tab, I was able to obtain, for 2012-2014, data for ages 60 to 95 of the Life Expectancy and Probability of Survival between ages for all of Canada and both sexes. These values are included in the downloadable Excel spreadsheet. On the StatsCan website you can change any of the selection criteria to select, for example, a province or a specific sex.

Chart 1 from the spreadsheet shows the Life Expectancy for a male as both an age and as the number of years. For example, using the blue line, at age 60 the life expectancy is 83, but if you live until age for age 73, the life expectancy is 86. This chart is on the spreadsheet where you can examine different ages.

Survival Probability

Life expectancy is, by definition, the 50% probability of being alive at that age. However, what about being alive at any other age?
Chart 2 shows the survival probability for different ages using data found on the StatsCan website indicated above. This chart indicates that if you are 60 today, then you will have a 50% probability of living to age 83 (i.e. the life expectancy). At any other age, the probability will be different. For example, there is an 81% probability of living to the age of 73.

Based on your family history, your present heath and other factors, you can assess whether these life expectancies apply to you. Also keep in mind that these are the average for a large population so you may decide that another age applies to you.

There are sites that offer life expectancy for an individual where you enter specific criteria. For example the one by Sun Life Financial has a few criteria while the Canadian Business one has many more. Each provides slightly different results, but they are all within a few years of each other.

Spreadsheet Description

You can try out different ages on the spreadsheet which is available by clicking on Download Spreadsheet.

In addition to the charts above, the spreadsheet has an area where you can enter your sex and two ages.

To use the spreadsheet, do the following:

1) Sex for Life Expectancy – Clicking on the outlined cell will cause a drop-down menu to appear to the right where either Female or Male can be selected.

2) Your Age Now – Enter your age (or any other age, if desired). It must be between 60 and 95.

3) Life Expectancy for Your Age Now – This will be filled in by the spreadsheet using a formula that makes use of columns below the charts that have been obtained from the StatsCan site. This has a probability of survival of 50%.

4) Future Age – Enter any age that is greater than that of line 2 and less than 95 that you want to obtain a survival probability.

5) Survival Probability at Future Age – This is filled in by the spreadsheet using the ages in line 2 and line 4. It uses line 2 and line 4 ages and columns below the charts.

6) Life Expectancy at Future Age – This will be filled in by the spreadsheet using a formula that makes use of columns below the charts that have been obtained from the StatsCan site. This has a probability of survival of 50%.