Life expectancy for the French increases to 80

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The Independent Online

In the week of the centenary of Jules Verne's death, the news has a poetic ring. Every French baby born in 2005 can expect to be around the world for 80 years.

In the week of the centenary of Jules Verne's death, the news has a poetic ring. Every French baby born in 2005 can expect to be around the world for 80 years.

After stalling for a few years, French life expectancy is rising sharply again, especially for women. For the first time, normal life expectancy in France has crossed the 80-year barrier.

Women can expect to live for 83.8 years (compared to 81 in Britain). French men nowlive to 76.7 (76 here). The figures prove what many have long suspected: that the French are secretly a Very Happy People and that France is, whether it admits it or not, a well-balanced and well-run country. "This is good news because it is a symptom of a society which is going well," said Claudine Attias-Donfut, a sociologist who specialises in the problems of old people.

Why then does every opinion poll suggest that a majority of French people is desperately gloomy about the future? High longevity figures are an opinion poll with a 100 per cent sample, which can never lie, say sociologists. They reflect the quality of diet, the health service and quality of care for old people.

But the improving longevity figures present a problem. By 2020 there will be more French people over the age of 60 than under the age of 20.

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