Friday 28 November 2014

Girls born today will live until they're 83. What else does their future hold?

A group of experts predict what changes lie ahead for their diverse fields. Darragh McManus reports

Eoghan Corry

As she grows Lucy will face the twin challenges related to migration: an expanded diaspora and a far more diverse ethnic

make-up at home

Meet Lucy, a new-born Irish girl. (We're calling her Lucy as that was the country's most common girls' name last year.) With average Irish female life-expectancy now 83 years, Lucy will live until nearly the end of this century, and probably longer.

What can she expect between now and 2100? We've asked several experts to predict the future for Lucy, both in her own life and the wider world.

HEALTH/MEDICINE

Danielle Barron, editor Irish Medical News

Irish women have a higher life expectancy than the OECD average, and are living six hours extra every day. So the incidence of illnesses associated with age will rise, especially cancer.

The biggest change I see between now and 2100 is in contraception. The Pill is amazing, but it's costly and has side-effects. A male pill or contraceptive injection could revolutionise relationships.

Techniques would render men temporarily infertile; including RNA molecules regulating sperm production.

There will be huge advances in fertility. Recent developments have shown it's possible to create an embryo from iPS cells, with the potential to develop into any of the body's cell types.

In terms of medicine, epigenetics is where it's going: how genes change over your lifetime due to environmental factors. These could mean you become more susceptible to certain illnesses. Linked to that is personalised medicine: strategies based on your genome. And because the science moves so fast, ethics will be a problem.

WOMEN'S RIGHTS

Encouragingly, there are strong indicators that their plight is improving. As recently as 2000, life expectancy in Sierra Leone was only 39. Throughout this century, with investment in health, education and equality, the lives of women and girls throughout the poorest regions in the world can be changed irrevocably. Plan's Because I am a Girl campaign aims to reach four million directly, improving lives through better family and community support, and access to services.

The lives of women around the world have improved dramatically, at a pace and scope difficult to imagine 25 years ago. But there is still a way to go.

Irish Independent

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