Actuaries Make Year 2000 Predictions

National health plan unlikely, suicide rates rise, no big decline for Dow

Those who get paid to predict the future see suicide rates to rise, no big decline for the Dow Industrials Average and a national health plan as an unlikely event in the first half of the new century.

More than 140 members of the Society of Actuaries' Futurism Section revealed their educated beliefs on 25 questions about the future in a recent study. The special project, a Delphi study, was conducted in conjunction with the Society's 50th anniversary in 1999 and the approaching Year 2000. Actuaries are professionals who use mathematical modeling to project future possibilities and the financial resources needed to meet them.

When the 144 actuaries where asked about their predictions for events between the years 2010 and 2050, here's what they found:

- There's less than a one in three chance that the United States will institute a national health plan or other mechanism as an alternative to employer-based health insurance.

- The U.S. suicide rate will rise.

- In the next 10 years, the Dow Jones Industrial Average won't see a one-day drop as dramatic as the 22.6 percent decline on Oct. 18, 1987.

- Americans born in the year 2050 can be expected to live beyond an average age of 80, but few think the average will be as high for those born in 2010.

- By 2010, health expenses will represent a larger percentage of the gross domestic product (GDP) than they have in the past.

A majority of respondents also saw a slowdown in prescription drug costs, a rising percentage of the labor force being comprised of women, fewer workers per retiree, declining death rates from heart disease and cancer, and inflation remaining under control.

A significant minority, 35 percent, foresees a cure for AIDS by 2050, but only 4 percent expected one by 2010.

A Delphi study assembles a group of experts and asks the same questions in up to four rounds of surveying. The previous rounds' responses are reported, allowing individuals to consider their next responses in light of the expert consensus.

Source: Society of Actuaries

DATE: 8/31/99

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