Physiological aging around the World

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We extract data on physiological aging by computing a frailty index for 201 countries over
the period 1990–2019. Using panel estimation techniques, we show that the macro frailty
index replicates basic regularities previously observed in related studies of aging at the indi-
vidual level. We then use the frailty index to highlight trends of global physiological aging
and its relationship to economic growth. Holding population age structure fixed, the global
frailty index has on average increased by about 2 percent over the last 30 years. The aver-
age person has therefore aged by what corresponds to about one life-year of physiological
aging. This overall trend is relatively similar across different geographical regions. We also
document a negative relationship between physiological aging of the workforce and eco-
nomic growth. According to our preferred specification, a one percent increase in the frailty
index of the workforce is associated with a 1.5 percent decline of GDP per capita. This
means that average annual growth of labor productivity would have been 0.1 percentage
points higher without physiological aging in the period 1990-2019.
Original languageEnglish
Article number e0268276
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022

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