5 October 2006

Community attitudes to the extension of life are complex, according to the preliminary results of a new University of Queensland study.

Some participants in the study said they would like to significantly extend their lives, while a few stated that they would like to “live indefinitely”. But the project Research Manager Dr Mair Underwood said not everyone interviewed for the project shared these views.

“It cannot be assumed that all people would welcome life extension,” she said.

“Some people definitely do not want to extend their lives as they feel it is ‘greedy’, ‘selfish’ or ‘messing with nature’.

“Some are looking forward to the promise of the afterlife and therefore have no wish to postpone their death. Others would definitely extend their lives, with some even willing to sacrifice some quality for extra quantity.

“But for many of those we asked the answer is a very qualified `yes`. While the idea appealed to them they felt there were a lot of other factors to consider before they said yes to life extension.”

Dr Underwood said the most important consideration was quality of life as participants did not want to spend their extra years in a nursing home. But study participants also mentioned other considerations such as:

• Would their loved ones be extending their lives too?
• What financial support would they have, and would they be extending their working lives rather than their retired lives?
• What would happen to the size of the population? Would resources dry up? Where would everyone live?
• How would we decide who could extend their life? Would it just be those that could afford to do so?

Dr Underwood said the study was commenced to understand community attitudes.

“While scientists are looking into ways to significantly extend human life span, and perhaps even double or triple current life expectancy, few researchers have asked community members if they would actually want to extend their lives,” she said.

Dr Underwood said the three-year project was still in its initial phases. Researchers so far have completed six focus groups and 17 individual interviews with community members aged from 19 to 81 years of age.

The project is supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery grant, and will be completed at the end of 2008. The multidisciplinary University of Queensland team consists of:
• Professor Wayne Hall, School of Population Health;
• Professor Helen Bartlett, Australasian Centre on Ageing;
• Professor Stephen Myers, Australian Centre for Complementary Medicine Education and Research;
• Dr Mair Underwood, Australasian Centre on Ageing; and
• Mr Brad Partridge, School of Population Health.

Dr Underwood will present the preliminary results of the study at the 3rd International Conference on Healthy Ageing & Longevity at the Melbourne Convention Centre, from Friday October 13 - Sunday
October 15.

Media: For more information about this project please contact: Dr Mair Underwood: Office – (07) 3346 9156; Mobile – 0400 290 615; Email – m.underwood@uq.edu.au.