As hordes of moviegoers witnessed over the weekend, secret agent man James Bond has, against all odds, lived to see another day. Despite the various life-threatening moments that Bond (played by Daniel Craig) endures in Skyfall, including multiple shot wounds, high-speed chases, and winding up in a pit with Komodo dragons, 007 has miraculously survived his 23rd film.
Aside from the fact that Bond seemingly never ages, we can’t help but wonder how much longer the man whose lifestyle revolves almost entirely around violence, alcohol, and sexual escapades would survive. What’s the life expectancy of a double-0 agent, particularly one as entrenched in dangerous activities as James Bond?
Dr. Scott Kush of The Life Expectancy Group in California broke it down us. Kush — who based Bond’s age at 38 (the character is 37-years-old in the book Moonraker and the super spy would have celebrated his 38th birthday on November 11) — explained, “The life expectancy of a 38-year-old male in the U.K. is approximately 40.5 additional years, but then we have to take into consideration his occupation, his alcohol use, his substance abuse, his high-risk activity, his use of firearms, the fact that he was a pack-and-a-half smoker at one point, [and has endured] multiple injuries, fractures, gunshot wounds.”
Dr. Kush explains that Bond’s life expectancy could be difficult to assess “because he has so much going on. Generally, when you’re looking at someone for life expectancy, you compare them to like-minded people. In Casino Royale, [Bond] said, ‘I understand double 0s have a very short life expectancy.’ Across the movies and books there have been 22 agents known to be double 0s and there have been 11 confirmed deaths…. So there’s a 50 percent mortality rate across the lifetime of a double 0 agent. That’s what I’ve used to calculate his number.” At 38, Bond would be just 7 years away from the retirement age for a double-0 agent, but how much longer would he have to live? According to Dr. Kush, “This gives me a final number of approximately 16.5 additional years.” Sorry, Mr. Bond, but it looks like even if you survive all the explosions and crashes and scheming villains, you’ll still only make it to 54.5 years of age.
Of course, if James Bond wanted to make it to the ripe old age of 78.5, Dr. Kush had some suggestions for how the spy could extend his lifespan. Dr. Kush’s first suggestion for Bond to live longer? Quite simply: “Retire.” But it’s also Bond’s recreational choices that contribute to his projected early mortality. “He would not only have to quit his job, he’d have to quit his alcohol
and substance abuse.” In fact, Dr. Kush cites Bond’s drug and alcohol use as “one of the highest risk activities.”
If Bond were to successfully make it through rehab (“You have to give someone at least a year or two to be successful,”) and stop his other high-risk activities such as, say, driving his motorcycle through a market in Istanbul or grappling underneath a frozen lake (which Dr. Kush describes as “an immediate risk… You can only survive in low temperature water for, in many cases, minutes.”) he could very well live longer.
“If he did all of that, he’d be able to recover pretty close to what the average is,” Dr. Kush says. “He’d still have this past history of smoking that would bring it down a little bit. Generally, if you quit smoking by age 40, it’s a very good thing, because your lungs can repair themselves. But when you’ve smoked a pack and a half per day for a certain amount of years, that’s hard to recover function. He’d still be a few years behind 40.5 though.”
In addition to quitting to smoking, Bond would have to make sure he’s being safe with his many, many Bond girls. “They never really make it clear whether he’s using a condom or not, so he’s putting himself at risk if he’s not,” Dr. Kush says, adding, “Even if he is, there’s still risk of transference of everything from Hep C to venereal diseases.”
Still, it’s not a completely grim diagnosis for Mr. Bond. While he has high levels of stress and puts himself in harm’s way, “He’s such a healthy guy and so fit that kind of balances that out,” Dr. Kush explains, “He’s got a lean body mass, so his weight is in very good condition. He’s very muscularly fit, he gets active exercise. He’s by no means a couch potato. He benefits from those things.”
Plus, the injuries sustained from Dr. No all the way to Skyfall, won’t necessarily be the things that hinders Bond’s lifespan. “The biggest risk going forward is future injuries, because past injuries with firearms are indicative of future injuries with firearms. Let’s say that goes away. He’s going to have a higher incidence of osteoarthritis, so aging is going to be a little more difficult for him. But it doesn’t take off as much as you’d think. It might take off a year or two.”
But the most shocking statistic of all if Bond were to live to retirement age? Dr. Kush calculates that life insurance for James Bond would be steep, to say the least. “The amont of money per year would be potentially higher than his salary.”
“Hopefully [James Bond] stocked away for a very long time since he’s been taken care of. That’s where he’d probably need to make up for the balance,” explains Jean Setzfand, the VP for Financial Security Outreach and Education at AARP. He’s especially going to need that money if Bond wants to keep up his lavish lifestyle in retirement.
“The biggest question, which we always ask consumers — and we could ask James Bond — is what does retirement actually look like? He’s no longer going to being jumping out of planes or off buildings, so will he still want that lifestyle? Until he answers that question, it’s really going to be hard to say whether he’s going to have the money he needs to support the lifestyle that he wants.” So, Mr. Bond… a retirement plan that’s shaken or stirred?
[Photo credit: Sony Pictures]
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