At what age will Pope Francis die? Here’s a data driven guess

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Catholic Church England/Mazur/ via Flickr

Pope Francis turns 78 years old this month.

This graphic is not offered for republication.

This graphic is not offered for republication.

I know it’s morbid, but it’s important: how many more years does Pope Francis have as pontiff?

On December 17, Francis turns 78 years old. This is a bit older than the average life expectancy of a man from Argentina, but the pontiff is not your typical Argentinian.

To figure out Francis’ life expectancy, we need data on people who are similar to him. The best cohort to use is the College of Cardinals. Same gender. Similar background. Similar life events.

To estimate the probability of Francis surviving to older ages, I created a life table for cardinals who have served since 2001. A life table includes both living and deceased, and there are a lot of deceased cardinals. Of the 303 cardinals who have served over the past fourteen years, 105 have died. The most recent was Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini who died November 24 at the age of 98.

Based on this data, we can make some inferences about Pope Francis and the cardinals.

The life expectancy is 89.8 years +/- 1.2 years. So, the average cardinal will die between 87.5 and 92.3 years old. Based on the data, there’s a 50/50 chance of them living to the age of 92.

So, how much longer does Pope Francis have? No one knows for sure. These are just averages. Each individual is unique. That said, an over-under of ten more years appears to be a solid bet.

Geek notes

  1. The graph shows the uncertainty around the estimates. The 95 percent confidence intervals are marked by the dotted lines.
  2. We could have estimated a life table for only cardinals who are the same age or older than Francis. Since the probability of surviving until 78 is nearly one, there are few differences between the two.
  3. You can see the details of the life table or download the data.

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