Human lifespan may not have peaked after all

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The findings, published in the June 29 issue of the journal Science, challenge previous research that claims the human lifespan has a final cut-off point. Wachter said the findings do not point to a new potential lifespan limit.

"Our data tell us that there is no fixed limit to the human lifespan yet in sight", said study senior author Kenneth Wachter, a UC Berkeley professor emeritus of demography and statistics.

"The increasing number of exceptionally long-lived people and the fact that their mortality beyond 105 is seen to be declining across cohorts-lowering the mortality plateau or postponing the age when it appears-strongly suggest that longevity is continuing to increase over time and that a limit, if any, has not been reached", Barbi's team wrote. "This is a valuable, encouraging discovery".

The study showed that people between the ages of 105 and 109 (semi-supercentenarians) had a 50 percent chance of living or dying within the year, and were expected to live at least another 1.5 years.

This plateau runs counter to the way death risk relentlessly rises as we age from age 40 onward, Wachter said. "Italy is likely to have the best data we have", Wachter said. The Frenchwoman ascribed her longevity to the fact that she didn't worry much and had a diet rich in olive oil, port wine and chocolate, which she consumed at a rate of more than 2 pounds a week.

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The oldest human to have lived, according to official records, was Jeanne Calment, a French woman who died at the age of 122 years in 1997.

Whether there's a limit to the human life span is an age-old question. That is, you aren't any more likely to die at 110 than at 105. By calculating and analyzing the death rates of 3,836 well-documented cases of Italians who lived to 105 or beyond and combining them with existing data on mortality rates, the researchers created a model that reveals the statistical likelihood of death in every year of the human lifespan from 65 to 105. "And other researchers say that the probability of dying levels off in old age and it would imply that people can live to very old ages. Some experts say the probability of dying increases with age, even old age", de Beer said.

That's not what happened, though.

The last surviving person born in the 1800s was Italian Emma Morano, who died in 2017 at the age of 117. However, new research suggests that chances of dying may decrease for those who have reached 105 years old.

He said: "If you're very lucky as a human, have good genes, and are lucky to avoid diseases, you probably do have a higher chance to live just a little longer than others - that's selection".

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"When you look at a group of older people who are all the same age, some are already quite frail and some are robust".

Referring to the latest research, Brandon Milholland, who worked on the Nature study as a doctoral student, said that it was "highly unlikely" for mortality curves to level off so suddenly and flatly.

"The only people who show up at their 75th college reunion were the ones who were pretty strong at their 50th college reunion", said Wachter.

In the new study, the global team of demographers and statisticians took advantage of the proliferation of people who live well past their 100th birthday. And since there are so few of them to begin with, this harsh reality "tells us the real story", he said.

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