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Study Suggests No Theoretical Limit on Human Lifespan

This study does not refer to future rejuvenation biotechnology.

Long LifespanLong Lifespan
 

According to new research, it may be possible for humans to live 130 years or perhaps longer, but the chances of reaching that age are slim.

New findings suggest that mortality risk plateaus past 110

For many years now, just how long a human being can live has been the focus of heated debate. Some researchers suggest that it could be 150 years, and others argue that there is no theoretical limit.

The new study, published in the Royal Society Open Science journal, examined new data on people who are 105 or more years old. The researchers analyzed the data and based on their findings suggest that their risk of death ceases to rise beyond a point and plateaus at around 50-50.

This means that beyond 110, the risk of someone dying with each passing year is essentially a coin toss. The researchers suggest that, based on this new data, humans could live to at least 130 if they were lucky with the coin toss every year after 110. However, extrapolating from their findings, they also suggest that there is no actual limit to human lifespan.

The first of the new datasets that the researchers studied came from the International Database on Longevity. This extensive database includes information on over 1100 supercentenarians, people who live over 110, from multiple countries.

A second set of data came from Italy and includes information on every person there who was 105 between the years 2009 and 2015.

Chances are slim to reach 130, but it is theoretically possible

The researchers suggest that if there was a limit to human lifespan below 130 years, they should have been able to spot it using the new datasets, but there were no such indications that this was so.

That said, even if it is theoretically possible that humans can reach 130, the odds are very much against it. The chances of making it to such an advanced age, even taking the 50-50 plateau into consideration, are really quite small.

This is why the world is not overrun by super-agers living to 130 or more. Even if someone achieves the exceptional feat of reaching 100 years old, that person’s chances of reaching 130 are roughly a million to one.

The oldest person on record is Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment who lived to 122 if records are to be believed, although this has more recently been contested by some researchers who allege that her daughter took her place, making this record fraudulent.

This woman passed away in 1997, which leaves Japan’s Kane Tanaka as the oldest confirmed living person in the world at 118 years old.

Abstract

We use a combination of extreme value statistics, survival analysis and computer-intensive methods to analyse the mortality of Italian and French semi-supercentenarians. After accounting for the effects of the sampling frame, extreme-value modelling leads to the conclusion that constant force of mortality beyond 108 years describes the data well and there is no evidence of differences between countries and cohorts. These findings are consistent with use of a Gompertz model and with previous analysis of the International Database on Longevity and suggest that any physical upper bound for the human lifespan is so large that it is unlikely to be approached. Power calculations make it implausible that there is an upper bound below 130 years. There is no evidence of differences in survival between women and men after age 108 in the Italian data and the International Database on Longevity, but survival is lower for men in the French data.

Conclusion

So, the debate continues for now. We would not be surprised to see a counter publication once again insisting that there is a hard limit to lifespan, but, for now, these findings make for interesting reading.

The number of people living to 100 and beyond is actually increasing, so perhaps we may see someone beating those one-in-a-million odds to reach 130 this century. The study authors even note that without major medical advances the human race is unlikely to go beyond 130.

This is yet another reason why developing the technologies to bring aging under medical control is the most important thing that humanity can do with its currently limited time. A world where rejuvenation biotechnology existed would be a world where the horrors and suffering of age-related diseases were brought to an end. Perhaps, when society gets behind the defeat of aging and the pursuit of healthy life, longevity we will see more people living in good health to 130 and beyond!

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About the author

Steve Hill

Steve serves on the LEAF Board of Directors and is the Editor in Chief, coordinating the daily news articles and social media content of the organization. He is an active journalist in the aging research and biotechnology field and has to date written over 600 articles on the topic, interviewed over 100 of the leading researchers in the field, hosted livestream events focused on aging, as well as attending various medical industry conferences. His work has been featured in H+ magazine, Psychology Today, Singularity Weblog, Standpoint Magazine, Swiss Monthly, Keep me Prime, and New Economy Magazine. Steve is one of three recipients of the 2020 H+ Innovator Award and shares this honour with Mirko Ranieri – Google AR and Dinorah Delfin – Immortalists Magazine. The H+ Innovator Award looks into our community and acknowledges ideas and projects that encourage social change, achieve scientific accomplishments, technological advances, philosophical and intellectual visions, author unique narratives, build fascinating artistic ventures, and develop products that bridge gaps and help us to achieve transhumanist goals. Steve has a background in project management and administration which has helped him to build a united team for effective fundraising and content creation, while his additional knowledge of biology and statistical data analysis allows him to carefully assess and coordinate the scientific groups involved in the project.
  1. yde yled
    September 30, 2021

    The most frequent counter-argument against the extension of lifespan ideas is how to handle overpopulation if people do not die ”on their time”. I think we need to find a way to convince those people who think that ageing-related research will bring only population problems rather than benefit. This mental obstacle prevents getting bigger support from majority of everyday people.

    • pjb
      October 5, 2021

      Anyways, people don’t make babies anymore; we’re directed to a catastrophic depopulation.

      But lifespan extension would probably have positive effects on a lot of dimensions:

      – people would become more careful about ecology and the future of the environment and of the society, since now the effect of their actions would not have to be dealt with only by their children (if they have some), but also by themselves!

      – the way finance and the economy work would change. If you live 500 years or 1000 years, then it makes less sense to expect quarterly reports with profits, and instead, you may invest in longer terms projects that would be more beneficial.

      – education would have to be quite different. Even for the most passionate people, I can’t imagine they wouldn’t like to change of activity every few decades or centuries. Initial education wouldn’t have to have an immediate return on investment, and life-long education would be more important.

      There would be a lot of changes, and I think most, if not all, for the better. When you lack time, you may choose (rationally) to take shortcuts (up to criminality) to attain your goals, even if you have a long term view (thinking about your children).

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