What is the Maximum Human Lifespan?

The current record for human longevity is 122 years, held by Jean Louise Calment who died in 1997. Living to age 100 is quite an achievement, and only a handful become super-agers at 110. So has the maximum human lifespan been reached?

Some think we may still have a ways to go. A team lead by David McCarthy, an assistant professor of risk management and insurance at the University of Georgia, has released a new study saying they’ve uncovered evidence that this longevity record will be broken within the next four decades. They didn’t propose a maximum age, but used a mathematical model to project what future mortality trends might ultimately look like. 

To reach this finding, he team analyzed mortality data from hundreds of millions of people in 19 countries who were born from the 1700s up to 1969. They modified an existing mathematical model to investigate how mortality rates for people ages 50 to 100 differed with different birth years. This information was used to predict what ages that people could reach in the future. (The study, published March 29 in the journal PLOS One, can be viewed at this link.)

According to the model, mortality rates were assumed to increase exponentially beyond age 50 and then plateau at extremely old ages. If we were nearing our maximum life span, any decreases in younger-age mortality rates should be accompanied by increases in older-age mortality rates, thus keeping the same maximum age limit. The data show this is mostly true for those born before 1900.

But mortality appeared to change for people born between 1910 and 1950. This group reached the old-age-related plateau at older ages than the pre-1900s group, yet they didn’t see sudden upticks in mortality at old ages to compensate for decreases in mortality seen at younger ages. This suggests we have not reached the maximum human life span.

Could this be right? The model does have some limitations. First, it doesn’t account for the biology of aging. In other words, there’s no consideration for how people’s cells age over time and how they become more prone to age-related diseases. Second, on the longevity side, it doesn’t acknowledge how advances in medicine might extend human life span in the future.  

And yet, it’s fun to hypothesize just what kinds of lifespans our decendants might enjoy.

Taken from “We’re Nowhere Near Reaching the Maximum Human Life Span, Controversial Study Suggests” by Carissa Wong (https://www.livescience.com/were-nowhere-near-reaching-the-maximum-human-life-span-controversial-study-suggests?).

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