No detectable limit to how long people can live: study

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Emma Morano passed away last April. At 117 years old, the Italian woman was the oldest known living human being.

Super-centenarians, such as Morano and Jeanne Calment of France, who famously lived to be 122 years old, continue to fascinate scientists and have led them to wonder just how long humans can live. A study published in Nature last October concluded that the of age is peaking at around 115 years.

Now, however, a new study in Nature by McGill University biologists Bryan G. Hughes and Siegfried Hekimi comes to a starkly different conclusion. By analyzing the of the longest-living individuals from the USA, the UK, France and Japan for each year since 1968, Hekimi and Hughes found no evidence for such a limit, and if such a maximum exists, it has yet to be reached or identified, Hekimi says.

"Far into the foreseeable future"

"We just don't know what the age limit might be. In fact, by extending trend lines, we can show that maximum and average lifespans, could continue to increase far into the foreseeable ," Hekimi says. Many people are aware of what has happened with average lifespans. In 1920, for example, the average newborn Canadian could expect to live 60 years; a Canadian born in 1980 could expect 76 years, and today, has jumped to 82 years. Maximum lifespan seems to follow the same trend.

It's impossible to predict what future lifespans in humans might look like, Hekimi says. Some scientists argue that technology, medical interventions, and improvements in living conditions could all push back the upper limit.

"It's hard to guess," Hekimi adds. "Three hundred years ago, many people lived only short lives. If we would have told them that one day most humans might live up to 100, they would have said we were crazy."


Explore further

Maximum human lifespan has already been reached, researchers conclude

More information: Brief Communications Arising: Contesting the evidence for limited human lifespan, nature.com/articles/doi:10.1038/nature22784

Brief Communications Arising: Many possible maximum lifespan trajectories, nature.com/articles/doi:10.1038/nature22786

Brief Communications Arising: Is there evidence for a limit to human lifespan? nature.com/articles/doi:10.1038/nature22788

Brief Communications Arising: Questionable evidence for a limit to human lifespan, nature.com/articles/doi:10.1038/nature22790

Brief Communications Arising: Maximum human lifespan may increase to 125 years, nature.com/articles/doi:10.1038/nature22792

Journal information: Nature

Provided by McGill University
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Jun 28, 2017
"In 1920, for example, the average newborn Canadian could expect to live 60 years; a Canadian born in 1980 could expect 76 years, and today, life expectancy has jumped to 82 years."

The vast majority of that increase is accounted for by decreased infant mortality. Life expectancy at birth is a very poor indicator for what anyone would call an 'average lifespan' in common parlance. Life expectancy at 18 would be considerably more interesting, and while this has also increased significantly (mostly because of far better medical treatment and wider availability thereof), the numbers aren't nearly as spectacular as those for life expectancy at birth.

Jun 28, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Jun 28, 2017
how is 120 'no limit' ?

We still don't know if there's truly one and where it goes then. We barely began to touch genes and modify them.

Jul 04, 2017
We are gonna become Vulcans! Live long and prosper!

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