Improvements in health, medical care, and nutrition have allowed more people to reach old age, but… Will there be a ceiling?
Although people don't generally live that long, there is a certain group of individuals known for their longevity and for having far surpassed the elusive 100 years on their birthday. Some of these bicentenarians are famous, such as Jeanne Calmenta French woman who died at the (supposed) age of 122, setting a benchmark for human survival.
This precision is supposed to be explained by the fact that not everyone is convinced of the authenticity of the record, but in any case, we know that there are people who die around 115 years of age, so Jeanne Calment's age was used as a rough benchmark. Of the few dozen people who are currently over 110, the chances of any of them reaching 125 are slim to none.
Of the few dozen people who are currently over 110, the chances of any one of them reaching 125 are slim to none.
Does this mean that we have drawn every last drop of longevity from our genes, that we have reached our limit, and that we are not ready to live any longer, no matter how much hygiene and medicine may advance? While the number of centenarians has never been so high, the survival ceiling seems to be stagnating and no major progress has been recorded since the last century.
As reported in “Science Alert”McCarthy and Wang used mortality data from birth cohorts in the Human Mortality Database, employing a Bayesian statistical approach to analyze the life expectancy of people born in the same year in 19 currently industrialized countries. Because the number of people living to a ripe old age is statistically limited, the duo applied a function known as Gompertz's law to better estimate the age at which an individual can be expected to first reach an assumed mortality plateau.
This ” Maximum age of Gompertz “Gompertz maximum age” (or GMA) should theoretically indicate an upper limit to human lifespan. If the Gompertz maximum age is relatively constant across cohorts, then one can assume that there is a maximum age. Medical advances may help more people avoid disease and recover from injury, but the distribution of ages at which we die will simply narrow to a smaller range.
On the other hand, if we find that AGM increases between cohorts, there may be reason to think that mortality is “delayed,” meaning that if there is a limit to the life span programmed into our biology, we have not yet reached it. Throughout history, it appears that the AMG has remained relatively stable. Improvements in health, medical care and nutrition have allowed more people to reach old age, although there have been exceptions at certain times.
Throughout history, it appears that the Gompertz maximum age has remained relatively stable.
For example, for people born in the decades after the mid-19th century, the maximum Gompertz age increased by about five years. It is not yet clear why, but the increase was more pronounced for women for some reason. The study also describes people who reached their centenarian years before 1980, suggesting that significant improvements in medical technology and public health measures may be behind this phenomenon.
It appears that those born between 1910 and 1950 experienced a much greater increase in OGD. Today, at ages 70 to 110, we can expect a deferral of mortality equivalent to about 10 years, implying that at least some retirees may reach the late 2060s celebrating very early birthdays.
Advances in medicine and access to social care may allow some of our descendants to add decades to their lives.
Trends may also help explain why records appear to have stagnated in recent decades. Social changes leading to mortality deferral may not affect all cohorts equally, meaning that people old enough to have broken longevity records may be too old to benefit from measures leading to further deferral.
In the context of other studies, medical advances and access to social services may allow some of our descendants to add decades to their lives. The study's findings are based on many assumptions and speculations, one of which is the link between medical care and a possible delay in mortality.
Far from being a source of hope, the study could serve as a warning. Not only could we have more people reaching old age, forced to face the challenges that old age brings, but slower population growth means less support from a younger community. As the devastating impact of the pandemic on the elderly has shown, society may not be prepared for record life expectancy.