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Scientists say human lifespan may be limited to 115 years

28th Oct 2016

Life expectancy has been increasing steadily since the 19th century, due to improvements in sanitation, advances in medicine, such as vaccines, safer childbirth, reduced childhood diseases and treatment of diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. We regularly read about people reaching the age of 100 – but just how long can a human expect to live? Do we have a limited life span? A group of scientists from the US have completed a study and predicted that the human life span may be limited to a maximum of 115 years.

health-graph

This conclusion, published in the journal Nature, was made by analysing decades of data on human longevity. The team analysed data from the Human Mortality Database and the deaths of super centenarians (people aged 100 and over) in France, Japan, UK and US. The data showed that very few live beyond 110 and that the maximum age of death had plateaued over the past two decades, suggesting that life expectancy was not increasing and 115 is around the limit for the human lifespan. The researchers said a few may live beyond this age but that would be rare.

Ageing is a complex procedure and scientists are still trying to fully understand how and why we age. With increasing life expectancy scientists have been interested in whether the human life span has a limit, and if so what would it be? Many scientists in the field of ageing agree there will be an upper limit, but as we see more people reach and exceed 100 years of age interest in how long we can potentially live is growing . There have in recent years been cases of people reaching well beyond 100 years. Most famously was Jeanne Calment, a French woman who lived to be 122. As the oldest ever person, whose age can be backed up by official documents, she has made many scientists wonder if she showed the possibilities of where the human lifespan could go or if she was an unusual case, which will not be often repeated. Nobody has since got near her venerable age.

One of the researchers on the study, Jan Vijg, doubts we will see many people reaching such old age again. While he accepts people have been living to greater ages over the past few decades, he says, we have reached the upper limit of human longevity. Stating that in people over 105 we have made very little progress suggesting we are reaching a limit,

“It seems highly likely we have reached our ceiling,” said Dr Vijg, an expert on ageing at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “From now on, this is it. Humans will never get older than 115.”

While some scientists have praised the study others are more sceptical pointing to the fact that previously scientists had said 65 was the limit or that humans would not live much past the oft cited 3 score and 10 (70 years), yet continually humans have out-lived these ages in increasing numbers with the average life expectancy in some countries reaching 80 years, and increasingly we are seeing a rise in the numbers living to over 90 and even 100 years. Thus showing scientists predictions have been proved wrong time and time again.

So it is hard to predict what average life expectancy will look like in future years. With advances in medicine and technology is it possible we will see people living longer and longer?

Rachel Kayani

 

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