Jeanne Calment passed away in a nursing home in France on August 4, 1997 at the age of 122, officially the oldest human in recorded history. Calment was an outlier and we are likely to never see such human longevity again. That is the conclusion of new research published in Nature.
“Our data strongly suggest that the duration of life is limited,” Jan Vijg and colleagues wrote in their report.. “Our data seem to say it is really around 115”. Although average life expectancy has been increasing exponentially since the 19th century due to advances in medicine and healthcare, the authors concluded that these advances cannot go on forever. In fact, increases in life expectancy,
“were slowing in centenarians and that the maximum age of death had plateaued for at least two decades. In people over 105 we make very little progress, that tells you we are most likely approaching the limit to human life. For the first time in history we’ve been able to see this, it looks like the maximum life span – this ceiling, this barrier – is about 115. It’s almost impossible you’ll get beyond it, you need 10,000 world’s like ours to end up with one individual in a given year who will live until 125 – so a very small chance.”
Vijg adds that the limiting factor in the continual expansion of human life expectancy may not be continuing advances in medicine, healthcare or other sciences. Human life may be limited by evolution and genetics.
“To get maximum life spans of 120, 125 or 130 maybe, we need to do something very fundamental here. We need to change the whole genetic make-up of the human species, you would have to develop thousands or tens of thousands of different drugs. The ageing process is so complicated that it will not be possible to substantially change this limit to human life.”
These claims, however, have proven controversial. Professor James Vaupel, the Director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, described the study as travesty which makes the same mistakes as those in the past who have attempted to place a limit on human longevity.
“In this sorry saga, those convinced that there are looming limits did not apply demography and statistics to test hypotheses about lifespan limits—instead they exploited rhetoric, deficient methods and pretty graphics to attempt to prove their gut feelings. [This study] adds nothing to scientific knowledge about how long we will live.”
Others point out that as a biological process aging simply creates too much damage to be repaired. Better healthcare, better medicine and the better living conditions of the late 20th and early 21st centuries cannot stop biology. These improvements can slow that biological process but not halt it completely. As the body ages things go wrong which cannot always be mended. Even experimental animals living in ideal conditions have provided evidence for limited lifespans.
Average lifespans may continue to increase as these improvements proliferate throughout the world, but they cannot continue forever. Biology dictates everyone will die.
Have a nice day.