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115 is no longer the limit: Scientists challenge how long humans can live

Scientists have published five critiques of a claim that a hard limit for human life expectancy is 115.

Last October, a group of scientists caused quite a stir in the scientific community when they published a paper in Nature making the case for the 115 limit.

The paper was hotly debated in the latest issue of Nature, scientists who disagreed with the limit were invited to offer critiques.

Although the new papers don’t claim that life is limitless, they agree that the researchers behind 115-limit paper made some dodgy assumptions and conclusions.

One critique was authored by University of McGill biologists Bryan G. Hughes and Siegfried Hekimi. They analysed the lifespan of the longest-living individuals from the USA, the UK, France and Japan for each year since 1968 and found no evidence for a limit, concluding that if a maximum exists, we haven’t reached it yet.

“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 future,” Hekimi said.

When it comes to the question of how long we can live, it’s pretty fascinating to look at the historical data.

According to Our World in Data, the UK is the country for which we have the longest time-series when it comes to life expectancy.

Amazingly, the average life expectancy in the UK in 1543 was just 33.9. It basically hovered around the 40 mark until 1907, when it hit 50. In 2011, it was 80, which is roughly where it remains today. That means life expectancy in the UK has almost tripled in the last 500 years and almost doubled within the last 100.

Looking the numbers for Australia, we can see a similar rise. In 1885, the first recorded year, life expectancy was just 49. Now it’s also around the 80 mark.

As it stands, the oldest confirmed person ever is Jeanne Calment from France, who made it to 122 years and 164 days.

Calment passed away in 1997, but not before passing on some wisdom about her longevity. She apparently smoked, drank and loved chocolate. Hmmm, I’m not sure that will help.

Just looking at these trends, I think it’s fair to say this: The first 200-year old person has already been born. That’s if we still have a planet to live on of course.

About the author

Stefan is an Adelaide-based freelance writer. In his spare time, he plays tennis badly, collects vinyl and brushes up on his Mandarin. Follow Stefan on Twitter

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