Research into ageing Researchers are certain that this is the maximum age a person can reach
The French woman Jeanne Calment was a small medical miracle in her time: born in Arles in 1875, she is considered to be the oldest person of all time. Calment was fit to a ripe old age and was celebrated as a national heroine in France: At 100 she was still riding a bicycle, at 120 she recorded a techno CD, and she smoked until shortly before her death. She died in 1997 – at the age of 122 years and 164 days.
Mbah Gotho, an Indonesian, has also been in the headlines recently: He is said to be an almost unbelievable 145 years old. However, this record age is not confirmed by independent experts.
Cases like these are fascinating because they raise the question of how old humans can live to a maximum age. U.S. researchers have now looked into the question of whether there is an upper limit to the natural lifespan of humans. To do this, they analyzed demographic data from more than 40 countries. The result: The probability that a human being will ever live longer than 125 years is extremely low, according to the scientific journal "Nature".
Maximum lifetime is not likely to increase
Confirmed by authorities The oldest person in the world is 145 – and longs for death
What is the background? Since the age of 19. In the twentieth century, life expectancy in most countries of the world has steadily increased. While it was little more than 45 years for people born in France in 1900, for example, children born in the year 2000 will reach an average age of more than 75 years. Experts attribute the 30-year increase in life expectancy within a century primarily to medical and technological advances. The had initially curbed infant and child mortality, and now mainly mortality in old age.
The maximum age at death has also increased significantly in recent decades. But how does it continue? Are we humans now approaching a lifetime limit that can no longer be exceeded? Or can we get even older under optimal conditions? This question remains unanswered.
Researchers led by Jan Vijg of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York analyzed birth and death data. They went on to analyze data from France, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States on maximum lifespan. The result: Since the 1990s, the maximum age has not been pushed back any further. "Demographers and biologists have argued that there is no reason to believe that the current increase in maximum lifespan is about to end", explains study leader Vijg. "But our data suggest that this has already happened, and it happened in the 1990s." The known maximum age of a person for this time is on average 115 years.
A maximum of one person in 10.000 turns 125
From further statistical calculations, the researchers concluded that an age of 125 was almost certainly the absolute upper limit. The probability of any person in the world exceeding such an age in any given year is less than 1 in 10.000, the researchers write.
Other experts, however, are critical of the study: the study is selective and draws one-sided conclusions, criticizes James Vaupel, who works at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany. Studies like this one are published because it seems plausible to many people that the maximum lifespan cannot increase much further.
In his view, there is no evidence of a natural upper limit to lifespan. Limits proclaimed in the past have been repeatedly disproved, he says. "100 years ago, it was assumed that the average life expectancy would never exceed 65 years. When evidence to the contrary became apparent, the limit was "pushed up" again and again, according to Vaupel.
Vijg’s team, on the other hand, is convinced: "Further progress in combating infectious and chronic diseases can further increase average life expectancy, but not maximum life expectancy." Scientists, however, do not know the exact biological reasons for the limitation of life span. There are no genes that directly fix aging or time of death, he said.