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Anomaly: Human mortality hits a plateau after 105 years of age

Fountain of Youth
The Fountain of Youth/Lucas Cranach the Elder (Wikimedia Commons)

From Mark Barna at Discover:

A study published today in Science indicates that people are indeed living longer and that the maximum lifespan for humans has not yet been reached.

And what they found was that after the age of 105, human mortality seems to hit a plateau. That is, you aren’t any more likely to die at 110 than at 105. It’s a contradictory finding, because mortality ticks steadily upward as we get older at all previous ages. Hit that golden age, a temporal “island of stability” if you will, though, and your odds of surviving stay about the same.

A report in 2016 out of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine concluded that maximum human life span was 115 years. People have lived longer; a woman died in France in 1997 at the ripe old age of 122. But those are anomalies. More.

The study was published in Science. The authors argued against a limit to the human lifespan.

122 years? Intriguingly, this passage appears in Genesis 6, written millennia ago, just prior to the Flood story:

1 When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them,

2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. 3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal ; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”

It’ll be interesting to see if that turns out to be a correct intuition, now that it can be tested.

From Jason Daley at the Smithsonian:

So why would mortality rates level off at such an extreme age? Geneticist Siegfried Hekimi at McGill University in Montreal tells Carl Zimmer at The New York Times that cells in the body accrue damage, which is only partially repaired. (Hekimi was not affiliated with the study.) Over time, all that damage leads to aging of bodily systems and death. It’s possible that these extremely old people age more slowly, and their bodies are able to keep up with the repairs.

Jay Olshansky, a bio-demographer at the University of Illinois at Chicago, however, tells Dolgin that an endless plateau doesn’t make sense. Certain cells in the body like neurons, he says, do not replicate. Instead, they simply wither and die, placing a limit on how long humans can live.

Perhaps we can usefully distinguish between a normal human lifespan of 70 to 80 years if all goes well and a maximum human lifespan of around 115-120 years. Because far more human beings than formerly are living out a normal lifespan, more people are available to become centenarians. But transhumanism, the idea that we can use technology to live for centuries, won’t get much support from current longevity data.

See also: Study suggesting human life span limit of 115-125 years draws fire

The interesting thing about the Genesis quote is that, just from a common historical standpoint, one would expect the lifespans of people living that time to be significantly lower than they are today, so how they just "happened" to come up with a number that we're now just finding out about thousands of years later is something worth considering. You would think that they would have said, "Man's days will only be 60 (or 70 or 80 or some other such number that they would have observed in their culture)" According to postmodern cultural relativism, the lifespans they observed would have been their relative truth, so that would have been what made it into their scripture. The fact that they just happened to come up with a number that would supposedly be extraordinarily unlikely in their time (and it's still quite rare in our own time), and then that number just happens to to be remarkably close to what looks like a relatively fixed genetic limit on lifespan, is quite interesting indeed. outside_observer

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