Humanity will break historical records of life expectancy in a few decades

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A study published in ‘Plos One’ indicates that, if health policies and medical advances are maintained in the coming years, a significant increase in life expectancy may be experienced in 2060

We are still far from the limit of maximum life expectancy.PublicDomainPictures/ Pixabay
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How many years are we going to live? The unknowns of longevity are often recurring. The formulas to extend it towards immortality, longed for. Now, a study that suggests that longevity records will probably increase in a few decades. The magazine PLoS ONE has published a paper in which he argues that the human population could break longevity records in the coming decadesaccording to a study based on data from cohorts from 19 industrialized countries -including Spain-, which collect records from up to the 19th century.

Along the history, mortality has tended to be temporarily compressed or reduced, with occasional episodes of postponement of mortality or extension of life years, something that, according to the authors, suggests that we are still far from the upper limit of human longevity. The research indicates that the cohorts born between 1900 and 1950 will only be able to break longevity records if policies continue to support the health and well-being of older people, and if the political, environmental and economic environment remains stable.

Jess-Adrin Álvarez, an actuary specializing in longevity at ATP Pension Fund and member of the board of directors of the Danish Demographic Society, comments via SMC that “this study addresses a very interesting topic: How long can we live? Specifically, the authors analyze if there is an age ‘barrier’, which human beings cannot overcome”.

Los authors of the work David McCarthyI and Po-Lin Wangof the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia and the Muma College of Business University of South Florida, respectively, explain that they have summarized historical mortality data in 19 currently industrialized countries by birth cohort. using a variant of Gompertz’s law of mortalityand “we found that it fits the cohort mortality data extremely well. Using this law, we identify the youngest age at which individuals in each cohort reach an assumed mortality plateau, which we call the Gompertzian Maximum Age (GMA). We found that, for much of the period covered by our data, there was no increase in GMA. Thus, historical improvements in life expectancy were largely the result of mortality compression.”

lvarez emphasizes that “the article is innovative in that the authors use cohort data (mortality data based on individuals born in the same year) to determine the existence of this ‘age barrier’ based on antagonistic demographic phenomena of postponement and compression of mortality at advanced ages”. And he insists that “the results suggest that there is no fixed age limit for human life and that the longevity record will probably be broken in the coming decades “.

How have they done the job?

However, this result is strongly based on the model used for the statistical analysis. “In addition to this, the authors only analyze data for ages between 50 and 100, and extrapolate mortality patterns to ages over 100, so there is a lot of uncertainty as to whether the longevity record can be surpassed in the near future. To put This in context, currently the validated record of the longest-lived person in the world is attributed to the French Jeanne Calment, who lived 122 years and 164 days”, states Álvarez.

McCarthyI and Wang discuss how they have conducted their research and what they have found. “We show, however, that there have been episodes where the GMA increased. The presence of these episodes of postponement of mortality suggests that, in fact, the maximum duration of human life is not fixed. The first episode we identified occurred in cohorts born in the early second half of the 19th century., and it was more pronounced for women than for men. During this period, the GMA increased by about 5 years. We can only speculate about the causes of this increase, but since the first of these cohorts reached age 50 just after 1900 and the last reached age 100 in 1980, this may be related to a first wave of improvements in public health. and medical technology.

In addition, “we identified a much more significant second episodewhat is affecting cohorts born between 1910 and 1950 (that is, those who are currently between 70 and 110 years old). We estimate that the GMA for these cohorts may increase by up to 10 years, and the remaining life expectancy at age 50 by up to 8 years, depending on the country. The timing of these deferred mortality episodes explains why longevity records have taken so long to rise in recent years (cohorts old enough to have broken longevity records were too old to experience the current deferral) and identifies significant potential for longevity records to increase by the year 2060 as the younger cohorts, who did experience it, reach advanced old age.”

For all this, they underscore what these predictions of how much these records will increase are contingent on and will depend on the assumptions of the model, in particular the maximum mortality rate they assume. “We further emphasize that cohorts born before 1950 will only have the potential to break existing longevity records if policies continue to support the health and well-being of the elderly, and the political, environmental and economic environment remains stable.”

And in Spain, how much longer are we going to live?

Spain is among the longest-lived countries in the world with a life expectancy at birth of approximately 85 years for women and 80 for men. “This study (among many others) indicates that life expectancy continues to increase both in Spain and in other European countries. This pattern has fundamental consequences for the sustainability of pension systems since future generations will live longer and, therefore, Therefore, they will receive pensions for more years”, points out Álvarez.

To counteract this effect, explains the board member of the Danish Demographic Society, “Countries like Denmark or Finland have approved reforms so that the retirement age increases according to the increase in life expectancy. It is essential to analyze the possibility of applying this type of policy in Spain, which seeks to mitigate the effects of aging based on scientific evidence”.

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