A person’s chance of dying doubles about every nine years.
Many biologists think prolonging human life span to that degree is impossible as of today. But they have long argued with mathematicians about the question of how many years we get on Earth.
Your chance of reaching age 130 is less than one in 1 million
To come up with these numbers, Davison’s team observed mortality data from individuals who reached or went over age 105, including 1,100 individuals aged 110 or older, across a dozen European nations, the US, and Canada.
They discovered that fewer men were able reach these ages than women – the ratio was one male to every 10 females. But the 50-50 chance of survival was around the same across geographic locations and genders once individuals reached 108.
Davison said his results do not mean some individuals can live forever. There is a catch to the coin toss: The population of people who are aged over 108 gets halved each year. So, if 1,000 supercentenarians were to flip their coins, on average, 500 will pass away. Then 250 of those people remaining will die the next year.
By extrapolating that math, his group came to the conclusion that the chance of making it to 130 is less than one in a million.
Brandon Milholland, a geneticist who did not have a part in the study, told Insider that while it is statistically possible to reach any age, the probability is so increasingly small that it does not make sense to assert there isn’t a limit to the human life span.
In that sense, he said, the new data from the study makes “a mountain out of a molehill.”
“Someone might even live to 1,000, but the chances of that is one in 1 quintillion,” Milholland added (every human who has ever lived in the history of the species were added up, we would still fall short of 1 quintillion.)
Think of life as a log flume ride
Think of your life like a boat riding on a log flume ride – except the walls that are meant to keep it from falling out of the water get increasingly shorter as the ride continues. Those walls represent your body’s resilience, which normally declines as you get older. Imagine illness, then, as a force that drives the boat toward the walls. At the start of your life, when the walls are higher, your boat remains on the track. But as you age, those walls become shorter, and the same pushes eventually propel the boat over the edge and off the ride.
“When you get to that place where resilience becomes zero, even a small disease will force this final fall to happen,” Gudkov told Insider. “You could die from anything.”
Resilience goes down with age because as our cells continue to duplicate during our lifetimes, they collect mutations. In time, those mutations make a cell incapable of functioning the right way.
But the exact limit of our species’ max age limit remains up for debate. A 2016 study proposed the higher end is 150, though research from Milholland’s group the same year claimed an age closer to 125.
The new study’s results, meanwhile, propose that someone should be cable of beating Calment’s record by at the very least eight years.
“It’s implausible that the human lifespan has a limit under 130 years,” the authors wrote.
Author: Steven Sinclaire