SEATTLE, Wash. — Extremely long lifespans are still a rarity today. While more older adults are reaching 100 years-old every decade, far fewer make it to the milestone of 110. However, a new study finds that may soon change. Researchers from the University of Washington say their estimates show human lifespans are about to push into uncharted territory. They predict that not only will someone break the record for being the oldest living human, it’s almost a certainty that “supercentenarians” will start living into their 120s this century.
At the moment, the record for the oldest human belongs to Jeanne Calment of France, who died at the age of 122 in 1997. Kane Tanaka of Japan is the current oldest living person, at 118 years-young.
“People are fascinated by the extremes of humanity, whether it’s going to the moon, how fast someone can run in the Olympics, or even how long someone can live,” says lead author Michael Pearce, a UW doctoral student in statistics, in a university release. “With this work, we quantify how likely we believe it is that some individual will reach various extreme ages this century.”
Using Bayesian statistics, a common tool in modern statistics, researchers created a model that looks at the likelihood of reaching extremely old ages from 2020 to the year 2100. Those findings reveal it is virtually guaranteed that someone will break Jeanne Calment’s record this century. Moreover, researchers find there’s a 99-percent probability someone will live to see their 124th birthday. The odds also strongly favor (68%) that someone will reach the age of 127.
Scientists still aren’t sure how long people can live
Study authors say experts have been debating just how far the human lifespan goes for years. Despite ongoing research into the aging process and the possibility of new medical treatments in the future, there are still only a few verifiable cases of humans reaching 110 years-old or older.
Some scientists argue that disease and normal cell deterioration creates a natural limit on how long someone can live. However, other suggest that there is no limit at all, pointing to “supercentenarians” like Calment and Tanaka.
The study examined supercentenarians from 10 European countries, as well as those in the United States, Canada, and Japan. The team’s model then projected the maximum reported age at death in all of those nations for the next 80 years.
Based on the rising lifespans of people around the world, the model shows a nearly 100 percent chance at least one person will break the record of 122 years, 164 days.
Once you hit 110, all bets are off!
Although the odds look really good that people will start living into their 120s soon, there may still be a limit mankind has not reached yet. The study finds there’s only a 13 percent chance someone will live to be 130 this century. The statistical model also finds it “extremely unlikely” someone will make it to 135.
Right now, supercentenarians are still the exception, not the rule. That means, according to the study authors, the odds that someone breaks the record for “world’s oldest person” will only go up if the number of people living beyond 110 goes up too.
The study also revealed that once someone makes it to 110 years-old, their risk of death actually stops increasing as the years go on. That is to say the mortality rate among people who live to be 110 is almost exactly the same as when they reach 115.
“It doesn’t matter how old they are, once they reach 110, they still die at the same rate,” UW professor of sociology and statistics Adrian Raftery says. “They’ve gotten past all the various things life throws at you, such as disease. They die for reasons that are somewhat independent of what affects younger people.”
“This is a very select group of very robust people.”
The findings appear in the journal Demographic Research.