the plateau of human mortality

Here is information from the Financial Times that I filed away last month, but forgot to post. A columnist summarizes the findings of Elisabetta Barbi and associates, who published an article on human mortality in the journal Science, Vol. 360, Issue 6396 (29 June 2018), pp. 1459-1461. If you don’t have a subscription or library access to the journal, it will cost you USD 15 to download the issue in which the full three-page article appears. The report is titled “The plateau of human mortality: Demography of longevity pioneers“, and is based on a study of the more than 3,800 Italians, aged 105 and above, who were living between 2009 and 2015.

Ms Anjana Ahuja summarizes the findings of these demographers in a column that is gated, but accessible to those willing to register for a limited number of free downloads per month. Alternatively, you can subscribe to the FT, which I recommend as good value as well as a useful contribution to excellence in journalism.

Climb over the hill and head for the plateau. That, according to biologists, defines the path to extreme old age. Researchers announced last week that, once someone reaches 105, their yearly chances of dying stop rising, start to level off and might even decline.

Similar “late-age mortality plateaux” have been found in insects, and hinted at in rodents, but the discovery of one in humans will excite controversy. If people essentially stop ageing after becoming centenarians, it is legitimate to ask: are there any natural limits to human lifespan? ….

You are as likely to die at 110 as you are at 105 — although, at 50 per cent every year the chances are still high. …. Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment remains the world’s longest-lived person: she died in 1997 aged 122.

Anjana Ahuja, “Reach 105 and your chances of dying will start to level off“, Financial Times, 2 July 2018.

I am not sure that I want to live to 110, or even 105, as I fear that my health (especially my mind) may not be very good when I am that old. For me, healthy ageing is more important than ageing just for the sake of living a long life.


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