There may not be a limit on the human life span—and if there is, experts say ‘we are not yet approaching it’ (2024)

If there is, we’re not approaching it. That’s the assertion of researchers at the University of Georgia and University of Southern Florida, in a study published this week in the journal PLOS ONE.

Professors David McCarthy and Po-Lin Wang examined current and historical mortality data for people between ages 50 and 100, from 19 industrialized countries like the U.S., the U.K., Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand.

They found occasional birth cohorts that tended to live longer, with the cohort born between 1900 and 1950 serving as a prominent example. Members “are experiencing historically unprecedented mortality postponement, but are still too young to break longevity records,” McCarthy and Wang wrote. As the group ages, longevity records could “increase significantly,” they noted. They aren’t certain as to why, but speculate that improvements in public health and medical technology may play a role.

“If there is a maximum limit to the human lifespan, we are not yet approaching it,” they concluded, citing the 1900–1950 cohort’s tendency to push back on life span expectations.

What’s in an age?

Not every birth cohort has experienced such longevity, however. That’s why, overall, the human lifespan has been slow to increase in recent years.

Ancient Hebrews regarded 80 as the maximum length of human life, while ancient Romans viewed 100 or 110 as the limit. The record for the longest recorded human lifespan is held by Jeanna Calment, a French woman who lived to be 122. When she was born in 1875, the average life expectancy was only around 40 years old.

Life expectancy is relatively easy to calculate—it’s around 76 years in the U.S. But the maximum life span, if one exists, is much harder to estimate. While some researchers contend that a natural limit sits around 120, 140, or 150 years, others speculate that a limit doesn’t exist—and that aging doesn’t necessarily lead to death.

“Evolutionary biology provides little support for the idea that there are ‘aging genes’ that simply cause their carrier to grow old and die,” wrote Richard Fargher, a professor of biogerontology at the University of Brighton in the U.K., in a 2016 piece in The Conversation.

“Aging is simply an exponential increase in your chance of death and sickness with the passage of time.”

Some members of a population, Fargher contends, tend to survive the odds—perhaps due to evolutionary fitness and a bit of luck.

Case in point: It appears that hydra—small fresh-water animals—don’t age, and that their chance of death remains fixed over time, instead of increasing. “Extrapolation from laboratory data show that even after 1,400 years, 5% of a hydra population…would still be alive,” he wrote.

As Fargher concluded, “Perhaps the real lesson here is that simple closed questions, in any scientific discipline, are somewhat like asking, ‘Who is the most interesting person?’—intoxicatingly profound and practically useless.”

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There may not be a limit on the human life span—and if there is, experts say ‘we are not yet approaching it’ (2024)


Is there a limit to the human lifespan? ›

Studies in the biodemography of human longevity indicate a late-life mortality deceleration law: that death rates level off at advanced ages to a late-life mortality plateau. That is, there is no fixed upper limit to human longevity, or fixed maximal human lifespan.

Do some scientists believe there is a limit to how long humans can live? ›

Some geneticists believe a hard limit of of around 115 years is essentially programmed into our genome by evolution.

Is there a limitation to life expectancy? ›

Leading demographers claim that human lifespan is fixed at a natural limit around 122 years. However, there is no fixed limit in animals. In animals, anti-aging interventions (dietary restrictions, rapamycin, genetic manipulations) postpone age-related diseases and thus automatically extend maximum lifespan.

How long could a human theoretically live? ›

We're only just beginning to understand what's possible for our longevity. InsideTracker founder Dr. Gil Blander believes humans theoretically may live as long as 310 years. Based on mathematical models, our longest potential lifespan is around 150 years.

Can humans live to 200 years old? ›

Humans' life expectancy (average) is 70-85 years. However, the oldest verified person (Jeanne Clement, 1875-1997) lived up to 122 years. As a person ages, the telomeres (chromosome ends) tend to become shorter in every consecutive cycle of replication. Also, bones start getting weaker by reducing in size and density.

Can humans live to 1000 years old? ›

“I actually did some calculations years ago and found that if we could cure human aging, average human life span would be more than 1,000 years,” he tells Scientific American. “Maximum life span, barring accidents and violent death, could be as long as 20,000 years.”

How long did humans live 5000 years ago? ›

The life expectancy of the Early Bronze Age and its contemporaries is around 35-40 years. People died at a very young age. Infant and child mortality was very high. The limited food resources and infectious diseases were also factors, too.”

What ethnicity lives the longest? ›

U.S. life expectancy at birth

On average, a person living in the U.S. can expect to live to 76.1 years. Asian people have the longest average life expectancy (83.5 years) and American Indian/Alaska Natives the shortest (65.2 years).

Has anyone lived past 120 years? ›

The oldest known age ever attained was by Jeanne Calment, a Frenchwoman who died in 1997 at the age of 122. Ms. Calment is also the only documented case of a person living past 120, which many scientists had pegged as the upper limit of the human lifespan.

How long are humans supposed to live naturally? ›

While some researchers contend that a natural limit sits around 120, 140, or 150 years, others speculate that a limit doesn't exist—and that aging doesn't necessarily lead to death.

How to live 120 years? ›

Here are his daily habits in the quest to live to 120:
  1. Eat a pescatarian diet.
  2. Keep protein intake low.
  3. Skip lunch, but not breakfast.
  4. Go easy on the fruit.
  5. Consider all your sources of sugar.
  6. Challenge your heart.
  7. Walk every day.
Oct 5, 2023

How long will humans live in 2050? ›

According to the United Nations Population Division, global life expectancy at birth for both sexes has improved from 46.5 years in 1950 to 71.7 years in 2022 and is expected to rise to 77.3 by 2050.

Which height lives longer? ›

Researchers also discovered that “shorter, smaller bodies have lower death rates and fewer diet-related chronic diseases, especially past middle age.” The lifespans of shorter people appear to be longer than their taller counterparts, the paper says.

What was the lifespan of humans 10,000 years ago? ›

In contrast, hom*o sapiens who roamed Europe between 44,000 and 10,000 years ago often lived to 30 or more, achieving a ratio of 2.08 [see “The Evolution of Grandparents,” by Rachel Caspari]. Calculating the life expectancy of early H.

Can immortality be achieved? ›

Though the human lifespan has doubled over the past century, thanks to improvements in hygiene, medicine, nutrition, and other factors, most scientists believe we're unlikely to surpass the upper lifespan limit Jeanne Calment set in 1997 when she died at 122.

Can humans live to be 150 years old? ›

The first documented person living past 150 is entirely possible considering the current trends of medical development, but the much bigger question is how far off we are from 150 becoming the new 90, i.e. an age that the average person has a decent shot at living to given they stay healthy.

Can humans live 130 years? ›

There is also a 99% probability of a person living up to 124 years and a 68% probability of reaching 127 years. An even longer life span of 130 years is possible but much less probable — at 13%. The data also indicate that someone reaching the age of 135 years is extremely unlikely, with a probability of just 0.4%.


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