ATHENS, Ga. — Human lifespans are capable of soaring past the current record of 122 years, with people possibly reaching the age of 150, a new study explains. According to a researcher at the University of Georgia, we are “not even close” to reaching the maximum potential lifespan.
The findings are based on an analysis of mortality rates going back more than three centuries across 19 countries. Lead author Dr. David McCarthy describes the implications as “profound.” For most of recorded human history, the average life expectancy has been between 20 and 40 years. Today, humans live to be around 80 years-old.
Improved nutrition, clean water, better sanitation, and the application of medical science have been key to prolonging life. Experts suspect genetic manipulation, calorie restriction, and new medicines may extend life even further.
The team in the study combined reasoning and probability – known as Bayesian theory – to work out potential maximum longevity. Results showed mortality limits have only been postponed in recent years due to records being slow to increase.
“As these cohorts attain advanced ages in coming decades, longevity records may therefore increase significantly. Our results confirm prior work suggesting that if there is a maximum limit to the human lifespan, we are not yet approaching it.”
So, how long can people really live?
Two years ago, another study found life expectancy has the capacity to almost double, going beyond 150. Those findings were based on blood samples from thousands of British and American participants.
“Whether or not there is a limit to the human lifespan has been a subject of debate for millennia,” Dr. McCarthy continues. “Historical estimates of the maximum possible lifespan strongly suggest it has increased substantially over recorded history.”
The Bible famously records the Hebrews as regarding 80 years as the maximum length of a human life. Around 1,000 years later, the ancient Romans set their official estimate at 100 or 110.
“Modern longevity records are higher still – the current human longevity record is 122 but has remained unchanged since 1997,” Dr. McCarthy reports.
The world record is currently held by Jeanne Calment of France, who lived to be 122 years and 164 days-old when she died. The oldest known living person is Maria Branyas of Spain, who is 116. The oldest known living man is Juan Vicente Pérez of Venezuela, age 113.
“We emphasize further that cohorts born before 1950 will only have the potential to break existing longevity records if policy choices continue to support the health and welfare of the elderly and the political, environmental and economic environment remains stable,” Dr. Mccarthy concludes.
“The emergence of COVID-19 and its outsize effect on the mortality of the elderly provides a salutary warning that none of this is certain. If, however, the maximum age does increase as the current mortality experience of incomplete cohorts suggests is likely the implications for human societies, national economies and individual lives will be profound.”
South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.