In the coming decades it will be possible to live much longer
If there is a upper limit for human life expectancy, our species is nowhere near this threshold yet. This, at least, is what emerges from a study, published in the journal Plos One, conducted by scientists at the Terry College of Business, at the University of Georgia, and at the Muma College of Business, at the University of South Florida. The research team, led by David McCarthy and Po-Lin Wang, analyzed historical population mortality data in 19 industrialized countries.
Science, the scholars explain, has long wondered if and how much human life expectancy will change in the coming decades. To answer this question, the authors evaluated historical data by birth cohort on mortality in the age groups between 50 and 100 years.
Longevity records are rising
Longevity records haven’t increased dramatically lately, likely due to inherent differences in birth cohorts. However, the population born between 1900 and 1950 seems to be associated with an unprecedented postponement of mortality, even if the average ages have not yet reached real Guinness values.
In the coming decades, therefore, experts hypothesize, we could see a significant increase in end-of-life. “Our results – write the authors – corroborate what emerged from previous reports, according to which even if there is an upper limit for the duration of human life, we are not approaching that threshold”. The research group observed significant differences between the various birth cohorts that could depend on epidemic events or climatic fluctuations, as well as on the advent of wars and famines.
Why do we live longer?
These factors, the scholars explain, can affect the mortality rates that occur at the population level. The effects of the calendar year, the scientists comment, seem more significant for the previous cohorts, even if they tend to decrease after the Second World War, probably thanks to greater prosperity, also due to technological advances and improvements in the standard of living and in healthcare. However, over most of the time period analysed, life expectancy did not increase, and improvements in mean life span are attributable rather to a reduction in mortality.
Advances in clinical, hygienic and health care have in fact allowed many people to live longer. Think, for example, of the health prospects of patients who contract AIDS or some autoimmune diseases, once considered lethal. “However, we found small differences in the mortality plateau – write the scholars – and this suggests that the maximum expansion of human life may not be fixed at all”. In particular, the authors report, the female population born in the second half of the 19th century has been associated with an increase of about five years in life expectancy.
Subsequently, an increase in this value up to ten years was observed among the cohorts born between 1910 and 1950. “According to our estimates – the experts comment – a new increase in life expectancy could occur by 2060. There are several potentially valid hypotheses to explain these data, and at the same time it is possible that the effect of the pandemic on elderly people has altered the chances of survival of this sub-cohort”.
“It will be necessary to conduct further investigations – conclude the scientists – to understand the implications on societies, national economies and the individual lives of populations in response to this variation in life expectancy”.
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