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Human lifespans are increasing, risk of death decreases after age 80, new study says

A new study shows that human lifespans seem to be increasing, and that the risk of death is lessened for people who reach extreme old age. (Source: Pixabay) A new study shows that human lifespans seem to be increasing, and that the risk of death is lessened for people who reach extreme old age. (Source: Pixabay)

(RNN) – A new study says human lifespans are increasing, and – as strange as this sounds – that the risk of death actually starts to decrease for people who reach extreme old age.

The study, published Friday in the journal Science, seeks to explore a persisting question: How old can people get?

The findings suggest we haven't discovered the limits.

A much-debated 2016 study on human mortality published in Nature, another journal, found that people have an age limit of 115 years, with the occasional exception.

The study in Science found that a person's risk of dying increases each year until they reach 80; after that, the risk starts to decrease.

And people who reach the age of 105 hit a mortality "plateau," meaning they aren't more or less likely to die from one year to the next; in other words, after reaching 105, they have a 50-percent chance of living year to year.

"The increasing number of exceptionally long-lived people and the fact that their mortality beyond 105 is seen to be declining across cohorts – lowering the mortality plateau or postponing the age when it appears – strongly suggest that longevity is continuing to increase over time and that a limit, if any, has not been reached," the study said.

People who reach extreme old age could have genetic advantages over those who don't, and could potentially live indefinitely with future technological advances, the study suggests.

"We're seeing death rates, among extreme ages, go down a little bit. That means we're not coming up against a limit to lifespan," said Ken Wachter, a professor of demography and statistics at University of California, Berkeley, and one of the researchers who helped lead the study.

Researchers based the findings on data from around 4,000 Italians older than 105.

Jan Vijg, chair of genetics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and an author of the Nature paper, said the Science study doesn't disprove his paper's findings on the limits of human lifespans.

"If you're very lucky as a human, have good genes, and are lucky to avoid diseases, you probably do have a higher chance to live just a little longer than others. That's selection," Vijg said. "But this is far from saying, 'Since mortality no longer increases, that means that humans can continue to live longer and longer.' These people are still very close to death."

Copyright 2018 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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