Risk of Dying Levels Off in Super Old Age

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"Every year you have the same chance of dying, and every year you can be the one who wins the coin toss". Once people reached 105, the rate of death fell.

"The increasing number of exceptionally long-lived people and the fact that their mortality beyond 105 is seen to be declining across cohorts strongly suggests that longevity is contributing to increase over time and that a limit, if any, has not yet been reached".

Carried out by researchers at the University of California, USA, and Sapienza University of Rome, Italy, the study looked at records of 3,836 Italian residents who were all aged 105 and older between the years of 2009 and 2015.

But even if this turns out to be the case, Jeanne Calment's age won't be easily matched, said Tom Kirkwood, associate dean for aging at Newcastle University, who was not involved in the new study.

To University of IL epidemiologist S. Jay Olshansky, the evidence for the counter-argument - that there is a strict limit to the maximum human lifespan and we have reached it already - is right there in the new Italian data. First of all, there aren't that many people who are 100 or older, which makes conclusions hard to draw given the sample size.

An global team of researchers from Italy, Germany, Denmark and the United States studied the survival rates of almost 4000 people over 105 between 2009 and 2015.

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It is a common assumption that the older you get the closer to death you are. "You would expect more people to reach the age of 110, but that will take some time". The annual probability of dying for Italian women born in 1904 was 333 per 1,000 at age 100 and 475 per 1,000 at age 105. Making it to the age of 95 actually increased their odds of dying within a year even further, to 24 percent, and reduced their life expectancy from that point on to just 3.7 years. Some studies on the demography of aging have suggested a plateau in mortality, while others have suggested exponential increase in mortality.

On the day that one becomes an octogenarian, nature bestows a mathematical birthday gift: a gradual reprieve from the relentlessly increasing likelihood that he or she will die in the coming year.

"If mortality rates kept rising at the rates they rise from age 40 to age 90, then there would be a strong barrier to progress at extreme ages - great diminishing returns to behavioral change or to new medical advances", Wachter said. The Frenchwoman ascribed her longevity to the fact that she didn't worry much and had a diet rich in olive oil, port wine and chocolate, which she consumed at a rate of more than 2 pounds a week. The chances of survival instead plateaued once people made it past 105. For instance, genes that seem to be supporting extended lifespan on Okinawa are not the same as ones found in England. "Europeans are more used to the government keeping more information about them", said Wachter. "Now go 15 to 20 years later, the people who were already frail are the ones who are likely to have died", he said.

There is a fierce debate in the scientific community about whether humans have reached their upper lifespan limit or not. And since there are so few of them to begin with, this harsh reality "tells us the real story", he said.

"There's a big discussion about the human lifespan".

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