Here’s how long the longevity rate of human lifespans are increasing every generation.

How long does the average person live for a lifetime? Long enough to finish reading this article. Most people hold the notion that people in times past did live way much longer than the average millennial would in their lifetime, and that’s totally not accurate, looking at the statistics at hand. New research says human lifespans are increasing by approximately three years every generation — and this trend is likely to continue, at least for a while.

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YOLO: You Only Live Once; Not So Long

It was highly alleged in previous studies that humans were approaching the limit to their longevity, but when researchers analyzed the average death age of people over 65 years in 20 high income earning countries from a 50-year lifespan data, they were amazed at their find.

“The data shows that we can expect longer lives and there’s no sign of a slowdown in this trend,” says Shripad Tuljapurkar, a professor of biology and population studies at Stanford University, and the study’s led author, in a statement. “There’s not a limit to life that we can see, so what we can say for sure is that it’s not close enough that we can see the effect.”

Their study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Tuljapurkar and his colleagues had two pressing questions in mind: Is humanity approaching a limit to human lifespans? Are there factors that allow some people to live longer than others?

To answer such questions, the researchers compared the birth and death data of people aged above 65 between 1960 – 2010; they found that the death age in people who were older than 65 had significantly increased by three years for every 25-year period. What that means is, people can expect to live about six years longer on average than their grandparents. Hmmm?

The Long Wave Of A Lifetime

Moreover, this increase is a trend that’s more likely to continue at a relatively stable rate over a 50-year period in all 20 countries that they analyzed. Factors like medical breakthroughs could potentially increase people’s health nowadays, this could be a reason why the increase lifespan — though these variations averaged out over time.

Almost all longevity studies focus on people who lived longer than everyone else; and such studies only makes the data analyzed a bit inaccurate and unreliable. In fact, only a hand full of people live so long. The researcher instead focus only at people over 65 years old — an age range with a large number of people. 

“Our method is novel because it allows us to get rid of the fuzziness,” Tuljapurkar says. “Our focus is on the age range where we have an accurate idea of what’s going on.”

If humans were really about to hit the limit to our longevity, then the age distribution of people should see a sudden decrease as they approach set limit; but the researchers didn’t find such a trend in the data analyzed. The gap seemed not to be decreasing, instead its doing otherwise.

They were surprise to find that the average death age was increasing at a constant rate, but what they found even more surprising was that the shape distribution hasn’t changed a bit. They expected that certain endowments would allow some people to live longer than others.

(A and B) Vertical axis: variability (measured by SD of age at death) for deaths past age 65 y (diamonds) or a moving age y (circles). Horizontal axis: year from 1960 to 2010.

How Long Do You Live In A Lifetime?

“There used to be so many ads about how people could live longer by, say, eating yogurt,” Tuljapurkar says.

There’s no way he’d think that yogurt was the key to longevity, but he did suspect that factors like being rich could increase your likelihood of living longer.

That being true, then the distribution of the data analyzed should had widen as rich people live past the average age of death; but the shape of the data was consistent over the 50-year period they studied. There was no single factor that allowed some people to live longer than others — at least not an age over 65 years.

Tuljapurkar notes that by the time you reach 65, you might have overcome many of the factors that could shorten your life — this could be an early disease or dying as a result of violence.

“But as someone who would like to be a one-percenter but is not, I’m certainly very happy to know that my odds of getting to live longer are just as good as the millionaire down the street,” he concludes.

Source: Stanford University.

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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Tue, Jul 16, 2019.


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