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No doubt, you’re aware that you’re not going to live forever. And while that realization isn’t exactly fun, the next-best solution is to live as long and healthy a life as humanly possible. With more stories of super-centenarians, i.e. people who live to or past their 110th birthday, in the news, it seems like your odds of living a long time are pretty decent.
Naturally, people have wondered just long humans can live, and scientists have reached a new conclusion: it may be limitless. That’s the major finding from a new study published in the journal Nature that analyzed the lifespan of the longest-living people from the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Japan for each year since 1968. Based on their analysis, scientists concluded that there’s no discernible limit for how long people can live and, if a maximum life span exists, it hasn’t been reached yet or identified.
As of now, the longest-living person in history was Jeanne Calment of France, who lived to the ripe old age of 122 years, 164 days, but plenty of other people have joined the super-centenarian club around the world.
The study’s conclusion makes sense on some level given that people have continued to live longer over history. Currently in the U.S., most Americans can expect to live for an average of 78.8 years per National Center for Health Statistics data, but it was much less in the past.
It’s worth noting that the latest conclusion on human life span is different from the one drawn from another study published in Nature in October, which found that humans won’t be able to live beyond 115. (Calment, the researchers said, was an outlier that won’t happen again.)
But study co-author Siegfried Hekimi, PhD, a biologist at McGill University, tells Yahoo Beauty that he re-examined the data from that study that concluded that people will top out at 115 and found that the analysis was “flawed,” adding that the available data did not allow researchers to determine that a limit can be calculated or determined for now.
Hekimi says he has “no idea” how long people can live for — and scientists don’t actually know if there is even such a thing as a limit on human lifespan. “The current continuous increase in average lifespan and thus life expectancy, however, suggests that maximum lifespan will also keep increasing,” he says.
Per Hekimi, the increase in lifespan is due to improvements in hygiene, vaccination, the ability to access fresh uncontaminated abundant food year-round, access to heat in the winter and air-conditioning in the summer, lighter workloads, and fewer bad habits like smoking. “In the future this could be even made better by effort of disease prevention,” Hekimi says.
Before you get excited about ringing in your 1,000th birthday, Nicole Weinberg, MD, a cardiologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., tells Yahoo Beauty that it’s probably not going to happen to you or any of your relatives any time soon. “I’m not sure that our life span is limitless,” she says. “I do see a lot of my older patients with a lot of issues to fix. How many can you fix at a time?” However, she adds, with advances in medical technology, people are now able to live happier, healthier, and longer lives that every before — and it’s safe to assume that those advances will continue.
There is some good news for people alive now, though: Hekimi points out that the people who have already reached a very high age likely didn’t have the same level of comfort or access to healthy living their entire lives as you have had. “So, people born in the last 20 years might live even longer for having been so extremely sheltered for their whole lives,” he says.
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