Scientists Say Most Humans Can Probably Live to 130, and Possibly Longer

The human lifespan is due for an extension.
Brad Bergan
A complicated pocket watch, on a blue engineering grid.Shawn Lee / Unsplash  

Almost everybody doesn't want to die.

And it turns out humans can probably live to be at least 130 years old, and potentially far older, statistically, according to recent research published in the journal Royal Society Open Science. But it should go without saying that the chances for most of us living that long are breathtakingly slim.

While it doesn't hurt to hope, we'll probably need a major scientific revolution in medical technologies to make supercentenarian life a common condition.

Statistically, you could live to be 130

The far limit of human life has remained a subject of sharp debate, with recent studies suggesting we might be able to live 150 years, with others pushing the outer limit away completely, arguing that human life isn't necessarily bounded by a rigid lifespan. If this were the case, there is no maximum age for humans, but the recent research analyzes fresh data on supercentenarians, which is the term for people who have survived past age 110, in addition to semi-supercentenarians, who've reached age 105 or more. They found that while the risk of death steadily increases as we age, this risk eventually plateaus and from there remains constant, with a 50-50 chance of living or dying for every subsequent year.

"Beyond age 110 one can think of living another year as being almost like flipping a fair coin," said Professor Anthony Davison of statistics at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, in Lausanne (EPFL), who also led the recent research, to AFP, according to a press release. "If it comes up heads, then you live to our next birthday, and if not, then you will die at some point within the next year". Current data suggests humans could live until at least 130, but according to the research, a simple extrapolation implies that "there is no limit to the human lifespan". These conclusions align with similar statistical evaluations executed on datasets of the extremely elderly.

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Living to 130 is a 'one in a million' occurrence

"But this study strengthens those conclusions and makes them more precise because more data are now available," said Davison in the AFP report. The initial dataset came from newly-released material from the International Database on Longevity, which accounts for more than 1,100 supercentenarians, hailing from 13 different countries. The second dataset came from Italy, including every person who was at least 105 years old from January 2009 to December 2015. The procedure calls for extrapolating existing data, but Davison defended this as a necessary, even logical approach to the research. "Any study of extreme old age, whether statistical or biological, will involve extrapolation," he added. "We were able to show that if a limit below 130 years exists, we should have been able to detect it by now using the data now available."

However, even though humans can make it 130 or even older, it's not likely going to happen. One reason comes from the raw fact that few of us will achieve the notably rare feat of living past 100. And suppose you do reach 110. From there, your chances of living another twenty years, and becoming 130, are "about one in a million... not impossible but very unlikely," said Davison in the AFP report. While we'll likely see more people reach that age in the next century, the likelihood of one person achieving it remains one in a million. Right now, the oldest person still alive is Japan's Kane Tanaka, who is just 118. So, if living to 130 is your plan b, the best way to make that happen is to create the major medical revolution you want to see in the world, and extend the average human lifespan by the sheer brute force of scientific advancement.