Scientists Say Humans May Have Reached Their Lifespan Limit

human age peak
Science & Medicine

Who wants to live forever? Well, you can’t. Not yet, anyway. Science hasn’t reached that point. And according to researchers, humans can only live so long, and our species has just about reached its biological limit.


According to a new study published 5 October 2016 in the journal Nature, even though life expectancy is considerably higher now than it was 100 years ago, it’s not likely to rise much more than what it is right now. It’s highly unlikely that anyone will ever live beyond 125 years. [1]

And I have to say, I’m OK with that.

How They Figured Out We’re Going to Die

Geneticist Jan Vijg at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and several graduates analyzed aging trends in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Japan – home to the longest-living generation in the world.

In a statement, Vijg says that while “there is no reason to think that the ongoing increase in maximum lifespan will end soon,” the data strongly suggest that it’s “already been attained and that this happened in the 1990s.”

According to the team’s findings, humans would need scientific interventions in order to live past 125 years. (You think?) By “scientific interventions,” they don’t mean just ways of making people feel better, like stronger arthritis medications.

The report states:

“Although there is no scientific reason why such efforts could not be successful, the possibility is essentially constrained by the myriad of genetic variants that collectively determine species-specific lifespan.”

Read: 110-Year-Old Man Says These 5 Foods Are Essential for Longevity

The oldest person to have ever lived was Jeanne Calment, who died in a nursing home in France on 4 August 1997 at the ripe old age of 122. Vijg says this is extremely rare, and he doesn’t think that will ever happen again. He says:

“From now on, this is it. Humans will never get older than 115.” [2]

Source: CNN – Jeanne Calment

And the absolute limit is 125. To be specific, the odds of any one person in the world reaching 125 in a given year is less than 1 in 10,000. [3]

Vijg explains:

“While it’s conceivable that therapeutic breakthroughs might extend human longevity beyond the limits we’ve calculated, such advances would need to overwhelm the many genetic variants that appear to collectively determine the human life span.

Perhaps resources now being spent to increase life span should instead go to lengthening ‘health span’ — the duration of old age spent in good health.”

Some Say “Hogwash”

Not all researchers are buying into Vijg’s prediction.

James W. Vaupel, the director of the Max-Planck Odense Center on the Biodemography of Aging, says the notion that humanity is approaching its age limit is baloney. He goes so far as to call the new study “a travesty.” [2]

He says:

“It is disheartening how many times the same mistake can be made in science and published in respectable journals.”

He’s more of a glass-half-full kind of scientist because of the number of years people have been tacking onto their life expectancy over the past 116 years.

A child born in the U.S. in 1900 had an average life expectancy of 50 years. However, a child born in the U.S. in 2016 can expect to live on average to age 79. Japan’s average life expectancy at birth has risen the furthest of any country so far, to 83 years.

Source: CNN

Professor Dame Linda Partridge, director of the UCL Institute of Healthy Ageing also says that some of the report’s conclusions are questionable. [1]

“A biological time bomb won’t just set off. Clearly if we’re seeing someone who’s 100 years old they were born 100 years ago — in 1916 — and the conditions there were completely different than those faced by babies being born now.”

Partridge noted infections, diseases, war, and poor food quality as some of the problems a baby born 100 years ago would have faced.

Furthermore, Partridge says, the living conditions were much harsher then than they are now, “so we really can’t project [the lifespan of] babies who are being born right now.”

As for children growing up right now, Partridge is concerned about the world they face, despite so many improvements in living conditions. She says:

“Obesity is a huge tragedy. They’re growing up very unhealthy [and] we need to do a lot more work on the long-term consequences. Their prospects can’t be good.”

She admits there is a limit to how long people can live…but we don’t know what that is, and she doesn’t believe we’ve reached it yet. She explains:

“It’s not biologically feasible to live to 3,000 years. There’s constraints on how fast we run, speeds at which we can see. So without any further interventions, bodies can only last a certain amount of time.”

So quit smoking, start exercising, and eat a healthy diet, Partridge advises. We will all expire eventually, but living a long AND healthy life is clearly doable.

As the saying goes, it’s not the years in your life, it’s the life in your years.


[1] CNN

[2] The Boston Globe

[3] HealthDay