Humans Will Never Live Past Age 115, Argue Scientists — And Here's Why

The average life span of humans has gotten longer and longer over the course of the last century, but experts say we may be reaching our upper limit. A new study published this week in Nature claims that humans will never live past the age of 115. (Wah waah.) So, kids, it looks like vampirism is still your best bet for eternal life. You may want to get on that.

As the New York Times reports, an infant born in the United States in 1900 couldn’t expect to live more than about 50 years, but that number increased significantly in the ensuing decades. Now, the average life expectancy for an American is 79 years, and in Japan, where life expectancy is the highest, people live to an average of 83 years. But a new paper from scholars at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine reports that, although human life expectancy increased dramatically across the 20th century, the rate of increase started to slow in the 1980s and plateaued about 10 years ago. Study authors Dr. Jan Vijg, Xiao Dong, and Brandon Milholland suggest that average life expectancies have stopped increasing because the human body literally can’t live any longer than it already does. They believe that, although advances in medicine and healthier living have lead to longer lifespans, the human body isn’t built to live forever — eventually it will reach its limit, age, degrade, and die. And recent trends in life expectancy may be showing just where that boundary is.

Vijg and his colleagues analyzed data from the International Database on Longevity about the lifespans of people who have lived into extremely old age. They found that even the longest lifespans have capped out at 115 years. There are a few exceptions to this rule, most notably French supercentenarian Jeanne Calment, who died in 1997 at the age of 122. But Vijg makes clear that Calment was a rare case, and the probability of anyone living longer than her is tiny. “You’d need 10,000 worlds like ours to have the chance that there would be one human who would become 125 years,” he told the New York Times. “We expect that the oldest person alive will be around 115 years for the foreseeable future,” added co-author Brandon Milholland.

The human lifespan — and the question of whether it has an inherent limit — is a subject of great debate, and some scientists disagree with Vijg and his colleagues’ conclusions. James W. Vaupel, director of the Max-Planck Odense Center on the Biodemography of Aging, described the new study to the NYT as a “travesty,” and added, “It is disheartening how many times the same mistake can be made in science and published in respectable journals.”

Vijg suggests that, instead of focusing on the human lifespan, we should concentrate on our “health spans.” There may be a boundary in terms of how many years we can live, but there are things we can do to maximize how many of those years are healthy and active. And if you do want to live forever, maybe give horcruxes a try? It seemed to work for Voldemort. (Well, sort of.)

Images: Cristian Newman/Unsplash; Giphy