The limit of human existence: how old can a person live?

Currently, turning 100 years of age is an achievement that very few people in the world achieve. In fact, some celebrities have been praised for continuing to perform—with remarkable skill—in the art world after passing the 80-year-old milestone.

Jeanne Calment (1875-1997), a French woman considered the oldest person in history, lived to be 122 years old. However, recent studies suggest that the limit of human life could be well above.

The limit of human life

In past decades, studies to estimate life expectancy were based on disease mortality rates or analysis of organ deterioration over time.

In 2021, instead, a team of researchers from Singapore, Russia, and the US used a computer model to estimate the maximum length of human life. The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.

The scientists took blood samples from more than 70,000 volunteers aged up to 85 and observed short-term changes in their blood cell counts. With this, they predicted who would get diseases related to age, person-to-person variations, and modeled the loss of resilience (ability to recover from disease) over time.

Thus, they predicted that resilience would completely fail the 150 yearswhich was established as a theoretical limit for human life.

However, the study did not take into account the scientific progress that will allow the development of new medical treatments for various diseases, which will improve life expectancy mainly in the new generations.

Or without limits?

Months later, a study was published in the Royal Society Open Science journal, which was based on an analysis of data from super-centenarians (110 years and older) and semi-supercentennials (105 years and older), still living between 2009 and 2015.

The analysis determined that “it is unlikely that there is an upper limit (for human life) below 130 years“.

Their statistical models yielded another intriguing conclusion: while the risk of death increases with age, it eventually plateaus and remains at a 50-50 chance of dying.

“From the age of 110, you can think of living another year as flipping a coin,” said Anthony Davison, lead author of the study. “If heads, you will live to your next birthday. If not, you will die sometime in the next year,” he told AFP.

According to Davison, if their results are extrapolated, “it implies that there would be no limit to life expectancy“, since it could always come up heads when flipping the coin.

However, as with the previous study, reaching the theoretical age limit will not be so simple for humans. To achieve this, you must have good genetics, a better diet and exercise plan, and the possibility of accessing emerging medical treatments.

Even at 110, the chances of reaching 130 are “one in a million … not impossible, but highly unlikely,” Davison said.

Even so, the growing number of supercentenarians suggests that, before the end of the century, the first cases of humans reaching 130 years of age will be reported.