Italian study suggests there is no insurmountable biological limit to human longevity.

In April, the death of Nabi Tajima in a town called Kikai, on an island at the southern tip of Japan, rippled out across the world’s media. At 117, the great-great-great-grandmother was the world’s oldest person.

Deaths of such “supercentenarians” naturally raise the question of just how far we can go. Is there really a biological limit to the human life span? Some high-powered researchers have been slugging it out in the quest for an answer.

In 2016, a study published in the journal Nature found the maximum age at death increased from the early 1970s but plateaued, then decreased slightly around 1995, prompting the authors to conclude, “our results strongly suggest that human lifespan has a natural limit”.

Then in December last year, an analysis in the journal Extremes demurred, finding that after the age of 110 the risk of death stayed constant, at around 47% per year. This, the authors concluded, “does not support that there is a finite upper limit to the human lifespan”.

A bugbear for researchers has always been the accuracy of data. The old, for example, have an unfortunate tendency to exaggerate just how old they really are. It’s a problem new research published in the journal Science, and led by statistician Elisabetta Barbi from the Sapienza University of Rome in Italy, claims to have addressed in coming to its own conclusion on the vexed question.

Read the full article in Cosmos magazine here