There's a 99% chance someone will live to 124 this century, study suggests

·3-min read
Senior beautiful woman wearing casual t-shirt standing over isolated pink background showing arms muscles smiling proud. Fitness concept.
A human somewhere in the world will almost definitely live to 124 by 2100. (Posed by a model, Getty Images)

It may sound far-fetched, but scientists predict there is a "strong likelihood" someone will live to the grand age of 124 this century.

In the UK, the average male dies at 79, while women generally live until 83.

Life expectancy has almost doubled over the past 170 years, thanks to public health improvements, childhood vaccinations and the creation of the NHS.

Nevertheless, the "threshold" a human is capable of living until has long been debated. 

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In May 2021, New York scientists stated we could survive until 150. The next month, a Danish team warned we all "eventually age and die", regardless of "how many vitamins we take, how healthy our environment is or how much we exercise".

Adding to the debate, scientists from the University of Washington have now reported there is a 99% chance someone in the world will live to 124 before 2100, beating the existing record by two years.

World's oldest person Jeanne Calment celebrates her 117th birthday. (Photo by Jean-Pierre Fizet/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images)
Jeanne Calment, pictured on her 117th birthday, died aged 122. (Getty Images)

The number of centenarians has risen steadily over the past few decades. Worldwide, nearly half a million people are said to be aged 100 or over.

"Supercentenarians" – people who survive until 110 or older – are much rarer, however.

Jeanne Calment, the oldest known person, was 122 when she died in France in 1997. Currently, Kane Tanaka of Japan is the world's oldest individual, aged 118.

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"People are fascinated by the extremes of humanity, whether it's going to the moon, how fast someone can run in the Olympics or even how long someone can live," said lead author Michael Pearce. 

"With this work, we quantify how likely we believe it is some individual will reach various extreme ages this century."

Medical discoveries may continue to add to our lifespan. However, the number of people who have reached 110, and have the documents to prove it, is small.

The fact our cells naturally deteriorate over time means there may be a natural limit to a human's lifespan. Nevertheless, record-breaking supercentenarians suggest the cap is not clear-cut.

To learn more, the Washington scientists analysed the International Database on Longevity.

This provides "thoroughly validated information on individuals who have attained extreme ages" in 10 European countries, as well as the US, Canada and Japan.

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Results – published in the journal Demographic Research – suggest there is a 99% probability Calment's world record of living to 122 years and 164 days will be broken by 2100, with the scientists being almost certain someone will reach 124.

The chance of someone living until 127 came in at 68%.

A longer lifespan is much less likely. The results suggest there is a 13% chance someone will live to 130. The probability a person will hit 135 in this century is "extremely unlikely".

Watch: Life expectancy decline amid pandemic is 'shocking'

Supercentenarians are rare, however, they are expected to become more common as the global population continues to grow.

A human's life expectancy may eventually flatten off, however. An 110-year-old is around as likely to live another 12 months as an 114-year-old, the Washington results suggest.

"It doesn't matter how old they are, once they reach 110, they still die at the same rate," said co-author Professor Adrian Raftery. 

"They've gotten past all the various things life throws at you, such as disease. They die for reasons that are somewhat independent of what affects younger people.

"This is a very select group of very robust people."

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