, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 1303-1323,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 20 Jan 2013

Long-run trends of human aging and longevity

Abstract

Over the last 200 years, humans experienced a huge increase of life expectancy. These advances were largely driven by extrinsic improvements of their environment (for example, the available diet, disease prevalence, vaccination, and the state of hygiene and sanitation). In this paper, we ask whether future improvements of life expectancy will be bounded from above by human life span. Life span, in contrast to life expectancy, is conceptualized as a biological measure of longevity driven by the intrinsic rate of bodily deterioration. In order to pursue our question, we first present a modern theory of aging developed by bio-gerontologists and show that immutable life span would put an upper limit on life expectancy. We then show for a sample of developed countries that human life span thus defined was indeed constant until the mid-twentieth century but increased since then in sync with life expectancy. In other words, we find evidence for manufactured life span.

Responsible editor: Alessandro Cigno