, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 65–71 | Cite as

Theoretical estimation of maximum human lifespan

  • Byung Mook Weon
  • Jung Ho JeEmail author
Research Article


The existence of maximum human lifespan remains a puzzle in aging research. Maximum human lifespan is believed to be around 125 years, whereas current demographic trends seem to show no limitation. To reconcile this contrast, the estimation of maximum human lifespan requires an adequate mathematical model. However, sparse data of available old-age mortality pattern make the estimation impossible. Here we suggest an extended Weibull model for the estimation using a proper mathematical method based on survival probability pattern. We find a tendency that survival probability is maximized in modern human survival curves. Based on such tendency, we develop an estimation method for maximum human lifespan and indeed obtain about 126 years from periodic life tables for Swedish female between 1950 and 2005. Despite uncertainty from available mortality data, our approach may offer quantitative biodemographic opportunities linking aging and survival kinetics.


Human aging Extended Weibull model Maximum human lifespan 



We are grateful to the Human Mortality Database ( for allowing anyone to access the demographic data for research. This work was supported by the Creative Research Initiatives (Functional X-ray Imaging) of MOST/KOSEF.


  1. Abbott A (2004) Aging: growing old gracefully. Nature 428:116–118. doi: 10.1038/428116a PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allman J, McLaughlin T, Hakeem A (1993) Brain weight and life-span in primate species. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 90:118–122. doi: 10.1073/pnas.90.1.118 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Carnes BA, Olshansky SJ, Grahn D (2003) Biological evidence for limits to the duration of life. Biogerontology 4:31–45. doi: 10.1023/A:1022425317536 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cohen JE (2004) Mathematics is biology’s next microscope, only better; biology is mathematics’ next physics, only better. PLoS Biol 2:2017–2023Google Scholar
  5. Couzin J (2005) How much can human life span be extended? Science 309:83. doi: 10.1126/science.309.5731.83 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Crimmins EM, Finch CE (2005) Infection, inflammation, height, and longevity. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 103:498–503. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0501470103 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cutler RC (1975) Evolution of human longevity and the genetic complexity governing aging rate. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 72:4664–4668. doi: 10.1073/pnas.72.11.4664 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Finch CE, Pike MC (1996) Maximum life span predictions from the Gompertz mortality model. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 51:B183–B194PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Gavrilov LA, Gavrilova NS (1991) The biology of life span. A quantitative approach. Harwood Academic, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  10. Gavrilov LA, Gavrilova NS (2001) The reliability theory of aging and longevity. J Theor Biol 213:527–545. doi: 10.1006/jtbi.2001.2430 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gompertz B (1825) On the nature of the function expressive of the law of human mortality and on a new mode of determining life contingencies. Philos Trans R Soc Lond A 115:513–585. doi: 10.1098/rstl.1825.0026 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hayflick L (2000) The future of aging. Nature 408:267–269. doi: 10.1038/35041709 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hayflick L (2004) Aging: The reality, “anti-aging” is an oxymoron. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 59:B573–B578PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Helfand SL, Inouye SK (2002) Rejuvenating views of the aging process. Nat Rev Genet 3:149–153. doi: 10.1038/nrg726 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kannisto V (1994) Development of oldest-old mortality, 1950–1990: evidence from 28 developed countries. Odense monographs on population aging 1. Odense University Press, OdenseGoogle Scholar
  16. Kirkwood TBL (2005) Understanding the odd science of aging. Cell 120:437–447. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2005.01.027 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kirkwood TBL, Austad SN (2000) Why do we age? Nature 408:233–238. doi: 10.1038/35041682 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lucke JC, Hall W (2005) Who wants to live forever? EMBO Rep 6:98–102. doi: 10.1038/sj.embor.7400339 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Oeppen J, Vaupel JW (2002) Broken limits to life expectancy. Science 296:1029–1031. doi: 10.1126/science.1069675 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Olshansky SJ, Carnes BA, Désesquelles A (2001) Demography: prospects for human longevity. Science 291:1491–1492. doi: 10.1126/science.291.5508.1491 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Olshansky SJ, Passaro DJ, Hershow RC et al (2005) A potential decline in life expectancy in the United States in the 21st century. N Engl J Med 352:1138–1145. doi: 10.1056/NEJMsr043743 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Partridge B, Hall W (2007) The search for Methuselah: Should we endeavour to increase the maximum human lifespan? EMBO Rep 8:888–891. doi: 10.1038/sj.embor.7401069 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Robine JM, Allard M (1998) The oldest human. Science 279:1834–1835. doi: 10.1126/science.279.5358.1831h PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Robine JM, Vaupel JW (2002) Emergence of supercentenarians in low mortality countries. N Am Actuarial J 6:54–63Google Scholar
  25. Takahashi Y, Kuro-o M, Ishikawa F (2000) Aging mechanisms. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 97:12407–12408. doi: 10.1073/pnas.210382097 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Thatcher AR, Kannisto V, Vaupel JW (1998) The force of mortality at ages 80–120. Odense monographs on population aging 5. Odense University Press, OdenseGoogle Scholar
  27. Vaupel JW, Carey JR, Christensen K et al (1998) Biodemographic trajectories of longevity. Science 280:855–860. doi: 10.1126/science.280.5365.855 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Vaupel JW, Carey JR, Christensen K (2003) Aging: it’s never too late. Science 301:1679–1681. doi: 10.1126/science.1090529 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Wachter KW, Finch C (eds) (1997) Between Zeus and the Salmon: the biodemography of longevity. National Academic Press, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  30. Weitz JS, Fraser HB (2001) Explaining mortality rate plateaus. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 98:15383–15386. doi: 10.1073/pnas.261228098 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Weibull WA (1951) A statistical distribution function of wide applicability. J Appl Mech 18:293–297Google Scholar
  32. Weon BM, Lee JL, Je JH (2005) A unified decay formula for luminescence decays. J Appl Phys 98:096101. doi: 10.1063/1.2126120 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Weon BM, Je JH, Lee JL (2007) Lifetime dispersion in a single quantum dot. Appl Phys A 89:1029–1031. doi: 10.1007/s00339-007-4239-7 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Wilmoth JR, Deegan LJ, Lundstom H, Horiuchi S (2000) Increase of maximum life-span in Sweden, 1861–1999. Science 289:2366–2368. doi: 10.1126/science.289.5488.2366 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Yashin AI, Iachine I (1995) How long can humans live? Lower bound for biological limit of human longevity calculated from the Danish twin data using correlated frailty model. Mech Ageing Dev 80:147–169. doi: 10.1016/0047-6374(94)01567-6 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.X-ray Imaging CenterPohang University of Science and TechnologyPohangRepublic of Korea

Personalised recommendations