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Compensation effect of mortality is a challenge to substantial lifespan extension of humans

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Despite frequent claims regarding radical extensions of human lifespan in the near future, many pragmatic scientists caution against excessive and baseless optimism on this front. In this study, we examine the compensation effect of mortality (CEM) as a potential challenge to substantial lifespan extension. The CEM is an empirical mortality regularity, often depicted as relative mortality convergence at advanced ages. Analysis of mortality data from 44 human populations, available in the Human Mortality Database, demonstrated that CEM can be represented as a continuous decline in relative mortality variation (assessed through the coefficient of variation and the standard deviation of the logarithm of mortality) with age, reaching a minimum corresponding to the species-specific lifespan. Through this method, the species-specific lifespan is determined to be 96–97 years, closely aligning with estimates derived from correlations between Gompertz parameters (95–98 years). Importantly, this representation of CEM can be achieved non-parametrically, eliminating the need for estimating Gompertz parameters. CEM is a challenge to lifespan extension, because it suggests that the true aging rate in humans (based on loss of vital elements, e.g., functional cells) remains stable at approximately 1% per year in the majority of human populations and is not affected by environmental or familial longevity factors. Given this rate of functional cell loss, one might anticipate that the total pool of functional cells could be entirely depleted by the age of 115–120 years creating physiological limit to human lifespan. Mortality pattern of supercentenarians (110 + years) aligns with this prediction.

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Data Availability

Mortality data are publicly available at the HMD website (


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We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers for their constructive criticism, interesting discussion of research findings and useful suggestions.


This work was partially supported by the grant from the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health (R21AG054849 to N.S.G.).

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N.S.G. designed the study, conducted statistical analyses, and prepared the manuscript. L.A.G. analyzed and interpreted results, and edited the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Natalia S. Gavrilova.

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Gavrilova, N.S., Gavrilov, L.A. Compensation effect of mortality is a challenge to substantial lifespan extension of humans. Biogerontology (2024).

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