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The Great Escape. Centenarians’ exceptional health



Centenarians escapers are those who reached 100 years of age without the diagnosis of any of the common age-related diseases and exploring their characteristics will inform about successful ageing. No previous study has examined centenarians free of common chronic diseases amongst New Zealand centenarians.


Retrospective observational cross-sectional review of a national dataset determining the prevalence of depression, dementia, diabetes and hypertension, smoking, physical activity and social relationships among older adults (aged 60–99 years) and centenarians. Participants were all older New Zealanders living independently in the community who completed the international Residential Assessment Instrument–Home Care (interRAI-HC) assessment during the study’s 5-year period (July 2013–June 2018).


The assessments of 292 centenarians (mean age 101.03, SD 1.27 years) and 103,377 elderly (mean age 81.7, SD 5.7 years) were analysed. Compared to the elderly, centenarians were more likely to be female (74.7%, compared with 59.3% elderly, p < 0.001). Centenarians free of common chronic diseases did not differ from other centenarians on any of the analysed variables. Reduction in smoking rates and steady high rates of social engagement were associated with reaching a centenarian status free of common chronic diseases compared with older adults.


Not smoking and being socially engaged throughout older age were associated with being a centenarian free of common chronic diseases. This study adds to our understanding the complexities of attaining exceptional longevity.

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The present study did not receive any funding.

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Authors and Affiliations



All authors designed this study, YB obtained the dataset, SL and PG completed the statistical analyses, all authors wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Yoram Barak.

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The author(s) declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Ethical approval was obtained from the University of Otago Ethics Committee and the Department of Psychological Medicine Ethics Committee.

Statement of human and animal rights

All authors had full access to all the data in the study and take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

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Participants or their authorised representatives were asked whether they consented for their anonymised information to be used for research purposes at the time of their inter-RAI assessment.

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Barak, Y., Leitch, S. & Glue, P. The Great Escape. Centenarians’ exceptional health. Aging Clin Exp Res 33, 513–520 (2021).

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