Human life is unlimited - but short
Journal article, 2017

Does the human lifespan have an impenetrable biological upper limit which ultimately will stop further increase in life lengths? This question is important for understanding aging, and for society, and has led to intense controversies. Demographic data for humans has been interpreted as showing existence of a limit, or even as an indication of a decreasing limit, but also as evidence that a limit does not exist. This paper studies what can be inferred from data about human mortality at extreme age. We show that in western countries and Japan and after age 110 the probability of dying is about 47% per year. Hence there is no finite upper limit to the human lifespan. Still, given the present stage of biotechnology, it is unlikely that during the next 25 years anyone will live longer than 128 years in these countries. Data, remarkably, shows no difference in mortality after age 110 between sexes, between ages, or between different lifestyles or genetic backgrounds. These results, and the analysis methods developed in this paper, can help testing biological theories of ageing and aid confirmation of success of efforts to find a cure for ageing.

limit for human life span

Jeanne Calment

future record ages


no influence of lifestyle on survival at extreme age

size-biased sampling

no influence of genetic background on survival at extreme age

generalized Pareto distribution

force of mortality

Extreme human life lengths


Holger Rootzen

Chalmers, Mathematical Sciences, Applied Mathematics and Statistics

University of Gothenburg

Dmitrii Zholud

Chalmers, Mathematical Sciences, Applied Mathematics and Statistics

University of Gothenburg


1386-1999 (ISSN) 1572915x (eISSN)

Vol. 20 4 713-728

Subject Categories


Probability Theory and Statistics

Areas of Advance

Building Futures (2010-2018)



Basic sciences



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