Life expectancy and longevity: more and more centenarians?

On November 4, 2016, the French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies “(Insee)” published a report on centenarians.

In Europe, France has the most centenarians (21,000 in 2016), surpassing Spain, Italy, Switzerland and Portugal. This represents 20 times more the number recorded in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Since 1975 the number of centenarians has regularly increased by approximately 7% per year. If the trend continues, by 2070, France could have 270,000 centenarians.

What is the demographic profile of these centenarians?

Firstly, the majority of the centenarians are women (84%). One out of 2 still resides at home (with the majority being men). Twenty-nine percent live alone, 3% are couples, and 15% live with someone else, most of the time with one of their children. The individuals born in the 1970’s are more likely to live longer than 100 years compared to the previous generation. According to the recent French analysis, by 2070: 9 out of 10 women, and 8 out of 10 men born in the 90’s will become octogenarians, whereas 13% of women and 5% of men born in the 70’s or previously will reach their 100th birthday. These so-called ‘supercentenarians” – those living to the ripe old age of 110 years – are practically all women.

But have we reached the limit of the human lifespan?

Another French “Insee” study on demographic profiles, reports the number of deaths in 2015, as being the highest since the post-war period. Compared with 2014, these latest figures emphasize the significant decrease in life expectancy. The “Insee” analysis reports that decreased lifespan in that year is essentially due to a higher number of deaths reported in individuals over 65 years of age. The analysis attributes this to 3 factors: the long and severe flu episode lasting 3 months during the first semester of 2015, responsible for 24,000 deaths; as well as the heat wave in July, and period of cold weather in October 2015. Thus during 2015, the average woman’s lifespan was 85 years, and the average man’s lifespan was 78.9; compared to 85.4 and 79.2 respectively in 2014.

Additionally, a study carried out by the Albert Einstein Medical School in New York and published in the October 13, 2016 issue of Nature, concludes that there is a maximum age for humans and this maximum has been reached.

The survey compiles an impressive quantity of data for at least 40 countries or regions: in particular for the USA, UK, Japan and France. Jean-Louis Serre, Professor of Genetics who analyzed this study states: « Whether they like it or nor, the bioethics miracle makers will have to admit that man cannot overcome nor deny his natural condition. It is highly plausible that even by combining the most favorable factors for good health, man will not exceed a longevity maximum, which the authors evaluated as the age of Jeanne Calment”.


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