People are now living much longer than they did a century ago, so much so that 72 just may be considered “the new 30” according to a new study.
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, says that life expectancy is rising faster than it has for 200 millennia, when our first ancestors began to walk the planet.
The reason for the extended life expectancy? Technology, modern healthcare and medicines all work within our bodies, making us healthier in our seventies now than when our ancestors were starting their thirties. Scientists studied the death rates of hunter-gatherers whose way of life has not changed for generations. They also looked at tribal people in Australia, Africa, South America and the Philippines and found that at 30-years-old, these people had the exact same chance of dying as Japanese people who were age 72.
Comparing hunter-gatherers with the long-lived Japanese, the scientists, led by Dr Oskar Burger, said, “Hunter-gatherers at age 30 have the same probability of death as present-day Japanese at the age of 72.”
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In fact, hunter-gatherer death rates were closer to those of chimpanzees than to those citizens of Japan or Sweden, the research indicated.
“Since around 1840, life spans in the longest-lived populations have increased by about three months per year,” said the researchers.
“Most of the death-rate reduction had occurred since 1900 and been experienced by only about four of the roughly 8,000 human generations that have ever lived. Up to the age of around 15, hunter-gatherers had death rates more than 100 times higher than those seen in modern-day Japan and Sweden.”
Across the whole of their life spans, the hunter-gatherers had more than 10-times a greater likelihood of dying. Their death rates and those of the people in Sweden were much closer in 1900 than they are today, said the scientists.
The increase in human life expectancy had been largely achieved 'by removing environmental shocks, by making injuries and illnesses less fatal with medical technology, and by enhancing health at older ages by improving nutrition and reducing disease at younger ages'.
The findings are published in the Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.