Health and Healthcare Systems

Why we'll never live forever

A pair of elderly couples view the ocean and waves along the beach in La Jolla, California March 8, 2012.  REUTERS/Mike Blake   (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - GM1E8390ALN01

Is their a ceiling to our maximum age? Image: REUTERS/Mike Blake

Dom Galeon
Writer, Futurism
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Health and Healthcare Systems?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Health and Healthcare is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Health and Healthcare

Science helps us to live longer, but is there a natural limit beyond the reach of science?

Same Figures

Nearly a year ago, researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York released a study that identified a supposed limit to the maximum lifespan of human beings. In their study published in the journal Nature, the researchers pegged maximum human lifespan to an average of 115 years — a number Dutch statisticians from the Tilburg University and the Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) seem to confirm.

Image: Nature

The findings, which were released last week but are yet to be peer-reviewed, identified the average ceiling age for men at 114.1 years while it was slightly higher for women at 115.7 years. In both cases, the figures are very close to that October 2016 study’s findings. According to John Einmahl from Tilburg and Laurens de Haan from EUR, the human lifespan seems to have hit a limit, despite better nutrition, medical care and improved living conditions pushing life expectancy forward.


“On average, people live longer, but the very oldest among us have not gotten older over the last thirty years,” Einmahl told AFP. “There is certainly some kind of a wall here. Of course the average life expectancy has increased,” he explained, saying that in the Netherlands the number of people reaching 95 have since tripled. “Nevertheless, the maximum ceiling itself hasn’t changed.”

Have you read?

Aging Limit

Einmahl and his colleagues used a brand of statistics known as Extreme Value Theory to analyze data taken from some 75,000 deceased Dutch persons, each one’s exact ages were recorded at the time of death. The period they studied covered 1986 until 2015, where they saw that the maximum age of human beings didn’t increase.

Although their numbers almost match, the Dutch researchers pointed out that the 2016 study has already been considered by many to be based on flawed statistics. “The present research has shown that there is a more or less constant ceiling to the maximum age in sight after all,” a Tilburg Univeristy press release said.

All of these, however, are yet to take into account the number of new researches all involved in so-called longevity or anti-aging studies. The science of extending human life has become very popular recently, especially with more experts considering aging to be a disease that can and should be cured. Many of the advances in this field involve work in biotechnology and genetic research, particularly the use of CRISPR.

Other efforts include the development of some medicine that could help fight age-related disorders, particularly Alzheimer’s. Some of these pills are making headway into clinical trials, while most have proven to effectively remove signs of old age in lab tests with mice. One laboratory is even relying on artificial intelligence to fast-track their anti-aging drug development.

With all these efforts, it may not be long before we finally stumble upon that modern “fountain of youth.” It’s worth keeping in mind what one researcher said: Yes, we’ll probably extend human life but “if you hear the word immortality, just run. There is no drug that can give you that.”

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Here’s how reducing malaria can add $16 billion to Africa’s GDP every year

Michelle Meineke

June 20, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum